HC Deb 02 March 1993 vol 220 cc186-213

'.—(1) A local education authority may for the purpose only of assisting the governing bodies of maintained or grant-maintained schools in their area or any other area in the performance of the governing bodies' power to provide music tuition and library facilities supply goods or services to them.

(2) This section is without prejudice to the generality of any other power of local education authorities to supply goods or services.'.—[Mrs. Ann Taylor.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to consider the following: new clause 14—Provision of assistance with music

  1. '.—(1) A local education authority may for the purpose only of assisting the governing bodies of grant-maintained schools, or grant-maintained special schools, in their area in the performance of the functions mentioned in subsection (2) below, supply goods or services to them.
  2. (2) This subsection applies to—
    1. (a) teaching and assessment of music in accordance with the national curriculum, and
    2. (b) tuition of registered pupils in playing any musical instrument (where such tuition is not provided individually).
  3. (3) This section is without prejudice to the generality of any other power of local education authority to supply goods or services.
  4. (4) In this section "national curriculum" has the same meaning as in Part I of the Education Reform Act 1988.'.
Government amendment No. 126.

Mrs. Taylor

I am sorry to see that the Secretary of State has decided to absent himself from the Chamber yet again. It seems that he is interested in this Bill only when it gives him more powers and not when it affects the education of millions of children.

I start by explaining that we have given priority to the issues in new clause 1—music provision and the future of library services—because we think that these issues should have a high priority and are causing great concern outside this House among all those involved in education. I cannot believe that, on this important issue, Ministers will not be willing to think again.

During the Committee stage, which was subject to the guillotine, we managed to protect one morning's sitting to debate what was then clause 244 dealing with the services which local authorities could provide in future to grant-maintained schools. One sitting was not enough to express all our fears; that is one reason why we have chosen to come back to this subject this evening.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady so early in her speech, but she referred to the introduction of the guillotine. I heard her speaking eloquently on the BBC this morning. I wonder whether, when these debates are over, she will look at the recommendations in the second report of the Procedure Committee, dealing with procedure in Standing Committee. She will find that, if that had become part of the procedures of the House, the objections she has been making to the guillotine could well have been overcome, because the members of the Committee themselves would have decided how to use its time to debate every part of the Bill.

Mrs. Taylor

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for those comments, and I think that there is some substance in what he says. I have always resisted the idea of automatic guillotines on Bills, but there is much attraction in the prospect of a special Committee before going on to consider a Bill, and I am willing to think about that idea. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has made a study of the matter, and I appreciate his comments.

In Committee, I moved the amendment to what was then clause 244 in what I hoped was a non-confrontational way, because I wanted to reflect the concerns of people in various political parties about the Government's proposals. Partly because of that, I was genuinely amazed and disappointed at the Ministers' response and at that of some, although perhaps not all, Conservative members of the Committee.

Ministers did not use the opportunity fully to explain their thinking on clause 244, which in the reprinted Bill is now clause 257. In view of what Ministers said at the time, I can conclude only that they do not comprehend the full impact of their own legislation, especially on the provision of music and on the future of the school library service.

We shall be able to debate clause 257 in detail tomorrow. It provides a time limit for the provision of services by local education authorities to grant-maintained schools. New clause 1 seeks to exempt music and school library services from the general provisions of clause 257. Those are not our only concerns about the clause—we shall wish to discuss other matters tomorrow —but they are the two major concerns. I hope that Conservative Members will pause and give some thought to the full implications of the clause if it goes through unamended. Perhaps they will consider that the way forward suggested in new clause 1 will be beneficial for all concerned.

We have two major worries about what might happen if our new clause is not accepted. I am sure that Ministers and Conservative Members, like Opposition Members, have received many representations on the subject. The concerns have ranged over a wide variety of issues. Some local authorities are worried about the continuation of their own services.

Perhaps the aspect that should appeal to Conservative Members most is that, in future, grant-maintained schools will not be allowed to buy the services they choose from wherever they choose. The Government propose that local education authority schools may use or not use local authority services, according to their own choice. However, grant-maintained schools will not have that choice. They will have to rely on the private sector, whether or not the private sector can provide the services required.

I cannot see any circumstances in which the private sector will move in to provide a school library service such as that provided by many local authorities. It is impossible to conceive of the private sector being able to provide the service on the scale that presently exists in many local authority areas. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) said that, in Durham, the school library service had assets, and owned books and equipment, worth £2 million a year. I do not think that the private sector will come in with that sort of money in the hope of being able to make money out of schools wanting to buy its services.

My other concern is that if fewer schools use local authority services the provision of those services to local authority schools, too, may be threatened. That is less likely to happen in Labour-controlled authorities than in Conservative-controlled authorities, because grant-maintained schools are more common in Conservative authorities. Indeed, Tory Kent and Tory Essex have more grant-maintained schools than exist in all Labour authorities put together. So it is in those areas that the pressure for the maintenance of music services and school library services for pupils in local authority schools will come first.

I said that my hon. Friends and I had received many representations on those issues. I do not want to go into them all in detail, because that would take too long, and I know that my hon. Friends want to raise specific points, but I shall quote from a letter that Larry Westland, the director of Music for Youth, wrote to all hon. Members: The superlative standards reached by our young musicians, youth orchestras and choirs is one of the United Kingdom's greatest educational achievements. My hon. Friends and I concur, and we appreciate the work that Music for Youth has done over the years. Larry Westland went on: The Education Bill will, I believe, bring about a diminution in the quality and range of this aspect of music teaching". What Larry Westland says is just one indication of the whole range of concerns expressed by people outside the House about what will happen in the future. Today I received a letter from the Centre for Young Musicians, which used to be funded by the Inner London education authority; the London boroughs now pay the tuition fees. The Centre for Young Musicians is worried that the allocation of funds to grant-maintained schools will pose future problems for it, and will mean that it will not be able to provide tuition to students irrespective of their financial means, as it has done hitherto.

I know that Conservative Members share some of that concern about the future of music. [Interruption.] I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) agrees. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), too, expressed some reservations in Committee. I must admit that he and I went to the schools prom together, so I know that he appreciates the musical work of many young people. Following the hon. Gentleman's remarks in Committee, the Minister circulated a letter which tried to allay some of the fears by saying that there could be co-operation over a wider area with orchestras containing pupils from both grant-maintained schools and local authority schools, and other similar arrangements.

However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be misled by the Minister's letter. The issue is wider than that. Larry Westland's letter which I quoted also says that, although the national curriculum may provide for some basic music education, there is no requirement whatever for instrumental tuition or specialist vocal tuition to be provided. If the music service in an area were broken up,that could lead only to a reduction in the amount of tuition available.

If the Secretary of State manages to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, I hope that he will show that his concerns on the matter are genuine. I hope that he, and perhaps other Conservative Members, will consider voting with us on this new clause.

6.30 pm
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

I want to speak briefly, and to confine my remarks entirely to the subject of music.

I have corresponded with my hon. Friend the Minister on this matter, and he knows my concerns. In writing to him, I was merely reflecting the widespread concern of a great many of my constituents. It has been a long time since I have received so many letters on a single subject as I have on the Staffordshire music service. It is a service of high excellence and one which is held in high repute by people not simply in Staffordshire but throughout the country.

Those constituents who have written to me are fairly enthusiastic, for the most part, and they are certainly not opposed to the idea of grant-maintained status. However, we have had three ballots in my constituency which have gone emphatically—two of them very emphatically—against grant-maintained status. From the correspondence I have received, I believe that one of the reasons—it is only one, and I would say that it is not the most important one, because the campaign has been rather a political one—which has certainly moved many of those who would normally vote with alacrity for grant-maintained status has been the fact that they have felt that the music service is under threat.

I should like a reassurance from my hon. Friend the Minister. Frankly, as I said in my letters, what he has said up until now has not been convincing enough. Of course I fully accept that it will be possible to buy in services. I also accept that it is conceivable that some organisation might come into being which can provide musical services of quality and distinction. However, nothing that my lion. Friend has said in his letters has convinced me of the likelihood—as distinct from the possibility—of that.

Conservative Members should always be concerned to conserve what is good. The music service in Staffordshire is not only good but excellent. Over the past few years, many young people have learnt to master instruments who would never have had that opportunity before. That knowledge and mastery has given them a new self-confidence, as such knowledge and mastery often does. Sometimes, they are not academically bright children. It also gives them the opportunity to work and play in the best sense with others, and to come together across a county.

Only two years ago, the county took over the Royal Albert hall. Parents came from all over the county and —although, sadly, I could not be there—it was by all accounts a most magnificent and moving occasion. It is something which those young people will never forget.

In my constituency, I have a number of school bands and orchestras which are good, partly because young people have the opportunity to play in bigger groups and therefore to rub shoulders with those who may be more proficient than they are. They may also learn from those who may in some degree be more accomplished than the teachers in their own schools. That countywide cross-fertilisation—if I can put it that way—has helped to build up the tremendous reputation which the music service in Staffordshire rightly enjoys.

My hon. Friend the Minister knows that I fully support the concept of grant-maintained schools. My concern relates to the quality of the Staffordshire music service and to its survival. I ask the Minister not to do anything which will put that service in jeopardy. Until now, neither he nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, nor anyone else, has convinced either the parents or me that we have an answer in the Bill. Perhaps the answer is to change the present music service into a trust. The Minister referred to a trust in one of his letters.

For goodness' sake, the Government should keep the service, the people, and those who have brought the service into being. They should not simply say, "It can happen. It might happen." They should take positive action to ensure that it does happen.

This matter is much more important to the young people involved and their parents than any doctrinal difference which might separate us across the Floor of the House. Music is a great unifying force. It brings people out of themselves. It is a language which transcends so many barriers.

Some years ago, I had the privilege of being involved in the establishment of the music therapy charity. One saw at first hand and in a most moving way how those who are often severely disadvantaged can, through music, reach out to goals which they never thought they could attain. Although this centralising Bill—one must say that it is a centralising Bill—may have many fine and good things in it, and although I do not for a moment doubt the total integrity of the Secretary of State and all my ministerial colleagues, and their genuine desire—which we all share—to see the education services in this country not only preserved but made even better, I tell my hon. Friend that the Staffordshire music service is at risk.

I hope that the Minister will take that on board and realise that something must be done to allay the fears of parents in my constituency, throughout Staffordshire and—I am sure—in other parts of the country. I hope that he will undertake to re-examine how such excellence can be preserved in a new era and in new circumstances, so that, whatever label the schools bear which children will go to next year, the year after and in the year 2000, there will still be an opportunity for collective music-making and collective excellence across the country.

The Bill still has quite a way to go. There is another place in which there are many people who are well versed in the matters which we are talking about. Those people have high qualifications and great eminence. When the Bill comes back from another place, I hope that this specific point will have been fully, properly and competently addressed. I appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister to re-examine the matter, because I am sure that he would not like to go on record as one of those who assisted, however unwittingly, in the demise of a service of great excellence and high repute.

Mr. Steinberg

The object of the new clause is to ensure that the schools library facilities and music service are available to all schools, whether they are local education authority maintained or grant maintained. School library facilities and music services require special treatment in the Bill. I believe that they are different from other support services in that they provide a service which is specifically educational. They are not simply providers of goods or administrative support.

I should like to examine specifically the role of the schools library service. School library services are usually run either by the public library service as an agent of the local education authority or directly by the education authority itself. They support the work of the library and information services in primary, secondary and even special schools. Schools library services will typically provide a book exchange scheme for schools, a project loans scheme to support projects undertaken within schools, an advisory service on all aspects of school library management and use, training for teachers in information handling skills and work in schools to promote the enjoyment of reading.

Such services provide essential back-up to library and information services within schools. No individual school could hope to provide all the learning resources necessary to support the curriculum. The schools library service provides a network of professional support for school librarians. Such services are highly commended in most HMI reports. On occasion the reports highlight that the schools library service is the only good thing about a school library.

I hope that the House will support the inclusion of new clause 1 in the Bill. I shall give local examples from the schools library service which my local authority of Durham provides for schools in Durham. The service is known as Durham Learning Resources. It was formed by the amalgamation of the schools library service and the museums education service. It is managed and operated by the arts, libraries and museums department as part of the strategy for serving children within the authority. The costs of the service are re-charged to the education department. The purpose of the service is to give teachers access to materials to support the national curriculum. The materials either supplement the school's resources or are provided in a quantity or quality which the school cannot obtain.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) quoted the information that I had given to her in Committee. Last year the local authority's learning resources service lent almost £2 million of stock to schools in the Durham county area. If that service was not available, what would schools lose? We have to remember that at present no school in Durham has opted out. I hope that none will. However, one or two may opt out in the near future.

If the children in an opted-out school did not have access to the local authority schools library services, they would lose information books. About 25,000 books are kept centrally by Durham county council to enhance the national curriculum. They would lose fiction books. The service has a huge supply of wall charts, picture packs and slides. It has "spoken word" tapes, which is a range of 300 children's stories to stimulate children who have reading difficulties.

The service has a wide collection of almost 3,000 objects, including natural history specimens, geological specimens and costumes from the 19th and 20th century. 1 could go on and on. All those items are available to the schools in the county. If grant-maintained schools were not allowed to use that service, they would not have the benefit of the articles kept centrally by Durham county council. The service keeps about 4,000 works of art, originals and reproductions, and lends them to schools. If grant-maintained schools were created in Durham, after two years they would not be allowed to borrow such items.

The HMI report which was released recently showed that libraries within schools are badly off. The Book Trust report "Books in Schools" highlighted the importance of reading ability in relation to overall educational attainment. It opened with the statement: Rarely have so many pupils had so few books. The majority of schools do not have adequate library facilities. The school of which I was the head teacher was sadly without a good library simply because books were so expensive that one could not buy them. One had to concentrate on other important items that were needed. The school library was particularly run down. However, I always knew that I had the back-up of the central schools library service. Periodically the staff and I went to county hall and took away literally thousands of books for use within the school.

6.45 pm

What would be the alternatives for grant-maintained schools if they could not take advantage of the schools library service? They would have to operate independently. That would involve huge expense. It has been estimated that such schools would need at least £12,000 per year to develop library resources. That would not include the cost of staff to run the library. If they could not afford to buy the resources, they would have to go to the local library. It would be virtually impossible for a local library to provide the number of books that all the schools in the area would need. Local libraries are too small. They could not stock the range and quantity that would be required.

No other agency, public or private, has established comprehensive collections of resources to support the curriculum. It would require capital investment of about £500,000 to start such a collection. We all know that that figure is too high for any private organisation. There is no evidence to show that the private sector could provide an alternative service in all areas. The private sector has shown little interest in providing public library services where tenders have been invited.

The intention of new clause 1 is to give governors the right to use the local eduation authority schools library service and music service, whether the school is grant maintained or an LEA school. That would ensure that all pupils had access to their full entitlement of library and music services.

I support the new clause with total conviction. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Government are being so stubborn on the issue. It seems to be purely vindictiveness. I cannot see any political or sound educational reason for preventing grant-maintained schools from using LEA services. I can see only the Government's vindictive attitude to local education authorities. The Government's proposal would disadvantage the very children whom the Government say that they want to help—children in grant-maintained schools. I cannot understand it. I am baffled that the Government expect grant-maintained schools to thrive throughout the country yet deprive them of a valuable service which the local education authority can provide.

If the new clause is not included in the Bill, it will prove once and for all without a shadow of doubt that the Bill is nothing to do with improving standards of education for children but is simply a vindictive and hostile move against local education authorities. At the end of the day the children are the ones who will suffer.

Mr. Bowis

The hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) will forgive me if I do not follow him down the library route. I believe that grant-maintained schools already have a good record on spending on books. Spending has risen and is above average in those schools. So I have more confidence on the issue of library services. I should like to concentrate on music, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack).

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I am worried about what the hon. Gentleman suggests. Does he suggest that each school could be self-sufficient in not only books but articles such as works of art and artefacts, which schools library services can provide? That was the implication of his suggestion that some schools were doing well on books. The debate is about more than books.

Mr. Bowis

I was not suggesting that at all. I was simply saying that we should acknowledge that they already have a good record on spending on books. Of course, the issue of libraries and book provision goes wider than that. The facilities exist and schools have the option to take up existing and future services and I am confident that they will do so.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South, I shall concentrate on music. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) referred to the fact that she and I occasionally went to a concert together. I hope that that will not damage her reputation. While we are in confession mode, perhaps I should also confess to having been brought up with Larry Westland's wife. Although we could make many confessions, the only one I wish to put on record is a non-pecuniary interest as a member of the board of the South Bank which plays host to much of the youth and schools music to which we are referring, not least Larry Westland's festival of youth music at the Festival hall and the annual schools proms at the Albert hall.

I know that Larry Westland shares some of my concerns. He would be the first to say that there are plenty of opportunities and I know that he is looking for ways around the problems. He is seeking to get together with the Government and those in the music profession to find ways of ensuring that music education continues. Although the letter that he has sent to hon. Members reflects his concern about existing provision, we have to ensure that the excellent provision in some areas is extended to all parts of the country.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury asked whether I would be supporting the new clause. My answer will have to be no because it does not address the problem that I raised on Second Reading and in Committee and shall repeat today. The new clause may even exclude a solution. It talks about the local education authority giving support and assistance for music tuition and to the teaching of music in accordance with the national curriculum. However, it does not refer to the establishment, nurturing and expansion of the orchestras, bands and choirs which produce the great joy of the music festivals to which I have referred. The new clause specifies the purpose only of assisting governing bodies with specific tuition, so I do not think that it will help.

We need constantly to examine the problem of ensuring the future of what have become great orchestras. The schools prom involves a range of ages and backgrounds. There is everything from full-scale, top-quality county youth orchestras to bands from local schools for children with special educational needs. Those children are showing what they can achieve—perhaps we should call them special educational achieving bands—and they are particularly moving. I seek to find ways to preserve and conserve those opportunities.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Schools has gone a long way towards seeking solutions. The hon. Lady referred to one letter about partnerships between maintained schools and grant-maintained schools, but, as he promised in Committee, he has looked further. On 4 February, in response to the points I raised, he referred to: an issue that he and I might examine in the future—section 145 of the Local Government Act 1972."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 4 February 1993; c. 1374.] I am grateful to him for looking into the matter. Indeed the Local Government Act 1972 does provide a way through. Section 145(1)(c) provides that it is possible for local authorities, as opposed to local education authorities, to make provisions within or outwith their own local authority area. I asked whether they could spend money on pupils from outside the local authority area. Section 145 makes it clear that they can, and paragraph (c) refers specifically to bands and orchestras and presumably applies to choirs.

Local government authorities are already looking for ways through. The London Schools Symphony orchestra has found a solution. The hon. Lady referred to Kent which has some 18 music centres and the local authority is liaising with the Association of Rural Music Schools. My hon. Friend has established the facts to find a way to ensure the future of the excellent provision of music in rural areas, and I understand that Berkshire has set up a charitable trust.

I have two worries. First, what incentive is there for local authorities to take over the responsibility hitherto undertaken by local education authorities? In many cases it is the same authority, and that will apply more often as we move towards unitary authorities, but there are understandable concerns that those facilities should not be lost in the transfer of responsibilities. It would be helpful if my hon. Friend spoke to Ministers with responsibilities for local government to see what recommendations, guidance or steering can be provided by the Department of the Environment as well as directly through LEAs to stress that central Government looks to local government to continue such provision.

Secondly, at present if a county youth orchestra is set up and maintained by the county education committee schools can send students to play in the orchestra if they meet the required standard. I am concerned to ensure that there will be nothing to stop that continuing and that grant-maintained schools will be able to send pupils to participate. However, there is an implication that there will be some requirement on those schools to contribute towards the cost of the county youth orchestra in future. I am not yet convinced that those schools will have sufficient incentive to contribute to the county youth orchestra, particularly in a year when they have no students playing in the orchestra or band.

I ask my hon. Friend to continue to examine the issue as I know he has done in the past. I am grateful for the genuine way in which he has tackled the problems, but hon. Members on both sides of the House, the Government and local government and those in the world of music must get it right because it is a precious asset in our cultural heritage.

7 pm

Ms. Armstrong

As I was not a member of the Standing Committee, I intervene in the debate with some trepidation. I realise that hon. Members who were on the Committee are anxious to take part. However, I should like to make a brief contribution about the music service in Durham, as my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) referred to the work that the library service does for schools in the county.

I have a group of children coming to London tomorrow to present a petition at 10 Downing street. The petition relates to their concern and that of their parents about the future of the music service in Durham. They realise that if the service is under threat there, it is under threat elsewhere, and they want to ensure that it is maintained.

I admire the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) for talking about progress and development and I wish to goodness that serious thought were being given to those aspects. A great deal is threatened with destruction and must first be protected if we are to secure progress and development. If we cannot preserve what we have, we shall not be able to extend good practice and high quality. That distresses me.

We are told repeatedly that the Government are concerned about standards, yet when we have something of high quality they are content to ride rough-shod over it, such is their fixation that education should be dominated by market principles. Many hon. Members may not realise how difficult it is to run an orchestra on the basis simply of upholding individualism. The attitude that it is the individual that matters—and whether individual schools buy in—affects the ability of an orchestra and its members to work together. It may seem simplistic to say so, but we have to use simplistic language if we are to get Ministers to listen and to think about anything.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools visited the Durham music service in October. I am told that he was quite impressed and commended the work that was being done. A few weeks later I was at the school proms in the Royal Albert hall. Apart from anything else, that is an extremely enjoyable occasion, and for Members of Parliament such events are very few and far between these days. I wish that some Ministers had found time to attend. I understand that no Minister was present at the event last year or was able to go to the Festival hall this year or last. That demonstrates that Ministers are afraid to expose themselves to such quality experience. In their heart of hearts, they know that what they are doing threatens quality. Many people support what is currently being done by the music service. One is Eric Bolton, recently a chief inspector, and others have been mentioned.

I want to refer to some wider educational aspects. The Government seem to have lost sight of what education is about. It is not simply about the three Rs. It is true that if children do not acquire a grasp of the three Rs, many other things remain outside their understanding, but if education were about the three Rs only, we should have a very narrow and stultified group of young people emerging from the system. Music is one area in which many otherwise ordinary children excel. I have received from constituents letters indicating that they did not realise that their children had such qualities, as music was not important in their families. But many children have found ways of expressing talent and have become high flyers through music. The Government are putting that at risk.

In Durham, no one is expressing any interest in opted-out, grant-maintained schools. However, if such a development were to occur it would threaten the overall provision that the authority is able to make. In my constituency there are very small rural schools with only two or three teachers. The children there benefit from the peripatetic music service. They have access to instruments and are able to go to group music sessions, leading to participation in county orchestras and bands. What the Government are doing will remove choice. Those children will be deprived of the opportunity of such involvement.

But it is more than a question of simple involvement in music. Children in very small schools may have exceptional talent. How are they to be given an opportunity to work and play with others of similar ability? That can be done only if the county is able to make the appropriate provision. If the Government honestly want to empower authorities, why are they removing the means whereby pupils can be enabled to participate on a wider basis? Why are the Government determined to remove that power?

There is no logic in the Government's attitude. The Minister knows that there are ways of maintaining this provision; but that would involve the enabling of local education authorities. The Government do not want to allow that, so they are adopting this vindictive attitude. We have heard a great deal about children and young people getting involved in nasty activities. Mr. Paul Haworth, a parent from the village in which my parents live, has written to me: At a time when there is increasing concern about rising levels of crime and lawlessness among young people, it is short-sighted to take measures which could deprive many young people of the opportunity to take part in constructive activities which could not only enrich their own lives but also those of others. Where are future musicians to come from? Presumably, as a nation, we wish to have quality orchestras in the future. My own son is coming to the end of his school career but is willing to pass on his knowledge and expertise by helping younger musicians at his school. He does not get paid for this; it costs the school nothing; It costs the county nothing. It is one of those invisible spin-offs which do not appear on a balance sheet. Similar things happen in many schools. They cost nothing but have tremendous value. The present obsession with budgets and costs will destroy many valuable activities, but at the end of the day we will all count the cost. I hope that the Minister will listen. I realise that he will not accept the new clause. Indeed, it is beyond the ability of the Government to accept anything that the Opposition put forward. However, I hope that the Minister will at least have the humility to accept that the Government have got it wrong this time. They have been unable to assure people that services such as music and libraries, particularly in counties like mine, where schools are often dispersed widely across the countryside, will be preserved. The children in small rural schools must be offered the same opportunities as are available to those in large, grant-maintained schools. They deserve our attention. The Minister has an obligation to secure for them the future of the peripatetic music service and other such services. I hope that, despite the Government's ideological approach, the Minister will agree to the introduction, in another place, of provisions to secure the future of the peripatetic music service in the county of Durham.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

I add my voice to those heard tonight expressing anxiety about the future of the music service. I agree entirely with the concerns expressed by the hon. Members for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) and for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong).

I speak as a London hon. Member who has experience of the extraordinarily good work of the Centre for Young Musicians. It has provided truly excellent training and opportunities for London children from a variety of backgrounds to achieve extremely high standards. It has given them the experience of playing together in orchestras and bands. Only a fortnight ago I listened to a concert at the Blackheath concert halls given by three of the brass and wind ensembles of that organisation. They achieved remarkable standards. The house was packed and the occasion provided those children with important and valuable opportunities.

Skill of that quality is possible only because of co-operation between people over a wide area. The Centre for Young Musicians was a product of the Inner London education authority, which achieved considerable gains by bringing together people from throughout the London area to achieve what would not have been possible by the individual efforts of one borough.

When the ILEA was abolished, which many of us regretted bitterly, we felt that it was vital to retain the provision of bodies such as the Centre for Young Musicians. Lengthy negotiations took place, as a result of which a formula was established to allow that body to continue, with individual boroughs agreeing to meet the fees, along with a foundation for young musicians to provide financial support for the core services.

That worked for a while, but it is now under threat. Individual boroughs, including my borough of Greenwich, the budgets of which are threatened by the pressures on their standard spending assessments and the Government's capping legislation, have been forced to withdraw funding. That is proving a tragedy for many children in those areas. Other boroughs are again examining their funding of the Centre for Young Musicians. In Greenwich, other music projects have been put at risk as a result of budget cuts. No individual borough in London could possibly sustain the activity necessary to achieve the standards that have been achieved by the Centre for Young Musicians. If that is true for a borough, it is all the more true for individual schools.

We are witnessing the risk of fragmentation. One does not know how many schools will opt for grant-maintained status. There are few in those parts of London with which I am familiar. In other areas—for example, in the London borough of Wandsworth and a few others—a significant number have opted in favour. In Greenwich, little interest in the option has as yet been expressed by schools. But if the option develops and schools are taken outside the normal ambit of the local education authority so that they cannot opt into the joint provision of music service in a borough framework, the fragmentation of which I spoke will become more serious.

That will put at risk the continuation of the high standards that have been achieved and which hon. Members in all parts of the House have emphasised. All have said that high quality has been achieved and is at risk. So it is vital for the Government to listen to the voices that are being raised. They must think again about the matter.

I hope that the Government will accept the new clause, which would provide a framework within which individual authorities could continue to provide music and library services to schools, be they grant maintained or otherwise. The clause would be logical, it would avoid the fragmentation to which I referred and it would help to maintain the unified service and the high quality of music education that has been achieved. But even if the Government will not accept the new clause, I hope that they will think again about the implications for music education, not only in London, but throughout Britain, if that process of fragmentation is allowed to proceed.

In his White Paper which preceded the Bill, the Minister chose, rather curiously, to quote from John Ruskin's "Unto This Last". One of the most memorable phrases in that work—I fancy that it is not a quotation that the Secretary of State would wish to hear—runs: Government and co-operation are in all things the laws of life; anarchy and competition, the laws of death. Co-operation in music has been the basis of achieving high standards in musical education. It is to be hoped that the Government will accept that continued co-operation on a wide scale, rather than anarchy and fragmentation, are the way forward. Otherwise, that high-quality service will be put at risk.

7.15 pm
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong), I was not a member of the Committee, so I speak without the benefit of having been part of the discussion that preceded tonight's debate.

Coming to the debate afresh, I find it strange that a Government who claim to be committed to choice, competition and quality should be taking steps that will inhibit all of those. It will preclude choice for grant-maintained schools so that after two years they will not be able to choose from where they buy their services. What the Government propose will make it impossible for local authority library and music services to compete with the schemes and companies that are already being set up.

The Government say that they are keen on local authorities going into the market place and competing and trading. The Bill as drafted will prevent local authority services from trading their services to grant-maintained schools.

Mr. Forth


Mr. Fisher

The Minister disputes what I say?

Mr. Forth

It is precisely because the Government are not keen on local authorities trading that the whole provision exists. The hon. Gentleman has it the wrong way round.

Mr. Fisher

The Government are keen on competitive tendering by local authorities.

Mr. Forth

That is not the same thing.

Mr. Fisher

Perhaps I should have referred to certain sorts of trading and various types of competing in the market place being considered desirable by the Government. If the Minister believes that the plural provision of music and library services is good, he is denying the sense of that by what he is proposing. Looking at the provision from the point of view of the Government, I am baffled. I do not understand their rationale. I trust the Minister will explain it when he replies to the debate.

I join other hon. Members in paying tribute to Larry Westland. Most contributions to the debate have been about music services, and we are agreed that Mr. Westland has performed a superb service for the quality of music education and the enjoyment of music for 20 years or more. I join the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) in saying that going to the schools' proms and musical events at the South Bank and the Albert hall are among the most moving and enjoyable musical experiences. It is remarkably exciting to see such a range of young musicians achieving high standards and coming together to express their excitement.

We are speaking of children who in many cases have not been great achievers academically. They find in music a subject in which they can communicate well with others. The excitement of that communication comes across like electricity in their concerts at the Albert hall and the South Bank. If the Minister joins us in paying tribute to Mr. Westland—the country owes a considerable debt to him —he should heed Mr. Westland's warning, given from his experience of more than 20 years of working with young people and music, that the action of the Government in this matter is profoundly wrong. It puts at risk something that is extremely precious and probably, in European terms, unique about our education service. We have provided in Great Britain a quality of music education that is the envy of every other country. People come from all over the world—I am sure that the Minister understands this—to talk to music advisers in local authorities, to hear the music in our schools and to go to concerts like Mr. Westland's. They come here because of the traditions that have been built up.

As the hon. Member for Battesea (Mr. Bowis) said, geographically throughout the country there is still somewhat patchy provision, as indeed there is in every hon. Member's constituency. It is one of the most baffling and worrying aspects of education in each of our constituencies that one can go to one school in one constituency and find wonderful music education, everybody playing an instrument, very good singing, and excitement and a buzz in the air; then one goes to a school half a mile away in the same catchment area, and therefore the same range of natural ability in children, and almost nothing is happening. So the patchiness of provision is not only geographic, but also within each constituency.

That should give us cause for concern, but it should not distract us from the essential point that music education in this country is superb. It Mr. Westland is right, that we are putting it at risk with what the Government are doing, surely the Government ought to pause for thought. Surely they should talk more to people in both the public and the private sector in music, people like Mr. Westland and people in professional music as well, to see whether they are acting wisely.

Certainly, from what Mr. Westland has said and from what has been said on both sides of the House in this debate, there is a fear that what the Government are doing is a threat to the quality of teaching in grant-maintained schools as much as in other schools, and to the music services that local authorities provide. With that two-pronged threat, there will be a threat to music education generally.

The other thing that strikes me as curious about what the Government are doing is that it seems to be at odds with their own desire for music education in the national curriculum. Many of the provisions in the national curriculum are extremely good and should be applauded; they will add to the quality of music education.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) pointed out that the basic music education required between the ages of five and 14 does not include specialist instrumental or singing teaching. I regret that, and believe that it is a weakness in the national curriculum.

What the national curriculum does require, particularly at key stage 2, is a lot of specialised knowledge of music. It requires the teaching of notation and composing; it requires a quality of listening and appreciation of music that is really quite specialised and cannot be provided by just any teacher. The Minister would not fancy his hand at teaching a group of young children at key stage 2 ostinato, or to appreciate Stravinsky on the one hand and reggae on the other.

What the Minister, quite rightly, is asking for in the basic music education in the national curriculum is some quite specialist skills and knowledge, specialist music teaching. Yet he must understand that the Government's proposal would have the effect of cutting back on specialised music teaching, both peripatetic and through the music services and music advisers. So here we have, on the one hand, the Government rather admirably wanting very specialist knowledge to be taught to our children, yet, on the other hand, taking action that will drive out specialist music teaching, both through music services and in schools. There seems to be a contradiction there.

The Minister may say in his reply that this can all be addressed through enhanced in-service training. He will probably refer to such things as the Reading consultancy service, which are beginning to get off the ground and will certainly improve the quality of teaching of non-specialist music teachers. But he knows that they cannot, by themselves, fulfil the needs or develop the full potential of the basic music education in the national curriculum. There is a contradiction which the Minister really ought to address.

I am sure that the Minister knows that the quality of the music services that my hon. Friends and I are seeking to preserve is dependent on the quality of the music advisers. I believe that this view is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I join the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) in paying tribute to the service there, which I am sure is replicated in many other constituencies. Yet, as the Minister will know, the music advisers national association did a survey at the end of last year which showed in the last three months of that year that the threat of this action by the Government and of other cuts in local authority education services meant that, out of 108 music advisers in the country, 17 lost their jobs—roughly 15 per cent.—and that they will not be the last to lose their jobs. So the very people who provide the specialist skills are leaving the service.

The Minister will also know, having done his homework, that the United Kingdom Council for Music Education and Training, too, did a survey last year. It suggested that, if what the Government are seeking to do tonight becomes law, only 12 per cent. of local education authorities plan to keep a full music service going. That cannot be right if the Minister shares the applause and congratulations on the quality of music teaching; something surely is wrong.

We should not be talking about clinging on to the quality of our service. This debate should be about improving it, getting more music teachers, more support in schools, more professional musicians into schools, and more children leaving the classroom to experience a concert. How can we say that we have a comprehensive education in this country when so many children leave school at 16 never having had the opportunity to hear live music in a concert hall? That does not seem to me to be a comprehensive education. That is the debate that we ought to be having tonight. Instead, we are scrabbling around trying to persuade the Minister not to destroy something which is a jewel of the British education service.

Most of the debate tonight has been on music education, but I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West spoke about school libraries. Surely there can be agreement on both sides of the House about the importance of books and libraries for education. Indeed, the idea of an education service without libraries, without books, is a contradiction in terms.

However, the Minister knows that the pressure on local authority finances in recent years has meant that on the whole schools have been buying fewer books and that the books that are on the shelves are old and out of date. When the Labour party did a survey 18 months ago of school library provision, we were literally flooded by examples from school libraries all over the country which had books on the shelves that were 30, 40, 50, or 60 years out of date. There were books about the British empire, with the wrong maps; and one book said that radio was the technology of the future. That was on the science shelf of a secondary school. They might seem rather laughable examples, but there is something wrong with school libraries when they have such out-of-date books for teaching our children which have not been weeded out and replaced by the best.

The Minister should know that four out of five schools have fewer than the 10 books per pupil recommended by Her Majesty's inspectors. Of course, the Government will not have the benefit of HMIs' advice in future, but, while they have it, they ought to take that professional advice and agree that 10 books per pupil is not a reasonable aim for a school and a school library. I cannot believe that the Minister will disagree with that. But four out of five schools in all our constituencies do not have 10 books per pupil. Only one school in four nationally has a library policy. Hon. Members may not realise that children in their constituencies are going to schools that do not have a policy about how to develop the library services that are the core of their constituents' children's education.

Schools spend on average less than one third of the level per pupil recommended by Her Majesty's inspectorate. Less than one school in five has a qualified librarian. Far from being like music, in which we have a glorious tradition, our library services are buckling and sagging, and the Government are likely to make a bad situation worse through the Bill.

As school libraries decline, the need for school library services becomes more acute. If the picture painted by Her Majesty's inspectorate is correct—and it is—that service and the common share provision is the only thing saving children's access to books. The Minister is putting that service at risk.

As with the music debate, we should not be talking about trying to salvage a school library service. The Minister should be considering the existing superb library services—I am sure that he is—that are often in Conservative-controlled or non-Labour-controlled authorities such as Hertfordshire, which has possibly the best school library service in the country. I am sure that he has visited it. If he has, he will realise that it is a credit and an enhancement to education in Hertfordshire, and there are other success stories.

7.30 pm

We should be setting such standards everywhere. Every school should have a library, which should be open throughout the school day. Every library should be adequately staffed by qualified librarians, and every local education authority should have a school library service.

Those remarks should be totally uncontentious and should be endorsed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but the Government seem deaf to such common sense. As I understand it, through the Bill, the Government are seeking to destroy the library and music services and they could be saved from doing so if they accepted new clause 1. The music service is a jewel of our education system, and the library service is absolutely essential, but is in a bad state of repair. Both need support and succour from the Government, but they are getting damage and neglect. That cannot be right, and I beg the Minister to think again.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Hastings and Rye)

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to intervene, if only briefly.

The comments of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) do not bear closely on my experience of my constituency where, in the brief time that I have been associated with the schools, I have found an excellent music and library tradition. Some of the primary schools have taken their choirs to the United States and to Poland and some of the other schools regularly co-operate with one another. For example, all the schools have got together to fund the purchase of an Indonesian instrument, whose name escapes me—it is a series of amazing drums, and sounds almost West Indian. All the senior schools use the instrument—if someone could possibly feed me with its name I should be exceedingly grateful.

It is heart-warming to hear the music made in both senior and junior schools in Hastings.

Ms. Armstrong

As I understand it, East Sussex, which is the authority, has a good music service and that is precisely what we are trying to preserve through the new clause.

Mr. Cormack

The hon. Member for Durham. North-West (Ms. Armstrong) has not given my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) the name of the instrument.

Mrs. Lait

Yes, my hon. Friend reminds me that I was grasping for the name of the instrument.

Some hon. Members in the Chamber know that I have been critical of East Sussex, but I do not deny that its music and library services are of a high standard.

I do not think that music teaching and the library service in schools will be less good merely because the local education authority no longer has over-arching control. The Bill would free teachers and pupils to make their own decisions, because if they go grant maintained they will have the budget to make decisions about the sort of music that they wish to provide.

I agree with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central that music provision is patchy, but head teachers are the key. If a teacher is exceedingly interested in music, the school will provide a wonderful music service, but one tends to find that if the head teacher is less interested in music, the school is less likely to provide the quality of music teaching to be found in some other schools.

I accept that many pupils demonstrate a skill that one would not necessarily expect. Once the head teacher and the teaching staff have control of their budgets and pupils have shown signs of interest, we can provide a superb music service. Under the new system we shall continue to do so.

I confess that I am impressed at the quality of the library service in my constituency—the space, the number of books and how modern they are. I suggest that if we are looking for 60-year-old books in school libraries, we might look to see whether they are first editions and therefore of some value, as they could be sold to buy the more modern and up-to-date books that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central seems to recommend.

Mr. Clappison

Such as an Indonesian dictionary.

Mrs. Lait

Yes, I agree.

The fundamental argument is that when schools have control over the totality of their budgets there will be no reason why they cannot buy in services, nor will there be any reason why schools that are deeply involved cannot sell such services, as that will not have to go through the local education authority.

Mr. Clappison

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this short debate and do so with some trepidation because I know of the great distinction that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) bring to the debate, with their knowledge of the arts and the authority with which they can speak on the subject.

I wish to contribute partly because of the remarks that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central made about Hertfordshire. As he said, Hertfordshire has a tradition of excellence in its school library service, so the debate is of concern to my constituents. Hertfordshire also has excellent music provision. Those services are of great interest to schools, teachers, pupils and parents in Hertfordshire, and they will look for a continuation of that tradition of excellence.

The question of provision has a greater urgency in many Hertfordshire schools because they are moving rapidly towards grant-maintained status. Five schools in my constituency have recently balloted and each has opted, by a large majority, for such status. The Hertfordshire tradition of excellence in music and library provision is represented in those schools and they will be greatly interested in the debate. I have listened carefully to the debate. Opposition Members in particular have spoken with great feeling on the subject. I look for an assurance from Ministers about the position of library and music services.

As I listened to the debate, I remembered what was said in Committee when we considered the provision of services by LEAs. Similar points have been raised in both debates, but I am not as pessimistic as Opposition Members are about the alternative provision of supply. I do not believe that experience in other areas has shown that the independent sector is inadequate or unenterprising in making alternative provision. In the future I look for diversity and enterprise in the provision of music and library services. There is a great deal to be gained from that.

I have sought to put the debate in the context of a more general one about the provision of local authority services. I have listened with interest to what has been said about the provision of music and library services.

Mr. Forth

With the indulgence of the House, I shall start by moving amendment No. 126, as you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would expect.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. No, I would not. Moving the amendment comes later.

Mr. Forth

I am most relieved, as that means that I can spend more time answering the debate.

What is somewhat depressing about this debate—like that in the Committee—is the negative attitude that prevails on the Opposition Benches, which is contrasted by the more positive attitude displayed by my hon. Friends. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) on his long-standing interest in these matters. He was kind enough to acknowledge that he and I have considered this issue and, although I have not been able to satisfy my hon. Friend completely, I am sure that he will agree that the problems that he envisaged are not as great as he originally thought. The views expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) and for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) reflected that positiveness.

Contrast that with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong), who said that only the county can enable joint and co-operative provision in the supply of music services. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) suggested that a plural provision—an interesting term, I thought—would somehow be denied by the measures in the Bill, which the new clause seeks to amend. I hope to demonstrate that nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the other ironies of the debate is that Opposition Members have been at pains to point out the inadequacy of some of the existing provision, but that provision is made by the very LEAs that they argue should continue to have some sort of monopolistic control over the provision of music and library services.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central spoke about the inadequacy of school library books stock, a concern which was echoed by his hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg). It is difficult to argue that one must hold on to the existing provision, because anything else will be fatally damaging, while arguing, almost in the same breath, that that existing provision is somehow inadequate. I am at a loss to square those two arguments, as was the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central.

Mr. Fisher

Perhaps I can help the Minister to understand my point. Because school libraries have been so run down in recent years, the school library service—the common provision across an authority to which all school libraries can turn to bolster their stock—is essential. The Minister has threatened the existence of the school library service.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful for that clarification and I shall deal with that point later.

It is important to recall that whatever threat the Opposition may see and my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) envisages is not immediate and its effect will not be uniform across the country. The choice is not as stark as has been portrayed. An alternative provision of services will be considered only when LEAs start to reach and exceed the margin of capacity of their provision—that will occur only when a significant number of their schools have decided to become grant maintained. That decision will be taken by schools in the full knowledge of what independence means.

I accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South said. If parents decide that relying on the continuance of LEA provision of the kind to which their school is accustomed is of paramount importance to them, perhaps that school is not the right sort to become grant maintained. If, on the other hand, a school is ready to accept the independence, responsibilities and the funding regime that come with grant-maintained status, and it can contemplate looking more widely for the provision of services, it can go forward with confidence. I shall cite examples of schools that have done just that.

7.45 pm
Mr. Cormack

I must make it plain that I merely said that that was a factor in certain recent decisions that I personally regretted. I believe that those schools would be better if they were not left as they are, as do many of the parents. If their anxieties could be stilled on this particular point, I suspect that a lot of them would vote in a different way.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, for that is precisely the argument that I want to make.

Mrs. Anne Campbell

I wonder whether the Minister is aware of a little booklet entitled "Education for the Next Century", which the Government have placed in most public libraries and which has the approval of the Plain English Campaign. It says about grant-maintained schools: LEAs can offer services to GM schools where there is a need for them and the schools can buy from the LEA or elsewhere. Many parents will have read that document and will be totally unaware that if their school does become grant maintained it will be unable, once the LEA has gone beyond the margin that the Minister has mentioned" to buy services from that LEA. Can the Minister make a definitive statement about that, so that the position is absolutely clear?

Mr. Forth

I shall certainly look at the wording of the publication to which the hon. Lady referred. It is somewhat at odds with the argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South, who suggested that parents were being scared by the thought that they would no longer be able to look to their LEA for those services. The hon. Lady is suggesting that, somehow, they are being conned into believing that they can get those services from the LEA. We cannot have it both ways and the matter must be resolved one way or the other. I shall look at that publication.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

The Minister will be aware that under an amendment to clause 25 the Secretary of State has taken powers to declare ballots void if he believes that misleading information has been presented to parents for a grant-maintained ballot. If the circumstances surrounding the supply of services to grant-maintained schools became an issue in a ballot, what would the Minister consider to be misleading information—that given by his hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) or that quoted in the booklet?

Mr. Forth

I shall look at the wording in that publication to see whether it is in any way misleading.

As I said a few moments ago, one of the problems with this debate is that none of us can be specific about the point at which the margin of capacity of a particular LEA may be reached and, therefore, when the restrictions on its trading powers and provision of services to grant-maintained schools may be reached. That will vary authority by authority, it will vary over time and it will vary up and down the country.

The alternatives that are available to schools are numerous and I should like to come to the point rightly raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South. There is the option of co-operation between schools —co-operatives even—that seek to come together to make use of the funds made available to them either through the local management of their schools or grant-maintained status. They may seek to make joint provision for certain services. In the case of libraries, for example, if a school has its own library that is one matter, but primary schools may want to form themselves into consortia. Similarly, secondary schools may provide library services for their local primary schools. All those possibilities can be explored. Local authority public libraries might find ways in which they could make provisions available to local schools on a much more broadly defined basis. The margin of capacity for a local authority, as a whole, as opposed to a local education authority, tends to be wider and would allow the public library service to range more widely than normal.

There is a range of possibilities, but, at present, as we are in the relatively early stage of development, those possibilities have not yet been fully explored or come to full fruition. I shall give examples of where the possibilities have been explored.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

May I remind the Minister of what he said during our debate on the subject in Committee on 4 February—Hansard, column 1373? He said that local authorities should not be able to offer services to grant-maintained schools because they were "non-profit-accountable bodies." Is the Minister saying that he will allow grant-maintained schools to trade with each other? If so, is he saying that they are profit-accountable bodies and one of their main purposes should be to trade with other schools in their region? What is the difference between one publicly funded organisation—a local authority—providing the services and another publicly funded organisation—a grant-maintained school—doing so?

Mr. Forth

I think that the hon. Lady is making slightly heavy weather of the issue. There is nothing to stop schools using their funds for educational purposes, which is what the funds are for. If the schools believe that by joint activity or co-operative activity or forming consortia for educational purposes they can achieve that end, I know of no inhibition on them.

Mr. Steinberg

I do not believe that the Minister understands what a resource centre is. He is talking about using a public library. Does he realise that a resource centre provides all the facilities that I mentioned earlier, such as projects and history objects, which a public library does not hold centrally? Such provisions are specifically held by learning resource centres. It is impossible for a central library or local library to hold objects that schools can borrow. They are held only by the local education authority. I believe that the Minister does not understand the difference between a central public library and a learning resource centre.

Mr. Forth

I know that it is difficult for the hon. Gentleman to expand his mind beyond what is at present. We have sat through 140 hours of debate in Committee, so I know that Opposition Members are profoundly conservative. In normal circumstances, I might welcome that. But the fact that Opposition Members cannot get their minds beyond what is at present and cannot imagine anything other than a local education authority providing anything is bedeviling the debate. The Government are suggesting that it is highly likely that given the fact that we are now liberating schools, their governors, head teachers and everyone else involved—through a combination of delegated budgets and local management of schools and the possibility of grant-maintained status—they can make decisions about their priorities and how they use their funds.

Mr. Steinberg


Mr. Forth

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but if his intervention is as long as his previous one, it will be the last time that I give way.

Mr. Steinberg

Does not the Minister realise that he is talking about liberating schools, but saying that they cannot purchase from a local education authority? Where is the liberation in that?

Mr. Forth

The liberation comes from the fact that schools can look to other provision which is now beginning to materialise. Examples of LEAs that are looking to trusts to provide music services include those in Kirklees, Kent, Berkshire, East Sussex and Derbyshire. That trust status would be an interim stage towards the fully independent provision of the services that we believe that schools will want to consider.

I can give a number of examples of grant-maintained schools that are already purchasing catering, payroll, music, legal, architectural, cleaning, catering, auditing, outdoor education and ground maintenance services. I could continue with the list, but I think that those examples of grant-maintained schools purchasing such services—including music—will serve. In all those schools, music is included in the service. Some of them maintain that the provision that they are now able to purchase freely, and of their own choice and source, is better than the one that they used to obtain from the monopoly local education authority provider. That is what I mean by liberation, local decision making and local management using its resources.

Mr. Enright

Will the Minister give a concrete example of one service that is so much better than the ones that already exist?

Mr. Forth

I know of at least one school that claims that its provision is superior to that it had previously—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] If the House will bear with me, I hope to be able to give that example—[Interruption.] —I cannot find the example immediately, and shall come back to it in a moment, as I want to speak to my amendment before I sit down. [Interruption.]

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I think that the Minister has been given the information, so if he wishes to resume his speech, give us the name of the school and give way in a moment, I shall happily let him.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. The school is Bingley grammar school—[Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members find it amusing.

Mr. Enright


Mr. Forth

No, I shall not give way, as the hon. Gentleman must allow me to tell the House about Bingley grammar school. It claims to have tripled the interest in music for a better price since it has not received its music service from the local education authority. It now buys in peripatetic music teachers.

Mr. Enright

I was laughing because Leeds already gives an excellent service, which I doubt has been bettered by the purchases suggested by the Minister.

Mr. Forth

The hon. Gentleman can come to the Chamber as an apologist for Leeds, but, in answer to the question that I was posed, I am giving an example of a school that has demonstrated the principle that underlies the section of the Bill that we are discussing, and shows why the new clause is so misconceived. The example also partly answers the important question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South.

There are growing numbers of grant-maintained schools that have demonstrated their capacity and capability to go to the hardly developed market place for services and purchase them to their satisfaction, competitively and with choice. That is a completely different approach from the monopolistic LEA-driven approach that previously existed. I concede straight away that it is different for people, who have the education of children at heart and who have known only local education authority provision all their lives, to see beyond that. Even at this early stage, long before we have reached margins of capacity and the provisions begin to bite, we see encouraging examples of schools that are able to obtain library and music provision to their satisfaction from the marketplace.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I think that I am right in saying that Bingley is unique in another aspect: it is the one grant-maintained school that has applied to take out a mortgage. I do not know what the connection is there—perhaps it is to pay for the music. I hope that the Minister will respond to the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong). Small schools, where the marginal cost of the provision of music lessons is excessive, may find themselves excluded from the sort of provision that the Minister mentioned. Will the Minister read new clause 1, which states that the local authority may provide those services and the grant-maintained schools may buy them? No one is forcing either the local authority to provide the service or the grant-maintained school to pay for it. That option should be available both to the local authority and the grant-maintained school—to use the Minister's word, it is "liberating".

Mr. Forth

As long as local education authorities are allowed to continue to make that provision, it is most unlikely that others will be able to come in or provide an adequate alternative—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

As a courtesy to the House, I will explain amendment No. 126. Its purpose is to allow LEAs in prescribed circumstances to charge grant-maintained schools for such services. If a GM school decides to use a particular LEA-provided support service, it is reasonable for the school to pay for that service if it is already funded to do so.

To deny LEAs the opportunity to charge would mean that grant-maintained schools would otherwise be double funded—money being given to the school on the one hand but the service being provided free on the other. In effect, and as important, that would choke off the development of a free market in such services, since alternative suppliers could not compete. We shall of course consult widely on the necessary regulations.

I hope that the House will accept that the Government amendment is entirely reasonable, is very much within the spirit of the Bill, and will enable local education authorities to charge where it is necessary to do so, to avoid double counting.

It being Eight o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question already proposed from the Chair, That the clause be read a Second time:

The House divided: Ayes 238, Noes 275.

Division No. 165] [8 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Clapham, Michael
Adams, Mrs Irene Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Ainger, Nick Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Allen, Graham Clelland, David
Alton, David Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Coffey, Ann
Armstrong, Hilary Cohen, Harry
Ashton, Joe Connarty, Michael
Austin-Walker, John Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Barnes, Harry Corbett, Robin
Barron, Kevin Corbyn, Jeremy
Battle, John Cousins, Jim
Bayley, Hugh Cryer, Bob
Bell, Stuart Cunliffe, Lawrence
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Bennett, Andrew F. Dafis, Cynog
Benton, Joe Dalyell, Tam
Bermingham, Gerald Darling, Alistair
Berry, Dr. Roger Davidson, Ian
Betts, Clive Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Blunkett, David Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Boateng, Paul Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Boyce, Jimmy Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)
Boyes, Roland Denham, John
Bradley, Keith Dewar, Donald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dixon, Don
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Dobson, Frank
Burden, Richard Donohoe, Brian H.
Byers, Stephen Dowd, Jim
Caborn, Richard Dunnachie, Jimmy
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Eagle, Ms Angela
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Eastham, Ken
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Enright, Derek
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Etherington, Bill
Cann, Jamie Evans, John (St Helens N)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Fatchett, Derek
Chisholm, Malcolm Faulds, Andrew
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Marek, Dr John
Fisher, Mark Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Flynn, Paul Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Martlew, Eric
Foster, Don (Bath) Maxton, John
Foulkes, George Meacher, Michael
Fraser, John Meale, Alan
Fyfe, Maria Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Galloway, George Milburn, Alan
Gapes, Mike Miller, Andrew
Garrett, John Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
George, Bruce Moonie, Dr Lewis
Gerrard, Neil Morgan, Rhodri
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Morley, Elliot
Godman, Dr Norman A. Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Godsiff, Roger Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Golding, Mrs Llin Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Gordon, Mildred Mowlam, Marjorie
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Mudie, George
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) 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) Raynsford, Nick
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Redmond, Martin
Hoyle, Doug Reid, Dr John
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Rogers, Allan
Hutton, John Rooker, Jeff
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Ruddock, Joan
Jamieson, David Sedgemore, Brian
Janner, Greville Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Short, Clare
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Skinner, Dennis
Jowell, Tessa Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Keen, Alan Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Khabra, Piara S. Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Kilfoyle, Peter Snape, Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Soley, Clive
Leighton, Ron Spearing, Nigel
Lewis, Terry Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Litherland, Robert Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Livingstone, Ken Steinberg, Gerry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Stott, Roger
Llwyd, Elfyn Straw, Jack
Loyden, Eddie Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Lynne, Ms Liz Tipping, Paddy
McAllion, John Turner, Dennis
McAvoy, Thomas Vaz, Keith
McCartney, Ian Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Macdonald, Calum Wallace, James
McFall, John Wai ley, Joan
McKelvey, William Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Mackinlay, Andrew Wicks, Malcolm
Maclennan, Robert Wigley, Dafydd
McMaster, Gordon Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
McNamara, Kevin Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
McWilliam, John Wilson, Brian
Madden, Max Winnick, David
Mahon, Alice Wise, Audrey
Mandelson, Peter Worthington, Tony
Wray, Jimmy Tellers for the Ayes:
Wright, Dr Tony Mr. John Spellar and
Mr. Eric Illsley.
Adley, Robert Dunn, Bob
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Durant, Sir Anthony
Aitken, Jonathan Dykes, Hugh
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Elletson, Harold
Amess, David Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Ancram, Michael Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Arbuthnot, James Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Ashby, David Evennett, David
Aspinwall, Jack Faber, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Fabricant, Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Fishburn, Dudley
Baldry, Tony Forman, Nigel
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Forth, Eric
Bates, Michael Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Batiste, Spencer Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bellingham, Henry 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) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowden, Andrew Gorst, John
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
Chapman, Sydney Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clappison, James Hendry, Charles
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Coe, Sebastian Horam, John
Congdon, David Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Conway, Derek Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunter, Andrew
Cormack, Patrick Jack, Michael
Couchman, James Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Cran, James Jenkin, Bernard
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jessel, Toby
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Day, Stephen Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Devlin, Tim Key, Robert
Dickens, Geoffrey Kilfedder, Sir James
Dicks, Terry Knapman, Roger
Dorrell, Stephen Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dover, Den Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Duncan, Alan Knox, David
Duncan-Smith, Iain Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Leigh, Edward Shaw, David (Dover)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lidington, David Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lightbown, David Shersby, Michael
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lord, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Luff, Peter Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
MacKay, Andrew Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Maclean, David Spink, Dr Robert
McLoughlin, Patrick Spring, Richard
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sproat, Iain
Madel, David Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Maitland, Lady Olga Steen, Anthony
Malone, Gerald Stephen, Michael
Mans, Keith Stern, Michael
Marlow, Tony Stewart, Allan
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Streeter, Gary
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sumberg, David
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Sweeney, Walter
Merchant, Piers Sykes, John
Milligan, Stephen Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mills, Iain Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Monro, Sir Hector Thomason, Roy
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Moss, Malcolm Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Needham, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Nelson, Anthony Townend, John (Bridlington)
Neubert, Sir Michael Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tracey, Richard
Nicholls, Patrick Tredinnick, David
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Trend, Michael
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Trotter, Neville
Norris, Steve Twinn, Dr Ian
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Ottaway, Richard Viggers, Peter
Page, Richard Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Paice, James Walden, George
Patnick, Irvine Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Patten, Rt Hon John Waller, Gary
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Ward, John
Pawsey, James Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Waterson, Nigel
Pickles, Eric Wells, Bowen
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Porter. David (Waveney) Whitney, Ray
Powell, William (Corby) Whittingdale, John
Rathbone, Tim Widdecombe, Ann
Redwood, John Wilkinson, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Willetts, David
Richards, Rod Wilshire, David
Riddick, Graham Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Wolfson, Mark
Robathan, Andrew Wood, Timothy
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Yeo, Tim
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Tellers for the Noes:
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Mr. Robert C. Hughes.
Sackville, Tom

Question accordingly negatived.

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