HC Deb 02 March 1993 vol 220 cc157-83

  1. ' .—(1) The Secretary of State shall promote the education of the people of England and Wales.
  2. (2) In particular he shall exercise for that purpose his powers in respect of those bodies in receipt of public funds which—
    1. (a) carry responsibility for securing that the required provision for education is made in, or in any area of, England or Wales, or
    2. (b) conduct educational institutions in England and Wales.
  3. (3) He shall, in the case of his powers to regulate the provision made in educational institutions in England and Wales, exercise his powers with a view, among other things, to improving standards, encouraging diversity and increasing opportunities for choice.'—[Mr. Patten.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.28 pm
The Secretary of State for Education (Mr. John Patten)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker

With this, it might be convenient to take the following: amendment (b) to the new clause, at end insert— '(4) He shall exercise his powers in respect of the distribution of public funds to ensure that they are distributed equitably.'. Government amendments Nos. 81 and 82.

Mr. Patten

I am glad to put to the House something which I think will be historically important in educational terms. I am all the more pleased because I presume that it will have the enthusiastic support of Opposition Members. I say that because my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) assures me that the clause responds to the general concerns of both sides of the Standing Committee.

I believe that one of the first people to press for me to move such a new clause was the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright). That is exactly what one might expect from such an erudite and far-seeing Member of the House. I hope that I am damaging enough with his general management committee in what I am saying. Of course, his views were—

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Will my right hon. Friend give way on that point?

Mr. Patten

I was just coming to my hon. Friend. I know that he felt exactly the same way. That does not surprise me, because his wisdom and judgment in such matters are unparalleled throughout the House.

Mr. Pawsey

I am not quite sure whether I should have asked my right hon. Friend to give way at that specific time. I was merely going to say that the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) spoke at some length on the matter in Standing Committee. Clearly, there is a general flow of good will across the Chamber on this important clause. I feel it only right that my right hon. Friend should be aware of that current of good will.

Mr. Patten

I wish that there would always be a current of good will from both sides of the House whenever I get to the Dispatch Box.

I know that both sides of the Chamber are realistic about the way in which the educational world has changed beyond the vision set out at the beginning of the 1944 Education Act. I welcome the fact that, even though we may differ on many other points, everyone seems to recognise that the world has moved on in the last half-century. That is not surprising.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

In the current constructive mood of good will, would the Secretary of State care to take on board the 99 positive proposals which we have made but which he has overlooked or the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) is loth to tell him about? The right hon. Gentleman will have overlooked it. I understand that because he did not appear once to listen to the deliberations of the Standing Committee.

Mr. Patten

All those constructive views were listened to carefully, and, with his usual charm, rejected, by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.

I am indebted to both Conservative and Opposition members of the Committee for their support in the Standing Committee for the move that we are making. The debates, which are there in the Standing Committee Hansard for all to see, highlighted the fact that section 1 o the Education Act 1944 refers exclusively to the responsibility of local education authorities alone for the delivery of education services. It is no longer the case that LEAs alone have responsibility for the delivery of education. Things have moved on a great deal in the past half-century.

The thrust of Government policy in recent years has been to change the picture, especially since the landmark Education Reform Act 1988, which will be a monument to the service rendered in this place by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker). That Act has helped to transfer power and responsibility to the institutions—the schools and colleges.

The 1988 Act created the initial framework for the transfer of power by requiring schemes of local management for all state schools and colleges of further education, and by giving schools the right to opt out of local education authority control. One of the results of that bears repeating, because Opposition Members continue to talk the success story down.

There has been a startlingly successful move towards self-government in both further education and grant-maintained schools. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I attended a reception last night to mark the creation of the new further education sector, which will have complete freedom from local authority control after 1 April 1993. We have seen the effects and benefits of increased freedom.

As of today, more than 650 schools have applied for full self-governing, grant-maintained status. As projected in last summer's White Paper, by April 1994 the number of grant-maintained schools could be about 1,500. Of course, by then all LEA schools in Britain will have delegated budgets under the local management of schools scheme. LMS was bitterly fought a few years ago by the Opposition but, curiously enough, it is often used now as a weapon to persuade schools not to become self-governing. Local authorities say, "We will give you 85, 90 or 95 per cent. of the control over your budget."

As Mr. Enoch Powell might have said, it is paradoxical that that which the Labour party used to oppose five years ago it now uses as a weapon to try to stand in the way of Government policy. That attempt will fail, in the same way as opposition to delegated school management failed only five years ago.

Mr. Win Griffiths

A similar statement was made in Committee that we opposed the principle of local management of schools. We did not. We opposed the formula which the then Secretary of State proposed to introduce—especially the running sore of basing the budget on average school salary costs rather than real school salary costs.

Mr. Patten

No one who was in the House in 1987 and 1988, who sat through the many hours of the Committee stage of the Education Reform Bill or who took part in and listened with care and attention to the debates on the Floor of the House could have come away with anything other than the opinion that the Labour party did not wish to see the end of local bureaucratic control.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's belated conversion. I suppose that it is the beginning of the modernisation of the Labour party's education policy, albeit five years behind the times. After the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has left her position on the Front Bench to go somewhere else, the next Front-Bench spokesman will be thoroughly in favour of grant-maintained schools, just you wait and see.

The belief in self-government lay at the heart of the White Paper introduced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself, and of the Bill, which has now almost completed its passage through this House. The Bill consolidates the framework laid down in the 1988 Act. That framework provides for more and more schools to achieve self-governing status. But the laws which govern the provision of education must recognise what is happening and the fact that there have been other transfers of powers in the education world.

The then R. A. Butler's 1944 Education Act marked a great leap forward in the development of the education system in this country. I often think that, had the then R. A. Butler, in his scheme in the 1944 Act, had the benefit of the national curriculum and regular testing, the tripartite division of schools that he introduced in that Act might still endure today, because the national curriculum provides equality of opportunity and a minimum entitlement for all our children.

That did not happen, as he did not have a national curriculum or testing, but the Act itself has been on the statute book for half a century, and times have changed. The model of a centrally planned system, from Whitehall to town halls and county halls, is no longer appropriate, with a hierarchy of control from the Secretary of State to the local education authority, and through the local education authority to the school or college. It is certainly not appropriate for the 21st century, as was obvious to some well before the Education Act 1988.

My noted constituent Professor Halsey, fellow of Nuffield College Oxford, was much mentioned during Prime Minister's Question Time, and I have followed his sayings over the years. In a speech as long ago as January 1981, he doubted the wisdom of leaving education in the hands of—I quote directly from The Guardian, so it must be true—"professional education officers". He recommended a system whereby every school would receive a direct grant from Whitehall. As Professor Halsey said, "Why not try something revolutionary—local democracy?" That is exactly what we are doing. The Labour party is just 12 or 13 years behind Professor Halsey.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

During the process of the Bill through Committee, Opposition Members were continually talking about our measures being centralising. My right hon. Friend is making it perfectly clear that they do not even begin to understand the purpose of the Bill and Government policy. Will he confirm that our proposals and the Bill move towards local democracy and to the control of education being in the hands of schools, teachers and parents, and are the opposite of centralisation?

Mr. Patten

Some people in the Labour party are now beginning to believe that, in democracies throughout the western world, the move towards giving individuals and communities greater control over their own affairs, be it in schools or the health service, is a model. Words such as "empowerment" and "distribution of power" have been falling from the lips of some of the modernisers in the Labour party.

However, none of those modernisers is represented on the Opposition Front Bench today. The Opposition education team is in the hands of the producer lobbies and one or two trade unions. They should listen to what Professor Halsey said in 1981. I repeat, for the second and last time, my prediction that, by the end of the Parliament, we might well see the Labour party having turned on its head on grant-maintained schools, in the same way as it has done over trust hospitals and the local management of schools. That has been the history of the Labour party since 1979.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

I am extremely concerned that the Secretary of State is not up to date. Perhaps he has not read Professor Halsey's letter in The Guardian this morning, in which he fully reaffirms his commitment to comprehensive schools, and states: My preferred educational policy is also that of the Labour Party which deplores Conservative privatisation, underfunding and centralised bureaucracy, and which favours comprehensive schools. In short I remain an unrepentant ethical socialist.

Mr. Patten

For some reason, I have not read The Guardian this morning. I will do so, but I was reading from what Professor Halsey said 12 years ago. He may well have turned on his head, having been used so much by the Conservative party and the press. I regret the fact that he is now flicking backwards and forwards between one position and another.

Historians and academics, like Professor Halsey, would think ill of Members of Parliament if we failed in our duty to bring the lapsing provisions of the Education Act 1944 up to date, and it is in that spirit that I tabled the new clause. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will admire its straightforward simplicity. It is deliberately framed in a general form. Without the tedium of a long list, it covers all the relevant institutions and bodies. It also covers the colleges of further education, the Further Education Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council and the universities.

This is a radically different picture from that of half a century ago, when local education authorities ruled all the education waves—not only schools but further education colleges, and subsequently those institutions that became polytechnics, which a few years ago we set free of local authority control and enfranchised as independent universities. One has only to go to an independent grant-maintained school, an independent further education college or an independent university within the state system to see the benefits of independence. Those benefits need to be reflected in this vital clause.

The new clause also emphasises the Government's key educational objectives, which, unfortunately, do not seem to be shared by many Opposition Members. These objectives include improved standards—improved mainly through the encouragement of diversity—and increased choice for pupils and parents.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is this very independence that stimulates vitality and new ideas in heads and teaching staffs, as well as in parents? Responsibility for implementation is what really brings ideas to fruition. In teaching, that is what provides ultimate satisfaction.

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend was in education for many years before coming to the House. Because of that experience, I respect what he says and always give way to him.

What my hon. Friend has said does not apply just to grant-maintained schools. One now finds 90 per cent. delegation in LEA schools. Many such schools are on the edge of the nest, ready to fly off as fully independent institutions. There is a terrific feeling of zip and vim, and there is much experimentation. I pay tribute to those schools. The modernising tendency that is sweeping the Labour party has yet to reach education.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

I approve entirely of the right hon. Gentleman's concern for diversity and choice. In that context, will he look again at what I said in Committee about the possibility of providing state funding for schools whose curricula are different from, but none the less at a deep level compatible with, the national curriculum in terms of both scope and standards?

Does he recognise that such schools have an enormous contribution to make? So long as it can be proved that they have been successful and have reached the same destination by a different route, consideration ought to be given to some means, other than those that I have proposed, of providing state support for them.

Mr. Patten

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's great interest in these issues. I was about to say that he and I have crossed swords, but it would be more correct to say that we have almost crossed the Floor towards each other during Question Time exchanges about special educational needs. I respect his views and am aware of his deep interest in Steiner schools. I respect what that movement does.

However, state funds should be provided for schools that undertake the national curriculum. That is a minimum entitlement of all children in all schools of any sort within the state sector. The grant-maintained schools, county schools and schools in metropolitan areas deliver it. That is the right way forward.

We are always willing to consider applications from schools of all sorts for admission to the state sector, provided there is no surplus of school places in the areas concerned, and provided that the schools teach the national curriculum. Having been made aware of the hon. Gentleman's position, I shall keep an open mind on these issues. However, in the context of this Bill, we cannot go any further down the route that I know the hon. Gentleman wishes us to take.

I have referred to the way in which the system has changed since 1944. This new clause certainly does not sound the death knell for council control of primary and secondary schools. In effect, schemes of delegated management and self-government have almost done that already.

The new clause makes it clear that the role of local education authorities is changing rapidly. So far as some schools stay within the LEAs, these authorities will continue to plan provision in them and service them. The LEAs will also retain certain key strategic responsibilities —most notably in the field of special educational needs. But LEAs will no longer be the sole, and in some cases no longer a substantial, provider of education.

Education authorities are increasingly becoming enablers. They are enabling schools to provide education and are providing some services. The new clause reflects that existing and dynamic state of affairs. It encapsulates the Government's vision of our future education system. It recognises the fact that the system is changing very rapidly, as well as the extent of change since 1944, and I commend it to the House.

4.45 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

I ought to start by welcoming the Secretary of State to the debate on the Bill. Since November we have been discussing it in great detail in Committee. The fact that the Secretary of State never even put his head round the door of the Committee room proves that his interest in the Bill is not exactly commendable.

The Secretary of State did not make any reference to amendment (b), in my name and the names of several of my hon. Friends. That amendment would provide that He shall exercise his powers in respect of the distribution of public funds to ensure that they are distributed equitably. It is surprising that the Secretary of State did not say whether he was prepared to accept our amendment. Obviously, this is an issue with which he does not feel comfortable. Perhaps his remarks a few moments ago explain his problem. He said that schools should receive public money for delivering the national curriculum, yet the Government support the assisted places scheme, by which public money is used to subsidise independent schools that do not provide the national curriculum. Perhaps that is why the Secretary of State was not willing to address the basic principle of equity, which is the foundation of our amendment.

In some respects, the new clause could be seen as harmless. It is a declaratory provision full of rhetoric but without much meaning. It is strange in that it gives the Secretary of State powers, whereas the Act of 1944 imposed duties. If the Secretary of State's role is so critical, he should be seen as undertaking duties rather than exercising powers. One can choose whether to exercise powers.

In any case, I am not happy with the new clause. It is not true that there was Opposition pressure for it. Opposition Members drew attention to the anomaly in the Government's legislation, but that is hardly the equivalent of calling for such a provision. Before the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends came on the scene, there was a consensus that the Government were responsible for providing the framework of education, while the local authorities administered its delivery in accordance with local circumstances and local decisions, democratically arrived at. That is local accountability—a concept with which the Secretary of State seems to have difficulty in grappling. The Secretary of State's grabbing of specific powers has proceeded apace in recent years.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Act of 1988, which was introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker). Once that power was given to Secretaries of State, they became addicted to acquiring even more power and holding it in their own hands. Even before this Bill was introduced, the Secretary of State had power to appoint to quangos whomever he liked and to seek advice from those agreeing with him, and from no one else. The Secretary of State can decide the content of the curriculum. Indeed, he can announce changes such as the one about which we heard today—that the chairman of the National Curriculum Council and the chairman of the School Examinations and Assessment Council have resigned and a new appointment has been made. It is interesting to note that, when talking about his powers and role, the Secretary of State does not refer to the changes relevant to the Bill that have been made during the discussions on the measure.

Let us not forget that the right hon. Gentleman had, and used, many powers prior to the introduction of the Bill. He had powers over the curriculum, assessment and testing and powers to determine methods and levels of funding, in so far as the Treasury would allow, and over methods of teaching and teacher training. But even that array of powers was not enough for the present Secretary of State, which is why new clauses were introduced at a late stage, well after the guillotine had fallen, without proper time for consultations. Ministers have been panicked into using the measure to prop up some of their failing policies.

For example, the Secretary of State is taking new powers under clause 25 to enable him to declare void a ballot on grant-maintained status, if he thinks that somebody has played a part in influencing the ballot through the provision of information to parents. He will personally make that judgment. He has already introduced a new clause to force the issue of grant-maintained status on to the agenda of every governing body each year. So much for Government claims about trusting the judgment of governors.

Now we have the new clause, the so-called zero clause, which emphasises the role of the individual who holds the Secretary of State's office. But the right hon. Gentleman spent little time on the way in which he wants to repeal section 1 of the Education Act 1944, which he called the bedrock of education for the last 40 years. That fundamental change to the 1944 Act was introduced last Friday, although it was trailed in The Daily Mail a day earlier. The change, fundamental to the balance of power in education, has not been arrived at through consultation or consensus. The Government have simply determined to use their majority to achieve the change, without canvassing opinion inside or outside Parliament. Ministers are making policy on the hoof. Their policies will not stand the test of time, and the present Secretary of State is not well known for his willingness to consult on any issue.

Mr. Pawsey

Does the hon. Lady agree that only two weeks ago the Secretary of State met representatives of five of the six main teacher unions—a clear sign that he is prepared to listen to what others have to say?

Mrs. Taylor

I fancy that the Secretary of State would rather not receive that type of assistance from the Benches behind him, not least because he has been personally responsible for digging the very hole out of which the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) was trying to rescue him. It was clear from what was said at Question Time earlier that the Secretary of State has still not taken on board many of the fundamental points that the teachers put to him.

I wonder whether the Secretary of State even discussed the issues involved with the Prime Minister. After all, on Friday we had the publication of the new clause, which The Daily Mail described as the death knell of local authorities—we have been told that the Secretary of State does not believe in local authorities and thinks they should be abolished—and on the following day the Prime Minister told the Conservative local government conference—many people must have been surprised to learn that there was such a body—that there should be a new partnership between central and local government. If there is to be such a partnership, why is the Secretary of State trying to abolish the responsibility and accountability in education that local authorities have had under the Education Act 1944?

In Committee, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools—who, unlike the Secretary of State, was present for all our sessions; I suppose that the Government had to be represented by someone—made it clear that he regarded any Conservatiive councillor as having a vested interest. When we asked him about his attitude towards Conservative education leaders who had reservations about the Bill, he dismissed them as vested interests. I wonder whether he discussed the matter with the Prime Minister or took on board his right hon. Friend's claimed new spirit of co-operation with local authorities.

The new clause confirms that the Secretary of State wants a national system of education under his personal political control. He is making it clearer than ever that schools that become grant-maintained will not be opting out of local authority control but will be opting into centralised control under the right hon. Gentleman's direction. He will, as now, determine the curriculum, the level of funding and the number of teachers and, as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said, the Government do not believe that the class size issue is relevant to the quality of education.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

The hon. Lady has spoken at length about the powers of the Secretary of State. Will she comment on the objectives of the new clause which those powers will be used to achieve? In other words, will she speak about my right hon. Friend's powers to improve standards and to increase diversity and opportunity for choice? What has she to say to parents about those issues? What is her philosophy towards, and her policies on, education and standards?

Mrs. Taylor

I remind the hon. Gentleman that his right hon. Friend said at Question Time this afternoon that during 14 years of Conservative rule the problems of illiteracy in Britain had increased. I accept that we need improved standards, but there is no sign of such standards being achieved for all children in Britain under the Conservatives.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

If the hon. Lady is arguing that many grant-maintained schools are effectively opting into central Government control, may I ask her to square that with the remarks of her predecessor, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)—a quite intelligent Labour Front-Bench spokesman—who said in June 1992 that parents and governors might feel bound to make decisions about what was best for their schools and that Labour must not appear to be in opposition to those parents? If parents feel that they can take more control of decisions relating to their schools, they cannot feel that they are opting into control by central Government.

Mrs. Taylor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. While I do not recall him praising my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) when he was shadow Secretary of State, I am sure that my hon. Friend will accept the praise retrospectively. There have been occasions when parents have suggested that a school should become grant maintained to protect its comprehensive nature. I believe that some parents will take that course, and I shall appreciate their concern in view of the selection that is being introduced.

Ms. Armstrong

My hon. Friend may recall that I was a member of the Labour education team at the time to which the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) referred. We were then particularly referring to parents in Kent, Tory Wandsworth and other Conservative authorities where schools were being starved and were having imposed on them a system of education that they did not want. Therefore, in order to preserve the strength of comprehensive education, which they wanted their children to continue to enjoy, we said that perhaps we had to allow them to make that choice. The Tories were not allowing them any decisions or any choice over the future education of their children.

5 pm

Mr. Pawsey

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that it would not be the intention of the hon. Member for Durham, North West (Ms. Armstrong) to mislead the House in any way. We recognise that she is a person of integrity, but I fear that, inadvertently, she has not entirely answered the point.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

That is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Pawsey

I have in my possession a copy of the press release that was published at the time. It is headed Labour publishes new advice on opting-out.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that that is not a point of order for the Chair.

Mrs. Taylor

I think that my—

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)


Mrs. Taylor

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later, but I am answering the point first. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are working to a guillotine, because his Government have limited the time for discussion of this Bill.

When the White Paper was published, followed by the Bill, many people outside the House expressed concern at the centralisation of decision making in education. There are now many people whose anxiety has increased as the Bill has gone through Committee and the Secretary of State has taken more powers to himself.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

My hon. Friend will agree with me that from the beginning of this debate it has been clear that the Bill has nothing to do with standards. It is designed to centralise education and obliterate local education authorities. That has been the main aim of the Bill from the first day.

Mrs. Taylor

My hon. Friend is right. Sometimes Ministers have been honest about that, and sometimes they have tried to disguise that purpose. I think that it is true to say that Conservative councillors involved in education, as well as Labour councillors and those from other parties, are desperately concerned about the power that the Secretary of State has already, the way in which he uses that power and the constant interference in education by Ministers. I believe that their concern would increase were the Government to get their way and add the new clause to the Bill.

Mr. Pawsey

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I seek merely to correct an impression that might otherwise mislead the House. I have in my possession the press notice that was issued by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). It is headed: Labour publishes new advice on opting-out. The date is 10 June 1992 and the relevant section is: it must be recognised that local circumstances will vary. The community of schools is under threat of being broken up, but parents and governors may feel bound to make decisions about what they think is best for their school. Labour must not appear to be placed in a hostile position of opposition to such parents.. That is the relevant issue.

Mrs. Taylor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming what my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstong) said; that that was in relation to Kent and Wandsworth. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the majority of schools that have opted out have been in Conservative-controlled authorities. The Secretary of State who introduced the original legislation said that he expected opt-out to take place in areas where there were poor local authorities and parents wanted to escape from them. It is very evident that, if that is the reasoning behind opting out, it is in Tory areas that there is the greatest level of dissatisfaction.

Mr. Bowis


Mrs. Taylor

No, I must carry on. Hon. Members will complain if I do not draw my remarks to a close.

There was a great deal of concern when Ministers first decided to take these extra powers. The Association of County Councils, which is a Conservative-dominated body, called it a constitutional Bill and expressed its alarm; the Churches expressed their concern at the extra powers that the Secretary of State was taking; and even the Conservative Education Association talked about the Secretary of State trying to nationalise our schools, and said that the Bill proposed a frightening over-centralisation of power in the hands of the Secretary of State. And that was before this new clause was introduced.

No Secretary of State should be, or should try to be, all-powerful in education. No Secretary of State—not even a Labour one—has a monopoly of wisdom. I am disappointed that the Secretary of State does not share his Prime Minister's commitment to having a partnership between central and local government. Just as the delivery of education at school level is best achieved by a proper partnership between parents and teachers, so the structure of education in this country would be best achieved by a partnership between central and local government.

Ministers are not interested in partnership. This Secretary of State wants to grab all powers to himself. That cannot be the way forward, and for that reason we oppose these proposals.

Mr. Bowis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether it is in order to respond to this first debate, as the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman just has, without referring to amendment (b) standing in her name. There has been no reference to any Labour policy on this measure.

Mrs. Taylor

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I not only sought to move that amendment, but asked the Secretary of State what his response would be. I spelt out very clearly the principle of equity established in our amendment. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's interest in that amendment means that he will vote for it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That has answered the point of order.

Mr. Harry Greenway

I have listened to my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) with great interest. Each seemed to me to seek to use party political and national history to illustrate their versions of events and their views on what ought to be happening in education in this country.

For my money, my right hon. Friend is going in the right direction. The central reason for that is the promotion of the theme of independence and of choice and diversity in education. One is bound, looking at the matter historically, to compare that with the Labour party's record. As the Bible says, by their deeds ye shall know them. I always remember that when I pay attention to the Labour party. One never wants to listen to what Labour party supporters say; one must watch what they do.

This is the party that produced circular 10/66, which said that we would have a unitary system of education; we would abolish all grammar schools, independent schools, single sex schools, and all the rest. We would have one form of secondary education—comprehensive. There is a lot to be said for that system—I worked in it for well over 20 years—but to say that everything else must be jettisoned simply for this unitary form of education was preposterous.

Mr. Mike Hall (Warrington, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway

I intend to be very brief, but I will give way once.

Mr. Hall

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that circulars 10/65 and 10/66 were advice by the Department of Education to local authorities, and that it was up to the latter to determine whether it was carried out?

Mr. Greenway

Yes, but "advice" in inverted commas. It was very heavy advice, and local authorities knew very well that they had to observe it. [Interruption.] I was in schools, and I know very well what the pressure was. I suppose that I was working for the most socialist authority in the country—the Inner London education authority. Its response was to get rid of every grammar and voluntary school. I remember hearing the chairman of the schools sub-committee of ILEA, Mrs. Irene Chaplin, tell the heads of all voluntary-aided schools, "We're going to do you." What did she mean? She intended to get rid of them.

ILEA intended to get rid of all diversity in education in London, and it produced the London plan, which aimed to produce 97 comprehensive schools out of all the secondary modern, grammar, and technical schools, many of which were so excellent. Why did ILEA do so? It was a response to heavy "advice" from the Labour Government, who wanted identical education for all children in secondary schools. Their aim was to achieve a unique socialist child or protege. Comprehensive schools were designed not to give children an education for life, but to produce socialists.

Mr. Bowis

My hon. Friend has heard the Opposition pay lip service to local accountability today. Does he recall what happened when local education authorities voted to oppose central Government diktat? Does he recall what happened every time that parents, teachers and schools sought to oppose it? They were overruled.

Mr. Greenway

There is no doubt that the Labour party's education record has been highly authoritarian, and that it never encouraged schools to have an individual approach. The proposal of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will ensure, by law, that schools may have such an approach in future, and I warmly welcome it.

Freedom and choice in schools are essential. The Labour party has argued that the Bill will centralise education, but it could not be more wrong. Every secondary school in my constituency is, or is on the way to being, grant maintained, and they choose that route by first balloting parents of children at the' school. What could be more democratic?

Mr. Hall

What is the local authority?

Mr. Greenway

When the ballot was set up at the school attended by the children of the former Leader of the Opposition, the then Labour-controlled Ealing council sent in all the heavies—

Mr. Patten

There was intimidation.

Mr. Greenway

Yes, there was tremendous intimidation. The council sent in the education officer, the deputy education officer and the chairman of the education committee, whose father is the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—every heavy that one could think of—to pressurise the parents against voting to make Drayton Manor high school grant maintained; but the parents fought it and took a democratic decision. They threw off Labour party pressure to go grant maintained. The debate was long and lasted many months, but the ballot could not have been more democratic or more decisive, which was a slap in the face to local socialists, to the then Leader of the Opposition and to the Labour party.

First, parents are balloted; secondly, the Bill will ensure that grant-maintained schools and many of those with local management, which all schools will soon have, will take decisions locally.

How was it done in the long days of Labour Governments? One could not take decisions locally then. My last school, which was built by the Labour-controlled ILEA—before that it was the London county council—had five gymnasiums, and they all leaked. How long did it take for the roofs to be repaired? First, I had to contact the local education authority's architects department, and after six months it sent for the GLC architects. When they could not come, they sent in contractors. After a couple of years, the job was put out to contract, and eventually the leaks were repaired. Grant-maintained schools will be able to call in builders to fix leaks the day after they occur. Such independence is a great improvement and will be of tremendous value to schools.

Finally, giving independence to schools, which the Bill once enacted will do through new clause 22, will grant them a crucial decision-making power over how to spend their cash. For example, Northholt high school has decided to change from local authority cleaners to a cleaning company, which saves £70,000. That money has gone towards more teachers, pens, pencils, rubbers, books and all the rest, and that was a local decision.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most important advantages of new clause 22, once it becomes law, will be that schools will have the opportunity to spend money on building improvements? For example, in my constituency the Labour-controlled local authority is insisting that a school should install another old terrapin building, when the governors and the head teacher know that they could get a new, brick-built classroom for less.

Mr. Greenway

My hon. Friend has such a good argument. I cannot understand why Opposition Members do not accept the arguments for independence and freedom put forward by Conservative Members to involve the local community, whether parents with children at the school or well-wishers, such as pensioners who enjoy attending school functions and others near the schools. They will become more involved, schools will improve and the children will benefit. Surely that is what it is all about.

The reorganisation of London schools wasted between 10 and 20 years, and children's education suffered grievously. That must never happen again, and it will not under the Bill.

5.15 pm
Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

First, I join the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) in welcoming the Secretary of State to the debate. We are all delighted that he will at last join our detailed discussion of the Bill, for which he claims personal responsibility.

Many hon. Members will have seen the press release of new clause 22 put out by the Secretary of State, which explicitly stated that the new clause was being tabled because schools are in the driving seat. Those of us who have studied the changes in legislation in recent years will know that that is being economical with the truth. The reality is that the Secretary of State is firmly in the driving seat. He has closed the doors of his vehicle so that he cannot hear what anyone else is saying, save for those few who have decided to get in with him. The Secretary of State has determined the direction and the route that will be taken, and many people are concerned about that.

The new clause states: The Secretary of State…shall exercise…his powers in respect of those bodies in receipt of public funds". I hope that that means that local education authorities will be included in the list.

Mr. Patten

indicated assent.

Mr. Foster

I see that the Secretary of State nods. I know that many hon. Members fear for the long-term future of local education authorities because of the hammer blows that the Government have dealt them.

The new funding authorities established through this legislation will also be included in the list. My problem is that I do not understand—and it has not been explained to me in a way that I can understand—how the Secretary of State will exercise his powers through those two bodies. He was not with us when we debated this issue in Committee, but perhaps I can remind him that, in respect of the working relationship between LEA and the funding authorities, he said: There will be two bodies—the LEA and the funding agency—with parallel but not shared responsibilities."—[Official Report, 9 November 1992; Vol. 213, c. 635.] Some of us did not understand that and, in Committee, we pressed the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools to explain it. At one point, he said: We have no difficulty accepting the concept of shared responsibility"—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 1 December 1992; c. 391.] He was already beginning to contradict the Secretary of State.

Finally, in what the Under-Secretary called his definitive explanation, he said in Committee: there is shared responsibility exercised by parallel duties." —[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 8 December 1992;c. 517.] I hope that the Secretary of State will take particular note of that, as it directly contradicts his statement. None of us really understood what that meant, so we have grave reservations about new clause 22(2), which states that the Secretary of State will exercise his powers in respect of those bodies in receipt of public funds". What is even more worrying about the new clause is the way in which subsection (3) is significantly infused with Tory party dogma. It refers to the Secretary of State exercising his powers with a view, among other things, to improving standards, encouraging diversity and increasing opportunities for choice. Those words are harmless enough on the face of it, but given what we have come to know the Secretary of State to mean by them, they are extremely destructive in his hands. Many hon. Members will have noticed that, when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the new clause, he did not quote those words precisely; he put it rather differently and spoke about the power to improve standards, mainly through encouraging diversity and increasing choice. That reinforces my point about the new clause representing Conservative party dogma.

When the Secretary of State talks about improving standards, he fails to do so in the way that most of us consider to be vital—by making a significant improvement to the resources available to our schools. When the Secretary of State talks about judging standards, as he did in the debate about the key stage 3 English standard assessment task, the SAT, he is talking about simplistic paper and pencil tests. The right hon. Gentleman may talk about encouraging diversity, but many of us are increasingly concerned that what he means is the back-door introduction of selection by ability. The decision on Southlands girls school reinforces our concern.

The Secretary of State's concept of choice is different from that understood by many others. It is therefore surprising that he introduced a new clause that included the word "choice", especially when the Under-Secretary has accepted that that word is inappropriate. It was the right hon. Gentleman's own Minister who referred back to the words contained within the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper, which explained that parents had the ability "to express a preference" for a school. Many of us know that the choice of school is not available to the vast majority of parents.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

On the question of choice, is the hon. Gentleman aware of the situation in Hillingdon, where many of the secondary schools became grant maintained, and where, as a result, a smaller proportion of parents are now getting their first choice of secondary school for their children than under the old system?

Mr. Foster

The hon. Lady has illustrated the concern that many of us feel about the concept of choice, as used by the Secretary of State and his colleagues on the Conservative Benches, which is merely rhetoric. It is not borne out by the options available to parents.

The hon. Member for Crosby (Sir. M. Thornton) is even more trenchant than I have been in his criticism of the use of the word "choice". I should remind the Secretary of State that that hon. Gentleman said: To be told that you have the freedom to choose is a sick joke when the only choice is between losing teachers or slashing an already reduced sum for capitation. The Secretary of State may talk about choice, but he still refuses to allow legislation to be introduced that would enable future generations of parents to have the option to allow their children's schools to opt out of grant-maintained status and back into LEA control.

In Committee, we discovered that one of the reasons that we were there was for the Secretary of State—or in his absence, the Under-Secretary—to explain their thinking behind the Bill. The words of the new clause may seem fine, but when we analyse the underlying principle and what it would mean if it rested in the hands of the Secretary of State, we must all be extremely concerned.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I welcome the new clause. I cannot think of anyone in whose hands those powers and responsibilities would be better placed than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I have one slight proviso: I hope that they will always rest in such good hands, because I am a little worried that, at some point in the future, improving standards may not be part of the picture.

On Second Reading and in Committee there was little mention of nursery education and I should like to spend a few moments considering it. Evidence has been gained from this country and many others of the effectiveness of early education. In countries where children have access to good-quality pre-school education the evidence suggests that they have an advantage when starting school. They score higher marks in the SATs at the age of seven and do better at school at the age of 10 on a variety of scores.

In the United States, research has revealed the long-term benefits of nursery education, which include a reduced likelihood of delinquency in later years—that is of particular importance in the light of recent events in this country and the statement made by the Home Secretary only this afternoon. That research also revealed that nursery education resulted in fewer referrals to special education schools and fewer unwanted teenage pregnancies and that children went on to enjoy happier marriages and a better job life than those who did not benefit from such education. One report of particular importance, bearing in mind that it covered two departments, revealed that for every dollar spent, ․4.30 was saved. It is important, therefore, to appreciate that nursery education is a question not merely for the Treasury, but for policy decision.

In Committee, the Under-Secretary rejected amendment No. 83 because he said that it was unnecessary and pointless. It had been moved by the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice), who made an extremely good speech; I endorse much of what she said. The Under-Secretary was good enough to accept amendment No. 105, which added a reference to nursery schooling to schedule 2.

The Minister also referred to the Education Acts of 1944 and 1980 and he correctly pointed out that neither required previous or future funding of nursery education —more's the pity, to my mind. Many LEAs, however, provide such education now and I believe that many more should be encouraged to do so.

The new clause establishes the Secretary of State's responsibility for, and powers over, the conduct of all educational institutions in England and Wales that receive public funding. I am sure that he would want to clarify how the provision for nursery schooling will be made in the future. That raises two questions, the first of which relates to the general level of funding for nursery education. There is certainly a lack of clarity about the Government's future funding policy for it.

I should like increased resources for nursery education, and have argued about the effectiveness of such expenditure, both earlier in my speech and on previous occasions. However, my immediate concern is to ensure both a continuing commitment to nursery education and that expenditure is maintained, at least at current levels. That is one way forward.

5.30 pm

There are three other possible ways forward. The first is to earmark funding for services for children under five at both central and local government level. The second way is to accept the longer-term need for increased spending on nursery education and reflect that in increased standard spending assessments. The third way is to make provision statutory or to return to the pre-1980 position, where local authorities had a duty to provide nursery education, with additional resourcing as required. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or my hon. Friend the Minister will clarify the position.

In Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister said that the Government did not intend: that the duty of the funding agency of the schools funding council for Wales to secure sufficient school places should include a duty to secure nursery places. The LEA's duty under section 8 of the Education Act 1944, to which the duty of the funding authority is linked in paragraph 3(3) and (5) of schedule 2, does not include a duty to secure sufficient nursery places—it is not the intention that the funding agency or the funding council should cover nursery education. However, if on further reflection we believe that that may be the case, we shall return to it at a later stage. I hope that there is a promise hanging there. My hon. Friend continued: if a school with full-time nursery provision becomes grant-maintained it will be funded in total by the funding agency for schools. That will not he so if the school offers only part-time provision."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 3 December 1992; c. 483–84.]

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am a little concerned about to which of the Government's new clauses or amendments the hon. Gentleman is speaking. I think that many Opposition Members will endorse what he is saying about nursery education, but we fail to see the relevance of his speech now.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The scope of the new clause is wide, and it refers to nursery education. The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) is in order: if he were not, I should have ruled him out of order.

Mr. Rathbone

The subject could not be more pertinent, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is taking on more and more responsibility for the funding. We are discussing an important point of principle as well as a point of practice. I hope that I have illustrated by the two quotations that I gave from my hon. Friend the Minister that there appears to be an inherent tension between the two extracts, particularly since some definitions of full time might include the majority of nursery provision.

The proposals on the common funding formula are currently out for consultation. There still appears to be some confusion over what constitutes full-time provision and what constitutes part-time provision. In a recent High Court case—I believe that it involved Lewisham—it was contended that nursery education was provided on a daily basis. Even if it was provided for only a part of each day or if pupils attended only part time, that constituted full-time provision. It appears that full-time, but not part-time, nursery education will be funded by the funding agency, with the cost to be recovered from the LEA.

There are five possible policies, and I seek clarification from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about which policy, or which combination of policies, will be adopted.

Mr. Steinberg

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a great danger that if a local education authority, particularly a Conservative one, finds that its schools have opted out and it no longer controls education in its area other than nursery education, that authority might provide no nursery education? It could be that the only local authorities providing nursery provision will be those controlled by the Labour party, which already has an excellent record on nursery provision.

Mr. Rathbone

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a risk of that happening. However, his comments about Conservative-controlled education authorities is incorrect. He need only to refer to the Hansard Committee report to see the clear description of the marvellous job done by the Conservative authority in Wandsworth.

To return to my first points: first, clarification is needed on the role of the funding agency and the funding council for Wales in relation to nursery education. Secondly, if grant-maintained schools, through the funding agency, are to be funded for full-time nursery education, clarification is needed about what constitutes full-time provision and what constitutes part-time provision in respect of the common funding formula.

Thirdly, if the funding agency is to be responsible for funding nursery education, it will be important to ensure that its membership includes at least one experienced early teaching specialist.

Fourthly, and crucially, there is a need to safeguard the ability of the LEA to locate nursery provision where it is most needed. If grant-maintained schools are able to demand new nurseries, local education authorities will effectively have to fund those by losing money from their standard spending assessment, which will be re-routed through the funding agency to the grant-maintained school. That would have an impact on the LEA's ability to fund its own nurseries on a continuing basis.

Fifthly, the Bill enables the Secretary of State to require inter-authority recoupment on under-five pre-school provision. I hope that he will use that provision. I should welcome clarification on those matters.

Mr. Enright

The Secretary of State said that the Bill was of straightforward simplicity, but that phrase should be properly interpreted. It is a Bill of downright naivety, which illustrates the Government's problems as they panic instead of considering and understanding the causes of anxiety, and acting to resolve them.

I took the trouble to look at the Government's history on education Acts. There was the Education Act 1979, the Education Act 1980, the Education Act 1981, and further legislation on education in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985, but the Government still did not have it right. Therefore, in 1986 they introduced three education Bills that became the Education Act 1986, the Education (Amendment) Act 1986 and the Education (No. 2) Act 1986

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Mr. Eric Forth)

There is a consistency.

Mr. Enright

The Government were not consistent as, thereafter, they gave up as there were a few other semi-important pieces of legislation such as the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the poll tax legislation. Therefore, we had a couple of years without anything until, in 1988, we had the great Education Reform Act, but still the Government had not got it right. They would have been far better advised to sit down in 1979 and appoint a royal commission on education so that we could find the best way forward.

The Secretary of State's problem is that he has no underlying philosophy or principles to guide him as to what should be done in education. The Secretary of State should be like Lochinvar leading forth the teachers and the educational world into a new age. Instead, he behaves much more like the first world war generals, who stayed behind and shot soldiers in the rear as they went forward. The Secretary of State cannot distinguish between tactics and strategy or between the purpose of war and the actions required to win the war.

The Secretary of State referred to the 1944 Act, and gave me credit for new clause 22. I am grateful to him for that, but, alas, the words with which he chose to replace the 1944 Act were wrong, as, indeed, was his interpretation of the Act. The Secretary of State clearly said that it refers only to LEAs, but it does not. It refers to a tripartite arrangement between schools, local education authorities and the Secretary of State for Education. It is a tragedy that it was abolished. The 1944 Act showed that the authorities knew the distinction between being progressive and being effective, and they honed their weapons accordingly. They knew of the desire for the varied as well as for the comprehensive. They knew of the duty of a local education authority to stimulate the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of all pupils. All that is wiped out by new clause 22—tossed aside in an effort to satisfy the Secretary of State's megalomania.

New clause 22 emphasises and underlines the Secretary of State's power. He is to take to himself the task of monitoring standards. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) said that by their deeds shall ye know them. The Secretary of State is to monitor standards. What a track record he has, on the way in which English in particular has been introduced. It is absurd to suggest for one moment that illiteracy can be removed by looking at gobbets from "The Importance of Being Earnest". It is a means, but one must make sure that the proper resources are there.

The Secretary of State talks of encouraging diversity, at a time when he is squeezing out syllabus subjects such as classics and imposing syllabuses that are so prescriptive that Hitler and Stalin would have looked upon the right hon. Gentleman proudly as an heir to their tradition. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Lenin?"] Lenin would not have looked at the right hon. Gentleman in that way—Lenin never looked at anyone in that sort of way.

If the Secretary of State wants to withdraw some of the prescriptions that he is putting in the various syllabuses, I should welcome it, but every act of this Secretary of State has shown that he wants to act as a dictator—that he knows best and that no one else can contribute advice that he will take.

Mr. Hawkins

Does the hon. Gentleman defend the practice of many left-leaning teachers, who believe that rap music is an appropriate subject to be studied in English lessons? Would he not prefer the works of Oscar Wilde, such as "The Importance of Being Earnest"? Does he not agree that is the right recipe for children to learn good English?

Mr. Enright

What an extraordinary statement. Teachers in any school know best what will fire the imagination and enthusiasm of their pupils. They use a whole variety of methods to stimulate their pupils—as I did. To help my pupils discover what the optative and subjunctive are all about, I translated Beatles songs into Latin—which would no doubt be to the fury of the hon. Gentleman, but it contributed to effective teaching. Many teachers do the same and it is wholly absurd of the hon. Gentleman to ridicule teachers who are working effectively at the chalk face, at a job which he could never do.

The Secretary of State talks of giving increased choice, but what increased opportunities for choice do pupils have—

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Enright

I will do so when I have finished making this point, even though the hon. and learned Gentleman has only just strolled—I nearly said the wrong word—into the Chamber.

The Secretary of State deliberately refused choice to 16-year-olds of the equivalent of the baccalaureate, thereby reducing their choices at 18-plus. I give way to the decorously dressed hon. and learned Gentleman.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

As a classicist myself with first-class honours, I should be interested to hear a rendition of a Beatles song, with all the words in English translated into Latin by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Enright

Certainly. Habitamus sub vitreo, Sub vitreo, Sub vitreo"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been a Member of the House long enough to know its rules full well.

Mr. Enright

I apologise unreservedly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I could not resist the hon. and learned Gentleman's challenge.

New clause 22 is totally inadequate to achieve the aims that we have for our children and the philosophy that the Opposition adopt towards improving education standards not just for the few but for all our children. That means increasing the power of their imagination. That is what we should be examining, and it is that which the Secretary of State consistently curbs by his actions.

5.45 pm
Mrs. Angela Knight (Erewash)

The importance of new clause 22 is that it acknowledges that we have a changed system, in which more schools are going grant maintained—which I welcome. The 650 schools that have already voted for GM status are just a drop in the ocean. Many more are considering that course. One reason is the continuing antics of many local education authorities—antics that do not serve well the schools in their areas.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

I can tell my hon. Friend that a conference in Birmingham within the next two weeks on grant-maintained schools has been oversubscribed by no fewer than 35 schools, who are desperate to be free of the control of appalling Labour local authorities.

Mrs. Knight

My hon. Friend's intervention shows only too clearly how the momentum is gathering and that schools view GM status as the best option for serving the children in their areas.

In Derbyshire, many head teachers are most worried about the way in which the local authority is seeking to prejudice the education given in some schools by the way that it distributes funds. One head pointed out recently that some schools receive £1,600 per pupil, while others get as much as £2,400—a gap of £800. He adds, most eloquently: If one examines the surpluses left over at the end of the year, it indicates the enormous differences and unfairnesses in the Derbyshire system. The council is quite blatantly failing in its duty to fund schools according to their needs. That is an example of the way that some education authorities are choosing not to provide schools with the funds that they require. The importance of grant-maintained schools is that they are funded according to their needs.

Ms. Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)

If the hon. Lady is so concerned about funding inequalities within an LEA area, will she comment on the situation in Birmingham, where four grant-maintained schools have been given half a million pounds between them, whereas the other 500 schools have been given only £6 million between them all? Does the hon. Lady consider that the Secretary of State acted equitably in the way that he distributed money between Birmingham schools?

Mrs. Knight

I understand that the hon. Lady is referring to capital allocations. If the schools make a good case, they will be funded. If they fail to do so, they will not be funded. The hon. Lady will find that many LEAs, including mine—and, I suspect, hers as well—have not given their schools the finances that they need, because those authorities have chosen to spend their capital elsewhere. I urge the hon. Lady to tell Birmingham city council that it is imperative that it spends more of its capital on schools. That authority is notorious for underfunding every school in its area. I am surprised that the hon. Lady did not make that point in her intervention.

It was interesting to hear from the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), who was conspicuous by her absence in Committee. She said that, in her view, the Bill was intent on abolishing local education authorities. That is a travesty of what the Bill is about; its purpose is to allow parents to choose what is best for their children, for the school that their children attend and for the community. It is not about the Department saying this and the LEA saying that; it is about parents being able to make independent decisions about schools. That is a fundamental part of raising standards. It must be recognised that it is a movement which is continuing throughout the country, and that changes must be made in institutions to accommodate it.

Earlier speakers cited the Association of County Councils as an authority which did not support the Bill. In a letter to me, the association said that it welcomed the Government's present policies for education, and this Bill. It said: In particular, we are pleased to see the continuing drive for higher standards in schools, more open accountability to parents, greater day-to-day managerial independence for schools of all kinds, the merger of the bodies responsible for the curriculum and for its assessment, and stronger governing bodies. That, surely, is evidence of the association's support for the Bill.

It is interesting to note that the Church, too, now wishes to swell the number of grant-maintained schools. I recall reading an article that stated that one in four bishops is privately in favour of schools opting out of LEA control, and is promoting it in the primary and secondary schools within his jurisdiction. That is very good news, and it provides support for the Government's policies.

The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) produced a long list of education Bills that have been presented to the House. That shows the importance that Conservative Members ascribe to education: it is proof of this party's willingness to grasp the fact that education is one of the most important and fundamental issues, and to ensure that children receive the best possible education.

I particularly welcome the diversity and choice that are now springing up throughout the country, even in Labour-controlled areas. If an area contains both grant-maintained and LEA schools, choice is provided. Previous Acts of Parliament have removed the artificial restrictions placed on school numbers; now, parents can choose more widely. The city technology college movement is another aspect of the increased choice and diversity that are now available.

I believe that education is a fundamental issue of our times. If we fail children while they are at school, it will be very difficult for them to catch up later. New clause 22 recognises that change has taken place, and that greater changes will follow in the coming years. It is surprising that the Opposition should oppose it: it is a Luddite—indeed, an ostrich—approach to say that local education authorities are the only possible providers of education. Why should that be so? If I must trust someone with responsibility for education, I prefer to trust parents—and the grant-maintained system is all about trusting parents' choice.

Mr. Stephen Byers (Wallsend)

I hope that the new clause will be opposed, for a simple reason: it is fundamental to the drift of Conservative education policy. It starkly demonstrates the way in which power is being concentrated in the hands of the Secretary of State. It does not give power to schools, governors or parents; it gives power to the holder of the office of Secretary of State for Education. It represents one of the most dramatic extensions of Whitehall power since 1945. The wholesale nationalisation of our education service will not lead to greater diversity; all our experience clearly shows that nationalisation, and the dead hand of Whitehall, lead to a uniform system up and down the country, rather than the diversity that the Government pretend to favour.

Choice will be denied to parents, for a simple reason. There is a paradox at the heart of the Bill, and at the heart of new clause 22. On the one hand, the Secretary of State argues in favour of extending parental choice; on the other, because of Treasury pressure, he must remove hundreds of thousands of surplus places from the education system. It is impossible to reconcile the removal of such a large number of surplus places with the extension of parental choice. Parents in Hillingdon and Bromley, where the grant-maintained sector is up and running, are experiencing less choice as a result of the Government's policies.

The new clause repeals an important provision in the 1944 Act—the provision that refers to a partnership in the delivery of education services. The new clause allows the Secretary of State power to dictate to the various bodies involved, whether they are local education authorities or funding agencies. That is power without responsibility. It would bad enough to give such a power to any Secretary of State; it is even worst to give it to the present Secretary of State, who runs away from arguments, fears debate and is scared of questions. He is the Scarlet Pimpernel of the education world: they seek him here, they seek him there, but we all know that they will never find him at an education conference. He runs away from his critics, and, as a result, our children suffer.

In the introduction to the White Paper, the Secretary of State quoted John Ruskin. Let me refer him to another Ruskin quote, which I feel is appropriate to the way in which he speaks from the Dispatch Box. Ruskin wrote: Conceit may puff a man up but it can never prop him up." I think that the Secretary of State has much to learn from that. Even the right hon. Gentleman's friends are now turning against him. The education editor of The Daily Telegraph writes that he is "Aloof, ineffectual, almost invisible", and continues: his performance is beginning to provoke derision among his enemies and cause concern to his friends. His report card says he contributes little to discussion in class, lacks initiative, does not do his homework". The new clause is a blow to local democracy. It will destroy the partnership established in the Education Act 1944. It does nothing to raise standards, improve quality, extend opportunity or provide greater parental choice. Our children and our nation deserve better.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I welcome the new clause as I welcome the Bill. Far from doing what the hon. member for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) and other members of the Opposition parties have alleged, the new clause will introduce a more equitable distribution of powers between the Government and the councils—

It being Six o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Order 15 December) and Resolution this day, put the Question already proposed from the Chair, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 284, Noes 238.

Division No. 164] [6 pm
Adley, Robert Elletson, Harold
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Aitken, Jonathan Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Amess, David Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Ancram, Michael Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Arbuthnot, James Evennett, David
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Faber, David
Ashby, David Fabricant, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fishburn, Dudley
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Forman, Nigel
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Forth, Eric
Baldry, Tony Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bates, Michael Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Batiste, Spencer Freeman, Roger
Bendall, Vivian French, Douglas
Beresford, Sir Paul Fry, Peter
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gale, Roger
Blackburn, Dr John G. Gallie, Phil
Body, Sir Richard Gardiner, Sir George
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Booth, Hartley Garnier, Edward
Boswell, Tim Gillan, Cheryl
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bowden, Andrew Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowis, John Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brandreth, Gyles Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brazier, Julian Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bright, Graham Grylls, Sir Michael
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hague, William
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Burns, Simon Hampson, Dr Keith
Burt, Alistair Hanley, Jeremy
Butcher, John Hannam, Sir John
Butler, Peter Hargreaves, Andrew
Butterfill, John Harris, David
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Haselhurst, Alan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawkins, Nick
Carrington, Matthew Hawksley, Warren
Carttiss, Michael Hayes, Jerry
Cash, William Heald, Oliver
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chapman, Sydney Hendry, Charles
Clappison, James Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Horam, John
Coe, Sebastian Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Congdon, David Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Conway, Derek Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunter, Andrew
Cormack, Patrick Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Couchman, James Jack, Michael
Cran, James Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jenkin, Bernard
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jessel, Toby
Davis, David (Boothferry) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Day, Stephen Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Devlin, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dickens, Geoffrey Key, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kilfedder, Sir James
Dover, Den Kirkhope, Timothy
Duncan, Alan Knapman, Roger
Duncan-Smith, Iain Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Dunn, Bob Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Durant, Sir Anthony Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dykes, Hugh Knox, David
Eggar, Tim Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, David (Dover)
Leigh, Edward Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lidington, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Shersby, Michael
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Sims, Roger
Lord, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Luff, Peter Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Soames, Nicholas
MacKay, Andrew Spencer, Sir Derek
Maclean, David Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
McLoughlin, Patrick Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Spink, Dr Robert
Madel, David Spring, Richard
Maitland, Lady Olga Sproat, Iain
Malone, Gerald Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Mans, Keith Steen, Anthony
Marlow, Tony Stephen, Michael
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stern, Michael
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stewart, Allan
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Streeter, Gary
Merchant, Piers Sumberg, David
Milligan, Stephen Sweeney, Walter
Mills, Iain Sykes, John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Monro, Sir Hector Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Moss, Malcolm Thomason, Roy
Needham, Richard Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Neubert, Sir Michael Thurnham, Peter
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholls, Patrick Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Tracey, Richard
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Tredinnick, David
Norris, Steve Trend, Michael
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Trotter, Neville
Ottaway, Richard Twinn, Dr Ian
Page, Richard Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Paice, James Viggers, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon John Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Walden, George
Pawsey, James Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Waller, Gary
Pickles, Eric Ward, John
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Porter, David (Waveney) Waterson, Nigel
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wells, Bowen
Powell, William (Corby) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Rathbone, Tim Whitney, Ray
Redwood, John Whittingdale, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Widdecombe, Ann
Richards, Rod Wilkinson, John
Riddick, Graham Willetts, David
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Wilshire, David
Robathan, Andrew Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wolfson, Mark
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Wood, Timothy
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Yeo, Tim
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Tellers for the Ayes:
Sackville, Tom Mr. David Lightbown and
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Abbott, Ms Diane Barnes, Harry
Adams, Mrs Irene Barron, Kevin
Ainger, Nick Battle, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Bell, Stuart
Allen, Graham Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Alton, David Bennett, Andrew F.
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Benton, Joe
Armstrong, Hilary Bermingham, Gerald
Ashton, Joe Berry, Dr. Roger
Austin-Walker, John Betts, Clive
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Blair, Tony
Blunkett, David Harvey, Nick
Boateng, Paul Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boyce, Jimmy Henderson, Doug
Boyes, Roland Heppell, John
Bradley, Keith Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hinchliffe, David
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Hoey, Kate
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Burden, Richard Hood, Jimmy
Byers, Stephen Hoon, Geoffrey
Caborn, Richard Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hoyle, Doug
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cann, Jamie Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clapham, Michael Hutton, John
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Illsley, Eric
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Ingram, Adam
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Clelland, David Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jamieson, David
Coffey, Ann Janner, Greville
Cohen, Harry Johnston, Sir Russell
Connarty, Michael Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Corbett, Robin Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Corbyn, Jeremy Keen, Alan
Cousins, Jim Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Cryer, Bob Khabra, Piara S.
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kirkwood, Archy
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Leighton, Ron
Dafis, Cynog Litherland, Robert
Dalyell, Tam Livingstone, Ken
Darling, Alistair Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davidson, Ian Llwyd, Elfyn
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Loyden, Eddie
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lynne, Ms Liz
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McAllion, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) McAvoy, Thomas
Denham, John McCartney, Ian
Dewar, Donald Macdonald, Calum
Dixon, Don McFall, John
Dobson, Frank McKelvey, William
Donohoe, Brian H. McMaster, Gordon
Dowd, Jim McNamara, Kevin
Dunnachie, Jimmy McWilliam, John
Eagle, Ms Angela Madden, Max
Eastham, Ken Mahon, Alice
Enright, Derek Mandelson, Peter
Etherington, Bill Marek, Dr John
Evans, John (St Helens N) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Fatchett, Derek Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Faulds, Andrew Martlew, Eric
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Maxton, John
Fisher, Mark Meacher, Michael
Flynn, Paul Meale, Alan
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Michael, Alun
Foster, Don (Bath) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Foulkes, George Milburn, Alan
Fraser, John Miller, Andrew
Fyfe, Maria Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Gapes, Mike Moonie, Dr Lewis
Garrett, John 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, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Murphy, Paul
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Grocott, Bruce O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Gunnell, John O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hain, Peter O'Hara, Edward
Hall, Mike Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hanson, David Parry, Robert
Hardy, Peter Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin Spearing, Nigel
Pike, Peter L. Spellar, John
Pope, Greg Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Steinberg, Gerry
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Stott, Roger
Primarolo, Dawn Straw, Jack
Purchase, Ken Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Quin, Ms Joyce Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Raynsford, Nick Tipping, Paddy
Redmond, Martin Turner, Dennis
Reid, Dr John Vaz, Keith
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Wallace, James
Roche, Mrs. Barbara Walley, Joan
Rogers, Allan Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Rooker, Jeff Wicks, Malcolm
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wigley, Dafydd
Ruddock, Joan Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Sedgemore, Brian Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Sheerman, Barry Wilson, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Winnick, David
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wise, Audrey
Short, Clare Worthington, Tony
Skinner, Dennis Wray, Jimmy
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Wright, Dr Tony
Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Tellers for the Noes:
Snape, Peter Mr. Andrew Mackinlay and
Soley, Clive Mr. Peter Kilfoyle.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER then put the Question necessary to bring to a decision the Question so proposed.

Clause added to the Bill.

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER then put the Question, That all new clauses standing in the name of a member of the Government, be added to the Bill.

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