HC Deb 03 March 1993 vol 220 cc310-25

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Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

I beg to move amendment No. 16, in page 119, line 17 leave out 'controlled' and insert 'voluntary'.

Madam Speaker

I understand that with this it will be convenient to take also the following amendments: No. 17, in page 119, line 18 after 'may', insert— '(a) forthwith and without any obligation to consider representations made by or on behalf of any person affected, remove from office any person who is a governor appointed by them or a co-opted governor, and (b)'.

No. 18, in page 119, line 19 at end insert 'whether by way of replacement of persons removed from office under paragraph (a) above or as additional governors'.

No. 19, in page 119, line 20 after 'appointment', insert 'of additional governors'.

No. 20, in page 119, line 32 at end insert—

  1. '(3) Subsection (1) above is without prejudice to section 8(5) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (general power of removal of governors by those who appoint them).
  2. (4) The local education authority shall not exercise the power conferred by subsection (1)(a) in relation to a voluntary school unless they have consulted the person who appoints the school's foundation governors.
  3. (5) In this section "co-opted governor" has the same meaning as in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986.'.

Mr. Griffiths

This group of five amendments to clause 197, which deals with the appointment of additional governors, aims to increase the local education authority's powers over schools which are considered to be at risk or over any voluntary school considered to be in the same position. The amendments provide an alternative—perhaps one could even argue that they complement what the Secretary of State is choosing to do in transferring a school considered to be at risk to an education association.

It is the Government's intention in clauses 197 and 198 to provide the LEA with a set of additional powers to try to turn around a failing school. However, the powers contained in those two clauses are insufficient, and our amendments would reinforce the powers already provided to local education authorities in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. They also propose a new power intended to be more closely equivalent to the powers that the Secretary of State has taken to himself in clause 58 over the governing body of an at-risk grant-maintained school. We seek parity of power and esteem for a local education authority to act in respect of a maintained school or a voluntary school in the same way as the Secretary of State would act in respect of an at-risk grant-maintained school.

Let us look at some of the detail of the amendments. Amendment No. 17, the first of the main elements of the group, provides for an unrestricted power summarily to remove any local authority appointed governor or co-opted governor, which would effectively enable a majority of the governing body to be replaced. As I have said, that is equivalent to the Secretary of State's power under clause 58 to replace the first governors in a grant-maintained school which is a former county school.

The amendment would provide a power to remove co-opted governors, which is an innovation, proposed mainly in order to provide a power to remove and replace a majority of the governing body of a county school without affecting parent governors or teacher governors. In the case of voluntary schools, local education authority appointees and co-opted governors do not constitute a majority, but the person who appoints foundation governors already has a power, albeit a restricted power, to remove them.

Thus, the powers in clause 197, even with the amendments, would require the person with that power over the foundation governors to be involved in order to replace a majority of the governing body. The local education authority's existing power to remove LEA appointed governors, and the equivalent powers held by others to remove foundation governors, come from section 8(5) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. There have been legal challenges to that power, as in the case of Brunyate v. ILEA in 1989. Thus, the intention of amendment 17 is to make local education authorities' powers in the case of an at-risk school entirely unambiguous, and to extend them to cover co-opted governors under the same terms.

Amendment No. 16 may be contentious in that it proposes to widen the scope of clause 197 to include voluntary-aided schools as well as voluntary-controlled schools. Nevertheless, that is not intended to shift the main weight of responsibility for removing governors, which lies with the person who appoints the foundation governors. In the exceptional circumstances—I repeat and emphasise the phrase "exceptional circumstances"—in which a voluntary-aided school may find itself at risk, and for as long as it remains at risk, the amended clause would permit the local authority to appoint extra governors so that the foundation governors would not comprise a majority.

The new subsection (4) of clause 197, suggested in amendment No. 20, would require that the local education authority's powers over the governing body of a voluntary school be used only after consultation with the person who appointed the foundation governors. In other words, unlike the clause as currently drafted, the clause as amended would provide for such consultation in the case of voluntary-controlled schools. As the clause stands the Government seem to have no intention of allowing such consultation.

The second element in the group of amendments is to be found in amendment No. 18, which would completely change the thrust of clause 197 from being concerned exclusively with additional governors to a balanced approach of replacement or additional governors. The thrust of our amendments is to give local education authorities exactly the same opportunities and powers in respect of maintained and voluntary schools as the Secretary of State has or will have over grant-maintained schools which are former county schools and which may become at risk. We hope that the Government will accept that it is preferable to give the local education authority extra power similar to that of the Secretary of State to turn round a school which is at risk.

Even under existing powers, local education authorities occasionally intervene effectively to turn around failing schools. I can cite one school, which I shall not name, to show how a local education authority can work effectively. A couple of years ago, the school was between one third and half full. The local education authority determined that it would have to take action, and within two years that same school is now over-subscribed. Local education authorities can do that job.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely, and I very much applaud what he had to say about the LEA that turned the school around, but I expect that he would be the first to agree that, sadly, not all LEAs can do that. Failing schools exist despite the best endeavours of local education authorities. That is where my right hon. Friend's admirable initiative comes in. The education association is a long stop, but it sorts out that problem. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming my right hon. Friend's views on the matter.

Mr. Griffiths

I shall turn to that in a moment. Let me point out to the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), who I know has a long-standing interest in education—although it is sometimes misguided—that our amendments seek to strengthen the powers of a local education authority to deal with an at-risk school and to place those powers on a par with the powers of the Secretary of State in respect of grant-maintained schools which might become at risk. We know that that has happened, and that there were tremendous difficulties in dealing with that problem.

One reason why LEAs often encounter difficulties, whether or not they are entirely justified, is the question whether they have untrammelled powers to take action against a school that is at risk. Our amendments, by giving LEAs the same powers as the Secretary of State, will make it abundantly clear that they should take action. If they fail to act, the Secretary of State's own powers to create an education authority will come into play.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

I applaud the heart of the hon. Gentleman, but is his head working too? He said that the school was one third to half full. Does he accept that there are 900,000 surplus school places in Britain, including 19,000 surplus secondary school places in Lancashire? The money that is spent on those surplus places should be funding other schools, and in Lancashire providing more places at the overcrowded Lancashire primary schools. The hon. Gentleman is moving the pieces round the chess board. We want to get rid of surplus places.

Mr. Griffiths

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, although it is at a tangent to my argument. Surplus places cannot be discussed under the issue of failing schools, unless the hon. Lady is suggesting that, as soon as a school is seen to be failing, it should be closed completely rather than being given a second chance.

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

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that there is only one chance for any child in his or her school career; there is no second chance. Does he agree that, in the case of a school such as the one to which he has referred—which he properly has not named—if the local education authority does not move swiftly and effectively, the next thing to happen, once the Bill is enacted, will be for the education association to become effective? If the education association does not move in, the school will wither on the vine, and with that withering process may come the ruin of the careers of the declining number of children in the school.

Mr. Griffiths

The whole point of the amendment is to give the local education authority the power to move in unambiguously, as the Secretary of State hopes that the education association will do.

Our hope is that, if the Government give a favourable wind to our amendments, the powers of the LEA to act to stop schools failing will be on a par with the Secretary of State's powers. At present, LEAs do not have the same powers. I do not pretend to be an expert on how local education authorities work vis-a-vis all schools that are at risk. There was a fear that LEAs might not have sufficient powers to carry out a full-scale exercise if the head of a school at risk put up a fight. One can hardly imagine that a head would do that, but it seems that they have in the past.

I do not seek to give an LEA any powers that the Secretary of State will not exercise. I hope that, by giving new powers to the LEA, which are on a par with his own, we will help it to move into schools at risk at the earliest stage, instead of wondering how effectively it can act. The amendment would obviate the need for the education association to move in in such cases.

There is no guarantee that the education association will be successful. By definition, it could involve men and women who have been retired from education for some time and who may not be fully conversant with all the problems in a local authority area. For all the good will that the Secretary of State sees behind the concept, the education association may not be the best body to act. Local education authorities, equipped with the powers proposed in the amendment, will be able to move effectively against falling schools.

Mr. Pawsey

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the principal virtues of the education association is that it will be new, independent and unbiased? It will not be touched by association with the LEA. There may be a dispute, an argument or a background problem, but the education association will come into the school absolutely impartially. The LEA may not be seen as impartial, and that may hold it back.

Mr. Griffiths

We are moving on to new ground with the education associations, so there is nothing against which we can test the hon. Gentleman's argument. It must be supposition and hope at this stage, as there is no evidence on which he can base a valid argument. We do not know how the Secretary of State will act in appointing education associations. An association might turn out to be a good friend of the head of a school at risk and might, because of that, feel a constraint. We can only speculate about what an association might do.

On the other hand, a local education authority with a determination to deal with a failing school, particularly with the powers that we propose it should have—powers which are no greater than those possessed by the Secretary of State in respect of a grant-maintained school at risk —would be able to act effectively. If for some reason, in a minority of cases, it turned out not to be effective, that would become apparent quickly and the education association might then have a chance to act.

Many people perceive the education associations as a rather confrontational group of educational SAS people parachuted into a situation about which they might know little, and the result could be much heartache and no success. On the other hand, if the LEA were given the powers that we propose, it would be able to act effectively. The backstop position of the education association would remain in the unlikely event of the LEA not having done its job properly.

On the basis that we would not be giving the LEA more power to deal with maintained or voluntary schools than the Secretary of State has to deal with grant-maintained schools, we trust that the Government will accept the amendment.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

This group of Opposition amendments raises important issues about educational standards in schools and in particular about who carries responsibility for improving standards and how those responsibilities shall be implemented. We are concerned with part V of the Bill, which sits uncomfortably on the Education Act 1988 and the Education Act 1992 because it fails to establish a clear framework of what should be done, who should be doing it and how it should be carried out.

The 1988 Act delegated more responsibility to school governors and the 1992 Act provided for schools to be regularly inspected using nationally defined criteria, with the governing body carrying the responsibility to act on the findings of those inspections. Sadly, the clause that we are discussing concentrates on only that small proportion of schools which, when inspected, are found to be at risk.

Such schools undoubtedly need help, but I suspect that it may be too late for many of them. In a recent intervention, the Secretary of State referred to the way in which education associations might be able to provide assistance to schools. But schools which have been defined as being at risk may be beyond hope of redemption. So we should also be examining what support can be offered to the governing bodies of schools at an earlier stage, rather than concentrating on the crude interventionist procedures in the Bill. More work should be done with governing bodies in a constructive way long before schools are defined as failing schools.

4.30 pm

It is a great pity, therefore, that in our debate yesterday constraints of time prevented us from discussing some of the new clauses and amendments that had been tabled. For example, my new clause 15 and amendment No. 29, which Madam Speaker had been kind enough to select, would have extended the requirements for governors' annual reports to give clearer information to parents and other interested observers about what the school had achieved each year within the framework of the national inspection criteria. New clause 17 and amendment No. 32 would have ensured that the annual appraisal of the performance of the school's headteacher was properly independent and objective. My amendments Nos. 30 and 31 would have placed much greater emphasis on a governing body's financial planning. A much broader approach to quality assurance is needed in our schools, reinforcing the leading decision-making role played by school governors.

Clause 197 and the amendments rightly address the question of governing bodies—even though, as I suggested, the remedy would come rather late in the day and only in extreme circumstances. In such circumstances, the question must be whether the local education authority has sufficient powers to turn round the school governing body's problems. Without amendments No. 16 to 20, the answer must undoubtedly be no.

The Government themselves have shown that to be the case. Their proposed remedy in clause 58 for grant-maintained schools in similarly extreme circumstances gives much greater power—the power to replace the majority of the governing body. Yet clause 197, dealing with local education authority schools, only offers the local education authority the power to acquire a majority by adding more and more governors to the governing body, increasing the size of the governing body almost without limit. Clearly, that is not a sensible approach. The amendments provide a sensible approach and I hope that they will be accepted.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport)

The amendments would give more power to local education authorities to deal with failing schools. I shall concentrate on the only alternative provided by the Government—that of establishing education associations—which manifestly fails to solve the problem in hand. The amendments would obviate the need for education associations by giving local education authorities more powers to act.

No reasonable hon. Member would impede any measure that addressed the problem of schools that are failing their pupils—whether LEA-maintained, grant-maintained, independent or private schools or city technology colleges. I am led to wonder why the provisions for the establishment of education associations—which we seek to remove from the Bill—deal only with LEA-maintained schools. If the Government were genuine in their alleged concern for pupils in failing schools, they would have introduced measures which dealt with problems in all schools.

We have not tackled the question of how big the problem is, and it needs to be quantified. On Second Reading and since, the Secretary of State has referred to his "little list", which we are led to believe consists of just over 100 schools.

Mr. Patten

On a matter of information, the list to which I referred is not in my hands but in the hands of the inspector, who is entirely independent. I have seen no such list. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it is Her Majesty's chief inspector who will make representations to me about schools that he regards as failing, and I repeat that he is totally independent.

Mr. Jamieson

I am grateful for the Secretary of State's clarification. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that in his evidence to the Select Committee he referred to the report of the chief inspector which indicates that about 200 schools are at risk. The Secretary of State has referred several times to the existence of a little list. On 28 October he admitted to the Select Committee that the proportion of the 23,000 to 24,000 schools was not large. I am glad to say that, for once, I agree with him. In fact, the figure is between 0.5 and 1 per cent. May I assume, therefore, that the Secretary of State will congratulate the LEAs on their conduct of the 99 per cent. of schools that are clearly being run well? If a similar survey throughout Brtitish industry could reveal a success rate of 99 per cent. and a failure rate of only 1 per cent. the official receivers would be far less overworked.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to the fact that the majority of schools are functioning well. However, a very small number are not functioning so well as he and I would like. Surely the object of the education association is to come in as a long-stop and sort out those that are failing.

Mr. Jamieson

I wish that the hon. Gentleman's assertion were correct. My point is that LEAs have been very successful in dealing with schools that have problems. That was indicated in the Secretary of State's evidence to the Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said that 99 per cent. of schools were functioning extremely well. The amendments with which we are dealing would give local education authorities more power to deal with the remaining 0.5 to 1 per cent. Our assertion is that the LEAs are best placed to do for those schools what they have done for the other 99 per cent., and we want the authorities to have the necessary power.

Mr. Pawsey

I suspect that there is very little difference between the hon. Gentleman and myself. I acknowledge the point that he makes, and he is right to make it. All I am saying is that the LEA will already have had a good crack at turning a failing school round. In such circumstances, authorities try very hard. Unfortunately, in a very small number of cases they are not successful. It is in respect of the 0.5 to 1 per cent. of schools that the education association will come in. This will happen right at the end of the line—after everything else has been tried. As I have said, there is little difference between the hon. Gentleman and myself.

Mr. Jamieson

If there is so little difference between us, why does the hon. Gentleman keep bobbing up and down? If he will stay in his place and contain his excitement for a few moments, I will say why I believe that the Government's alternative is utterly disastrous and why our amendment would be far more efficacious. There is one matter in respect of which there may be less agreement between the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth and myself: I wonder whether the creation of education associations has more to do with the establishment of grant-maintained schools by the back door than with genuine concern about schools that are failing.

Mr. Pawsey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way again?

Mr. Jamieson

As an act of supreme generosity, I will give way to the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). Unlike the Secretary of State, I know the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Mr. Pawsey

I have achieved a hat trick of interventions in the hon. Gentleman's speech.

There is no need to talk about the introduction of grant-maintained schools by the back door. Grant-maintained schools will be established because parents want them. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that literally hundreds of grant-maintained schools have so far emerged. By 1996, or thereabouts, there will be thousands of such schools. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am obliged to my hon. Friends for their support. There is no need for us to try the back-door approach because, frankly, schools will be flooding in through the front door that we have opened.

Mr. Jameison

We have not been surprised by any avalanche of schools going grant-maintained recently. The Bill is before us because of the Government's supreme disappointment that more schools have not gone grant-maintained in the past four years. I shall deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth in a moment.

We need to contrast the power which the local education authority could have under our amendments and what the Government are proposing. The proposed education associations would be a sort of flying squad of four or five members going into a school to sort it out. The powers given to the education associations deserve some examination.

During the Committee on the Bill, it became clear that a third sort of school will be created when an education association is sent in. This may help the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth because I shall contrast my point to that which he made. If an education association is sent in to a school, the school will no longer be a local education authority school, nor will it be grant-maintained. The school will lie somewhere between the two.

During the Committee, the Minister—unlike the Secretary of State who was unable to attend any of the sessions of the Committee—said that the school will be in a state of limbo. The Minister was clear about this in Committee and I quote: If an education association has been established for a school, ipso facto that school ceases to be maintained by the LEA … Schools under an education association are not grant-maintained schools"—[Official Report, Standing Committee E; 2 February 1993, c. 1247–48.] At a stroke, a new school had been created which was neither local education authority nor grant maintained. The Minister also told the Committee that the education association would employ the people in schools.

As the debate went on, it became clear that funding for the education association for a school would come through the funding agency. Once the education association has done its work, what are the alternatives? The alternatives in the Bill are clear: first, the school should cease to exist—it should close. Secondly, it should become grant-maintained. There is no suggestion in the Bill that the school then goes back to the local education authority and that it should be controlled by the authority.

The Bill does not tell us whether there will be a ballot of parents to send the school grant-maintained after the education association has done its work. Will parents have a role in deciding that their children's school will become grant-maintained after an education association has been in? There is no provision in the Bill to do that.

In the White Paper, the Government said that the only significant extra funding provided in the Bill would be additional expenditure for the establishment and operation of the funding agency. We were disappointed because we felt that there were many areas of concern in the education system which could have done with extra funding.

In Committee, it was revealed that funding will be required for the operation of education associations. In the first instance, the charge for administering the education associations will fall on school budgets. A failing school which may already be underfunded therefore will have a further burden of cloying bureaucracy in the shape of the education association put on it. We were told that the education association could call in specialised advice and set up committees.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I am listening with great interest to what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I do not necessarily criticise this, but he seems to be straying widely from the original amendment.

Mr. Win Griffiths

It is the other side of the argument.

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Mr. Thompson

I said that I found the hon. Gentleman's remarks interesting. There are considerable powers for local education authorities to find ways in which to improve schools which are likely to come into the category of failing schools. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that? Bearing in mind that he is talking at some length about the whole concept of education associations, I fail to understand why Opposition Members have continually sought to wreck the Bill by removing the whole idea of a new initiative to improve and help children in failing schools. Can the hon. Gentleman explain that to the House?

Mr. Jamieson

I am sure that hon. Members have noted the bid by the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) to take over the job of the Chair by keeping this debate in order. If he does so again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you will put him right.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. I will correct any hon. Member who veers outside the provinces of the debate, but so far no one has done that.

Mr. Jamieson

It was certainly not my intention to suggest that you had not kept any hon. Member in order. I was simply a little surprised that the hon. Member for Norwich, North appeared to be trying to do the job on your behalf.

My point is that our amendments suggest methods by which local education authorities could be more successful in tackling failing schools. I am contrasting that with the proposal in the Bill for education associations to tackle failing schools. I think that the proposal in the Bill will manifestly fail because it sets in place a further level of bureaucracy to be imposed on schools. The costs of that bureaucracy will also be placed on schools.

We were told that education associations could call in specialist advice and set up committees. What will be the cost of that new bureaucracy? Who will pay for that additional paper-shuffling? Will education associations pay fat fees to advisers? I should like an answer.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Jamieson

A number of hon. Members seem to want to intervene. I give way to the hon. Member for Croydon North-East (Mr. Congdon).

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East)

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is going on about the cost. I thought that the cost would be a small price to pay in those extreme cases where a school is failing and the education of the children is suffering thereby. We are talking about those extreme cases in which the local education authority has tried various measures and failed. I thought that the price was a small one to pay to improve the education for those children. They do not get a second opportunity.

Mr. Jamieson

Certainly, children do not get a second opportunity. I should add that such schools are those to which a majority of Labour Members send their children.

In the White Paper, the Government said that the only significant funding would be for the funding agency. What I am saying today is that the Government are also proposing that moneys will be spent on the education associations. The question of who the members of the education associations will be also bears examination.

I am sure that the Secretary of State would agree that the Financial Times is well known for its accurate reporting. On 29 July, the Secretary of State is reported to have said: The education associations will be composed of retired teachers and people 'good at running things'. Later we heard that retired head teachers and business men were likely to be enlisted. I know several retired head teachers and teachers and the last thing that they would want to do is to undertake work on a voluntary basis running failing schools. Will the appointees be vetted? Yesterday we heard the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) ring alarm bells about retired head teachers. He was worried that they might not be politically correct.

I am afraid that the education association would be yet another layer of expensive bureaucracy packed with Tory placemen on fat expense accounts paid for by children's books. They will not begin to resemble the excellent teams of advisers and inspectors which LEAs were previously able to maintain. Instead, we shall have a rather elderly Dad's Army of Tory appointees, accountable to no one except the Secretary of State.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Further and Higher Education (Mr. Tim Boswell)

In the limited time left to me, I shall attempt to summarise the main points that have come out of the debate. Two points seem clear to me, although the Opposition have hardly told us about them. First, the Opposition have strangely failed to mention the concomitant powers in clause 198. We are offering huge powers for the first time to LEAs to withdraw delegated budgets. That is a powerful sanction, about which we heard nothing whatever from Opposition Members.

Secondly, the clear difference has been revealed between the acceptable face of the Opposition put up front by the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) and that of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), who was only too anxious to reactivate class war and made most of his remarks around that theme. The hon. Member for Bridgend admitted, although his admission was heavily qualified, that there might be a case for an education association going into a school in certain circumstances, or where the alternative might otherwise be limbo or the abolition of the school.

Perhaps I could deal with the hon. Member for Devonport by assuring him—even if he is unable to pay attention to my remarks, having taken up the greater part of the debate—that no effective cost will fall to the LEA from any arrangement to transfer a school to an education association. It is an entirely administrative matter.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Congdon) eloquently said, anticipating the intervention that I would have made, the internal costs would be entirely reasonable given that the alternative would be a failed school which had ceased to exist.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Does the Minister agree that we have a strange and fearful precedent in hospital trusts? We have spent more money for more quangos and we are having to close more beds.

Mr. Boswell

I am sorry. Much as I like the hon. Gentleman, he is going rather wide of the mark. If I am to answer in eight minutes, I cannot go into hospital trusts. I should enjoy debating it on another occasion with the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has an entirely proper interest in the standard of management in schools and the accountability of governors. All that I would say to him is that some of his remarks, as he acknowledged, related to an earlier stage in a school's decline than imminent fall. His remarks did not entirely relate to the amendments, but I noted what he said. It is within the spirit of some of the things that we would like to happen.

The amendments tabled by the official Opposition make no reference to the huge new power which is being given to LEAs to withdraw delegated budgets. Opposition Members made inadequate reference to the other significant power that we are providing. Where a school has received an at-risk report and the school and the LEA have considered an action plan, the LEA will have a power to appoint additional governors to county and controlled schools. I shall explain why the power is defined in that way.

The power has never existed under a Labour Government. We are now making it available. The hon. Member for Bridgend would do well not to look a gift horse in the mouth. We are giving local authorities sufficient powers, if they are capable of using them and if the people whom they select are appropriate, to turn schools round. They did not previously have those powers. We do not require the additional power which the Opposition propose in the amendments. That is why I shall advise my hon. Friends to resist the amendments in due course.

The reason why we do not want the further powers is that in the debate and the remarks made by Opposition Members there was a certain confusion—possibly it was a misunderstanding—between the power to appoint additional governors, which is enshrined in our proposals, and the powers of replacement of governors, to which Opposition Members referred.

I shall deal with the replacement matter first. We believe that it is proper for the local authority to be able to replace its own governors. The hon. Member for Bridgend referred to a particular case and cast doubt on whether that was possible. He referred to the relevant legislation in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. In the case to which he referred, the LEA sought to remove LEA-appointed governors precisely because those governors planned to vote against the wishes of the LEA on the closure of the school to become a city technology college. That was a specific, not a general case.

In general, the LEA has the power to remove its own governors. The Opposition's proposal would enable the LEA to intervene and, if I may put it this way, "dis-appoint" governors whom it had not appointed. Co-opted governors whould be those appointed by the governing body as a whole, not by the LEA—although, undoubtedly, by LEA nominees. Foundation governors would have been appointed by the foundation. The House will wish to know that the foundation may in turn replace its governors of aided or special agreement schools. We are in discussion with the churches on a parallel power which does not exist now to enable the foundation to appoint additional governors. Such a power would be analogous with the power that we propose in clause 197.

So we do not believe that it is right to enable the local education authority to go beyond the power of appointment of additional governors to replace existing governors. The main reason why we feel that that would be inappropriate is that the LEA did not appoint the governors in the first place. In aided schools the foundation has the primary responsibility for appointing the majority of the governors. As he will know, the foundation contributes to the capital, maintenance and repair costs of the school and has a close and central role in preserving and enhancing the special ethos, often religious, of the school. So we believe that the position should be protected.

Our proposals provide full and sufficient powers to LEAs to appoint additional governors. I should say in parentheses that it would be a good idea if LEAs made sure that governors whom they had appointed functioned properly, unlike the gentleman who used to turn up for the first 10 minutes of meetings so that he was not recorded as an absentee and then left, about whom we have received a recent complaint.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

Like the Secretary of State?

Mr. Boswell

It has nothing to do with the Secretary of State, except that he received the letter. I am pleased that he is here to hear the debate.

Opposition Members do not seem fully to have appreciated that the number of additional members which LEAs can appoint is not constrained. One would normally expect it to be one or two. If it were necessary in order to seize control of a majority, the LEA could appoint up to the number which represents the majority of the committee so that it could turn matters round. That is fairly closely analogous to the Secretary of State's powers in grant-maintained schools to appoint additional members up to the number which would outnumber the first governors.

Amendment No. 17 is outrageous even by the standards that we have learnt to expect from the Labour party. It would enable the LEA to replace LEA or co-opted governors forthwith and without any obligation to consider representations made by or on behalf of any person affected". That is summary justice with a vengeance.

I remind the House that we do not want the powers because we wish to use them regularly, or for some hidden agenda that the hon. Member for Devonport has contrived. We want them because we recognise the essential importance of saving failing schools if that is at all possible. We want local education authorities to have a reasonable chance to do so, but as a last resort we need to stand behind them with fall-back provisions so that we can take over with an education association. I am sure that my hon. Friends support the concept because we believe in putting parents first.

I advise the Opposition to consider the powers that we are offering to local education authorities to enhance their part in the process. I hope that they will understand that if local education authorities cannot come up with the goods, which might occasionally happen, it may be necessary to go to the next stage. We do not welcome or canvass that, but believe that it is absolutely necessary, in the interests of parents and their children.

It being Five o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Order [15 December] and Resolution [2 March], put the Question already proposed from the Chair, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 236, Noes 274.

Division No. 168] [15 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Dafis, Cynog
Adams, Mrs Irene Dalyell, Tam
Ainger, Nick Darling, Alistair
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Davidson, Ian
Allen, Graham Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Alton, David Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)
Armstrong, Hilary Denham, John
Ashton, Joe Dewar, Donald
Austin-Walker, John Dixon, Don
Barnes, Harry Donohoe, Brian H.
Barron, Kevin Dowd, Jim
Battle, John Dunnachie, Jimmy
Bayley, Hugh Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bell, Stuart Eagle, Ms Angela
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Eastham, Ken
Bennett, Andrew F. Enright, Derek
Benton, Joe Etherington, Bill
Bermingham, Gerald Evans, John (St Helens N)
Berry, Dr. Roger Fatchett, Derek
Betts, Clive Faulds, Andrew
Blair, Tony Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Blunkett, David Fisher, Mark
Boyce, Jimmy Flynn, Paul
Boyes, Roland Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bradley, Keith Foster, Don (Bath)
Burden, Richard Foulkes, George
Byers, Stephen Fraser, John
Caborn, Richard Fyfe, Maria
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Garrett, John
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) George, Bruce
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Gerrard, Neil
Cann, Jamie Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Chisholm, Malcolm Godman, Dr Norman A.
Clapham, Michael Godsiff, Roger
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Golding, Mrs Llin
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Graham, Thomas
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Coffey, Ann Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cohen, Harry Grocott, Bruce
Connarty, Michael Gunnell, John
Corbett, Robin Hain, Peter
Corbyn, Jeremy Hall, Mike
Cousins, Jim Hanson, David
Cryer, Bob Harvey, Nick
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Henderson, Doug
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Heppell, John
Hill, Keith (Streatham) O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Hinchliffe, David O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hoey, Kate O'Hara, Edward
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Olner, William
Hood, Jimmy Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hoon, Geoffrey Parry, Robert
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Pendry, Tom
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Pickthall, Colin
Hoyle, Doug Pike, Peter L.
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Pope, Greg
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hutton, John Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Ingram, Adam Prescott, John
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Primarolo, Dawn
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Purchase, Ken
Jamieson, David Quin, Ms Joyce
Janner, Greville Randall, Stuart
Johnston, Sir Russell Raynsford, Nick
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Redmond, Martin
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Reid, Dr John
Jowell, Tessa Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Keen, Alan Rogers, Allan
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Rooker, Jeff
Khabra, Piara S. Rooney, Terry
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kirkwood, Archy Ruddock, Joan
Leighton, Ron Sedgemore, Brian
Lewis, Terry Sheerman, Barry
Litherland, Robert Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Livingstone, Ken Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Short, Clare
Llwyd, Elfyn Simpson, Alan
Loyden, Eddie Skinner, Dennis
Lynne, Ms Liz Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McAllion, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McCartney, Ian Snape, Peter
Macdonald, Calum Soley, Clive
McFall, John Spearing, Nigel
McKelvey, William Spellar, John
Mackinlay, Andrew Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Maclennan, Robert Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
McMaster, Gordon Steinberg, Gerry
McWilliam, John Stott, Roger
Madden, Max Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mahon, Alice Straw, Jack
Mallon, Seamus Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mandelson, Peter Tipping, Paddy
Marek, Dr John Turner, Dennis
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Tyler, Paul
Martlew, Eric Wallace, James
Maxton. John Walley, Joan
Meacher, Michael Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Meale, Alan Wicks, Malcolm
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wigley, Dafydd
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Milburn, Alan Wilson, Brian
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Winnick, David
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wise, Audrey
Morgan, Rhodri Worthington, Tony
Morley. Elliot Wray, Jimmy
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Wright, Dr Tony
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Mowlam, Marjorie
Mudie, George Tellers for the Ayes:
Mullin, Chris Mr. Peter Kilfoyle and
Murphy, Paul Mr. Eric Illsley.
Adley, Robert Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Amess, David Baldry, Tony
Ancram, Michael Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bates, Michael
Ashby, David Bellingham, Henry
Aspinwall, Jack Bendall, Vivian
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Beresford, Sir Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John Garnier, Edward
Blackburn, Dr John G. Gillan, Cheryl
Body, Sir Richard Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Booth, Hartley Gorst, John
Boswell, Tim Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bowden, Andrew Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bowis, John Grylls, Sir Michael
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brandreth, Gyles Hague, William
Brazier, Julian Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom,)
Bright, Graham Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hampson, Dr Keith
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hannam, Sir John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hargreaves, Andrew
Burns, Simon Harris, David
Burt, Alistair Haselhurst, Alan
Butcher, John Hawkins, Nick
Butler, Peter Hawksley, Warren
Butterfill, John Hayes, Jerry
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Heald, Oliver
Carrington, Matthew Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carttiss, Michael Hendry, Charles
Cash, William Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Chapman, Sydney Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clappison, James Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Horam, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Coe, Sebastian Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Congdon, David Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Conway, Derek Hunter, Andrew
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Jack, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jenkin, Bernard
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Jessel, Toby
Cormack, Patrick Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Couchman, James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cran, James Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Key, Robert
Davis, David (Boothferry) Kilfedder, Sir James
Day, Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Deva, Nirj Joseph Knapman, Roger
Devlin, Tim Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Dickens, Geoffrey Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dorrell, Stephen Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knox, David
Dover, Den Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Duncan, Alan Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Duncan-Smith, Iain Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Dunn, Bob Leigh, Edward
Durant, Sir Anthony Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Dykes, Hugh Lidington, David
Eggar, Tim Lightbown, David
Elletson, Harold Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfleld) Lord, Michael
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Luff, Peter
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) MacKay, Andrew
Evennett, David Maclean, David
Faber, David McLoughlin, Patrick
Fabricant, Michael McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Madel, David
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Maitland, Lady Olga
Fishburn, Dudley Malone, Gerald
Forman, Nigel Mans, Keith
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Marlow, Tony
Forth, Eric Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Fox. Sir Marcus (Shipley) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Freeman, Roger Mellor, Rt Hon David
French, Douglas Merchant, Piers
Fry, Peter Milligan, Stephen
Gale, Roger Mills, Iain
Gallie, Phil Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gardiner, Sir George Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Monro, Sir Hector Spink, Dr Robert
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Spring, Richard
Moss, Malcolm Sproat, Iain
Needham, Richard Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Neubert, Sir Michael Steen, Anthony
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stephen, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Stern, Michael
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stewart, Allan
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Streeter, Gary
Norris, Steve Sumberg, David
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Sweeney, Walter
Ottaway, Richard Sykes, John
Page, Richard Tapsell, Sir Peter
Paice, James Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Patnick, Irvine Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Patten, Rt Hon John Thomason, Roy
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Pawsey, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thurnham, Peter
Pickles, Eric Townend, John (Bridlington)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Porter, David (Waveney) Tracey, Richard
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tredinnick, David
Rathbone, Tim Trend, Michael
Redwood, John Twinn, Dr Ian
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Viggers, Peter
Richards, Rod Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Riddick, Graham Walden, George
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Robathan, Andrew Waller, Gary
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Ward, John
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Waterson, Nigel
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Wells, Bowen
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Whitney, Ray
Sackville, Tom Whittingdale, John
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Widdecombe, Ann
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wilkinson, John
Shaw, David (Dover) Willetts, David
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Wilshire, David
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'Id)
Shersby, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Sims, Roger Wood, Timothy
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Yeo, Tim
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Soames, Nicholas
Spencer, Sir Derek Tellers for the Noes:
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Mr. James Arbuthnot and
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Mr. Robert G. Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER then put the Questions on amendments moved by a member of the Government to the end of schedule 12 on the motion relating to clause 214.

Question agreed to.

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