HC Deb 02 March 1993 vol 220 cc213-43
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

I beg to move amendment No. 181, in page 1, leave out lines 12 to 14 and insert 'The Secretary of State shall by order appoint not less than ten nor more than fifteen persons to be the members of the agency, of whom one he shall appoint as Chairman'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

With this we may take the following amendments: No. 183, in page 1, line 25, at end insert— '(5) Any order under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament'. No. 38, in clause 2, page 2, line 7, at end add '; and the names of those whom the Secretary of State proposes to appoint shall be submitted to the Welsh Affairs Committee of the House of Commons which may report thereon.'.

Mr. Lloyd

I welcome the Secretary of State's return to our proceedings: it is a rare treat to see him in the Chamber to observe our deliberations on the main part of the Bill. As it is his own Bill, he is more than welcome.

Amendment No. 181 concerns what the Secretary of State recently described on television as the A-word—in this case, the arrogance of the Secretary of State. The amendment asks whether a check should be placed on such arrogance, in the form of parliamentary scrutiny.

Throughout the Bill's Committee stage, the Secretary of State was not prepared to put himself to the test of accountability—least of all to Parliament, and, through Parliament, to the general public. The purpose of amendments Nos. 181 and 183 is to ensure that, once the Secretary of State has decided on the names of the 10 to 15 persons who are to be members of the funding agency, and on the chairman's name, the list of names will be submitted to the scrutiny of the House. That is reasonable in itself, but it is particularly reasonable in view of the many lessons that we still have to learn about the opting-out process.

We know that the information on which opting-out decisions are made is changing on a fairly regular basis as the Government change their mind about which bribes to offer those whom they wish to persuade. A number of such bribes have been offered to certain schools recently—bribes which, although they are up front at the point at which opting out is under consideration, have been rapidly withdrawn when it has already taken place. Schools that have opted out are beginning to find themselves in crisis.

8.15 pm

The Government are concerned enough about the failure of the process for their tone to become more and more strident, and their apologists are finding it necessary to make increasingly extreme statements. I am delighted to see that the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) is present. He and I have engaged in a brief discussion about a recent article in The Birmingham Post. As an apologist for the Government's opting-out policy, the hon. Gentleman accused Conservative-controlled Hereford and Worcester county council of all manner of unpleasant things: in particular, he said that the council had engaged in a dirty tricks campaign to prevent the opting out of the Nunnery Wood secondary school, which in fact voted against the whole concept of removing itself from LEA involvement.

The hon. Gentleman's remarks drew an almost immediate response from the Conservative chairman of the county's education committee, Dr. David Moffett. He described the hon. Gentleman's comments as "intemperate and snide"—extreme comments, given that they came from a member of the hon. Gentleman's party. Dr. Moffett went on to launch an astonishing onslaught on the hon. Gentleman, saying that his was an unworthy attack made by an ignorant man totally out of touch with the views of the overwhelming majority of those constituents who were involved. I think that it was grossly unfair of Dr. Moffett to single out the hon. Member for Worcester. It is obvious that the hon. Gentleman was acting merely as the voice—the poodle, or lapdog—of the Ministers who are really responsible for the total lack of contact with constituents. It is they who are completely out of touch with not only the hon. Gentleman's constituents, but with constituents throughout the country.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for indicating his intention to mention me in his speech. I suspect, however, that he is not fully informed of the situation relating to Hereford and Worcester county council, and Nunnery Wood high school in particular; I also suspect that he is unaware of the totally misleading campaign involving literature put out by Dr. Moffett and the education authority, which I rightly criticised.

Dr. Moffett's attack on me may owe more to the fact that he is losing the argument in the county. Only today, I received a letter from my noble Friend Baroness Blatch, informing me that the Blessed Edward Oldcorne Roman Catholic high school in Hereford and Worcester had had its application for grant-maintained status approved. That is probably at the root of Dr. Moffett's concern.

Mr. Lloyd

It would not be fair for me to become over-involved in the domestic policy of the Conservative party. If Dr. Moffett is wrong—and the hon. Gentleman is not an ignorant man—I am prepared to listen to evidence to that effect over the weeks, months or years during which he may remain in the House. I look forward with interest to any evidence that he is in touch with his constituents; Dr. Moffett's view suggests the opposite. However, it is not only the Dr. Moffetts in the Conservative party who are very worried about the opting-out process and, especially, about the centralisation process implied in opting out and the funding agency.

In a previous debate, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) made it clear to the Minister in an almost throwaway remark—it was noticeable that the Under-Secretary of State for Schools declined to respond to him—that the funding agency is a centralising measure. I believe that his words mirror part of mainstream Conservative thinking.

Conservative Members might want to leap to their feet to say that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South is not representative of mainstream Conservative thinking, but as no Conservative Member is rising, I can assume only that his view—that it is a centralising measure—is also their view. The hon. Member for Worcester is indicating dissent but we know that, when all is said and done, he is already condemned out of the mouth of the chairman of the Conservative Worcester and Hereford education committee.

It is worth quoting again the words of Dimitri Coryton, the close friend of the Minister and the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). He actively campaigned for the Conservative party during the previous general election, once on the Prime Minister's bus. It was the same Dimitri Coryton of the Conservative Education Association who said of the White Paper: The Government's present emphasis on GM schools, however, is something we have grave doubts about …in effect, the Government is nationalising the schools of England and Wales …We believe that it represents a massive and dangerous increase in the power given to central government …All that will happen is the replacement of LEAs with a far larger, more bureaucratic and less accountable national education authority". Those are not the words of disinterested neutrals; they come from the very heart of the Conservative party.

This is a nationalising Secretary of State, who gives us little lectures and homilies about the modernising process within the Labour party. The tendency within the Conservative party to centralisation and nationalisation has been evident during the past 14 years, during which time we have witnessed the very failures about which the Secretary of State sometimes exercises himself. As an old lag in the Government, the present Secretary of State has once again been caught with his political fingers in the till by a number of bodies who, on other occasions, could be regarded as supporters of the grant-maintained principle.

As far as I am aware, the Association of Heads of Grant Maintained Schools has not changed its views. Before the Committee stage, it said that it found it difficult to accept the total inconsistency between the powers proposed for the FAS …and the earlier assurances of the greater autonomy and accountability of schools". The Church of England also made its views known. It said: We note that the Funding Agency will assume responsibilities for strategic planning but feel that the White Paper is somewhat light in indicating how this will work out in practice and, in particular, in explaining how the Funding Agency will relate to the other bodies that will be involved in this activity". Those bodies were cited in Committee, but it is worth repeating their comments. Although he attended every sitting, unlike the Secretary of State, and took genuine pains to try to explain it, the Minister did not explain satisfactorily even to his own Back Benchers how the contradictions and confusion in the Bill would work out in practice.

The Funding Agency for Schools is a centralising measure. That form of centralisation runs through the White Paper. We are assured that the Secretary of State was the author of the White Paper, so he wrote that the funding agency will have powers for quality assurance in schools. It is a massive step towards centralisation for a body consisting of only 15 members to exercise quality from the centre.

The funding agency is to take on the duty of securing adequate places and will have to accept the duty of closing schools. That responsibility is inevitable because of falling rolls in some areas. Where there are falling rolls, the Secretary of State's personal funding agency will find it difficult to make decisions from the centre. Such centralisation has so far persuaded a considerable number of authorities and outside commentators and, indeed, a considerable number of those involved even in the opting-out process that the whole system is fraught with danger and difficulty, which is why there is increasing stridency and greater bribes from Ministers.

The Cambridge Evening News recently reported comments by the Under-Secretary of State. Perhaps he might like to comment now. He was reported as having told the governors of the Netherhall secondary school that it was more likely to get a new building if it opted out of local authority control. The Secretary of State is looking at the Under-Secretary with absolute amazement, as if he is confused and bewildered by the fact that the Under-Secretary would have the temerity to offer a bribe that he had not got round to offering. Does the Under-Secretary want to leap to his feet and deny the newspaper story? It would be most helpful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) if he were to place on record the fact that he disowns the story. However, perhaps he wishes to confirm that that particular bribe to Netherhall secondary school is on offer.

The Under-Secretary prayed in aid the Prime Minister. It is unusual for the Prime Minister to have any firm views—it is a case of "Will he, won't he?" and "What's the policy this week?" However, in this case, at that time the Prime Minister's view was that there was to be no level playing field. The Under-Secretary made it clear that he does not believe in level playing fields. He believes in backhanders here and the odd fudge there and keeping the concept of fairness for all young people out of schools.

Mrs. Anne Campbell

My hon. Friend might not be aware that this issue has caused considerable controversy in my constituency. I am sure that some parents, teachers and governors are anxious to get some word from the Secretary of State, or the Minister if he prefers, to find out precisely what was said to the head and chair of governors on that occasion. The onus is on the Minister to clarify that.

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Let me make it clear that I am quite happy to allow the Minister or the Secretary of State to stand up. If the Secretary of State feels that it is necessary to disown the Minister, he should not feel embarrassed about coming to the Dispatch Box to do so because I will certainly give way to him. My hon. Friend will notice that there is a deafening silence. I know not what conclusions to draw. However, I know what conclusions I might draw if I were a parent—the promises issued at dead of night by Conservative central office in a press release are not worth the paper they are written on.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Lloyd

In the absence of the Minister, of course I shall give way to the hon. Lady. Is she answering for him?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I am pointing out that that is exactly what happened in practice when Lancashire county council tried to stop Morecambe high school opting out, and also what happened to a school in my constituency when Lancashire county council gave it a sixth form for which it had been asking for 14 years. Just when it had a chance to opt out, it got its sixth form.

Mr. Lloyd

My colleagues are pointing out to me the fact that the Secretary of State must have approved that. If the Secretary of State is deliberately undermining the hon. Lady, I shall bring them together during the Division and insist that he gives her the answer that he is certainly not going to give to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge. As one of his own, the hon. Lady at least is entitled to an explanation of why he gave that approval to that school. Is it not in the nature of the process?

Is this not the serious complaint we all have? The Government are intent on saying or doing anything in order to persuade schools to opt out and will come up with almost any argument or line that they think will be persuasive. We have a Minister—because I have not had an opportunity to warn him about this, I will not name him, but a letter exists and I shall make it available to anyone who doubts—who wrote unsolicited to the majority of school governors in his constituency. He wrote on House of Commons notepaper—I think he was probably in breach of the rules of the House, although that is something that others need to take up. He said: As a school governor I hope that you will seriously consider whether your school is benefiting from local authority control. He also wrote: In order to combat the … council's spending cuts, many local schools have already sought their independence under grant maintained status. The next twelve months offers the opportunity for many schools to do likewise. 8.30 pm

The Minister, who is a spending Minister, does not mention that his own Department is making the same kind of cut. The Secretary of State can certainly see who it is if he wishes to take the matter up and rebuke his colleague. I am quite happy if he wishes to do that, but it is not my role to squeal on Ministers who are simply doing the bidding of their superiors in Cabinet.

The reality, when it comes to the crunch, is that the picture is very different. This is a message that the House has to understand. The Secretary of State's bribes, and even those uttered by the Secretary of State at his behest, do not add up to anything, because, time after time, we come across schools which have taken the little bit extra that has been offered and have then found themselves seriously disadvantaged. I will not quote an old case. Let me quote a new case, of Pate's—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am having a little difficulty in relating this to the amendment about the agency and the numbers and the decentralisation of that.

Mr. Lloyd

All will be revealed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

All will be revealed. I am most grateful.

Mr. Lloyd

The point is that, so distrustful are we of the Secretary of State's word, we feel that it is necessary to have a body operating from the agency in whom Parliament can repose some trust which we cannot place in the Secretary of State. We need such people and can only have them and have faith in them if the parliamentary scrutiny of the appointments system takes place. The reason is that the promises that have been lavished on schools opting out have been so badly betrayed, as in the case of Pate's grammar school in Cheltenham.

That is one of those schools that opted out and had, even under the Government's recent league table, what is considered to be an excellent set of examination results. It had 98 per cent. of pupils taking GCSE examinations getting five or more A to C grades. It is a school that I think the Government would parade as one of their star achievers, but it has funding cuts of about £190,000, which it cannot make up by savings in funding. Apparently, it can find savings of £30,000 but will have to cut £160,000 or propose to parents that they accept making voluntary payments of £210 a year from each family to stave off that crisis. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member, but it is normal for meetings to be held outside the Chamber.

Mr. Lloyd

I am sure that the Minister often has a facility for ignoring his Back Benchers. I cannot seriously believe that he was listening to them. I think that his attention was almost certainly on the debate.

The point at issue in this school is that the head teacher, Mr. David Barnes, said: It's a dreadful shame that, because of cuts in income, the free grammar school that has been here for 400 years should have to ask parents to consider helping to fund the school. That is the reality of opting out. That is why we need—

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, the hon. Member's comments are completely irrelevant. The evidence is that schools choose to opt out for management control so that they can get decisions that will benefit their children; they do not opt out for financial reasons. I have the evidence to support what I say. I had a meeting of all the schools that had opted out in my constituency. All the secondary schools in my constituency opted out. They all say that they took that decision for management control and for that reason only.

Mr. Lloyd

It is not for me to comment on the circumstances of the hon. Member's constituency, except to ask why, if that is the case, it is necessary for Ministers to offer bribes to schools. Perhaps the hon. Member will join me in castigating his Ministers for offering this kind of crude financial bribery. Would he want to associate himself with that kind of comment? Can I couple him with the comments I have just made? He seems to be at something of a loss, not sure whether to play the honest Back Bencher which he is earnestly striving to do or the sycophantic lickspittle.

It will be interesting to See what happens when we come to the vote, but I understand that the hon. Member's local education authority is Conservative controlled. I have a similar problem, because one of the two authorities with which my constituency is concerned, Trafford, is also Conservative controlled. Trafford has boasted for many years of an education system second to none, and has castigated the city of Manchester for what it provided by way of education.

It is instructive that Labour-controlled Manchester LEA has faced only one opting-out ballot, and that was defeated, but Conservative-controlled Trafford has now had a number of ballots which will bring it to the magical 10 per cent. structure. The LEA, because of its incompetence in the past, as with the hon. Member's Conservative-controlled LEA, finds itself in a position where the public are saying, "Anything other than Conservative control; even faceless bureaucrats are better in some circumstances."

Dr. Spink

The hon. Member's comments continue to be irrelevant. First, I see the Minister not as offering bribes but as meeting the quite proper phasing-in and capital costs, so that parents show a very popular school. On the matter of my local education authority, the schools opting out of that control are not showing that they have any quarrel with that authority but that that authority has treated them well in the past and brought them to a state of maturity in which they can take control of their own affairs and deliver better education for their children.

Mr. Lloyd

I can only assume that that was written on the cuff of every Conservative MP who possesses cuffs, because it is straight out of the Conservative central office hand-out. "Brought to a state of maturity"—it is an interesting line, and a good one, but it does not explain why Ministers tell schools that they are more likely to get new buildings by opting out. It may not be a bribe in the hon. Member's terms, but it is an inducement or a sweetener in words that we can all agree upon as a compromise.

Dr. Spink

Anything that will induce schools to improve their standards is something that I support.

Mr. Lloyd

Of course it is, and that is what we should be having—a Bill that is really about improving standards for all our children, not just those in privileged little ghettos which suit the Secretary of State's ideology, but across the board in every LEA area so that there is proper access to decent high quality education that stretches them.

The reality is that this is so alien to the ideology of the present Government that we have this divisive piece of legislation—which is precisely why we say to the Secretary of State that it is so important that Parliament should have some control over the people who sit on his funding agency. I am aware that the Secretary of State will want to intervene in this debate to explain his own position on these matters.

Given the amount of centralisation implicit in the Bill and in the funding agency—that is the view not only of Labour Members and other Opposition Members but of people up and down the country, too—and given that many people are accusing the Secretary of State of a mindless centralisation that places dangerous powers in his hands, it is of critical importance that the House should have some control over the composition of the funding agency.

Throughout the debates on Second Reading and in Committee answers were not given about how the funding agency would operate, and whether the playing field would be so unfairly laid out that schools that wanted to stay within the LEA remit would be forced out. Answers were not given about how to resolve the confusion between the role of the funding agency as a provider of places and as a monitor of surpluses or shortages of places, and the role of the LEA in conjunction with it. In the not-too-distant future that situation will be the common one in a number of local authority areas in which there is joint control. Those answers have not been placed before Parliament.

For all those reasons, if we are not to be given answers during the passage of the Bill we must have some control over those whom the Secretary of State places in the funding agency. It is not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman to put the normal Tory place people there. Parliament should have the right to say that we want people of the highest possible calibre, in whom we can repose trust. The Government's track record shows us that, if the matter is left to the Secretary of State, we cannot possibly have that trust. Parliament must reserve the right to overrule the Secretary of State.

Mr. Pawsey

I did not intend to intervene in the debate, but I have been brought to my feet by the provocative comments made by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) and his hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor).

One of the objects of the Bill is to make it easier for schools to apply for and receive grant-maintained status. Opposition Members have made clear their hostility to grant-maintained status. Indeed, the hon. Member for Dewsbury has said that, were Labour ever to win a general election, it would abolish grant-maintained status. Schools would then again be taken over by the local education authorities.

That is a remarkable assertion, given the fact that, as we heard in Question Time today, more than 250,000 of the nation's children are already being educated in grant-maintained schools. The Labour party is adopting a position extraordinary even by its standards. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dewsbury is not in the Chamber.

Mr. Patten

Missing again.

Mr. Pawsey

My right hon. Friend, speaking from his usual place, says that the hon. Lady is absent as usual.

To the hon. Member for Dewsbury, parental opinion as expressed through a free and secret ballot means nothing. I find it odd that she is so far out of step with her right hon. and hon. Friends—for example, the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) and the hon. Members for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) and for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), who are all clearly moving away from the old clause 4 socialist mentality in which only state ownership and local education authority education is right.

The hon. Lady seems to be in a time warp. No doubt she will change her mind on the matter, precisely as she was forced to change her mind on the sale of council houses. I do not believe that, when thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, of the nation's children are being educated in grant-maintained schools, she can seriously tell the House that the Labour party will abolish those schools and take them back into local education authority control.

I was intrigued by what the hon. Member for Stretford said about the opting out process. Let me tell him as fairly and as honestly as I can that there has been no change of principle on this side of the House. We remain firmly committed to the principles of grant-maintained schools and their opting out. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be confused. He referred to alleged bribes, but then went on to say that the bribes did not add up. There was a clear confusion in his mind.

If freedom is a bribe, there is indeed a bribe on the table. We are giving schools freedom from the local education authority, and freedom to decide for themselves the course they should pursue. If they wish, for example, to specialise, let them specialise. Freedom is the only bribe we offer. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Schools used the word "liberated" in a previous debate. That was the correct verb to use. Clearly, we are taking powers from the LEAs and giving them to individual schools.

The funding agencies are there to allocate funds; they are not in any way quality assurance agencies. Their only job is to distribute funds. We are not going down some centralist route, as suggested by Labour Members; we are providing powers to parents and governors. Nothing in the Bill remotely suggests nationalisation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has echoed a phrase used by our right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) when we discussed the 1987 Bill which became the Education Reform Act 1988: he said that we were moving powers from the hub to the rim of the wheel. Exactly the same comment describes the Bill before us. We are giving powers to parents, and there is no centralisation in the Bill. I therefore hope that we shall soon deal with the amendment and move on.

Mr. Patten

Will my hon. Friend give way?

8.45 pm
Mr. Pawsey

It is always a pleasure to give way to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who so frequently sits in the Chamber answering debates as fully and completely as he possibly can.

Mr. Patten

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Nuneaton—[HON. MEMBERS: "Kenilworth".] I mean, my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Nuneaton—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] What is it?

Mr. Pawsey

Rugby and Kenilworth.

Mr. Patten

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth think that Labour Front-Bench spokesmen would benefit from visiting a grant-maintained school or two? Does he not think it shameful for them to refuse to visit grant-maintained schools?

Mr. Pawsey

I am pleased that I gave way to my right hon. Friend, because I suspect that he has given the House some information. I had not previously realised that Labour Members had become so petty that they would not visit a grant-maintained school.

Mr. Patten

Does my hon. Friend not agree that refusing to visit grant-maintained schools is a form of educational apartheid on the part of Labour Members? They will find it more and more difficult to make that principle stick as more and more schools become grant-maintained. Do they not want to learn?

Mr. Pawsey

My right hon. Friend makes a salient point, with which few hon. Members would disagree. Of course he is right.

Let me press an invitation on Labour Members. In my constituency, there is one grant-maintained school and another for which grant-maintained status has been approved. I shall willingly take any Labour Members to either of those schools and show them how we, and those schools, can deliver good, efficient education to the nation's children.

My right hon. Friend originally called my constituency Rugby and Nuneaton. He may have had in mind possible changes when the boundary commissioners examine the boundaries. My right hon. Friend may have been looking into the crystal ball more efficiently than I can.

Dr. Spink

Before my hon. Friend moves off that subject, will he invite Labour Members, when they visit grant-maintained schools, to note that, in such schools, the average percentage of children passing five GCSEs at grades A to C is 45 per cent., whereas in other schools the figure is 35 per cent.? Labour Members will then be able to see how grant-maintained schools are delivering higher standards. That is why parents are voting to send their children to them. It is as simple as that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. That does not relate to this amendment.

Mr. Pawsey

I shall conclude on this point. So far, some 453 schools are grant-maintained, with a further 220 applications still to be considered. Of that number, the vast majority are secondary schools. Some 14 per cent. of the nation's secondary schools have acquired grant-maintained status. That is a most significant figure.

A Labour Government would abolish grant-maintained schools at their peril. Labour Members should realise that grant-maintained schools are liked by parents and governors. If Labour Members want to lose the next general election, they should simply continue saying that a Labour Government will abolish grant-maintained schools. There is no easier or quicker way to ensure that we are returned to office again.

Mrs. Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)

It is always a great joy to follow the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). He made similar compassionate but totally irrelevant comments to those which he made in Committee, although he did so with a verve which was unfortunately not available to us in terms of seeing the Secretary of State in Committee. The Secretary of State was never in his place in Committee. He was so interested in this major Bill that he did not manage to turn up to hear what some of his colleagues had to say about the clauses.

The Bill makes major changes to our education service. In so doing, it fails to pay attention to the structure of local government. Effectively, local education authorities will be abolished. The Secretary of State might not have put it quite so bluntly, but I dare say that before the end of this evening he may admit that that is the Government's intention.

Worse than that is the fact that the changes in education are not even being done in a coherent way. Certainly the Government intend that all schools should be grant maintained. They talk about giving parents choice and, presumably alongside that, accountability. Local accountability in terms of education depends on having local education authorities. Clearly the Secretary of State and the Government do not wish to have local education authorities.

I should like to examine the effect of the funding agency, grant-maintained schools and the opting-out ballot. In Committee, we pressed the Government about the fact that only one vote will be taken by one set of parents in one term and that it will count for all time. Every generation of parents thereafter will not be allowed to reverse that decision or comment on it. Once schools have gone grant maintained, that is the end of the matter. For a Government who talk about choice, that seems to be a rather one-sided choice to Labour Members.

I should like to examine the effect of those ballots in London and across the country. The fact that there will be no opportunity for schools to return to local education authority management underlines the undemocratic nature of the procedures for the acquisition of grant-maintained status. It further emphasises that the Secretary of State will allow ballots to be declared void if he believes that there has been interference with ballot papers or votes, if information has been disseminated which might be false or misleading—that will apply only if the Secretary of State thinks so—or if the information suggests that grant-maintained status might not be the best option for a specific school. That gagging mechanism flies in the face of any legitimate expression of a range of views.

Mr. Hall

Does my hon. Friend agree that the only way in which this clause will operate is if the parental ballots go against the application for grant-maintained status? In such cases, the Secretary of State will have the power to instruct that the ballot be carried out again because he does not like the outcome. I cannot think of any other reasons why he would want the ballot to be rerun.

Mrs. Prentice

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct in saying that the choice relates only to the Secretary of State; it has nothing to do with parents. If parents choose to remain within local education authority control, the Secretary of State will say that they are wrong in making that decision and that the ballot must be re-examined. He will find reasons for throwing out that democratic decision so that he can have the decision which he wants.

The Bill proposes to allow a school governing body to ballot parents on opt-out by passing a single resolution. The Education Reform Act 1988 provided for double balloting. That is another example of the Government saying that they are not prepared to take any risk that parents might make up their own minds. Parents might decide that local education authorities are good for them, their children and local communities. On that basis, the Government will skew the balloting process to ensure that they get the decision they want. That means that the local community will have no influence whatever over the decision and schools will opt out. If 10 per cent. of schools in a local education authority area opt out, the funding agency will have to share the funding of schools with the local education authority.

I should like to examine the role of the funding agency. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) said, the funding agency is a remote and unaccountable quango. It is a centralisation mechanism by a Government who talk about handing power back to the people, local areas and local democracy. That is especially galling when it comes from a Government who abolished the London education authority because they said that it was too centralised. They pushed education back down to the boroughs in order to give power to parents in the local community.

The Government are now taking that power away from parents and centralising it. They are establishing a remote, unaccountable funding agency which will have little to do with the local area. The funding agency will have little knowledge of the local area and will not know what is happening in local areas in terms of new developments in housing, although I dare say that under the Government there will not be many new housing developments. It will not know what is happening in local areas in terms of new developments in the economy, although I do not suppose that there will be much of that in the recession. Perhaps, in that sense, we should not be too worried.

If new houses were to be built in local communities and if the economy in local communities were to be regenerated, one would think that there should be some organisation which is close to the local people and which would know what is happening in local areas. Such an organisation could help to develop and plan the local education system in local communities. But that is not to be.

The funding agency will be a national quango which is appointed by the Minister. It will probably have to establish local officers and it will basically become a non-elected local education authority. That says much for choice and accountability.

Dr. Spink

Does the hon. Lady acknowledge that the funding agency will distribute funds on the basis of a pre-fixed formula? Essentially, that is what local education authorities do at present. The formula will be similar. Grant-maintained status gives real ownership of schools to parents, governors, teachers and local communities. Real ownership breeds responsibility and an increased stake in society. That is real accountability at work. The Bill is not a centralising but a decentralising measure. It is about the philosophy of giving choice and responsibility to people. That is what distinguishes the Conservative party from the Labour party.

9 pm

Mrs. Prentice

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is grateful that I allowed him, in an intervention, to make the speech that he intended to make. I know that he did not have the benefit of being a member of the Standing Committee and hearing about some of the more detailed aspects of the funding agency. If he reads the Bill and the White Paper which preceded it, he will find that the funding agency is not a decentralisation mechanism. It will not include local representatives. No one from local government will sit on it. No one with any educational expertise will sit on it. People will be appointed by the Minister. If we go by the experience of the health service and other services, the appointees will simply be nodding heads who will go along with whatever the Government's line happens to be. [ Interruption.]

Mr. Hall

The hon. Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) admits that.

Mrs. Prentice

I am grateful if the hon. Gentleman admits that they will be nodding heads who will simply carry out the Government's wishes.

Dr. Spink

Will the hon. Lady allow me to explain? The only thing that the funding agency will do is distribute funds. It will not control the schools.

Mrs. Prentice

I have given the hon. Gentleman two opportunities to intervene, but he still has not understood the provisions of the Bill or the role of the funding agency. I ask him to speak to the Ministers and find out exactly where he is going wrong so that he can understand the devastation that the creation of funding agencies may have on local education and local communities.

The Secretary of State loves to prate on about the Labour party chopping and changing its policies. Yet the creation of funding agencies is a real turnaround from his policies on the Inner London education authority and decentralisation. He is recentralising education and faking power away from people and parents. He is grabbing power. He will cosset the power and not allow anyone else to have any say or express any view.

Let us examine how the funding agencies will work. The changes in the calculation of the annual maintenance grants for grant-maintained schools and the suggestion that their budgets will have special protection under the current common funding formula cause us serious anxiety that the Government will penalise pupils in LEA schools because they are determined to pursue their opt-out policy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) talked about creating a level playing field. It is clear that the Government do not believe in a level playing field if that does not suit their narrow and blinkered policies. That cannot be more starkly illustrated than by the system of the 10 per cent. trigger for the creation of funding agencies. I shall take as an example the effect of the trigger in London. I raised the matter in Committee and I do so again on the Floor of the House because it is important.

At present each London borough looks after the schools in its area. I can give two examples of where the creation of a funding agency would be triggered by the number of children in certain schools in the relevant borough. Only 3.9 per cent. of Camden's school population goes to the Jewish Free school. Yet if the parents of children at that school agreed in a ballot to opt out, the whole of Camden's education budget would have to be shared with a funding agency. That is not democratic. It is certainly not accountable. I wonder whether any of the parents who send their children to that school know that that would happen if they made the decision to opt out.

The other example is even more stark. In the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham the London Oratory school educates some 1,197 pupils. Only 196 of them are residents of the borough. Those 1,197 pupils represent some 20 per cent. of all the pupils taught in Hammersmith and Fulham. When the Bill becomes law, unless the Secretary of State can tell me otherwise, the funding of education in Hammersmith and Fulham will be shared between the borough and a funding agency because the London Oratory school is already a grant-maintained school.

The decision to share funding between the LEA and a funding agency was not made by the parents of the children in any of the Hammersmith schools. I am sure that if they had known, they would not have been happy to agree with it. Residents of Hammersmith and Fulham, who now decide who represent them, will have funding of education in their schools decided by someone else.

Mr. Bowis

I do not understand why the hon. Lady is making such a fuss. If a school which has a large number and therefore a high percentage of pupils votes to become grant maintained and that exceeds the 10 per cent. threshold, funding will come through the funding council and not directly from the Department. I cannot understand why she is so worried. The benefit to the school will be that it will also get the 15 per cent. additional funding which currently goes to the LEA and is not always passed on.

Mrs. Prentice

I am deeply disappointed that the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) does not understand. He was in Committee when we discussed the matter at length. Let me explain the problem once again.

Only 3.7 per cent. of the pupils who live in Hammersmith and Fulham and whose parents vote and pay their poll tax there attend the London Oratory school. Why should parents from outside Hammersmith and Fulham determine the funding for every other school there as a result of the trigger mechanism under the clause dealing with the funding agency? It is perfectly clear to Opposition Members that it is a totally undemocratic and unaccountable system which we find unacceptable.

Mr. Bowis

I wish simply to correct the wrong impression that the hon. Lady seems to be getting. Unless they become grant maintained, all the remaining schools will continue to be funded through the LEA, so what is the worry?

Mrs. Prentice

The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. Between 10 per cent. and 75 per cent. the funding is shared between the funding agency and the local education authority. The Bill makes it quite clear, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not grasped the point.

We are considering a huge Bill—the biggest Education Bill ever. The Government have tabled hundreds of amendments because they have started to realise that they have got much of it wrong. It is poorly thought out and major changes have not been made to fundamental aspects of it. Scant regard has been paid to the concerns of parents, pupils, teachers and, indeed, all those directly concerned with education in Britain. As will probably become clear in the debate on special educational needs, the Government have paid little attention to all those organisations concerned about the effects and side effects of grant-maintained status.

I believe that we have a particularly undemocratic Government. The longer I spend in the House the more obvious it becomes. They have taken powers away from local education authorities and local government and they refuse to tell people exactly what they are doing and why on a number of fundamentally important matters.

It will not be surprising if we get little information from the Secretary of State on the effects of the Bill as I do not believe that he understands it. He paid little attention to debates in Committee and he occasionally makes what he calls a statement to the House about education and how everything will be all right so long as it is in his hands. I hope that, as a result of this evening's debate and the continuing debate on education, people will realise that the education system is not safe in the hands of the Government any more than the health service, the pits or any other part of the country's economy is safe with them. We will continue to oppose them on every aspect of the Bill because they have got it absolutely and totally wrong.

Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)

In speaking to these amendments I should like to put my remarks in context. In Chelmsford we have three secondary schools and one primary school that now have grant-maintained status, and a number of ballots are pending, including one at a school called Hylands which is of crucial importance for the purpose of my comments tonight.

It is important to bear in mind that grant-maintained status is determined by a ballot of parents. In Chelmsford, each ballot of parents has produced an overwhelming vote in favour of grant-maintained status because the parents believe such status to be in the best educational interests of their children. To give the education authority of Essex county council due credit, I have to say that it has done nothing to impede parents' wishes in any way.

Mr. Cormack

Given the number of grant-maintained schools in his constituency, will my hon. Friend consider inviting Opposition Members to visit some of them?

Mr. Burns

I should be more than happy to have anybody come and see the fine grant-maintained schools in Chelmsford and how enthusiastic parents have been about securing for their children the benefits of such an education. However, I do not want to diverge; I want to stick to the amendments in this group.

It is crucial that the funding agency, which will consist of not fewer than 10 and not more than 15 individuals, should be of the highest possible calibre. It is hardly likely that anyone will disagree with that contention. Clause 1(3)(a) says: In appointing the members of the agency the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of including—

  1. (a) persons who appear to him to have experience of, and to have shown capacity in, the provision of primary or secondary education or to have held, and to have shown capacity in, any position carrying responsibility for the provision of such education".
That is crucial.

On the other side of the coin, my right hon. Friend must exercise extreme care with regard to individuals who would be totally unsuitable for membership of the agency, notwithstanding any qualifications that might put them in the running under clause 1(3). Let me say why I urge my right hon. Friend to think extremely carefully about the composition of the agency. When considering any retired primary headmaster for inclusion, he should take great care with regard to calibre and background. In Chelmsford it has been shown that there is very good reason for such care. At present the Hylands school is balloting parents on whether to seek grant-maintained status. The ballot period will not end until next Monday. During the half-term break, when teachers were not readily available and when ballot papers were being delivered, a semi-anonymous leaflet was distributed to all households. This leaflet gives 10 grounds for saying no to grant-maintained status.

Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford)

It must be the Liberals.

Mr. Burns

I am sure that the heavy hand of the Liberals is to be found somewhere.

As I develop my argument, my right hon. Friend will discover that the individuals responsible for this leaflet do not satisfy the criteria for membership of the funding agency. However, given the underhand measure of putting semi-anonymous leaflets through letter-boxes—

Mr. Tony Lloyd


Mr. Burns

Yes, semi-anonymous. The leaflet has no proper imprint, gives a bogus name for the umbrella group, and gives no address or telephone number. And when people delivering it were challenged by parents they refused to divulge where they came from, whom they represented or why they were doing what they were doing. According to the Essex Chronicle of last week, the individual responsible for this skulduggery is none other than a retired head teacher of the King's road primary school in Chelmsford. I hasten to add that, as a child, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), chairman of the Conservative party, attended that school.

The individual in question also happens to be a prominent member of the National Union of Teachers —[Interruption.] That former headmaster—who should not qualify, regardless of what the Bill might say, for consideration by my right hon. Friend as a member of the funding agency—who has nothing to do with Hylands school, took that action off his own bat for narrow party political purposes on a totally fictitious basis, the 10 points mentioned in his scurrilous leaflet being completely irrelevant and untrue.

9.15 pm
Mr. Patten

I remind my hon. Friend of three points. The first is that, as he knows, I have visited Chelmsford within the last fortnight. The second is that whenever I go to Essex to refresh my political and ideological roots, I always meet the strongest possible support for grant-maintained schools.

The third is that in Essex, as elsewhere, people will have to beware the announcement that I shall make tomorrow about further counter-intimidation measures, to be part of the Bill, which will stop many of the actions of which my hon. Friend and many other hon. Members have rightly complained because of the anti-democratic antics of some Opposition Members.

Mr. Burns

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. My constituents, in particular parents and teachers at Hylands school, will welcome the announcement that he will make tomorrow to tighten up on intimidation and the issuing of misleading information in an attempt to bamboozle parents into not voting on the basis of an even playing field. Correct information must be available.

I have urged my right hon. Friend to exclude certain people from consideration for appointment to the funding agency. On the other hand, he should remember that the activities of that retired headmaster have enraged the present headmaster and teachers at the school, who are anxious for it to seek grant-maintained status. So when my right hon. Friend is drawing up a list of people for consideration, he should not overlook the many decent, hard-working, first-rate teachers, such as Mr. Tony Mulholland, the present headmaster of Hylands school, who are disgusted by the tactics that have been aimed at Hylands school.

My right hon. Friend should bear in mind that there are many fine individuals throughout the education establishment who utterly repudiate underhand tactics and would welcome a funding agency comprised of those of the highest calibre to ensure that grant-maintained schools continue to flourish, resulting in more parents taking the democratic route and voting for their children to benefit from being educated in first-rate grant-maintained schools.

Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen)

I hope that we can move from the antics of Chelmsford some hundreds of miles across the Severn estuary to Wales, where the remit of the Secretary of State does not run. I am glad to see the Minister of State, Welsh Office in the Chamber; we trust that he will answer the points that my hon. Friends and I raise.

I refer specifically to amendment No. 38, which proposes that the names of those whom the Secretary of State proposes to appoint shall be submitted to the Welsh Affairs Committee of the House". I do so also because the case for England has been ably put by my hon. Friends the Members for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) and for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice).

There is no doubt that those of us who served on the Standing Committee on the Bill are particularly worried about the need for proper and impartial scrutiny of the membership of the new schools funding agency. Nothing that happened in Committee allayed our fears. In fact, worse has occurred, for in Wales, during the three months that the Bill was in Committee, the whole debate in education and local government circles about opt-out schools and membership of the schools funding agency resulted in a civil war.

Headlines in our national newspapers to the effect that the Bill will put Welsh education in crisis are now commonplace. Indeed, one article mentions that parent-teacher associations in Wales are deeply troubled by the content of the Bill. Mr. Ylltid Lewis, who is the treasurer of the Parents for Welsh Medium Education, which the Minister has championed, said in February: Already we have children in primary schools where there is not adequate provision for them at secondary. We are facing a situation which could be a critical one. He goes on: We represent parents and, hand on heart, we have not had a single parent who has told us, we want this. I addressed the Welsh meeting of the parent-teacher associations for the Principality in Cardiff some two weeks ago, when there was unanimous disbelief at the way the Bill is going.

I believe also that, so desperate has the Minister of Slate become to persuade secondary schools, particularly in Wales, to opt out, that he has had meetings in his office of various head teachers who might be inclined to go that way. Certainly he addressed the secondary schools associations in mid-Wales a couple of weeks ago.

The latest attempt to persuade schools in Wales to go down this line is a letter sent to all secondary schools, which included the statement by the Minister of State, Welsh Office, on the completion of the Commons Committee stage of the Bill. I am sure that it is unprecedented in terms of what goes to governors of schools, whether it be in England or in Wales, for the Minister to send out copies of his speeches and statements to try to persuade schools to go down this road.

Another complication which has arisen and which we believe is ripe for the Welsh Affairs Select Committee to deal with is the lack of openness that has surrounded the whole business of opt-out schools and the consultation process, which was started, as we know, back in the summer when all the schools were on holiday. When I asked the Minister and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State whether they would make public the result of the consultations in Wales, the answer was no. They refused to make those responses available for public scrutiny, on the ground that it would breach confidentiality. I am convinced that if the majority of those consultations had been in favour of grant-maintained schools, they would have been made public the following day.

The other problem that we face is that the Bill sets up at least two new quangos in Wales—the Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the Schools Funding Council, with which the amendment deals. The whole business of quangos in Wales, as the Minister knows, is becoming a national and a public scandal. It will be debated in full next Monday in the city hall in Cardiff when the Welsh Grand Committee meets in that city for the first time.

The problems with quangos in Wales have meant that the opposition to the establishment of the Schools Funding Council encompasses all political parties in Wales, save the Conservative party, all teaching associations and teaching unions, all the local education authorities and all the directors of education.

At this point, I have to mention that all the Welsh directors of education have resigned over these proposals. There was reference earlier today to Oscar Wilde, and a Western Mail editorial on this matter last month said: With apologies to Oscar Wilde, to lose one director of education may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose four looks like carelessness. What's going on? It adds that Geoffrey Drought, one of our finest directors of education in Wales, resigned only last week because of the problems and the complications of opt-out schools and what that would bring.

Education is in a sorry state in the Principality, not only because of the resignations, but because of the cuts that the Minister has imposed, and because of unease about the membership of the new quango, if it is set up.

Can we ensure that the quango will include professional and local education authority membership and people representing the churches in Wales—a vital element? What about the Welsh joint education committee, which the Minister and the Government have consistently bypassed since the beginning of the debate on grant-maintained schools and opt-out education? That, too, should be involved.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Wales made a statement about the introduction of new unitary authorities in Wales. If the White Paper is made into an Act of Parliament, there will be about 21 new unitary authorities, which will all be local education authorities. What will be the impact on grant-maintained schools and the Schools Funding Council? We were not told in Committee when the Schools Funding Council is to be set up. With smaller unitary authorities, is it on the cards that the funding council will be set up sooner rather than later?

About 90 years ago, when the House debated education legislation introduced by Mr. Balfour, reference was made to the situation in Wales, where a partnership between local and central government had been established at the end of the 19th century. There is no doubt that that partnership has worked remarkably well and has meant that Welsh schools are some of the finest in the United Kingdom. I fear that unless we accept the amendments and others like them, education in Wales will be in a sorry state.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East)

Clause 1 concerns the funding agency and some hon. Members seem to have a misleading impression about its exact role. Given the success of grant-maintained schools and their growth, many people argue that there had to be a body similar to the funding agency simply to fund on an equitable basis schools that have become grant maintained. As we fully support grant-maintained schools, it is right and proper that a funding agency should be set up.

The confusion seems to have occurred over the agency's planning role and the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice) compounded misunderstanding about its role in that respect. As I understand it, when 10 per cent. of primary pupils in a local education authority area have gone grant maintained, the funding agency for that sector of education in the area is likely to be set up; we debated that at great length in Committee.

The funding agency's planning function is very narrow: it must plan places for schools in the grant-maintained sector. It will not be in a position to dictate to parents of children in all other LEA schools in the area. Rightly and properly, there must be some liaison between the LEA and the funding agency, to put proposals to the Secretary of State. It is easy for Opposition Members to make a mountain out of a molehill over those arrangements.

The reality is that grant-maintained schools are likely to be heavily over-subscribed and LEA schools might be under-subscribed. It would be for the LEA to determine which schools in its area need to be closed. Conversely, grant-maintained schools might feel that demand was so great that they ought to expand, and in that case I am sure that proposals would be put forward to the funding agency to set up new and much-welcomed grant-maintained schools.

There is a danger of Opposition Members protesting too much about the role of the funding agency when the 10 per cent. figure is reached.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport)

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the funding agency would increase the number of places in grant-maintained schools even if there were vacancies in LEA schools in that particular area?

Mr. Congdon

No, I am not. That issue would, quite rightly, be for the Secretary of State to decide. It may well be that it would be right and proper for a school that is undersubscribed in the LEA sector to be closed and reopened as a successful grant-maintained school.

Conservative Members want schools to be provided to which parents wish to send their children. We do not want schools to be provided simply because the bureaucrats at the LEA town hall wish to provide schools in a particular location. The education system must adapt to suit the source of the demand for places so that it meets the legitimate choice of parents of school for their children.

9.30 pm
Mrs. Bridget Prentice

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because I have been dying to ask him this question for some time. Given that he is so keen on parental choice, why, when he was a member of the education authority in Croydon, was he prepared to sell off Sylvan high school, despite the fact that 97 per cent. of the parents wanted it to remain as an LEA school?

Mr. Congdon

I am delighted by that intervention, because it reveals that the hon. Lady's research is somewhat inadequate. In reality, only about 45 Croydon parents put the school as their first choice out of a possible intake of 240. That school did not serve the needs of Croydon parents; it is particularly revealing that it served the needs of parents who were otherwise forced to send their children to inadequate schools within ILEA. Those parents voted with their feet by sending their children to a Croydon school. The LEA had no problem with taking the important decision to provide a city technology college in north Croydon, which is in my constituency and is now massively over-subscribed

Mr. Dafis

Great emphasis is laid on the fact that the move towards grant-maintained status is a matter of parental choice. The hon. Gentleman has now offered another possibility, which the Minister might like to consider. He has suggested that if a school can be identified as a failure and closed, it can be reopened as a grant-maintained school. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that provides an interesting possibility for the Government to push ahead the movement towards grant-maintained status?

Mr. Congdon

With all due respect, two separate issues are involved. One issue relates to a school that has failed and the setting up of an educational association, which will lead to a grant-maintained school. The other issue, of equal importance, relates to schools that are under-subscribed. In those circumstances, the LEA should look at the number of places that need to be provided.

I am hypothesising—I cannot predict with certainty exactly what will happen in a particular LEA area. One could envisage a situation, however, where it would be proper to bring about change to ensure that another grant-maintained school was provided to reflect parental demand better.

We have heard a lot from Opposition Members about the fact that the measures designed to create more grant-maintained schools are centralising ones, which represent the nationalisation of schools. What a load of nonsense. The fundamental point about the Bill and previous measures is that the only way in which an existing school can become grant maintained is by exercising a democratic—I stress the word—ballot.

I find it odd that Opposition Members are so afraid of parents exercising a democratic vote to decide whether their children's school should go grant maintained. We have heard a lot about the scare tactics that have been adopted and the rumours that have been spread to try to influence the vote of a particular school on grant-maintained status.

In many ways the Bill, contains few measures to increase the GM balloting process because we have a lot of faith in parents voting firmly for their schools to go grant maintained. I very much regret the talk of bribes given to schools to go grant maintained. Schools were given an extra amount of money to cover the costs of setting up, and, more importantly, to reflect LEA central costs. If LEAs find that difficult, they should look at their central costs to reduce them in line with their specific needs. I do not call that bribery. We need to encourage more schools to become grant maintained so that we have diversity in the education system.

I do not know why Opposition Members are so afraid of the setting up of a funding agency with two key powers. The first one is to ensure the funding is calculated on an equitable basis to the schools—as the numbers grow, that will become more important. Its second key power—a comparatively limited role—involves the planning process. Grant-maintained schools will not tread on the toes of the massive number of LEA schools in the region.

If Opposition Members are right and grant-maintained schools will not grow in numbers and flourish, Opposition Members have nothing to fear as the funding agency will barely come into effect. But if, as Conservatives expect, grant-maintained schools flourish, we need to have—and will have—funding agencies that exercise a valuable role.

Mr. Jamieson

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Congdon), who was telling us about the city technology college in his district. I thought that he would say that it had obtained the poorest results in GCSE mathematics, modern languages and technology in Croydon in 1992, but he stopped short of telling us that.

Mr. Congdon

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jamieson

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in time, when I have developed what I have to say a little further.

In Committee we were told that, in 20 out of 116 local education authorities, more than 10 per cent. of their schools had opted out. I repeat the statistic for the benefit of the Secretary of State, who was not present at any time during the Committee stage and might not be aware of the figure. It means that, in those districts, control of the education system will soon be in the hands of two competing organisations: the funding agency and the local education authority. Both will have responsibility for providing places, closing and opening schools, and admissions procedure.

We know that the two organisations will be competing, because the Secretary of State told us so on Second Reading. He said: There will be two bodies—the LEA and the funding agency—with parallel but not shared responsibilities. A little healthy competition will be no bad thing for some LEAs." —[Official Report, 9 November 1992; Vol. 213, c. 635.] It will be the surest recipe for chaos and confusion, as the two organisations compete to provide the same services. In the confusion, what will be missed is a clear and unequivocal chain of accountability for public funds to parents and local taxpayers. Who will the parents contact with their queries and who will have the responsibility of resolving disputes?

Are we to anticipate struggles ahead between the two bodies as they battle it out over the interpretation of key powers—perhaps in the courts, and certainly at the taxpayers' expense? It is intended that, when the 75 per cent. opt-out threshold has been reached, the funding agencies will take over total control of delivery of the education service in the region, hitherto delivered by the LEA. I hope that the Minister will answer the following question: what rights and democratic procedures will be followed for the 25 per cent. of schools that have not at that time held ballots on opting out? Will they compulsorily become grant-maintained schools against the parents' wishes?

We know that the Secretary of State has funding for his unelected quango to mushroom its bureaucracy. The White Paper stated that that was the only organisation to receive extra funding. For the benefit of the Secretary of State, who was not present during our deliberations in Committee, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Further and Higher Education, who is present now, told us in Committee that there would be funding for party placemen on the education associations—but more of that tomorrow.

Only the most perverse logic would lead one to believe that two bodies running in parallel and performing the same tasks will lead to lower costs and less bureaucracy. Eventually, as more schools opt out, the funding agency's costs will rise, because it will have to perform many of the functions currently undertaken by the LEA and administer many of the new powers that the Secretary of State has taken to himself.

The right hon. Gentleman tried to give the impression that the agency will be little more than a streamlined post office, sending monthly cheques to grant-maintained schools with the aid of the funding formula, with a minimal need for individual judgment. That view was reinforced by the hon. Members for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) and for Castle Point (Dr. Spink). I think that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth was being ingeniously misleading, while the remarks of the hon. Member for Castle Point, who I note is not in his place, stem from his ignorance of the Bill.

For the information of those two hon. Gentlemen and other right hon. and hon. Members, the funding agency's responsibilities will be more than handing out funds to GM schools. Once the 75 per cent. threshold has been passed, the agency will have responsibility for opening and closing schools, regulating the number of school places, admissions procedures, appeals, capital allocations, and many other tasks. It will not be a simple organisation whose purpose will merely be to hand over funds to GM schools, for it will replicate many of the responsibilities and duties now vested in LEAs.

Although the Minister said that there will be one funding agency, he stated that it would be free to develop in response to the rate at which the GM school sector grows. It will not therefore be a carefully regulated body of limited size. I thought that it was being likened to an educational bonsai tree—of limited size but mature growth. Instead, it will be more like an educational Russian vine, spreading its bureaucratic tentacles into every part of the country.

I turn to the Prime Minister's extraordinary comments at a Tory local government conference at the weekend. I am surprised that such a body still exists, given the Government's constant erosion of local authority powers. Perhaps in future the Prime Minister will be addressing the Tory quango-goers conference. The Prime Minister said that it's time to set a structure for local government that will last. We need to define its responsibilities once and for all. And then let you carry them out. I contrast that remark with a recent report that received approval from Tory-controlled Devon county council. Commenting on the Bill, it stated: Many people now believe that the future of local government and local democratic accountability are themselves at stake. At last weekend's Conservative local government conference the Prime Minister spoke also of a new accountability that goes directly from those who run public services to those who use them. Devon county council commented on the White Paper: At times the White Paper seems to lose sight of the role of the LEA as a resource and protector for the individual parent or pupil and as a focus of local knowledge and accountability. It is difficult to see how a funding agency could be other than remote, unresponsive, ignorant of local issues and unaccountable to local feelings. The Prime Minister is totally out of touch with local government and is even out of touch with those in his own party who are in local government.

As to GM schools, which are taking a one-way ticket to Government control, Government arguments about parent power and local democracy would have had more credibility if Ministers had accepted the Labour amendment to allow schools to opt back in to LEA control. That amendment gave the Government an opportunity to demonstrate their confidence in the opting-out system, but it was rejected.

One of the first schools to become grant maintained was the highly successful Dorset comprehensive, Woodroffe school—once hailed as the flagship of opt-out philosophy. I am sure that the Government would agree that it is instructive to examine establishments that have direct experience for indications of the worth of the policies on which they are now embarking. After its first year of trading in the grant-maintained market place, the school was reported to have debts of £100,000, culminating in the loss of seven teachers, the disarray of the PTA and the suspension of the head teacher.

9.45 pm

I shall not dwell on all the problems experienced by the school, but it is interesting to note that the chairman of the PTA, Ken Whetlor, was reported to have said, after a year's experience of grant-maintained status, If you had another vote on this among parents, you'd have a landslide against it. That is why the Government do not want parents to have the power to take part in a further ballot to opt back into LEA control. They are afraid to extend democracy to parents, because they know that their dogma would be threatened.

The Bill represents a greater move by the Government towards central state control than any other provision relating to our British way of life. It will take control of education out of the hands of local, democratically elected bodies, and place it in the hands of quangos packed with politically vetted appointees of the Secretary of State. In the past 10 years, Tory Governments have implemented a number of measures. I was interested to hear the Minister describe the current proposals as "liberating". Do we consider the national curriculum liberating, or the national testing system—a system to which the Secretary of State and the Minister have received so many objections in the past few months? In fact, they have had to give way on part of their own policy. National inspection is another example.

Now, the Government want to envelop the whole system with national control of the delivery of children's education by means of the funding agency, which we are led to believe will be based in Darlington. I have no argument with anyone in Darlington, but it is a long way from Plymouth and Devon, and from many other constituencies. We are moving rapidly towards a tightly controlled, bureaucratic, centralised system, with Tory party placemen in key positions and no voice for those with opposing views. Above all, there is no place for parents to be involved in the funding agency, and to shape its thinking.

If the Bill is passed in its present form, we shall have the most centralised, state-controlled education system in the democratic world. How dangerous is an education system when the hands of politicians control every apsect of the delivery of service—when the Government decide which schools should close or stay open, who and what should be tested and even which books children should read? I fear for our democracy when a political party wants to control every aspect of our children's minds.

Mr. Rod Richards (Clwyd, North-West)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his announcement that he is to give details tomorrow of measures to stop the intimidation of schools and parents who favour ballots to opt for grant-maintained status. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will make a similar announcement. The hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) said that there was a civil war in Wales on the issue: those are his words, not mine. His party and its bully boys have been running around Wales intimidating schools for the past two years.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Richards

No; I have not much time.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice) said that once the schools have held a ballot, that is the end of the matter. Is she seriously suggesting that she would wish schools to ballot time and again? If so, how frequently would she wish them to undergo such uncertainty and how frequently would she wish teachers' careers perhaps to be threatened if schools were reintroduced into the local education authority system?

Mrs. Bridget Prentice

It is ironic that Conservative Members should question the notion of balloting when they are so insistent that every governing body must make a decision every year about grant-maintained status. The point that I was making, but which the hon. Gentleman failed to grasp so I shall repeat it for his benefit, is that one set of parents ballots to opt out of the local education authority, but the next set of parents—their children and their children's children—does not have the opportunity to ballot to opt back in. That is undemocratic.

Mr. Richards

My point is that it would create uncertainty for schools.

The hon. Member for Torfaen said that four directors of education in Wales had resigned because of the Government's policy. Is he seriously suggesting that those directors set themselves up as martyrs for education in Wales? Of course they did not. The four directors of education in Wales could see the writing on the wall. They could see the prospect of their empires crumbling, so they took early retirement with very generous settlements.

The hon. Gentleman also says that there is no demand for grant-maintained schools in Wales. There are already 90 schools ready for grant-maintained status. Once my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State stops the bully boys in jackboots riding roughshod over Wales there will be an avalanche of schools wanting to acquire grant-maintained status.

Mr. Dafis

I shall be brief and try to hammer home some of the points already made by the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy). I speak especially to amendment No. 38 and wish to emphasise the near unanimous opposition to the Bill in Wales.

I draw the House's attention to a declaration signed by a coalition of 10 bodies involved in education in Wales. The Western Mail described the declaration as an unprecedented act. The declaration states: It is the joint and considered view of the representatives that the Education Bill is inappropriate to the current needs of young people across Wales, and it is likely to have a detrimental effect on educational opportunities and educational standards within the schools of Wales. Such is the strength of these concerns that it is vital that these anxieties are made known, as a matter of urgency, to parents across Wales. The organisations involved are the Parent Teacher Associations of Wales, Parents for Welsh-Medium Education, the National Association of Head Teachers in Wales, the Welsh League of Youth, the Wales Assembly of Women, the National Union of Teachers for Wales, the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers in Wales, Assistant Master and Mistresses Association in Wales, the National Association of the Teachers of Wales and the Welsh Joint Education Committee. If anyone speaks for education in Wales, those bodies do.

I support amendment No. 38 because, although it fails to make a clear distinction between Wales and England, it nevertheless offers a way of dealing with the difference between England and Wales in one highly significant matter—the membership of quangos.

If it were not so disgraceful, the situation would be laughable. It seems that the best method of advancement in Welsh public life is to be a Tory or, better still, a Tory candidate at a general election. In my constituency, two previous unsuccessful Tory candidates have found themselves on the East Dyfed district health authority. The wife of a third has been transferred from the health authority to the managing board of the local hospital trust. That is an appalling state of affairs and it is even worse that it should happen in education. It is bad enough that powers should be removed from local democratically elected bodies to a funding agency which is a quango. It is worse still that membership of the body should be in the gift of the Secretary of State for Wales, any Secretary of State for Wales, but particularly a Tory Secretary of State.

If present evidence is any guide, the Secretary of State will select Tories for such a body—a high proportion, anyway. They will certainly be Tory sympathisers or people acceptable to the Tory party in Wales, in which case— and this is the point—by definition those people will hold values that are incompatible with those of the majority of the people in Wales. That is especially offensive in relation to education where our whole tradition is egalitarian, collaborative and co-operative. That is our tradition, particularly in education.

It is crucial that membership of the Schools Funding Council, if it comes into existence, which is by no means certain, should, to some degree, reflect the values of the people of Wales.

Such a council could have a far-reaching effect; it could open or close schools and, crucially, could propose a change of schools' characters. Clause 88 empowers the council to do that and that would mean, in most cases, a proposal to change the character of a school to make it selective. The council could profoundly change provision in Wales and adopt a master plan for restoration of a system of tripartite education that the Secretary of State thinks so highly of in the White Paper.

It is true that electors and local education authorities could raise objections, but it would be idle to pretend that a funding council, backed by the Secretary of State, would not have an enormously influential effect on the development of education in Wales.

The amendment offers a mechanism to provide some control and check on the nature and membership of the council and I support it because of that and because it would modify the deeply undemocratic nature of the Bill.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Sir Wyn Roberts)

It seems the fashion in these debates to leave no time for a Minister to wind up and it is clear that Opposition Members do not want to hear what the Government have to say.

I intended to speak only to amendment No. 38 which has a Welsh dimension, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) would probably not wish to share these three minutes with me, I hope that I shall be forgiven for saying a few words about the other two amendments. All are similar in subjecting the appointments to these two bodies to parliamentary scrutiny of one kind or another.

I want to contrast the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) and the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), because my hon. Friend talked about the freedom that we were giving to parents, freeing power to go from the hub to the rim of the wheel, while the hon. Member for Torfaen began his speech by talking about fears. He was talking not about the fears of parents but about the fears of vested interests in the education system in Wales.

Having sat throughout the Committee stage and having listened throughout the debate this evening, I am sensitive to the fact that the Labour party is somewhat embarrassed that it is not on the popular side in this argument. The Labour party wants to turn the argument somehow, so that it appears to be on the side of parents, but we are the ones who clearly believe in parental ballots, and we are transferring power to the parents.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) referred to 10 bodies, including the Welsh Joint Education Committee, which is very much a vested interest in the education system in Wales. I ask him to look beyond that facade of education. Let him go and talk to the headmasters and headmistresses, as I did when I spoke to members of the Welsh Secondary Schools Association in Llandrindod Wells. If he spoke to those people, the hon. Gentleman would get an entirely different view of the meaning of the Bill.

It being Ten o'clock, MADAM SPEAKER, pursuant to Order [15 December] and Resolution this day, put the Question already proposed from the Chair, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 240, Noes 272.

Division No. 166] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Betts, Clive
Adams, Mrs Irene Blunkett, David
Ainger, Nick Boateng, Paul
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Boyce, Jimmy
Allen, Graham Boyes, Roland
Alton, David Bradley, Keith
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Armstrong, Hilary Burden, Richard
Ashton, Joe Byers, Stephen
Austin-Walker, John Caborn, Richard
Barnes, Harry Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Barron, Kevin Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Battle, John Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Bayley, Hugh Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Cann, Jamie
Bell, Stuart Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Chisholm, Malcolm
Bennett, Andrew F. Clapham, Michael
Benton, Joe Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Bermingham, Gerald Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Berry, Dr. Roger Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clelland, David Jamieson, David
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Janner, Greville
Coffey, Ann Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Cohen, Harry Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Connarty, Michael Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Corbett, Robin Jowell, Tessa
Corbyn, Jeremy Keen, Alan
Cousins, Jim Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Cryer, Bob Khabra, Piara S.
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kilfoyle, Peter
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Dafis, Cynog Leighton, Ron
Dalyell, Tam Lewis, Terry
Darling, Alistair Litherland, Robert
Davidson, Ian Livingstone, Ken
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Llwyd, Elfyn
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Loyden, Eddie
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Lynne, Ms Liz
Denham, John McAllion, John
Dewar, Donald McAvoy, Thomas
Dixon, Don McCartney, Ian
Dobson, Frank Macdonald, Calum
Donohoe, Brian H. McFall, John
Dowd, Jim McKelvey, William
Dunnachie, Jimmy Mackinlay, Andrew
Eagle, Ms Angela McNamara, Kevin
Eastham, Ken McWilliam, John
Enright, Derek Madden, Max
Etherington, Bill Mahon, Alice
Evans, John (St Helens N) Mandelson, Peter
Fatchett, Derek Marek, Dr John
Faulds, Andrew Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Fisher, Mark Martlew, Eric
Flynn, Paul Maxton, John
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Meacher, Michael
Foster, Don (Bath) Meale, Alan
Foulkes, George Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fraser, John Milburn, Alan
Fyfe, Maria Miller, Andrew
Gapes, Mike Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Garrett, John Moonie, Dr Lewis
George, Bruce Morgan, Rhodri
Gerrard, Neil Morley, Elliot
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Godsiff, Roger Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Golding, Mrs Llin Mowlam, Marjorie
Gordon, Mildred Mudie, George
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Mullin, Chris
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Murphy, Paul
Grocott, Bruce Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Gunnell, John O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Hain, Peter O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hall, Mike O'Hara, Edward
Hanson, David Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hardy, Peter Parry, Robert
Harvey, Nick Pendry, Tom
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Pickthall, Colin
Henderson, Doug Pike, Peter L.
Heppell, John Pope, Greg
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hinchliffe, David Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hoey, Kate Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Primarolo, Dawn
Hood, Jimmy Purchase, Ken
Hoon, Geoffrey Quin, Ms Joyce
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Randall, Stuart
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Raynsford, Nick
Hoyle, Doug Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Reid, Dr John
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Hutton, John Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Illsley, Eric Rogers, Allan
Ingram, Adam Rooker, Jeff
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Ruddock, Joan
Sedgemore, Brian Tyler, Paul
Sheerman, Barry Vaz, Keith
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wallace, James
Short, Clare Walley, Joan
Skinner, Dennis Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E) Wigley, Dafydd
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Snape, Peter Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Soley, Clive Wilson, Brian
Spearing, Nigel Winnick, David
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Wise, Audrey
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Worthington, Tony
Steinberg, Gerry Wray, Jimmy
Stott, Roger Wright, Dr Tony
Straw, Jack
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Tellers for the Ayes:
Tipping, Paddy Mr. John Spellar and
Turner, Dennis Mr. Gordon McMaster.
Adley, Robert Couchman, James
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Cran, James
Aitken, Jonathan Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Amess, David Davis, David (Boothferry)
Ancram, Michael Day, Stephen
Arbuthnot, James Deva, Nirj Joseph
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Devlin, Tim
Ashby, David Dickens, Geoffrey
Aspinwall, Jack Dicks, Terry
Atkins, Robert Dorrell, Stephen
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Dover, Den
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Duncan, Alan
Baldry, Tony Duncan-Smith, Iain
Bates, Michael Dunn, Bob
Batiste, Spencer Durant, Sir Anthony
Bellingham, Henry Dykes, Hugh
Bendall, Vivian Elletson, Harold
Beresford, Sir Paul Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Body, Sir Richard Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Evennett, David
Booth, Hartley Faber, David
Boswell, Tim Fabricant, Michael
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Bowden, Andrew Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bowis, John Fishburn, Dudley
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Forman, Nigel
Brandreth, Gyles Forth, Eric
Brazier, Julian Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bright, Graham Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Freeman, Roger
Browning, Mrs. Angela French, Douglas
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fry, Peter
Burns, Simon Gale, Roger
Burt, Alistair Gallie, Phil
Butler, Peter Gardiner, Sir George
Butterfill, John Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Gillan, Cheryl
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carrington, Matthew Gorst, John
Carttiss, Michael Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Cash, William Greenway, Harry (Eallng N)
Chapman, Sydney Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Clappison, James Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Grylls, Sir Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hague, William
Coe, Sebastian Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Congdon, David Hampson, Dr Keith
Conway, Derek Hanley, Jeremy
Coombs, Anthony (Wyra For'st) Hannam, Sir John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hargreaves, Andrew
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Harris, David
Cormack, Patrick Haselhurst, Alan
Hawkins, Nick Powell, William (Corby)
Hawksley, Warren Rathbone, Tim
Hayes, Jerry Redwood, John
Heald, Oliver Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Heathcoat-Amory, David Richards, Rod
Hendry, Charles Riddick, Graham
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Robathan, Andrew
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Horam, John Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Sackville, Tom
Hunter, Andrew Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Jack, Michael Shaw, David (Dover)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jenkin, Bernard Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Jesse 1, Toby Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Shersby, Michael
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Key, Robert Soames, Nicholas
Kilfedder, Sir James Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Kirkhope, Timothy Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Knapman, Roger Spink, Dr Robert
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Spring, Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sproat, Iain
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Knox, David Steen, Anthony
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Stephen, Michael
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Stern, Michael
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Stewart, Allan
Leigh, Edward Streeter, Gary
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Sumberg, David
Lidington, David Sweeney, Walter
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Sykes, John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Lord, Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Luff, Peter Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
MacKay, Andrew Thomason, Roy
Maclean, David Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
McLoughlin, Patrick Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Thurnham, Peter
Madel, David Townend, John (Bridlington)
Maitland, Lady Olga Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Malone, Gerald Tracey, Richard
Mans, Keith Tredinnick, David
Marlow, Tony Trend, Michael
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Trotter, Neville
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Twinn, Dr Ian
Merchant, Piers Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Milligan, Stephen Viggers, Peter
Mills, Iain Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Walden, George
Monro, Sir Hector Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Waller, Gary
Moss, Malcolm Ward, John
Needham, Richard Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Nelson, Anthony Waterson, Nigel
Neubert, Sir Michael Wells, Bowen
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Nicholls, Patrick Whitney, Ray
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Whittingdale, John
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Widdecombe, Ann
Norris, Steve Wilkinson, John
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Willefts, David
Ottaway, Richard Wilshire, David
Page, Richard Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Paice, James Wolfson, Mark
Patnick, Irvine Wood, Timothy
Patten, Rt Hon John Yeo, Tim
Pawsey, James Young, Sir George (Acton)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Pickles, Eric Tellers for the Noes:
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Mr. David Lightbown and
Porter, David (Waveney) Mr. Andrew Mitchell.

Question accordingly negatived.

MADAM SPEAKER then put the Question on all remaining amendments up to the end of clause 143, moved by a member of the Government

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