HC Deb 03 May 1994 vol 242 cc595-688

Order for Second Reading read.

Madam Speaker

It will not come as a surprise to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) to hear that I have not selected the amendment standing in his name.

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

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

I approach this debate on the Bill, with its important provisions on teacher training and student affairs, with relish. I welcome every opportunity to take forward the Government's vital programme of education reforms. I particularly welcome this one, coming as it does on the day marking the 15th anniversary of Conservative government, and also the first day of the next 15 years of Conservative government.

I offer Opposition Members a few moments to reflect on a few of their past campaigns, as they think about what to say in this debate. They have campaigned in the past against the national curriculum, local management of schools, performance tables, school tests, school inspections and now, of course, grant-maintained schools. They were all hard-fought battles over proposals which we were told were "unworkable", "unfair" or "unacceptable".

What better evidence could we have of the lack of vision that pervades the Opposition Benches? All these reforms are now becoming accepted parts of the education scene; and there is every evidence that they are doing just what we intended—levering up standards for children in our schools, challenging schools to do better and working together to enlighten parents, pupils and teachers and raise their expectations of what our young can achieve. They help our children to do better and to work harder, as they are—hard work is good for children—helped by hard-working teachers, to whom all of us in the House should be grateful. I certainly am.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that many of Labour's campaigns in the past 15 years have been against the incompetence of successive Secretaries of State for Education? Will he confirm that the average tenure of office of each of those incumbents—all of whose photographs appear in the anteroom to the Secretary of State's offices—is two years? Does he agree that that suggests that our campaigns have been pretty successful in getting rid of Secretaries of State? Does he acknowledge that his time is up?

Mr. Patten

There is a handsome run of photographs—both in black and white and in colour. When I eventually leave my post in a good number of years' time, I think that I shall have a sepia photograph.

Most attitudes towards education were, until recently, essentially producer-driven.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that part of the educational scene to which he referred is the unremitting, relentless and consistent opposition of the National Union of Teachers to our reforms? Is it not true that that opposition by the NUT has been consistently endorsed by the Opposition Front-Bench team?

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend speaks with great authority as someone who has taken a formidable interest in education in the House since 1979. He had a most distinguished period as a noteworthy reforming Education Minister. He is absolutely right—the NUT has opposed at every twist and turn, and wherever it can, educational reform over the past 15 years.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has also been twisting and turning, and successive people have failed to get her to say publicly whether she is in favour or against present NUT action. She did so most notably a couple of weekends ago, when even Mr. Vincent Hanna, having done his best, could not persuade her to say more than the immortal words that she was neither supporting the NUT nor opposing the NUT.

If the hon. Lady wants me to give way now so that she can explain, I shall do so. I do not think that she wants me to give way so that she can explain her position.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)


Mr. Patten

I am delighted to see that she does.

Mrs. Taylor

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way, and am happy to help him to delay the start of our discussion of the tatty Bill that we are supposed to be discussing today.

The Secretary of State knows that the NUT action is not the problem—the problem lies in the difficulties created by the Secretary of State with the national curriculum and testing arrangements that are still experimental. If only the Secretary of State would stop to listen and take notice of advisers, the education system in this country would not be in the position that it is in today.

Mr. Patten

We are clearly in murky water. I always give way when my hon. Friends want me to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) introduced an important topic that is connected to the standards of teaching and teacher training in this country.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury quite properly declares her sponsorship by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which supports the present tests that are already being conducted in so many of our schools. All I can divine from what the hon. Lady said—trying to do so is a murky business—is that, despite the fact that the union that supports her in this place supports the tests, she supports the NUT's sporadic boycott of testing. If she wishes to contradict me, I shall give way; if she does not rise to do so, we can only accept that she supports the NUT's action. I shall happily give way to the hon. Lady. She does not seem to want me to do so.

Most attitudes to education were, until recently, essentially producer-driven. They focused on the inputs of money, buildings and numbers of pupils into the education system. We now focus on the outputs—what is produced, and what pupils and teachers achieve in schools. We are establishing a new settlement around the reforms that will be just as lasting as the settlement achieved by the Butler reforms, whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating this week.

There are four important ways in which our reforms have a direct and positive effect on the quality and outcomes of education in this country. First, they increase the accountability of schools and colleges, vastly extending the information available to teachers, parents, students and others. Secondly, they encourage well-informed choice among a much greater diversity of institutions and courses. Thirdly, they are opening up wider participation in education beyond compulsory schooling.

Finally, they are tackling quality and standards directly through the national curriculum, which gives pupils, parents and teachers clear national benchmarks for performance, and through regular tests of progress leading to rigorous and reliable qualifications at 16 and beyond. Apparently, that is not supported by the hon. Member for Dewsbury, although it is apparently supported by the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). In a notable debate last Monday, I recall the hon. Gentleman saying that he was amazed by, and concerned about, what he heard at the NUT conference which he attended. He had every reason to be amazed and concerned. I salute his bravery, and his introduction of open government to the Labour Benches.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

Surely the real test of the effectiveness of socialist education must lie in the fact that the 10 worst local education authorities in the country are all Labour-controlled, save for the Liberal Democrats who hold Tower Hamlets, and who are now rated third.

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend is absolutely and precisely right, as she always is. I know that she shares my views about teacher training.

Part I of the Bill will help us to bring those four levers to bear in a vital area—improving teacher training. Our reforms—some have criticised us for not starting here 15 years ago—will be driven by the need for higher standards, informed by greater diversity and choice.

In our drive for higher standards, we have always recognised the key role of the teacher. I quote: In education, the role of the teacher is central. For every child, high standards of achievement depend on the skill and dedication of individual teachers. It is therefore essential to ensure a continuing supply of high quality entrants to the profession. I am quoting from the first paragraph of my proposals for the reform of teacher training, which we are considering in the Bill.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)


Mr. Patten

I give way to my hon. Friend with pleasure.

Mr. Beggs

I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. Does he recognise the increasing concern of parents, especially those with children who are perceived to require special education? Can he give an assurance that more teacher training will be directed at enabling teachers to cope better with children who are perceived to suffer from dyslexia?

Mr. Patten

Special educational needs have come a long way with the assent of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I accept the good advice that we have received from both sides of the House since the hon. Gentleman and I first met in Larne when he was the mayor and I was the most junior Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. A lot has happened since those days in the mid-1980s to improve the lot of children, including those with dyslexia. It is fashionable to attack in this place. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman.

I also pay a tribute to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools who, over the past two years, has pioneered the most massive reform in special education and help for children with educational needs.

The success of all our reforms depends on teachers working hard to put them into effect. Current pressures—from essential education reforms and wider social changes—challenge even the best teachers. It is because we care about the profession and its standards that we have brought forward the Bill—to set the seal on a whole raft of improvements now in hand, bringing to an end a programme of legislation that began in 1988, and putting in place the last vital piece of the jigsaw of educational reform.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that teachers and lecturers who teach teachers to teach have been too far removed from the classroom for too long, and have failed intending teachers in a way that the Bill addresses centrally—by relating the training of teachers to those who are currently teaching successfully? Will the Bill not be useful in improving the educational performance of children in future years?

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend speaks with the authority of someone who was a distinguished deputy headmaster for a considerable period. For a long time now, people have recognised that what my hon. Friend says is right. Indeed, in the best higher education institutions and universities, that has also been recognised for a long time, and they have been putting it into effect. To borrow a hackneyed phrase, we want to bring the rest up to the standards of the best. Over the past couple of years, much has already been achieved on teacher training.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

The Secretary of State makes the important point that this is the last piece in the jigsaw, and that he does not intend any new legislation on education. Does he accept that many of us ale extremely concerned by the fact that all the preceding legislation has stripped so much power from local government and put it in his hands that he has no need for new legislation?

Mr. Patten

Since 1988, we have been busily engaged in moving power and influence from the hub of the wheel in Whitehall to the rim of the wheel, giving power to parents, individuals, communities and businesses. In that, we have been much helped by teachers and by the new inspection system. I was sorry to learn in the press this morning that in East Anglia, of all places—in Cambridgeshire—the Liberal party is quoted as being totally against OFSTED and the new inspection regime. That was said in an interview, some footsteps of which reached me this morning. I am sure that that causes considerable concern in OFSTED.

In the past two years, we have set out new and rigorous standards for the practice, knowledge and practical skills that all new teachers must have. During that period, we have also ensured that students will have to spend more time in the classroom and less time in the lecture hall. We are taking training closer to the chalk face and out of the ivory silo. New teachers must be ready from day one to meet the new challenges of the classroom.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

The Secretary of State has spoken several times about the changes to teacher training in the past two or three years. Does he not think that it is time to reflect on those changes and see what their effect will be before introducing further legislation to make more changes?

Mr. Patten

The network of changes made since 1988 have to be regarded as dependent on one another, and teacher training reform is the last part of that network of changes.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Has my right hon. Friend any evidence to cast doubt on the competence of teachers when they leave training colleges? For example, what is their competence in teaching reading?

Mr. Patten

We have laid down that primary teachers must spend more time learning to teach the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. OFSTED, the independent schools inspectorate, found that nearly half—46 per cent. to be precise—of all new primary teachers felt ill-prepared to teach reading. That was not an inspection judgment which could be open to dispute, but what new teachers themselves reported. They had spent four years doing a BEd degree or following similar courses and, alas, 46 per cent. of them felt unable to teach reading properly. That sort of thing must be put right urgently. It is not a matter of ideology or politics: we need much better quality control.

We have also increased diversity of courses and providers, most notably by breaking up the old monopoly and allowing groups of schools themselves, if they wish, to take charge of postgraduate teacher training. I stress "postgraduate teacher training". There are now more than 200 postgraduate students on school-centred courses of that kind. Today I announced the approval of six more consortia. Needless to say, some are in Essex, and some are in London and in the midlands. That means that, next year, there will be about 450 students in 15 consortia involving more than 80 schools throughout the country—in inner-city areas as well as leafy suburbs.

I applaud the willingness of schools facing other challenges to face this role. It was schools, such as some in Kent which are already undertaking this sort of postgraduate teacher training, that first persuaded me by sending representatives to tell me that they wanted to do that. That drove this change of policy, which came from the grass roots, from teachers themselves. It was not a bright idea from a think tank or one that was parachuted in from a Whitehall desk.

Those schools do that because they are confident that their staff and pupils, as well as the profession as a whole, will benefit from bringing good professional practice and teacher training even closer together. That is what drives them.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

My right hon. Friend referred to the challenges that schools are facing. Among those challenges is the movement towards the integration of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream education. Does he accept that that development implies an ever higher degree of skill in relation to special needs on the part of all teachers?

Does he correspondingly accept that it is most unlikely that individual schools will be able to devise adequate training programmes, and that it really should remain a requirement that training in special educational needs should be carried out in conjunction with institutions of higher education? If that applies in relation to initial teacher training, it is more emphatically necessary where specialist training is concerned. Will my right hon. Friend reflect on that?

Mr. Patten

Of course I will. My hon. Friend is yet another distinguished previous Under-Secretary of State for Education. He knows a great deal about these issues, and he speaks with notable authority, in his own constituency and elsewhere.

It is absolutely right that we must make sure that young teachers and those of later years, such as those of our age who are entering the profession, get training in the skills they need, whether it is teaching children to read, or in the difficult area of special educational needs where so much has been achieved, as the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) generously recognised.

The Teacher Training Agency will be in a position to accredit courses—that is, give permission for courses to be carried out, whether they are in a higher education institution or a school—only if they meet my published criteria—the criteria of the holder of my office, the Secretary of State for Education. Those criteria must include—this point will obviously be debated in Committee—proper attention to special educational needs.

It is of interest to me to note that those schools or groups of schools which are already carrying out postgraduate teacher training are showing particular interest in the needs of children in that category. I welcome what my hon. Friend has said.

Many of our very recent reforms in teacher education in the past two years have been welcomed. Indeed, their success has been used by some as an argument against any further action, rather as the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) argued in her intervention.

They fail to realise that the Bill will give us a streamlined framework to underpin those reforms. It will also give them added impetus, by bringing together activities now carried out by as many as four different bodies—the Department for Education, the Higher Education Funding Council, the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and the teaching as a career unit. The last two of those bodies will be abolished under our reforms; there will therefore be a reduction in the number of public bodies involved.

The Teacher Training Agency will be very much more than a funding body. [Interruption.] I give way to my new ally from Plaid Cymru, who wants to see grant-maintained schools in Wales.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

With friends like that, who needs enemies? I wanted to ask particularly about the unit concerned with the promotion of teaching as a career. Will its functions in Wales go to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales or to the Teacher Training Agency? I very much hope that it is to the former.

Mr. Patten

To the best of my knowledge, it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, as are all matters over Offa's Dyke, but, as far as I know, it will be going to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

The new teacher training authority will be very much more than a funding body. It will take forward policies across the four areas I mentioned. It will increase accountability by ensuring good public information about all teacher training courses, and it will hold providers to account for their standards, whether they are higher education institutions for undergraduate training or higher education institutions and schools for postgraduate training.

It will increase choice and diversity by funding a range of high-quality providers and courses. It will increase participation by promoting teaching as a career and encouraging new types of courses to attract good candidates from different backgrounds, in particular industry. I would like more men and woman of mature age who have industrial and commercial experience to move into teaching. That is why I welcome very much the approval of the CBI for the proposals in the Bill. It is right behind them, and I understand why.

The teacher training authority will also increase quality in standards by using OFSTED advice to ensure that all courses meet national criteria and use evidence of quality to inform its funding decisions. The courses that produce the best teachers will have the first claim on resources. Therefore, the teacher training authority will be looking not only at whether the courses meet the Secretary of State's criteria, but at whether they represent good value for money, and quite right too. We want good, value-for-money, high-quality courses.

Characteristically unable, as always since 1992, to mount an effective action on the intellectual arguments for the new agency, the Opposition have fallen back on their usual tactic of undisguised scaremongering.

We value the contribution of high-quality higher education courses. The Opposition have attacked on that front, despite the clear assurances and clarifications of my noble Friend the Minister of State, Baroness Blatch, in another place—clarification of our intention to limit schools to providing postgraduate courses only, and clarification that all teacher training courses will be at degree or postgraduate level, all of which we are happy to see on the face of the Bill.

Mr. Harry Greenway

As the Teacher Training Agency will have such an important evaluation responsibility, will my right hon. Friend say a little more than has so far been said, in the other place anyhow, about who will be running it, if he can—or anyway, about how it will be run and what sort of people he thinks will be taking executive decisions?

Mr. Patten

The distinguished chairman and members of the board will be supported by a chief executive and a small administrative staff. They will rely on the advice of the independent inspectorate, OFSTED, which has already commenced a rigorous examination of primary teacher training courses in a number of higher education institutions.

I envisage that, when the Teacher Training Agency is set up and in action, we shall want to compose a domesday book of the standards, or not, of all the teacher training institutions around the country. I do not wish to see any teacher training institution accredited, according to my criteria, to offer teacher training unless it is offering high-quality training at affordable prices, giving good value for money. Therefore, we shall take the opportunity to take a once-for-all look across the board at what is being done in higher education institutions, and I hope that that will be welcomed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I know that my right hon. Friend is aware—I hope he is—of the strong demand and support for the idea of a staff college for head teachers, deputy heads and other senior teachers. Would it be appropriate for such a college, when it is introduced—I hope that it will be—to be funded through the Teacher Training Agency?

Mr. Patten

I am still considering with my right hon. and hon. Friends in my Department and elsewhere the possibilities of better management training for heads and deputy heads, and aspiring heads and deputy heads. That is important. Such training has not necessarily always been done well enough in the past and when the time is right we shall be making an announcement.

I hope that my hon. Friend will not press me any further this afternoon about that. However, he is welcome to press the hon. Member for Dewsbury. As I understand it, it is becoming fashionable for Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen not to give way to interventions any more. They prefer not to, for fear they may say something that might be construed as a policy commitment that costs money.

It used to be different in the days of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). We used to have real debates in those days, but not any more. Good luck to my hon. Friend in dealing with the hon. Member for Dewsbury later.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for being so responsive to so many interventions and questions. Before he leaves the point on teacher training, can he give the House a fuller idea of the way in which he intends to strike a balance between too much training being done in institutions of higher education and too much training being done in schools?

My right hon. Friend will be well aware that I have close connections with Kingston university, representatives of which went to see my noble Friend Baroness Blatch about higher education institutions being too much removed from training. That is one end of it. But the other end is that my right hon. Friend will be aware that parents may be alarmed at too many student teachers being brought into schools and children being subjected to too much teaching of teachers going on in front of them.

Mr. Patten

That matter is ultimately for governors to resolve. [Hon Members: "Oh."] That is the fact in law. Both sides of the House must welcome the fact that student teachers of various sorts and at various levels get good practice in the classroom, invariably under the supervision of a master or mentor teacher. That is most important.

It is a good thing for students to go into the lecture room from time to time. It may equally be a good thing for those who lecture to go into the classroom. I have been much impressed by one group of five schools in Kent that are already training postgraduate teachers. They have a good undertaking with the university of Cambridge, no less, to teach some of the things that student teachers must learn—but the university of Cambridge comes to Kent and students from Kent do not go to the university. That is probably a good idea.

We should not be hidebound by traditional forms of education if, and only if, standards are high enough. The agency will only accredit courses that meet those standards. I hope that my hon. Friend will convey to Kingston university and its distinguished head of the department of education—who happens to be a constituent of mine—my best wishes and those reassurances.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport)

How does the Secretary of State envisage the Teacher Training Agency selecting those primary or secondary schools that are able and competent to undertake such training?

Mr. Patten

Individual primary and secondary schools, often in groups, will come forward with proposals. They will be investigated by OFSTED, measured against the Secretary of State's and value-for-money criteria. Then, and only then, will the schools be accredited. Not every school or group of schools will be accredited, just as not every higher education institution will necessarily be accredited just because it is a higher education institution.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Patten

Of course I will give way to the hon. Lady, but thereafter I hope that I shall be able to plod on a bit faster. I have been giving way rather a lot.

Mrs. Taylor

What are the Secretary of State's long-term aims and plans for school-based teacher education? He spoke about schools coming forward with ideas, but surely someone must make overall planning arrangements for the number of places in teacher education. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to abdicate that responsibility? Will he make no estimate of the number of teachers necessary? Will he leave everything to schools?

Mr. Patten

That is a gauleiter approach to education—that there must be a master plan in Whitehall for absolutely everything. I do not believe in that; I believe in diversity and choice in an evolutionary framework—in exactly the same way that, over the past couple of years, we have seen a massive shift of attention from the lecture room to the classroom under reforms that we have already introduced.

My vision for the future of teacher education is to attract as many high-quality entrants as possible and to retain them, and to provide the highest possible standard of teacher education. The Teacher Training Agency will be there to do that.

I also value the role that schools can play. I want schools that wish to run courses—they will not be forced on any school—to be given that chance, so that postgraduate students can choose from a large number of different providers. Such choice and diversity will encourage high standards. Students will choose, and the agency will fund the best courses, wherever they are provided. No school or group of schools can be forced to do that. It will be a matter of freedom and choice.

The Labour party, as ever, is uncomfortable with the idea of trusting schools or students with greater choice. That aversion to choice lay behind one Opposition amendment that narrowly passed in another place. It certainly did not lead to clarification of the Bill—quite the reverse.

Is it too much to hope that the Opposition will one day table an amendment that actually has the effect that they intended? I am fairly sure that the Opposition meant to provide in the amendments—wrong-headed as this would none the less have been—for a validating, not an accrediting, role for higher education. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dewsbury understands the difference.

Accreditation secures the professional acceptability of a qualification. That is what the Teacher Training Agency will do in respect of higher education institutions, groups of schools and individual schools—satisfying itself that any body wishing to offer teacher training has the necessary commitment to the Secretary of State's criteria and the ability to deliver high quality. That is done by civil servants in my Department at present. There is no sensible way of interpreting a requirement that higher education institutions must accredit as well as being accredited at the same time. That is illogical nonsense, and it will not work in practice.

The Opposition in another place seemed to take the view earlier that it would be a simple matter for the Government to tidy up what had been left so as to meet the intentions of the other place. But may I commend to those who like a good read the Official Report of the Bill's Third Reading in another place? It has all the makings of an excellent whodunnit—we are on tenterhooks to discover who will accredit whom throughout the debate.

Arrangements favoured by the Opposition are absolutely blindingly unclear. There is no final page with the answer to that question. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dewsbury will give us an answer. But, whatever she does, she cannot cite the support of those in another place, who left no clear answer.

This is not simply a matter for a harmless bit of mid-afternoon amusement at the Opposition's expense. As well as being defective and confused, the amendments are wrong in principle, because they reflect the concern of the Labour party to preserve the vested interests and producer interests at all costs all the way down the line.

Groups of schools that want to work with higher education, and have their courses validated, must have the power to do so. The Bill provides for that. Most current school-based schemes have chosen that option, but the issue is whether we make that an absolute legal requirement.

Although that will doubtless be debated in Committee, we are clear that schools should have the freedom to choose whether they work with higher education partners as long as they meet the necessary standards as judged by the Teacher Training Agency, which will monitor both the higher education institutions and the schools.

Judging by the evidence of the other place, the Labour party—we shall hear what it has to say this afternoon—seems to want to keep schools firmly and for ever in the junior role, regardless of the quality of their courses and the new teachers they train. I will not accept such a restriction on choice, and therefore must tell the House that we will table amendments in Committee to overturn the amendments and consequential amendments to clauses 12 and 14, and thereby reintroduce the measure of choice, which, under our policies, schools and students are enjoying—not in some theoretical future, but in a real and valuable present in Birmingham, Kent and other parts of the country. I am sure that no Conservative Member would wish to prevent schools from enjoying just that.

I shall deal with student unions in part II of the Bill.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

On teacher training, it would seem that much of my right hon. Friend's argument, with which I agree, about the advisability of introducing the TTA is based on the idea that we are abolishing the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. I thoroughly applaud him for doing that, but can he convince me and the House how the new agency will perform better than CATE, because CATE's record left a lot to be desired?

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend laboured in this vineyard for a while as a distinguished higher education Minister, and contributed a lot to the Department's thinking. CATE was an advisory body and, like all such bodies, its advice could sometimes be set aside by Ministers—I think it thought, sometimes wrongly.

The advisory function of CATE will be rolled forward into the TTA with a statutory life, and with a substantial and independent role to advise Ministers. The TTA will continue to be able to seek the advice of Her Majesty's inspectorate and OFSTED, and its sole criteria, which will be laid down by the Secretary of State, as they are laid down now, will be to judge whether a course should be put forward for student teachers to enter, enjoy and flourish in.

All the best aspects of CATE will be rolled forward, and I pay tribute to it for what it has done, just as much as I welcome my hon. Friend's welcome for the reforms that we are introducing.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood)

The Secretary of State described the new settlement that he is hoping to create. Having lost the arguments in the other place on this crucial part of the Bill, particularly in relation to the notion of partnership between schools and higher education institutions, does he really think that he is able to create a new settlement if the first thing that he does is use a whipped majority in this House to defeat votes that he lost in the other place?

Mr. Patten

All the issues will be discussed in detail in Committee. The hon. Gentleman's description of the Government's single defeat was a little over-ripe; some of their Lordships thought that it was not cricket to call two votes so early in the afternoon.

We are convinced on policy grounds that ours is the correct course. I am all in favour of partnerships between higher education institutions and schools, if those concerned want them: I have said that two or three times this afternoon, once in answer to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey). I value the opportunities presented by good-quality higher education institutions; equally, I think that we should all value the opportunities that the Bill gives schools to provide a wider choice for students.

The question of student unions, which is dealt with in part II, was the subject of some lively debate in another place. The Bill implements our undertakings to reform student unions. It puts into effect the principle of voluntary membership: for the first time, all students will be able to choose whether to belong to a union. It also lists a series of tough requirements to be observed in student unions, and provides for the new standards to be open for all to see.

Those are important reforms. It must be said that there have been abuses, and I think that it will be known where those abuses occurred. In one instance, a student club—a Conservative association, as it happens, but it could have been Liberal or Labour—dared to query union policy in an election broadsheet; the student union punished the club by imposing a substantial fine. That simply does not represent the free interplay of ideas that we should cherish in our seats of learning. Student unions that are substantially financed by the taxpayer to serve students should never be used as political platforms.

In another recent case, a union resolved to campaign against aspects of Israeli policy on the West bank. Certainly students are entitled to hold opinions on such issues, but they must never spend taxpayers' money to prosecute their political views.

In both those cases, the unions' policies were eventually reversed, although in one case the intervention of the courts was needed. Things should never have gone that far: it should never be necessary for a student to go single-handed to the High Court.

I have not named the two institutions concerned; the point is that such abuses could have occurred anywhere, and that is what worries me as a legislator. At present, nothing in student union constitutions and practices prevents them from happening. They can be prevented only through the vigilance of ordinary students, who then have to go to court, which strikes me as wrong.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

I whole-heartedly agree with my right hon. Friend, but he could go further. The case involving the university of Greenwich showed that student unions could not even use non-taxpayers' money for political purposes that contravened their charitable status.

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend has advertently named the second of the two cases to which I referred. Indeed, charity law is very strict in that regard, and the code of practice on the face of the Bill will ensure that the facts are drawn to the attention of students.

Students should not be obliged to seek an injunction through the courts when they see something wrong. Our reforms ensure that the voice of the ordinary student can be heard more clearly. We should remember that—much to my pleasure—since last September the majority of new university students have been mature students rather than school leavers.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Patten

I was about to say no, but of course I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Rooker

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I remember the day when he made a statement in the House launching this aspect of the Bill. Does he accept, however, that students—through their organisations in our universities and colleges—have been at the forefront of trying to stop the infiltration of extremists peddling fascist and anti-semitic views? They have been at the forefront of seeking to end that nonsense and close the organisations involved, and for that they deserve all our thanks.

Mr. Patten

As I hope the hon. Gentleman knows, I deplore fascism and anti-semitism just as much as he does. I am happy to condemn out of hand any anti-semitic activities engaged in by any person.

A key theme running through this part of the Bill is transparency. There is a code of practice, and the constraints that charity law imposes on student unions will be brought to student attention. The requirements of the 1986 legislation about freedom of speech—which my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford played a notable part in introducing—will have to be drawn to the attention of every student. Affiliations must be subject to scrutiny, and the rules for distributing grants to clubs must be open.

The Bill will also ensure that officers are elected properly—an issue which I know concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman)— that financial reports are published, and that there is an accessible and independent complaints machinery.

The Bill recognises the rights of students who are not union members. When students exercise their new freedom under the Bill, it is vital that they are not victimised over access to the services. University and college funds will not be affected by the Bill, and they will be expected to maintain services for students who are not union members.

Despite some changes in another place, the principles driving our reform—choice, democracy and accountability —remain unchanged. I think that we have arrived at a pretty effective machinery for putting these principles into action. They give students the power of information, the power of choice and the power of the ballot box. In future, universities and colleges will also have to take proper responsibility for the conduct of their student unions. Many do that now, but not all, as my hon. Friends have recognised.

I have spoken for some time, largely because I gave way to almost everyone who wished to intervene. The Bill is not large by the standards of education Bills in recent years —such as the Education Reform Act 1988 or the Education Act 1993, for that matter—but it is very important. We have already opened up much of education to the positive effects of greater choice and increased accountability. It is now time to put the last pieces of the jigsaw in place, as we do the same thing for teacher training and student unions.

I do not ask the House to rally to the twin causes of choice and accountability for their own sake—although they are principles which, as a democrat, I hold dear, as do many hon. Members opposite. I ask the House to support the Bill because it is good for standards. It is good for the highest possible standards of teacher training. The Teacher Training Agency will bring together responsibility for quality, funding and information so that each reinforces the rest. I also think that it will be good for standards of probity and equity in the conduct of student unions, which will in future have to act under the spotlight of better information and no longer have a captive membership to command. In both respects, the Bill is necessary and overdue. I commend it to the House.

4.26 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) was not present to hear the speech of the Secretary of State because I think that he would have felt vindicated in making his comments yesterday.

We have seen a typical performance from the Secretary of State today—one that we see on every occasion that he appears at the Dispatch Box. Time and time again he comes to the Dispatch Box to announce more chopping and changing and more experimentation in education—more change for change's sake—as if the whole education world were not already suffering from a great deal of fatigue owing to the weight and frequency of legislation in recent years.

The Secretary of State began by mentioning some of the changes which have taken place in recent years. He mentioned several areas in which there was no party political disagreement on the principle of the changes—although he likes to pretend that there are differences of opinion. He mentioned the national curriculum, local management of schools and inspection. There was never a vote against them on principle in Committee when the legislation was passed in 1988.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Lady has something of a selective memory. I served on the Committee which examined those Bills, as did certain Opposition hon. Members, and I can well remember Opposition Members making impassioned speeches over and over again opposing the reforms.

Mrs. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman seems to have a very selective memory. If he checks Hansard—I suggest that the Secretary of State does so as well; although he does not like serving on Committees, he could perhaps do the House the courtesy of reading the Committee Hansard—he will see that on no occasion did we vote against the local management of schools, the national curriculum or inspection.

Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I was the Minister responsible in the main for taking through the Education Reform Act 1988 and the national curriculum proposals in particular. I remember that many Opposition Members disagreed fundamentally with the proposals for the national curriculum, and I hope that the hon. Lady will acknowledge that fact.

Mrs. Taylor

The right hon. Lady seems to be confirming what I was saying. We did not vote against those ideas. We regard them in principle as changes for the better, but we were, and are, anxious to make them work properly in practice. Had Ministers listened to what my colleagues who served on that Committee suggested, and had they introduced the national curriculum and assessment arrangements after proper consultation, we should not have had the difficulties of a prescriptive national syllabus and inappropriate tests. Many of those who served on the Committee would recognise that that was the case.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

Is the hon. Lady aware that a recent opinion poll revealed that some 77 per cent. of people are in favour of testing and of the publication of the results of tests? Will she make clear her position with regard to the National Union of Teachers' boycott of testing? Is she in favour of it or is she against it? It would be helpful if she were to make that clear.

Mrs. Taylor

For my part, I am surprised that only 77 per cent. of parents want their children to be tested regularly. I should have thought that all parents and teachers recognised that testing and assessment were an essential part of education. However, we want tests which are purposeful and useful and which give us as parents genuine information.

The Secretary of State said that the Bill was not the largest piece of education legislation, and that us so. However, I remind him of some of the similarities between his speech today and what he was saying more than 12 months ago. When he introduced the previous Bill, which became law less than 12 months ago, he said that it would be the last piece in the jigsaw. He used the same phrase today. I wonder what other changes he has in mind and whether he has any long-term concept of where education is going.

The right hon. Gentleman then went on to insult the memory of Rab Butler by comparing his achievement in the previous Bill with that of 1944. History will judge, and its judgment of the Secretary of State may come rather sooner than he thinks.

The Bill, like many of its predecessors, is the product of the collected ideas of a small group of apparently small-minded, right-wing advisers who seem to be the only people to have the ear of the Secretary of State. Rapid change in education is again being forced through by arrogant Ministers who pay lip service to consultation and take pride in insulting those who disagree with them, be they parents, teachers or education officers.

The Secretary of State was recently reported in The Times as saying that change in education should be evolutionary, not revolutionary. That is a bit rich, even by the right hon. Gentleman's standards. He does not seem to know the meaning of the word "evolutionary" any more than he knows the meaning of the word "consultation". It is perhaps significant that he has not published the results of the consultation on the Bill. The representations have been so overwhelmingly against him that he is embarrassed to reveal the extent of the opposition before he forces through the measure.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

The hon. Lady referred to The Times, but has she had the opportunity to read the leading article in today's edition of that newspaper which makes it perfectly clear in a non-partisan way why the Secretary of State's proposals should proceed?

Mrs. Taylor

I have yet to see the Secretary of State do anything in a non-partisan way.

This Bill is another example of unwarranted changes where advice given to Ministers has been ignored and where only the determination of Members of another place made the Government see sense and bow to the inevitable pressures by watering down their proposals.

The first thing of which the House ought to be reminded —the Secretary of State was strangely reluctant to remind us of it—is that the Bill we are discussing today is not the one that the right hon. Gentleman published last November. The changes imposed by the House of Lords are very significant. However, they are not sufficient to make the Bill—especially part I—acceptable. To date, we have seen the success of a damage-limitation exercise only. But there is just so much improvement that can be made to a bad Bill.

Before turning to the main content of the measure, which I regard as being the part dealing with teacher education, I want to say a word about part II, which deals with student unions. For the Secretary of State this must be the most humiliating aspect of the whole sorry saga. It really is a climb-down of magnificent proportions, and it is a tribute to the responsible and very effective tactics of the National Union of Students and of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. I—like other Members on both sides of the House, I am sure—recall the spirited but very inaccurate attacks on student unions that the Secretary of State made at the Conservative party conference last year and, indeed, at the previous year's conference.

Mr. Patten

A very good speech.

Mrs. Taylor

The right hon. Gentleman says that it was a very good speech. It was high on hype about the evils of students unions and on how the right hon. Gentleman would smash them once and for all. I believe that it was the only occasion on which he received anything like a cheer at his party's conference.

Following the climb-down on student unions and the humiliation of the withdrawal of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals—the climb-down was such that the Bill had to be delayed in the House of Lords for two months so that the new deal could be struck—it would be rather enjoyable to see the right hon. Gentleman try, at this year's party conference, to defend what he has done.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

He will not be there.

Mrs. Taylor

As my hon. Friend says, it does not look as if the right hon. Gentleman will be there. Thus we shall be denied the pleasure.

Originally, the Secretary of State decided that he would divide student union services into core services, to be publicly funded, and non-core services, to be available by voluntary subscription. This distinction was derided as being unnecessary and unworkable, and the Government's proposals met a torrent of hostility from all quarters. Indeed, Members of another place, such as Lord Beloff, who could hardly be described as left-wing, said that the proposals had united the entire university community from the most reactionary vice-chancellor to the most Left-wing"— [Official Report, House of Lords, 7 December 1993; Vol. 550, c. 839.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I must point out that it is not in order to quote except from the words of a Minister in the current Session.

Mrs. Taylor

Having earlier advised one of my hon. Friends of exactly this rule, I am now myself getting carried away.

As Lord Beloff pointed out, the Secretary of State has to his credit the remarkable achievement of uniting the most right-wing vice-chancellor—unnamed, of course—and the most left-wing and with-it students. That was a very considerable achievement, but it was a response resulting from the fact that the Secretary of State was so unwilling to listen to all the advice that he was getting, even from Conservative Members.

I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) is in the Chamber as he has on other occasions pointed out that campus unions are not pre-entry closed shops in the usual sense of the term. The hon. Gentleman has gone on record as saying that the Government are getting things wrong in respect of student unions.

Mr. Forman

As the hon. Lady is citing the record, I make clear to her and to the House my belief that the current compromise on student unions is sensible and will work.

Mrs. Taylor

Yes, and it is a pity that the Secretary of State did not listen to the hon. Gentleman earlier. The whole student union movement, as well as the vice-chancellors, has welcomed the Government's climb-down on the Bill.

The NUS has welcomed what it describes as a wave of common sense from the Government, saying that the new proposals closely monitor its ideas and suggestions. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) is looking sceptically at me as I describe the NUS support for the Government's climb-down. He has been outspoken about the Government's proposals, and what they are doing with that part of the Bill. I hope that he, too, has accepted their climb-down, and that he and those few of his colleagues who may not be happy with the concessions will not try to change the Bill or to damage the new proposals, which are acceptable to most people outside the House.

Lady Olga Maitland


Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)


Mrs. Taylor

I had better give way to the hon. Member for Colne Valley.

Mr. Riddick

I had indeed thought that I might make one or two helpful suggestions during the passage of the Bill—but I hope that the hon. Lady is not trying to sow dissent within the parliamentary Conservative party. I must deny any such suggestion.

Mrs. Taylor

It is not my job to sow dissent in the parliamentary Conservative party when it has such experts on that subject within its own ranks.

Now I shall give way to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland).

Lady Olga Maitland

I fail to understand what the hon. Lady said about student unions. Does she or does she not agree that there has been serious abuse of taxpayers' money by the NUS for political ends? And does she agree that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) has said that he regards the NUS as a useful training ground for Labour politicians, and therefore justified?

Mrs. Taylor

To find examples of massive abuse of taxpayers' money, we have only to look at the budgets that the Government give their Departments for propaganda, and the way in which those have increased over recent years. Furthermore, as has been said already by a Conservative Member, and as has always been the case, charity law can take care of any abuse within the NUS. The fact that the NUS can welcome those provisions in the Bill more or less as they now stand proves that the Government have been forced to climb down.

The most serious part of the Bill, and the part that concerns me most, is part I, on teacher education. Everyone must agree that there has been much rapid change in education over recent years, and that it has taken place at a rate that few professions have experienced. Yet it is the professionalism and dedication of teachers that have prevented the service from breaking down under the strain of all the changes.

The impact on many teachers has been devastating, and the overall impact has been demoralising. Unfortunately, many good teachers have left the profession because of the pace and direction of change. The Opposition are happy to give credit to the teachers who have had to cope with the massive changes. We are desperately worried that, rather than enhancing teacher education, the Bill will damage it and thereby threaten the quality of education in the classroom, which should be our first concern.

It is worth stressing the simple truth that improving teacher education should have one ultimate goal—improving the quality of education for all our children. Teachers are at the heart of all the learning that takes place in our schools. They have a critical role. They should not be technicians, delivering the national syllabus. Yet at times that seems to be what Ministers want. Teachers are professionals, and should be treated as such.

The education and training of teachers must be of the highest possible quality if our children are to get the best. Children are not objects on a conveyor belt, learning a block of facts.

Mr. Brandreth

I think that most of us would agree with what the hon. Lady has just said—that it is the teachers who count. We respect and value teachers' professionalism. That is why we want new teachers to be trained with the best existing teachers within the school environment, in partnership and balance with professional education within the colleges. Surely the hon. Lady endorses the broad thrust of the Bill.

Mrs. Taylor

I advise the hon. Gentleman to read the Bill, because that is not the effect that it will have. Indeed, it will damage those objectives.

We must make it clear that, although the curriculum matters, and school buildings matter, parents know that above all else the quality of teaching matters, and that there is no substitute for it. Unfortunately, regardless of whether the Government share the objectives that I have outlined, they have again sought confrontation rather than co-operation, on that as on so many other issues.

It should be possible to reach agreement on constructive suggestions to improve teacher education, to build on the undoubted good practice that already exists, and to discuss issues such as a core curriculum for teacher education, possible means of improving the induction of new teachers and, as has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), the requirement for special needs awareness on the part of all teachers. Those are all important issues that we should be discussing calmly to secure improvements—but that is not Ministers' approach. Instead they have tried to impose their decisions, which is why they were defeated in the House of Lords. The Government have been forced to climb down because they have been so stubborn on so many of the fundamentals in the Bill.

Some time ago the Government suggested that teaching should no longer be an all-graduate profession, and that a mums' army should come into the classroom. Fortunately, because of overwhelming pressure, they had to drop that barmy idea, but no one should be misled into thinking that the threat to the quality of teacher education has abated simply because that one idea has been dropped.

In part I there is a serious threat to the quality of teacher education. That is why we oppose the Bill. We oppose the creation of yet another quango—the Teacher Training Agency—and especially the attempt to separate teacher education from the rest of higher education. The Opposition have no hesitation in saying that we shall abolish the agency, because we believe that the existing framework for initial teacher training is far better than anything that the Government propose.

We are not surprised that the Government are putting more powers into the hands of a quango.

Lady Olga Maitland

The hon. Lady seems to be saying that the Opposition are satisfied with the present arrangements for teacher training. Does she not agree that the way in which teacher-training colleges today imbue their students with political indoctrination, which is passed on so that they can manipulate children, is an absolute scandal? We have to clear that out and get back to real standards.

Mrs. Taylor

If the Government take seriously remarks such as those, it shows why they are running into such difficulty. I seem to recall that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam said on a radio programme some time ago that she had not been to a department of teacher education. If that is still the case, I am not surprised that she makes such comments. As I have already said, a great deal concerning teacher education could be constructively discussed. We are not complacent about the quality of teacher education. I have already outlined half a dozen issues on which there could be and should be constructive discussions, but the Government are not interested in that. All they are interested in is imposing their will regardless of the realities.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

Apart from the political issues that the hon. Lady has just mentioned, would she have some concern at least for a recent survey —of about two years ago—that showed that 84 per cent. of teachers surveyed did less than five hours training in teacher-training colleges on teaching children to learn to read? Does not she believe that that is something that needs rectification—and urgently? Does not she understand that the Bill will go a long way to ensuring that such a problem is solved?

Mrs. Taylor

I shall make two points on that. The first is that the very teachers that the hon. Gentleman is criticising are those that the Government are going to entrust with the education of future teachers. The second is to point out that, yes, I am concerned if that statistic is correct; but what have the Government been doing about it for the past 15 years?

The Bill extends the functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, which retains its central role in teacher education. There seems to be, therefore, no reason why the role should not be afforded to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. However, that is not the approach of Ministers. They are intent on splitting the teaching profession from higher education and that is dangerous and bureaucratic and will lead to many problems.

In another place, issues such as the importance of research and its place in future were discussed and a compromise solution was suggested by many people. However, there can be no complete solution to issues such as where educational research should lie, as the problem exists simply because the whole concept behind the Bill is flawed—the concept of separating teacher education and higher education.

Much of the discussion that we shall want to have in Committee and, indeed, at later stages will centre on the proposal to promote wholly school-centred training. Those provisions are very difficult to justify and they undermine the partnership between the academic and professional components of teacher education. Indeed, on occasions, Ministers have praised that partnership and said how important it is. There is a need for partnership between higher education and schools if we are to get the best of both worlds for our teachers in future. I am worried about the burden of school-based training on schools and I am also worried because the Government are yet again making decisions before their own pilot schemes have been evaluated. That is not the way to proceed.

The support for partnership between teacher education and higher education is well rehearsed and was concentrated on in the House of Lords. Many people have submitted evidence that that partnership is essential if we are to get the best education for our teachers in future. Michael McCrum, master of Corpus Christi college, Cambridge, said: We need to build on existing successful partnerships between universities and schools … We need more school-based training, but not so much as to threaten the quality of children's education. He went on to say: We need to cut out bureaucracy, not extend it.

Mr. Forman

With all the evidence to which the hon. Lady has just referred of support for voluntary partnership arrangements between higher education institutions and schools, why is she so afraid and why are her hon. Friends so afraid of the Bill? It does not make partnership compulsory, as she would seek to do. It merely leaves open the opportunity for partnership, which she says has been taken in the majority of cases.

Mrs. Taylor

It is because I think—

Mr. Patten

It is a 1960s attitude.

Mrs. Taylor

The Secretary of State says that I have a 1960s attitude. I must repeat what I said to his hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs), that, if he is to put teacher education into the hands of today's teachers, he will be putting it into the hands of those who were trained in the 1960s, which would not seem to fulfil his objectives. I do not understand why the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, who supports the idea of partnership, does not want to enshrine the idea of partnership. Surely, if we are to build on best practice, we ought to be moving in that direction, rather than cutting off or allowing to be cut off those who will be responsible for teacher education in future.

Mr. Forman

I can give the hon. Lady the answer to that question. I trust the schools and the heads and the governing bodies to make sensible decisions, and in the vast majority of cases they will want to opt for partnership with higher education institutions.

Mrs. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman says that the vast majority of schools would make sensible decisions. The question must be asked: what if they do not? What happens to the education of those children, which could go awry, if proper safeguards are not built in? We are trying to build in safeguards so that the essential component of higher education is there and so that the best possible partnership deal is made between schools and higher education. I believe that that is the way to produce the best for the future.

An OFSTED report, "The New Teacher", recommend-ed strong and effective partnerships between schools and higher education. As the Secretary of State is keen to quote OFSTED reports when it suits him, he ought to be taking account of what his own advisers tell him on that issue. I believe that all teacher-training courses should be validated by higher education institutions. That is not only right in principle, but it also reflects best practice. Higher education institutions and schools have extensive experience of working well together. The best partnerships are created when we are building on them and are not seeking to divide and to- destroy them.

The second problem that I would put to the Government—

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Lady referred to OFSTED a moment ago. Does she recall the answer that the Secretary of State gave me to a question that I put to him about reading? He said that about 54 per cent. of students leaving training colleges did not feel sufficiently well equipped to teach reading. Given that statistic, does not she agree that there is a fundamental reason for reforming the way in which we teach and train our teachers?

Mrs. Taylor

That is no reason for giving teacher education and training over to schools. I am concerned if that is the case, and, as I said earlier, there could be a constructive dialogue on such issues. The trouble is that the Government are not interested in anything like construc-tive dialogue to improve the situation. They are far more interested in confrontation and in making their own decisions regardless of evidence.

The second problem that I want to put to Ministers is that the Government's proposals seem to ignore the impact of school-based teacher training on the schools themselves. The Secretary of State retreated from his predecessor's plans to make all post-graduate trainee secondary teachers spend 8 per cent. of their time in school. The Secretary of State said that he considered that 24 weeks out of 36 spent in school would be more appropriate. That implied that the Secretary of State had some awareness of what trainee teachers required.

Unfortunately, that apparent awareness has not been reflected in the Bill. Many of those people who have been involved in school-based teacher education have commented on the difficulties that it can impose on a school. The head of St. Peter's high school in Gloucester said that the eight post-graduates in his school needed much support and advice from the staff and that an additional burden was placed upon teachers. Students who have been educated and trained in those circumstances have said things such as, "We want advice but we do not want to be a burden on teachers." We must balance the interests of children in schools and in so doing put their interests before the needs of trainee teachers.

School-based training puts pressures on schools if there is insufficient time available for teachers to teach teachers as well as children. There are pressures on funding. Clearly, extra arrangements have to be made. Many schools welcome some trainee teachers to their schools each year, but many schools feel that it is not a good idea to have student teachers in school every year. Some pupils might find that a high proportion of their lessons were being taught by students. If we are to get the best of both worlds, we should understand the pressures and take measures to ensure that they do not overwhelm the schools that are accepting students on the present partnership arrangement.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I should warn the Secretary of State that the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Evans) appears to be roaming round the Government Back Benches. We are unaware whether he is promoting his campaign for the Secretary of State to be sacked—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. That is of no interest to the Chair.

Mrs. Taylor

I am sure that the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) was of great interest to the Secretary of State. I am sure that even now names are being taken.

Some significant changes were made to the Bill in the other place. Not least there was the Government's late acceptance of the principle that school-centred courses should be restricted to graduates only. That is important. Graduate status, however, does not automatically confer a sound understanding of child development. That is why the Labour party promoted in the other place the amendment to which the Secretary of State has referred.

The Secretary of State has said that the amendment was technically deficient, but it was passed in the other place. The right hon. Gentleman may be right, but the principle enshrined in the amendment had the overwhelming support of the majority of those who spoke at all stages of the Bill's passage in the other place. Such is the antagonism to the concept of the Bill—that of separating teacher education from higher education—that the Bill would be in great difficulty if the Government tried to overturn that which ensued in the other place. The Opposition will certainly want to improve on the amendment passed in the other place if it is technically deficient. We believe that it is the key to minimising the dangers that the Bill could create. We believe also that the proposed partnership is fundamental.

We have heard about pilot schemes. The Secretary of State will not even wait for the results of those schemes. He is so anxious to push through his legislation that he will not seek the advice of those who have been involved in pilot schemes to learn what is right, what is appropriate and what is wrong. The right hon. Gentleman has adopted the same approach to every piece of legislation with which he has been involved. The years following his appointment have been ones of turmoil. They are years that have been costly to the education of our children. At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman has learnt little.

We agree that much needs to be done to improve teacher education. Unfortunately, that is not being suggested by the Secretary of State and the necessary provisions are not in the Bill. We are opposed to the Bill in principle, but in Committee we shall be concerned to lessen the damage that it could do to teacher education.

We are concerned to defend the amendments that were won in the other place and, where appropriate, to improve upon them. There are many other failings that should be discussed in Committee, such as the need for a general teaching council.

There is great concern outside the House about the impact of the Bill. It may not be the largest or the greatest Bill that the Government have introduced, but it is certainly causing much concern. Those involved in higher education do not want the Bill. Similarly, it is not wanted by teachers. By and large, schools do not want it. The information that I have received from the National Association of Governors and Managers makes it clear that, from the governors' point of view, there are many significant problems. The governors stress that the primary function of schools is to educate their pupils. They state that teachers have not been trained to educate adults. 'They list a series of factors that suggest that it is irresponsible of the Secretary of State to place new tasks and responsibilities on schools when the chances of success are somewhat remote.

The Secretary of State may continue with his bunker mentality. In other words, he may continue to refuse to listen. I am sorry that the House is wasting time on the Bill because it is not a constructive or purposeful measure in terms of improving education. It is a waste of parliamentary time when there are so many urgent issues that are in need of discussion. We could have used our time to discuss when the Government will do something about nursery education. When will the Government take on board the evidence that proves that, if all three and four-year-olds had access to nursery education, they would have a better start in education thereafter?

Mr. Brandreth

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Taylor

No. I have already given way twice to the hon. Gentleman.

I am always interested when Conservative Members feel that they are under pressure. Whenever we, the Opposition, mention nursery education and the record of Labour councils that provide places for three and four-year-olds—the record shows that parents living in Labour council areas have three times the chance of getting their children into nursery education than parents who live in Tory-controlled areas—Conservative Members feel ruffled and defensive about what is happening. We keep hearing about glorious initiatives, but it is clear that not one new nursery place—

Mr. Pawsey

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As the hon. Lady is describing changes to nursery education, surely she should endeavour to put a cost on the changes that she is suggesting. Do you feel that that would be properly in order?

Madam Deputy Speaker

I am concerned only with whether what is being said is relevant to the subject under consideration. I remind the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) that we are dealing with the Bill's Second Reading. The matters that she raises must relate to that.

Mrs. Taylor

The Bill is about teacher training, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think that teachers would find teaching far easier if all children received nursery education. The explanatory memorandum includes phrases that relate to connected purposes. Few things are more connected and more relevant to the Bill than nursery education.

I cannot understand why Conservative Members are unable to bring themselves to realise that we as a society are facing vast costs because we do not have nursery education for three and four-year-olds. Nursery education gives youngsters the best start in education. They settle into jobs more easily later in life, are more likely to have jobs when they leave school, are less likely to truant and are less likely to be involved in juvenile crime. The advantages to society of nursery education are such that it should be a priority. If Conservative councils were providing the level of nursery education that Labour councils are offering, we should be well on our way to meeting the target.

There are other subjects that should concern us. When will the Government do something about our crumbling schools? They have had 15 years in government and there is a £4,000 million backlog of repairs. Teachers should be teaching in decent circumstances. Instead, the Secretary of State spends his time on issues such as sex education, and not on important ones such as class size, which matters both to teachers and parents.

Mr. Brandreth

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Taylor

No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman twice.

I am sure that Conservative Members do not like to be reminded of the fact that the Audit Commission has said that class sizes are increasing, which is of great concern to parents, as is the quality of education of our teachers.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

I do not wish to stretch out the debate—that is the last thing that I want to do—but the hon. Lady should know that there is a difference between the size of classes and teacher-pupil ratios. How classes are organised is a matter for the headmaster or mistress, but the teacher-pupil ratio is going down.

Mrs. Taylor

I refer to the Audit Commission's report that states that class sizes are increasing because of the formula on the local management of schools. As teachers become more experienced, they command higher salaries, which leads to a rising claim on schools' budgets. That is not a Labour party report, but an Audit Commission report. The hon. Lady would do well to look at the evidence.

Just before Christmas, the Prime Minister said that 15 per cent. of children in Britain received an education that was as good as education anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, he then went on to say that the rest did not. That is an incredible indictment of 15 years of Conservative government. The Bill will do nothing to improve education standards in this country and could even threaten them. We should be enhancing the quality of teaching by ensuring that all our teachers have the right level of experience.

The Secretary of State may not be in his present position for very long, but if he is to learn anything from his tenure of office, he should by now have learned to consult and to listen. The fact that he has failed to do so is shown by the tatty Bill now before the House. We shall oppose it today. It is a suitable swansong for the Secretary of State that his legislative signing-off should come in the form of such a potentially damaging Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has learned nothing during his two years' tenure of office. We will oppose the Bill today, but we will still try to amend and improve it in Committee.

5.12 pm
Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

I support the Bill. Some of it will have to be amended and returned to the good health with which it started its life in the other place. The Bill is helpful to British education.

Bit by bit the powers of the National Union of Students to influence politically youth and other people in the country have been wiped out and are probably coming to an end. In terms of politics, the NUS has done more to damage the image of students in this country than any other organisation over the past 30 years. The grant system would have been more generous if people throughout the country had felt that students were going to university not to become anarchists and Stalinist infiltrators—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

And gay livers.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I would not say gay livers—sometimes they can be reformed better than others. The NUS has had a damaging influence on the students of this country, and the students' image will improve now that the NUS has less influence.

Nobody should be compelled to be a member of a certain body, except by their citizenship—and it is even possible for people to emigrate if they want. I do not like closed shops and I welcome the end of the last closed shop.

Mr. Don Foster


Sir Rhodes Boyson

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman as I am sure that he will support my views.

Mr. Foster

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman said that, if passed, the legislation would enhance students' status and that the main reason why students had lost out in grant support was their low status, will he join us in the Lobby to try to increase financial support for students?

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I must seek the defence of Madam Deputy Speaker, otherwise I shall have to make another speech. If I do that I shall talk too long and other hon. Members will not be able to contribute, which would make me unpopular in the House. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to discuss the subject with me at length on another occasion, I am sure that we can find a suitable time.

I am most concerned about teacher training. The key to educational advance is to have good teachers in the classrooms teaching the right subjects with discipline. Unless we have good teachers, it does not matter what curriculums or tests we have, there will be no advantage to this country. I have a long experience of teaching and I want to concentrate on teacher training.

Do we need training? It was not until recently that teachers undertook long training sessions. Does that training improve student teachers? Many public schools have been staffed by non-trained teachers and their pupils have won places at Oxford and Cambridge by sitting the same examinations as other students—and usually they play good rugby along the way. Sometimes, teachers return to university and take degrees later. I know many public school heads who have never done a day's training and who I would like to see at the head of any institution in this country.

The idea that everyone has to be trained should be challenged. The Labour party never challenges orthodoxy —the thought of doing so horrifies it, which is why it still retains clause 4.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Does my right hon. Friend recall the reference made by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) to non-graduate teachers? Whatever the future may hold, with his experience of teaching, will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the past many excellent teachers in the classroom did not hold professional university degrees? That is probably true of current teachers as well.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

That is correct. I employed such teachers in schools and they were particularly good—what mattered was what they could do inside the classroom. I trust that teacher training helps, but in many cases non-teacher trainees had better control of their classrooms than teachers with degrees and other qualifications behind them. Not so long ago anyone with a degree could be taken on as a secondary school teacher in the state sector. I think that there used to be a better intake of teachers then than there is now. Potential teachers tried teaching; they disappeared after a month or two if they could not cope.

I have been told that the present calibre of potential teachers—judged by the percentage of those with lower-class degrees—is worse than in any other profession. I should like to check that statistic. That was certainly not the case in the past, when graduates with first-class honours degrees tried teaching to see whether they could do it—some of them obtained training after they had gained some experience of teaching. The idea that training has always been with us, which is why we have always had a good educational system, is wrong.

Mr. Patten

I can help my right hon. Friend with his earlier question. It is a sad but true statistic that OFSTED, the independent inspectorate, recently reported that, in its view, about one in 10 of the output of teachers from teacher training higher education institutions were not fit to be teachers. That sad statistic must be put right, which is why we are introducing the reforms.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

That is why the Bill is before the House. I sometimes think that training for teachers—certainly at sixth form level—is a restrictive lower-middle class practice that should be considered by us at some stage.

Some 20 per cent. of teachers do not need training. They are simply born to teach and are only spoilt when they go away to train. Whatever we do, some 20 per cent. of teachers will always remain at the bottom of the pile, unable to cope. They will have a riot with a dead rabbit whenever they enter a classroom. The 60 per cent. of teachers in the middle will show some degree of improvement along the way. I am an agnostic or even an atheist when it comes to the idea that we must worship training.

If we are to have training, what do we do about it and where should it take place? I must put it on the record that I am trained as a teacher. I am trained to teach in primary schools, particularly in phonics. Originally, I was a specialist in reading, which few people in the country know. I trained under Professor Oliver, who was a great philosopher. I shall refer later to part of his philosophy that was not very applicable in the classroom. It will be a treat for the House when I come to that near the end of my speech.

The best teachers that I have ever met were trained in one of two ways. Many of them have now disappeared. The first were student teachers. They took the equivalent of the A levels and were then given free training in schools, and they then had free training after that. When I was a head, my first deputy head was trained in that way. He was a teacher to his fingertips in everything that he did. Student teachers were trained entirely in the school and they had to attend lectures outside. They were marvellous—they were some of the best teachers that we have ever had in this country.

The second best group of teachers, of which there is no equivalent now, were the emergency trained teachers who were trained after the second world war when we were short of teachers. They were mature men and women who had served in the forces, many of them for six years. They came back and were trained in 13 months. How were they trained? That is what matters to us today. They were trained in emergency training colleges by heads and deputy heads who were on one and two-year secondments. They were taught by people who knew what was happening in the classroom. They were not taught highfalutin' theories which had no relation even to a rabbit hutch; they were taught how to get children under control and how to teach them reading and writing. They were the best. Without them, the school-leaving age would not have been raised. The age was raised during my first year of teaching. Schools were carried by emergency-trained teachers. Many people up to the age of 30 were trained by teachers.

Trainee teachers should not be sent to higher education institutions—they could be ruined there. They would be bored stiff and be contaminated with the wrong ideas.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the finest teachers whom I ever met at one of our secondary schools was trained in precisely that way? Does he also accept that those who came after and who are now in our schools realise how much they depended on those who had the discipline of that sort of training and of serving in the forces?

Sir Rhodes Boyson

There should be teaching schools —that is, schools where teachers are trained totally inside them. Such schools would need special staffing. We need teaching schools like our teaching hospitals. Medics are not trained to be general practitioners by taking them miles away. Those who will be operating surgeons are trained by operating surgeons doing the job. That is the only way to train teachers. Doctors walk alongside the students and see the operations taking place. That is what we want. We want teaching schools like our teaching hospitals. It seems that Labour wants more higher education—or probably longer education. I sometimes doubt whether it is even higher education. Labour wants higher education, instead of doing something for the person who matters the most—the child in the classroom.

I do not know the views of the Secretary of State, but there should be staff colleges like those in the services. Once again, people should not be brought in from universities and all that other crap. [Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, you must excuse me—I got carried away and I did not hear what I was saying. That is rare in the House. If it was an unparliamentary expression, it is one that none of us heard.

Mr. Riddick

It was crafts.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend —it was crafts.

I turn to the question of qualifications. The qualifications for teachers in this country are different from those elsewhere. In most of the continent, teachers are qualified to teach one or two subjects only in certain age groups—they cannot teach outside that. The odd thing is that, unlike the masters certificate in the merchant navy or a licence for driving, a British teaching certificate enables a teacher to teach anywhere. I gained from that.

As I said, I trained for primary schools and I applied for jobs in primary schools. At that time, there was a surplus of teachers and I was not appointed. One day when I came out, the deputy education officer for Lancashire touched me on the shoulder and asked whether I would like to start tomorrow as a head of department in a secondary school. I said yes. That is what the Secretary of State should do with the Bill. [Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, you must protect me from having conversations with my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman).

The teaching certificate should say whether it is for primary or secondary, and the subjects to be taught. One of the worst aspects of British education is that timetables are often filled by people who have no interest or qualifications in a subject but no one else wants to teach it. Games, religious education and other subjects were ruined because of that. The subjects should be specified. If people think that training is so important, for goodness sake, training that is done in an institution must relate to what one does afterwards; otherwise, teaching by osmosis seems to be strange.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster referred to the calibre of teachers, but I must not bring her in again. What matters in schools is the calibre of teachers, not the number. More schools in the country would be better run by two thirds of the staff and the rest of the money should be used to increase their salaries. Unless we do that, we will not improve the calibre of teachers coming in. That is the important thing. We have one of the smallest teacher-pupil ratios in the world; it is half that of the Japanese and the Israelis. If the NUT campaigned for fewer teachers on higher salaries, that would do more for education than is being done at present.

I shall move on quickly because I do not want to take too long. There is something wrong with standards. I know that we have been in office for 15 years and I know what happened before. One is glad to see signs of sensibility coming back to the Labour party. Obviously, it will take another 10 years before sensibility returns completely, but there is some coming in now. The national curriculum has been taken on board, as have other things. It is interesting that we have had to fight for every reform. People must know that they owe nothing to the Labour party for the reforms. Ten years later, Labour Members catch up. In 10 years' time, they will be advocating what I am saying now if we give them time. If we give them pep pills in between, the process may be quicker. People owe Labour nothing. In Committee, we fought for every reform—I was on Standing Committees for four years—and others here fought in the House. Of course, it is all sweetness and light now. In another five or 10 years' time, Labour will be saying the same as we are saying now.

There are two important things in teaching, apart from the natural calibre of teachers. One is proper training. That means watching a master teacher teach. It does not mean being in a group of 500 listening to a lecture from someone who has views on education which have never been put into practice—and never will be—inside a classroom. In my last headship, I had a head of remedial who was fantastic. I would not say that I am of the same calibre as him—I have never seen anyone like him. I used to put staff alongside him for three months before they went into the main school. They learnt things. To pay that man an extra £5,000 or £10,000 to train teachers, let us try that in our schools. The status of the profession would be raised if teachers trained themselves.

I mentioned Professor Oliver. The school leaving age was raised in my first year of teaching. That reform was not greeted with enthusiasm by those who had to stay at school another year instead of getting a job, nor was it acclaimed by teachers who had to control those pupils in the classroom. The second raising of the school leaving age occurred in my last year of teaching.

Mr. Win Griffiths

I was there.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

Yes, and that is why the hon. Gentleman is here now. This is our escape. We must have a drink together afterwards.

I was given class 3c because there was not a 3z. Those pupils, some of whom are still my friends, were the most awkward characters that I had ever met, and their big concern was to get out of school. The headmaster's job was similar to mine—to get them to a technical college three miles away driving there in the morning, returning in the afternoon. I was allowed a full curriculum, anything that I wanted as long as those pupils did not return to school. They nearly drove me out of teaching. After my first two months I decided that I could not control one of them.

That year the first snow came in November to Ramsbottom, from where Albert came and was eaten by the lion. At that time, his was the only name on the honours board of that school. I had to teach the class in a laboratory and the gas and water taps added to the excitement. I blew the whistle for the class to come in but nobody appeared and when I went out the pupils were pointing not to the Archangel Gabriel, but to the second-floor roof on which was a boy whom I called "C", and he was the most difficult boy in the class. They said, "What are you going to do about him, sir?". Fortunately I had been trained in the navy and I climbed the drainpipe all the way. This is all public knowledge because I have written it up. I got hold of the boy and brought him down, kicking him as we came. There was no corporal punishment, of course. When we got to the bottom there was a great cheer and the class said, "Good old sir. That was good, sir." They ran in like a set of whippets and I had no more trouble with them. One must pay attention to great philosophy, but one must also be sure that one can climb the rigging.

5.32 pm
Mr. Greg Pope (Hyndburn)

I am not sure that I can follow the exploits of the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) who seems to be the Whacko of the current Parliament. When asked which is the best football team in the land, the right hon. Gentleman usually gives the right answer, but when asked about education policy, he seems to become more eccentric as the days go by. I hope that he will forgive me for saying that.

I was intrigued by his idea that, if teaching standards are not high enough, the answer is to abolish teacher education. Of course, what the right hon. Gentleman says today the Secretary of State will say tomorrow, and no doubt in Committee the Minister will move amendments to that effect.

Given the massive divergence between the Bill and the Secretary of State's original proposals, I am surprised that he is even prepared to give it a second glance, never mind a Second Reading. I hope that the Bill will fall, but I guess that it will arrive on the statute book at about the same time as an ungrateful Prime Minister dispatches the Secretary of State to the Back Benches. Even executive members of the 1922 Committee are on the BBC openly calling for the Secretary of State to be sacked. It is not often that the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) speaks for the whole House, but on this occasion there will be no discord.

The Bill is a massive humiliation for the Secretary of State. Throughout 1992 and 1993, we heard much about what became known as the mums' army—the idea that allowing under-qualified and under-trained people into our classrooms would in some way raise teaching standards. That is not in the Bill, because the Secretary of State finally discovered what everybody else in education knew in the first place—that the proposals were unworkable and unsound, and would lead to a lowering of teaching standards. Throughout that time, the Secretary of State managed to convey the impression that his vision of education amounted to advertisements which said, "Vacancy, teacher required, no experience necessary."

Another damaging proposal, to divorce teacher training from higher education institutions, appeared in the Bill when it was published in November, but that was radically amended in the other place. I understand that the Government intend to overturn that amendment in Committee, and the Secretary of State said as much in his speech. I urge the Government to exercise caution on that. I hope that everyone agrees that teachers need a theoretical as well as a practical background. Information on issues such as special needs, child development and classroom management need to be imparted to potential teachers before they go in at the deep end in classrooms.

Schools are under increasing pressure because of constant changes to the curriculum and on testing, and should not be expected to take the lead role in teacher education. Higher education institutions provide recognised qualifications for teachers with which all schools can identify, and it is unlikely that qualifications which are accredited by schools alone would carry quite the same weight.

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

I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with interest. Does he accept that it is for schools and their teachers and governors to decide whether to participate in school teacher training? Secondly, does he accept that the accreditation of these courses would not be by schools alone but by the agency that would be established by the legislation?

Mr. Pope

The problem is that, at almost every stage, the Government seek to abdicate responsibility. The questions that were asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) were not answered by the Secretary of State who will be responsible for determining the total number of teacher training places. What will happen if the schools that are given responsibility for teacher training do not come up to scratch? Such questions have not been answered. It seems that, as ever, the Government are saying, "It has nothing to do with us."

If the Government had wanted to improve and enhance the professional standing of teachers, they could have used the Bill to create a general teaching council—a proposal that is supported by many people in education. The proposed Teacher Training Agency will be yet another quango. The Government suffer from that terrible affliction, quangomania. One glance at the Secretary of State's most recent quango creation, the Funding Agency for Schools, leads us to believe that the Teacher Training Agency would be packed with the Government's dwindling band of supporters. Teachers deserve better than that.

Part II represents the Secretary of State's deepest humiliation. The original proposals, which were published last July in a consultation paper, suggested dividing student union activities between core and non-core services. The Secretary of State was told at the time—I was one of those who told him, as the Official Report will show —that the proposals were not just damaging, but half-baked and unworkable. They do not now appear in the Bill.

The Secretary of State told the House that the proposals by the National Union of Students on opting out did not go far enough, and that he wanted students to have to opt in to student unions. He has been forced to back down on that as well. In its original form, the Bill contained sweeping powers that would have allowed the Secretary of State to intervene in the affairs of universities and academic institutions. The proposals were met in almost equal part with ridicule and outrage by the people involved in running those institutions. It is no surprise that the Government were forced to withdraw them during the Bill's passage through the other place.

The Secretary of State told last year's Tory party conference that he would end the scandal of taxpayers' money being spent on political campaigns by student unions. At the Tory party conference he said, "Promises made, promises kept." How they must have cheered back in October, but a more apt description would have been: daft promises made, daft promises broken.

Leaving aside the vast amounts of taxpayers' money that the Secretary of State wastes on political campaigns, such as the outrageous amount that was spent on propping up the failed policy of opted-out schools by taking out adverts in our national newspapers, the Secretary of State must have known when he made those comments that student unions spend less than 1 per cent. of their funds on campaigning.

If he knew that when he made that speech to the Tory party conference, why did he say what he did, other than to get cheap applause at the conference itself? If he did not know it, that is more serious. Why did he not know it? After all, those figures came from a survey commissioned by his own Department.

The Secretary of State also said that he would end the National Union of Students' closed shop. There are times when it is hard to determine which the Secretary of State knows least about—student unions or employment law. They are not closed shops, and that has been accepted not only by the European Court of Human Rights but by previous Conservative Education Ministers.

Back in June 1992, the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), who was then an Education Minister, told the House that student unions were not closed shops. He also said that the NUS differed from a closed shop in that individual unions themselves determine whether or not to affiliate. Students are not employees, and the NUS is not a trade union. Therefore, under previous employment legislation, it cannot operate a closed shop. By omitting any reference to the term "closed shop", the Bill tacitly accepts that.

All that humiliation for the Secretary of State would have been avoidable and unnecessary if only he had listened—something that the Government seem incapable of doing. If, a year ago, the Secretary of State and his Ministers had listened to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals or to the National Union of Students instead of the more neanderthal elements on the Conservative Back Benches who are in their places this evening, he would not be in the sorry mess he is in today.

Part II is now so watered down that it is effectively sunk. It bears little resemblance to the Bill as published in November, and even less to the original proposals published last July. Part II as it stands could almost be mistaken for the NUS proposals. Perhaps this is the Secretary of State's new image: the student unions' friend, the champion of the NUS in Parliament. I hope so, because the National Union of Students deserves a great deal of credit for the way in which it has opposed the more outlandish proposals contained in the consultation document and the original Bill.

There are still concerns about part II of the Bill, in particular the procedures relating to the triggering of ballots on external affiliations. Particularly in small colleges, a tiny number of students could trigger a ballot year on year, even though those ballots produced overwhelming majorities in favour of continuing affiliation to external organisations such as the National Union of Students. The triggering of such ballots and the consequent expense is not a sensible use of public funds.

There are also problems relating to provisions for non-members—those who choose to take up the conscience clause and opt out of NUS or local student union membership. There is still some work to be done on that. It is interesting that the NUS wishes to be constructive in helping the Government to implement the proposals. I hope that, in Committee, the Government take the NUS up on that offer, so that those who have opted out of NUS membership have access to union services.

There is little to disagree with in part II, so complete has been the Secretary of State's humiliation. It is now an unnecessary piece of legislation. The same ends that now appear in part II could easily have been achieved through discussions with the interested bodies last year.

The only reason why part II exists and we are debating it this afternoon is that it would have been one humiliation too far for the Secretary of State to withdraw it. It exists only to save his face. How much did this farce cost? How much did the consultation procedure cost, and how much parliamentary time has been wasted debating something that could have been agreed without legislation?

The Secretary of State, who is now back in his place, clearly will not be in office much longer. When he leaves office, I hope that he takes his Bill with him.

5.45 pm
Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

The most disappointing speeches I have heard this afternoon were those by the hon. Members for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) and for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope), both of whom have lived through the past few decades without moving one jot or tittle into the present time. It is a shame that ideology should govern the Opposition to such an extent.

It is a great tribute to the current Secretary of State, who made such an excellent speech opening this debate, that he demonstrated a lack of dogma and ideology. He was saying that, having looked at what has happened over the past years and having studied what is happening in schools today, he recognises that it is absolutely right to look at this most important feature of our education system—the training of our teachers.

I do not disagree with anything said this afternoon about the importance of having high-quality professional teachers in our classroom. Throughout my career, I have firmly believed that it was essential that those in our classrooms should be of the highest quality and the most professional. We witness that day in, day out, in many schools up and down the country. Many such people are working in our schools today.

I greatly enjoyed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson). What he said about the training of teachers and its historical background is absolutely correct. It had occurred to me that only in the past 50 years or so have we become absolutely obsessed with the need to train people before they take up what is essentially a vocation—and sometimes, in the case of a profession such as teaching, a calling.

He was absolutely right to point out that some people will be excellent teachers. They have a calling, and go into teaching because it is the one thing they want to do above all else. When they get in front of a class, they make it plain to the children that they are there to teach them and impart their knowledge. They are excellent people.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who, when they are discussing the future with their careers masters and mistresses and thinking "What shall I do with my life?", then say, "I think that I will be a teacher." When they get into the classroom, somewhere, somehow, they have to discover that they are not able to be teachers. The sooner they find that out, the better it is, not only for the children, but, most importantly, for them. They will find themselves in a profession which will be a misery and a burden if they are not able to convince the children that they are capable of controlling them and giving them the education they need.

The lengthy process of reforming Britain's education system has taken a long time because it was in such a deplorable mess when the Conservative party took office in 1979. Too much ideology had overtaken the teacher training colleges, the universities, the people in place in our schools, and the schools themselves. We needed to take a clear look at what we were trying to do.

Sadly, all too often, the people in the schools had forgotten what they were supposed to be doing. They had forgotten that they were supposed to be teaching single subjects, and that they were responsible for the good management of schools. They had forgotten exactly what they were there to do, which was to enthuse and to teach children so that they could go forth from school and into the world well trained, well educated and well disciplined. Sadly, none of those things was happening when we started seriously to think about how best to reform our education system.

Those reforms have taken a long time. They were bound to take a long time, because so much needed to be done. I welcome the day today when we have got to the point when we can consider reforming our training of teachers. We are about to introduce into the House of Commons a serious and important measure, which I most sincerely welcome.

I welcome the measure—not that I have any particular hang-ups about teacher training colleges. I emphasise that I have visited a considerable number of teacher training colleges and teacher training departments in universities, and, most importantly of all, an enormous number of schools. When I was in local government, for about nine months I looked at all the schools in the local authority where I was the chairman of the education committee.

I sat at the back of classes listening and watching how the children, in primary and secondary schools, were being taught. That is the one memory that has remained with me all the way through my career in this place. That experience gave me all kinds of insights into what was happening in our schools. It certainly gave me the impetus to believe that at some stage we should reform the training of teachers.

It is interesting that one can study 50 different primary schools, sitting at the back of classes watching what various teachers are doing. Groups of children of the same age in one small borough in Greater London varied from school to school. The quality of the teaching depended entirely on the gifts, intelligence and training of the people in front of those children.

The teachers who had mastery of their subject and who understood small children were much more successful in the primary schools than those teachers who were poorly trained, and in some cases self-taught, in some of the subjects that they were trying to impart to the children and who, moreover, had spent far too much time studying child development and not nearly enough time understanding what children needed in order to learn.

When one considered how children were being taught to read, one realised just what a muddle some of those poor creatures were in. I call them "poor creatures" because at that stage I really did think that it was pathetic that we had people in our classrooms who were so unable to teach children the simple basic subjects within our curriculum at primary school level.

One thing that my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North said which really took my fancy concerned the old days—the good old days. Perhaps I am getting old as well. I willingly admit that, because I think that it is a good thing to look back to what happened in the old days, although I never recommend that we take anything more than the lessons of history to apply to the future. I never want to go back in time. I always want to take those lessons and put them to good use for the future.

What my right hon. Friend said struck a chord with me. He said that, in those days, people had to have mastery of one subject or of one or two subjects. One of the most confusing things that happened in the early days of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was that we tried to teach people everything to teach in primary schools. That was a mistake.

We shall not reform our primary school education completely until we have tackled the conviction that young men and women can go into primary schools and teach the whole range of subjects, including maths, English, science, geography and history, equally well to children between the ages of five and 11. The truth of the matter is that they cannot.

Children in those classes will quickly discern those subjects that the teachers really enjoy teaching and really know, and they will pick up on those subjects and do well too. But woe betide the child who is a mathematician but finds that the person teaching maths cannot keep up with the speed at which that child is going, because that child will find it difficult to maximise his potential during that one crucial year when that individual is there in front of him.

What I am saying to the House, and what I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will hear, is that, during the course of the teacher training changes that he is introducing, he should look further than simply at class-based training for the postgraduate teacher, at the quality of the bachelor of education degree, the major qualification these days for our primary school teachers, to see whether something can be done to strengthen the subject and the basis on which people in primary schools teach our children so that it is not simply dictated by a year, by the age of the children or by one class being taken by one person all the way through all the subjects.

We need variety within our primary schools, and we need people who can take their interest, professionalism and grasp of their subject through into the classroom, even for five and six-year-olds. Those children are just as important as children aged 14, 15 and 16 who are entering their examination years. We tend in Britain not to take sufficient account of that.

I welcome the notion that we can have the assistance within our classes of people who are mature, who understand children and who have a genuine interest in trying to improve their knowledge, so that they might be able to impart that knowledge to the children in our classrooms. All those moves are much to be welcomed. I believe more than ever before that the notion of asking young people who are to become teachers to spend their time in the classroom is a principle which we in the House must firm up and follow.

I noticed when I was a Minister in the Department of Education and Science—it is almost inevitable when new legislation is introduced—the tendency of those charged with putting reforms into position to enjoy the proliferation of administrative paperwork. I ask my right hon. Friend to beware, because many will say that an idea is splendid but it needs this, that or the other by way of following up the accreditation, making sure that we administer the measure correctly, that we validate this or test that. All those processes, good as they might be, need to be resisted.

There must be quality assurance, we must know and understand what is happening within classes, but we do not need vast tomes of paper which people have to fill up in order to say whether they have done this, that or the other. I am convinced that systems can be devised which will be satisfactory in terms of quality and understanding what is happening in schools without burdening schools further with great wodges of paper.

I say that because I know perfectly well that the system that we introduced for testing and the curriculum in the days when I was a Minister did burden teachers. I accept responsiblity for that, and always have done. I always knew that, at some stage, we would have to rectify some of those institutions. But in order to drive through the measures that were so important for Britain's schools, we accepted some of the defects that were bound to occur.

In the same way, I am sure that the Bill will bring such huge benefits to the schools and to the teaching profession that we must ensure that we do not overburden people in the process. I am sure that we shall make some mistakes, but that does not matter, because the principle behind the Bill is fundamentally correct for Britain's teaching profession.

5.59 pm
Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

The speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) was particularly interesting, and certainly I agreed with a number of her remarks—for example, about the risk of increased bureaucracy and paperwork for schools. As the right hon. Lady well knows, that particularly concerns teachers in respect of much new legislation introduced by this Government.

I agree also with the right hon. Lady that there is a growing need for primary teachers to spend more time specialising in particular subjects so that they can teach them with enthusiasm and excitement—but a problem follows from that in respect of the Bill. As the right hon. Lady hinted, if teacher training is all to be done in the classroom, where will teachers gain the subject expertise and enthusiasm that she says is so desperately needed? That is one of the Bill's major flaws, and I shall return to it later.

The right hon. Lady said that parts of the speech of the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) took her fancy. Few parts of it took my fancy. I wondered how, in educational terms, the right hon. Gentleman would use the stick with the horse's head handle, and to whom—particularly in view of statements by the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans)—the right hon. Gentleman was alluding in his frequent references to dead rabbits or to a dead rabbit.

Remarkably, that brings me to the Secretary of State, whose illuminating speech began with a reference to two anniversaries. The first was 15 years of Conservative rule. The Secretary of State predicted the beginning of another 15 years of Tory rule. I will break the habit of a lifetime and bet the Secretary of State that he is wrong. If he is proved right, I am willing to do that which he promised in respect of other matters—to eat my hat, but garnished. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman is likely to have to eat his hat in respect of grant-maintained schools earlier than I will have to eat mine in respect of 15 more years of Tory rule.

It was a pity that the Secretary of State referred also to the 50th anniversary of the Butler legislation—the Education Act 1944—because he personally has been responsible for legislation that has, more than any other, torn up the partnership and co-operation that was the basis of the 1944 Act and which formed, until recent years, the basis of the education service.

The Secretary of State's speech highlighted a number of inconsistencies in his beliefs and statements. He spoke, for example, of the ending of what he called the ivory silo. Not many people would know his meaning. I happen to know, and I am also able to point out that the right hon. Gentleman got his own quotation wrong. I should hate anyone to believe that I have copies of all the Secretary of State's speeches to hand, but I do have the speech that he gave just before Christmas to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, when he said:

In this new order, 'ivory towers' will be—indeed, already is —a misnomer. Quality, the 'ivory', will remain. But the isolated, if imposing, ivory towers will be replaced by architecture of all shapes and sizes, from ivory silo to ivory cottage". The Secretary of State was saying that we would see the birth of ivory silos; yet only a few months later he is saying that they have come to an end. That is typical of so much of the Secretary of State's legislation. Having only just introduced it, he makes significant changes—and that leads to major instability.

It is worrying that the Secretary of State does not seem to understand his own legislative proposals, or even know the name of the new organisation that the Bill is intended to establish. One minute the right hon. Gentleman was telling the House about the formation of the Teacher Training Agency and the next about the establishment of the teacher training authority. In fact, he stressed to his hon. Friends the importance of that word "authority". Whether it be an authority or an agency, the right hon. Member for Brent, North described it as an empire.

In view of the Secretary of State's speech at the Conservative party conference, there can be no question but that the U-turn that he was compelled to make over student unions was one of the most humiliating ever, following the debacle over the mums' army. It appears that common sense has broken out at least in that part of the Bill. Sadly, that is not true of part I, which is unnecessary, unworkable and highly undesirable. I say to the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden that it will do nothing to repair the damage inflicted by the Government on teacher morale and the entire profession.

The changes in part II are the result of the listening done by the Secretary of State and others. I find it difficult to understand why the right hon. Gentleman is not willing to listen in respect of other parts of the Bill. The important question asked time and again is what part II will do to raise the quality of teacher training. We have been given no answer.

I believe that it is true to say that the Secretary of State has not been listening, because I do not know of one organisation that supports his proposals in respect of initial teacher training. I know of not one parent, governor, teacher, higher education college, university or teacher training organisation that supports any of the Bill's proposals.

I ought to declare an interest, in that I spent many years teaching and being involved in curriculum development within schools. I spent 10 years as a teacher trainer at Bristol university, and the many changes that occurred during that time brought about some of the improvements which the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden said were needed, and which are still needed.

Mr. Peter Butler (Milton Keynes, North-East)

In the 10 years that the hon. Gentleman spent training teachers, did he ever go into school and do any teaching?

Mr. Foster

The right hon. Member for Brent, North Implied that people involved in teacher training do not return to schools to gain further experience at the chalk face. Perhaps the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) is not aware that under the existing Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education there is a requirement that all involved in teacher training have recent and relevant experience. The direct answer to the hon. Gentleman is that I had just that.

Given my experience and my discussions with the organisations that I mentioned, why do I oppose the Bill's proposals for teacher training? I oppose the establishment of yet another quango. Opposition Members have already expressed their concerns about quangos and I am particularly worried about the appointment of yet another eight to 12 faceless men and women.

Mr. Riddick

Two quangos are being abolished and replaced by just one.

Mr. Foster

If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at the status and powers of those two other bodies, he will see that the new body will be taking on considerably greater powers. As the Secretary of State said, one of those bodies has a purely advisory role while the other merely provides information and advice to those wishing to join the profession. There is a huge difference between bodies of that kind and the quango being set up by the Secretary of State. It is worrying that the Bill does not even make it clear what qualifications the chairman of the new quango must have. It is not a specific requirement that he must have had direct experience of teacher training, merely experience of teaching.

I oppose the proposed legislation because I believe that it will create greater fragmentation and bureaucracy, the very thing that the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden is concerned about, and will lead to increased instability. We have heard about the various changes that have taken place in the Government's legislation in recent years, and we should not forget that it was only the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 that set up the Higher Education Funding Council, which is now to be dismembered as a result of the proposals in the Bill.

I oppose the proposed legislation because not a single reason has been given as to why it is so important in England when it does not appear to be necessary in Wales or Scotland. I cannot possibly support any new legislation which, at least on the face of it, is likely to establish a bureaucracy that will increase costs and therefore take money away from direct teacher training work at a time when, as we all admit, some improvements are needed. Perhaps most fundamentally, however, there is no evidence of any need for the changes.

As I have acknowledged in recent years, there have been a number of changes to teacher education. Perhaps the two most notable changes have been the growing partnership that has developed between individual teacher training institutions and the schools with which they liaise. Those partnerships are important. They are crucial to teacher training, they are already established and they are developing in a variety of interesting ways.

As has been mentioned, there has been a growth in the amount of time that trainee teachers spend in schools. Hon. Members who are anxious to see even more time spent in schools should reflect on why the probationary year has been abolished. It provided postgraduate teacher training as a two-year course, and the whole of one year plus a large proportion of the first year was work in schools.

Have those changes led to any real cause for concern? The answer is that they certainly have not, according to the Government's reports through OFSTED. Reference has been made to its report last year, "The New Teacher in School", which said that the teaching of new teachers was satisfactory in almost three quarters of cases. One could ask, "What about the other quarter? Let us be concerned about that." And I am indeed concerned. But the report went on to say that the proportion of very good lessons by new teachers was higher than that for teachers in general. That indicates to me that there have been improvements in recent years, and that if we make rapid and unnecessary changes now the improvements may be put in jeopardy. I suggest that the lesson to be learnt is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Yet the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden—for reasons that I do not fully understand, in view of her comments—seems keen on making change for the sake of change.

There are many other reasons why we should oppose the proposed legislation. I am particularly concerned about the way that it will separate educational research from training for the profession, and teacher training from the rest of higher education. I particularly want to explore a specific concern—the amendment to clause 12 that was made in another place. Despite what the Secretary of State said, and while I accept what hon. Members on both Front Benches have said about the need to ensure that the wording is correct, I very much hope that this House will not overturn the principle behind that amendment.

The original proposal for totally school-based teacher training is, in my view, completely daft. It looks almost as though it is the Secretary of State's latest contribution to the "back to basics" debate, and if hon. Members reflect on the appropriate novel they will see that it is a return to the form of teacher training that Nicholas Nickleby received. It is daft because there is no evidence to suggest that it is a good idea. The Government thought that it might be a good idea, so they introduced a trial—the so-called "school-centred initial teacher training". As we have heard, some 200 students are currently involved and, although the Secretary of State did not say so, the figures suggest that that number is likely to rise to some 700 before long. That is a small number compared with the 60,000 students who are training through more traditional and conventional means.

Mr. Boswell

On a point of clarification, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that some two thirds of those undergoing teacher education in higher education institutions are doing bachelor of education courses, typically for four years, so the true comparison is with those doing postgraduate certificate of education courses, typically for a year, of which even those small figures would be a much higher proportion.

Mr. Foster

I am happy to accept what the Minister says. He is, of course, quite right and I am happy to make that comparison. I am sure that he would still agree, however, that 200 is a small proportion.

The main point of my argument is not so much the proportion involved as the fact that it was set out as a trial and that, so far, no evaluation whatever has been conducted on that new approach. There is thus no evidence on which to base the proposals in the Bill. It seems odd to conduct trials and then, before one has had any results of any evaluation, to go full steam ahead and announce that the proposal is to be extended far more widely. There is no evidence of support from schools wishing to move in that direction. The Minister will immediately intervene and say that he can name schools in Essex and one or two other places that have indicated interest and become involved in the pilot study, and of course that is right. However, there is no evidence whatever of any wider interest in that way forward.

I am sure that the Minister will be aware of the survey carried out at the beginning of this year by the Standing Conference of Principals of Higher Education Colleges, which surveyed 1,500 primary head teachers. The vast majority said no to taking responsibility for student welfare, for the intellectual development of trainees, for improving students' subject knowledge, and for the selection of students. Only 1.7 per cent. of those head teachers wanted a major role in devising programmes or setting course objectives.

One may ask why the head teachers said that. I thought that it was summed up very well by one head teacher, who said: Teachers are not trained to train students. They are trained to teach children and there is a vast difference in the skills and knowledge required. The head teachers went on to express concerns about too many students spending too much time in their schools, causing problems in terms of space, disruption and even diminished standards of pupil behaviour.

The proposal in the Bill will establish a two-tier system of teacher training and, notwithstanding the intervention by the Secretary of State, there will continue to be uncertainty about the nature of qualifications. I suggest to the Secretary of State and his Ministers that, if they are really keen to make genuine improvements in the profession, they could best do that by accepting the proposal from all quarters for the establishment of a general teaching council.

I also ask Ministers to reflect on other aspects of the reports of their own inspectors—for instance, the importance of co-operation between schools and higher education institutions. HMI said in a recent report that the most successful training of articled teachers took place when course structures included a substantial period of out-of-school training early in the course and then offered carefully staged introductions to key professional skills and curriculum knowledge. The report went on to say that training experience in and outside schools was designed to inform and build upon each other. The problem is that the relevant part of the Bill is based on the false premise that we need more school-based teaching. What we need is much more school-focused teacher training; otherwise, we shall end up training people not to join the profession, but simply to teach in a particular school.

As I have said, there is much to oppose in the Bill, and my hon. Friends and I will oppose it as vigorously as we can. If we cannot persuade the Government to scrap it, we shall present our own amendments with the aim of at least lessening some of its worst excesses. We certainly hope to introduce a "sunset" clause, making the quango that will be established subject to parliamentary reapproval every few years.

In case the Secretary of State and his colleagues will not listen to the arguments advanced by my party—sadly, I suspect that they will not—I refer them to what a former headmaster of Eton had to say in a recent article in The Independent: John Major's strongly expressed aim to restore the status of teachers is suppported by all. Teachers' morale is low, their pay lower than it should be. Both need raising, but John Patten's proposals to overhaul initial teacher education under a free-standing teacher training agency, as set out in part I of the Education Bill now going through Parliament, will have the opposite effect. This new quango is as objectionable and unnecessary as it will prove impractical. Hear, hear!

6.22 pm
Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly, especially as I had many years' experience of teaching before becoming a Member of Parliament. It was interesting to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). He and I have at least one thing in common, having both been science teachers. I believe that he taught chemistry—

Mr. Don Foster


Mr. Thompson

In that case, we have two things in common: we were both science teachers and we were both teachers of physics.

I began to have less in common with the hon. Gentleman, however, when he began to speak of bureaucracy, quangos and so forth. He referred to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold). I strongly supported what she said about the need to avoid too much bureaucracy and paperwork in any new reforms. Much to my surprise, the hon. Member for Bath seemed to be accusing the Government of introducing more bureaucracy and quangos in the Bill. Whatever else may be said in favour of the Bill or against it, my understanding is that it will reduce bureaucracy rather than increasing it.

In any event, it ill becomes a leading Liberal spokesman to talk of bureaucracy and quangos: I gather that his party's policy document "Excellence for All", published in 1992, proposed the creation of six or seven new quangos, pay review bodies and the like. Although we have much in common, I must disagree with the hon. Member for Bath on that point.

I am one of the hon. Members who have pressed for a reform of teacher training for a long time. Many hon. Members—probably on both sides of the House—feel that the subject should have been considered earlier, perhaps before some of the other reforms introduced by the Government. I am glad that we are finally debating a Bill that will deal with it, and congratulate the Government on presenting that Bill.

The hon. Member for Bath said that some improvements had been made in teacher training recently. I support the Bill, and believe that reform is needed urgently along the lines that it suggests. However, I agree with Opposition Members who have drawn attention to recent improvements. I cannot go all the way with them, but I think it unfair to imply that there have been no improvements in the past 10 years. That flies in the face of the facts. I may part company with Opposition Members, however, when I say that there is still much that is wrong and that measures are still needed to reform teacher training.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) made an entertaining speech. I always enjoy listening to my right hon. Friend. As always, with his experience of teaching and running schools, he brought common sense to bear on the subject. How right he was to speak of the importance of good classroom teaching. I am not a lawyer, and I do not intend to speak at length and in detail about the various clauses in the Bill, but I believe that the Government are right to place more emphasis on training in the classroom. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North made that point very effectively.

The hon. Member for Bath—perhaps it was someone else, but if so, the hon. Gentleman will correct me—said that it was not always best to learn from other teachers. I do not agree. Of course teacher trainees must listen to university lecturers and others outside the school system and of course their education must be much more broadly based than the simple learning of practical skills in the classroom. I do not think, however, that the classroom is the wrong place for them to learn. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North spoke of a brilliant special needs teacher in his school, saying that it was possible to learn a fantastic amount just by observing him, talking to him and helping him with his class. I do not go along with those who play down the importance of learning in the classroom, with good classroom teachers.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Will the hon. Gentleman suggest what limits should be placed on the number of teachers who watch such brilliant, demonstrative people in the classroom at any one time and tell us how many teachers can take part in the lesson—learning and being taught at the same time?

Mr. Thompson

I shall not yield to the temptation of answering that question, for two reasons. First, I made it plain that I did not wish to deal with the detail of the Bill, or the administrative implications, in my short speech. Secondly—I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me here—I am strongly against excessive interference by those of us who are outside schools in what is done by head teachers, departmental heads and individual teachers. [Interruption.] I am answering the hon. Gentleman. I suspect that he will support me when I resist the temptation to start laying down the law. My point was much simpler: a student teacher—indeed, a qualified, experienced teacher —can learn from colleagues in the classroom. The Government are right to place more emphasis on classroom-based teaching, but no doubt that point can be debated further.

Ms Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)

If the hon. Gentleman is a supporter of school-based teacher training, does he share with me a concern that we will not have good teachers if students gain experience at only one school during their teacher training? Is it not true that most other training courses which are based in universities have the advantage of allowing students to do training at a minimum of two schools? Would the hon. Gentleman care to reflect on the implications for teacher training of the number of placements that a student may get?

Mr. Thompson

My speech will be prolonged if I respond at length to that question. I said a few moments ago that I am very much in favour of young people coming into the profession having broad experience—I used those very words. I will not say that a teacher should train in only one school. Never mind what the Bill says, I am talking about teacher training as I believe it should be. I am in favour of school-based training. Opposition Members are supporting my general remarks, so I shall continue clown that path.

Mr. Enright


Mr. Thompson

I will make a little more progress with my speech and then I will give way to the hon. Gentleman. We have addressed this topic, but no doubt I will tempt the hon. Gentleman again in a moment and then he can make his point.

With regard to the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North, my wife and I are interesting cases in point. I was a graduate teacher who did no teacher training. You look horrified at that remark, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is true nevertheless. I do not advocate that people should not undertake teacher training but I make the point that as a graduate teacher, for one reason or another —as my right hon. Friend mentioned—I did not do teacher training. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will bear that fact in mind and therefore take with a pinch of salt anything I may say about teacher training.

My wife, on the other hand, was an excellent teacher who was teacher trained but not a graduate. That is why I remarked in an intervention earlier that, whatever new system we may bring in, there are many excellent teachers in our schools who are not graduates. I think that it is right to pay tribute to them and I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden in paying tribute to the many good teachers in our classrooms.

As a Member of Parliament, I receive many letters from teachers who say, "Why do the Government never praise good teachers?" I then send them quotations from the Secretary of State, his predecessors and his colleagues on the Front Bench, all of whom have praised teachers at one time or another—perhaps not as much as some teachers may like, but they have done it. The media and the press —there may be someone in the Press Gallery, but I very much doubt it at this time of the evening—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. The Gallery does not exist as far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned.

Mr. Thompson

I did remember, but it was too late. The media outside rarely pick up compliments that the Secretary of State and his colleagues pay to teachers or anyone else.

I turn to the main point in what was originally intended to be a brief speech. There is a tension in the debate about the Bill, which will come through in the Committee as well, concerning the need to rid education of trendy nostrums—the ivory tower syndrome to which we referred earlier. Some hon. Members may feel that that has gone, but my attention was drawn only a few moments ago to a letter that Mr. Tom Cornish wrote to the recent newsletter of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers—an organisation of which I was once a member, although it had a different name in those days. Mr. Cornish said: on my PGCE course three years ago I quickly realised that the compulsory lectures delivered by uninspiring and politicised staff did not merit any note-taking at all. At the end of the course I copied sections out of ridiculous books for essays that I wrote with no conviction. All the useful training, reflection and sharing of experience took place within schools, and days at college were only valuable as a mental respite from the rigours of teaching practice. That is obviously an isolated case and I have said already that I do not want to attack teacher training institutions. I merely quote from the letter to ensure that people realise that a problem remains and that the Government are right to look at it. There is tension between those of us who say that there is a problem to be addressed in teacher training and those who, quite rightly, believe that there is a need for teachers to have high standards of academic training and status.

That is where our institutions of higher education—our universities—have a role to play. In the debate about clause 12 and related clauses, members of the Standing Committee will try to address the problem: how can we get away from the ivory tower syndrome? Many young people whom I have taught have gone into teacher training and praised that training, but many others have come away from teacher training and said what a nonsense it was.

Mr. Enright


Mr. Thompson

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. Tension arises in addressing that problem —I think that the Government are correct to look at it—while recognising that teachers need to have high academic standards. By definition—I am sure that the Government accept that view—those standards can be met only through universities and colleges of higher education.

Mr. Enright

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am most intrigued by his reference to the ivory tower—or ivory silo, if it comes to that. What is an ivory tower in this context? What makes it self-evident that someone is living in an ivory tower? What are the nostrums that the hon. Gentleman talked about? How are they self-evident? What proof does he have that they are failing?

Mr. Thompson

That sounds like the sort of intervention that my colleagues who will serve on the Standing Committee should address. I would be very unpopular with all hon. Members if I were to digress on the subject of ivory towers or ivory silos.

In an earlier intervention, I referred to the leading article in The Times today, which gave strong support to the main purposes of the Bill. It also referred to a concept that has the support of both sides of the House. For a long time, I have advocated the establishment of a professional teachers council. Opposition Members have referred to the General Teaching Council and spoken of their support for that concept. However, I have a problem with that idea.

The Government, quite rightly, see some of the recent proposals for a general teachers council as a kind of talking shop—a son of Burnham. Those of us who experienced the old Burnham process would shy away from anything that remotely resembled the gathering called the Burnham committee. I would certainly run a mile from such a process, and that was my view long before I became a Member of Parliament.

The idea has been advanced for a professional teachers body, although not necessarily the General Teaching Council. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Further and Higher Education is listening, because I am trying to make a distinction between what I am advocating and the General Teaching Council. I believe that there should be some sort of professional teachers body. It should not be a talking shop and not necessarily be any of the proposals that have been advanced recently, but we need a council to formulate and enforce a code of conduct, to advise teachers on their terms of employment and methods of classroom assessment and so on.

In the same way that other professions have their professional bodies, I put on record my general support for some sort of professional body for teachers. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North, I believe that teachers' pay is important, but it is not the only thing that affects teachers' status. That is why I raise again the question of some sort of professional body for teachers.

We need to ensure that teachers—whether school-based or college-based—are able to instruct their pupils in the basic skills to the very highest standards—the three Rs, or whatever one likes to call them. As an ex-physics teacher, I attach great importance to basic standards in English and mathematics. I also believe in high standards in academic subjects, for example, a language or a science. The Government have been right all along to speak out for high standards in the face of those who are always trying to "level down" and bring the mediocre into our schools. They have been right to strive for higher academic standards and higher standards generally and we also want teachers to teach vocational, technical and craft skills to the highest standards.

I am arguing for rigour in teaching and teacher training because there is a risk of a lack of rigour. The hon. Member for Bath was a physics teacher and I am sure that he will agree that there is a tendency for pupils to go for the easier option, the soft subject. I have made myself unpopular by referring to some degree courses that I regard as soft subjects, but there are many.

Mr. Butler

Name them.

Mr. Thompson

What about social sciences for a start? I shall not go any further because I am taking a grave risk. I know that members of all parties share the view that there is a need for rigour in education. Again, I must be careful when I say that those of us who follow the media and read the newspapers—far be it from me to criticise them—know that there is a great deal of shallow thinking about. The only way to put that right is to increase rigour in education.

I hope that the Bill will build on the Government's education reforms of the 1980s, which were a long-overdue revolution in the interests of children, parents and teachers. No doubt the wilder elements—I choose my words carefully—of the National Union of Teachers will continue to sing a lament for the trendy education nostrums, unstructured teaching and the low standards of attainment and discipline of the 1960s, but, fortunately, all that is now irrelevant. The task now is to build logically on what has been achieved since 1988. Evolution, not revolution, is the order of the day and the Bill must be part of that detailed evolutionary process. I hope that my colleagues will listen carefully to responsible voices in the teaching profession who want them to get it right. I support the Bill.

6.42 pm
Ms Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)

I was about to say that the speech made by the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) was a measured one but that was before his comment about social science degrees. As someone with such a degree, I shall refrain from saying what I had intended to say.

As the Secretary of State said, today is the 15th anniversary of the election of the 1979 Conservative Government. I had not woken up thinking about that this morning—it is not a date that I put in my diary—but it reminds me that tomorrow must be the 15th anniversary of Mrs. Thatcher's famous speech made on the steps of No. 10 Downing street when she said: Where there is error, may we bring truth. The Bill, introduced 15 years after the election of a Conservative Government, does nothing to bring truth but simply perpetuates error in the Government's education policy.

The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) described some of the scenes that she saw in classrooms. She described students as pathetic creatures by virtue of the way in which they were being taught. I was left wondering why someone who had held ministerial office in the then Department of Education had not taken steps long ago to put right teacher training if she felt that it was that bad. I am inclined to believe that she was making a generalisation based on something that she had seen and of which she did not approve. The same fault can be attributed to a number of Conservative Members. Nothing is perfect is this life, and I am not the person to say that teacher training is perfect, but to take isolated examples and extrapolate from them a need for a new Bill is not worthy of Government.

The Bill owes its existence more to the Department for Education's obsession with legislation than to any need to change initial teacher training drastically. There is no doubt that in the past two decades since I did my teacher training there have been steady and significant improvements. There is now closer integration with the rest of higher education, a proposal that I believe emanated from the days when Baroness Thatcher was Secretary of State for Education, and from the James report. We have witnessed the introduction of an all-graduate profession, and there is greater emphasis on teacher trainers themselves having teaching experience. We no longer recruit teachers from the ranks of those who failed to get graduate degree places, and teaching has been put firmly where it belongs—in the mainstream of higher education.

In picking out the improvements that have been made to teacher training, I give credit to the measures introduced by the Conservative Government. Their actions, and those introduced by a Labour Government, have brought about a steadier improvement than we saw in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the Bill is a backward step. It reflects the historic notion that teaching can be learnt in the workplace—the old monitorial system—and not the reality, which is that teaching is a complex and changing business.

The speech of the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), which many hon. Members found humorous, was sad. He offered us reminiscences through the history of education but, if he really believes that we can draw on that history and learn lessons for the future of teaching, he is sadly mistaken. He told us a story about a group of children of whom he had charge and who were excluded from the curriculum and sent out of school every day. He told us about the antics that he had to perform —for example, climbing drainpipes—in order to get the respect of those children. If he believes that such things are still happening in schools and that it what we are training teachers for, he is sadly out of touch with education in the 1990s.

Today, all children are part of the national curriculum. They should all be taking GCSEs and we have the highest expectations of every one of them. We want them to continue in education for as long as possible. There are no lessons to be learnt from the teachers of the 1950s and 1960s who were in the same position as the right, hon. Member for Brent, North. We do not want those lessons. We want a realisation that teaching needs to be innovative and that it is complex and demanding. We are discussing training for that job, not training for the job that the right hon. Member did two, three and four decades ago.

The Bill's flaw is a serious misunderstanding of what is needed to make an effective teacher. Teaching is not only about a set of skills that one can practise until one has got it right. One cannot divide teaching into competencies that can be ticked when they have been mastered—one can or cannot hold the chalk, or one can or cannot write on the board. There is not a single body of knowledge that is the key to success. Most important, teaching is about understanding how children learn and how they succeed. It is about understanding that the way in which a school organises itself can affect whether a child can learn successfully, that what a child goes home to at night and what his family are like can affect whether he succeeds and that the environment and community in which his family live and in which the school operates determines whether he can be successful.

Mr. Butler

All that the hon. Lady says is correct but does she really believe that it can be taught only in the lecture theatre rather than by experience in the classroom?

Ms Morris

Of course not. Labour Members have been saying that such things are taught by a combination of theory and practice. Conservatives Members are saying that teacher training can be solely school-based and left to the charge of schools. It is they who are seeking to divorce theory from practice, not Opposition Members.

Before that interruption, I was referring to matters that are grounded in educational theory. Successful teacher education combines theory and practice and sees one reflected in the other.

Universities must work closely with schools. I am not in favour of isolating teachers in universities, but the Bill shifts the emphasis from universities to schools in a way that gets the relationship between the two wrong. The title of part I—"Teacher Training"—best sums up the misunderstanding of those who propose it. People cannot be trained to be teachers. Teachers are not technicians or apprentices learning a trade. They need to learn facts and processes. They have to be adaptable and innovative, but that will not be achieved if teacher education is divorced from the rest of higher education, as is being done here.

During my years in teaching, one of the things that I wanted most but did not happen—it still does not happen —was a period out of the classroom to reflect on what I had been doing. I wanted time out to reflect on the practice, to go back to the theory, the ideas—the ideology, if that is how some hon. Members want to think of it—and see how they mixed. I had such opportunities only when I was training to be a teacher. During the years of training, the opportunity to go into school and be the practitioner but also to talk, receive support and go over what one had done, adapting it and going back to the classroom and improving, was extremely valuable. We should be giving more teachers that opportunity, rather than taking it away from students who are training to be teachers.

One aspect of the Bill is the arrogant assumption that schools want to be, and can be, bases for school-centred courses. A school is primarily a place to teach children, not a place to teach teachers. Teachers are not trained to teach teachers, although they have a valuable role to play. Most teachers are not trained even to teach adults. Why should our best teachers be taken away from the classroom to teach people who could be better taught elsewhere? If we are not to perpetuate the inadequacies that still exist in some schools, the people who teach teachers in schools must be the best practitioners. Otherwise we shall fossilise poor teaching and fail to improve things. My choice is to have the best teachers teaching the pupils, and not the teachers. The Bill will, of necessity, draw those people away from that important and fundamental task.

Mr. Butler

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to intervene, rather than interrupt, for a second time. She is quite correct to say that the best teachers should be in the classroom. Should not those seeking to emulate them be able to watch them, as is proposed in the Bill?

Ms Morris

I do not know when the hon. Gentleman was last in a school or last went to a teacher education course. In the teaching experience part of university courses, the first thing that one does is to sit in and watch teachers taking lessons. There is a great difference between that situation, in which the student remains the responsibility of the lecturer, and the student being the responsibility of the teacher. The latter puts on teachers an onus that is burdensome and prevents them from doing their work with the pupils.

Lady Olga Maitland

The hon. Lady may have missed the point about the whole principle of a trainee teacher going into schools. For years, trainee teachers have been complaining that their courses are so bound up in theory that they never learn the art of classroom management. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are wrong. Trainee teachers complain bitterly that they have not been getting experience that they badly need. If Opposition Members want an example, let me refer them to a teacher called Maria Foster, who, at St. Peter's high school in Gloucester, was involved in one of these teacher-based courses. She gave great credit for the chance to be in the classroom, where she felt that she would benefit most.

Ms Morris

It is quite clear—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady, from whom we have just had a very long intervention, should have the courtesy to listen to the answer. That is perhaps the best example of the fact that we still have error rather than truth. If the hon. Lady knows of one educational institution that trains teachers without putting them in the classroom, she ought to report it immediately to the Secretary of State for Education. Any institution doing so would be acting without the law. Being in schools is experience of teaching. I do not know anyone who has followed a course accrediting him or her to be a teacher without having had practice in the classroom. If the hon. Lady does, she ought to do something about it.

Mr. Jamieson

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the "mums' army" proposal had not been thrown out, quite rightly, by the House of Lords, potential teachers could have found themselves being taught by people who were themselves barely qualified?

Ms Morris

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comment. Perhaps he ought to keep quiet about that. As it seems a good way of saving money, the Secretary of State might take it up.

I want to return to what is wrong about putting the emphasis on placing teacher training in schools. Not only does that disrupt the work of schools and of good teachers, but—this is more important—schools may not be able to provide the necessary consistency and coherence. A recent OFSTED report on articled teachers—a school-based teacher training scheme—discovered The degree of inconsistency was more evident than in conventional PGCE courses. Schools and teachers varied in the nature and quality of support they provided. Weaknesses also arose from poor school placements, badly designed courses and inefficient management. Those comments could well be the verdict on the school-based teacher education that might be introduced as a result of the Bill. At present, the Further Education Funding Council provides the quality control and assurance. The Bill will remove teacher education from that successful structure.

The current link between higher education and schools is good not only for students but for schools. Students and teacher trainers bring to schools new ideas and materials. Indeed, the link between schools and higher education that is part of the current arrangements can contribute to a school's professional development.

The Bill is so unnecessary that one must assume that there is more to it than meets the eye. An intervention by the hon. Member for—[Interruption.]—Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) confirmed my worst fears. For a moment I forgot what constituency the hon. Lady represents but was helped out by one of my hon. Friends. How I forgot I do not know. The Bill reflects the Government's deep prejudice against what they see as the educational establishment. We have heard from various Secretaries of State—most recently last week from the Home Secretary—expressions of suspicion that teachers educated in so-called left-wing trendy universities are responsible for lowering standards and corrupting our youth.

Once again, having identified the wrong problem, the Government, through the Bill, have come up with the same old solution, much loved and readily grasped by them, "Let's give power to the Secretary of State and let's appoint a quango." The Govenrnment now suffer from a serious malady—"quangoitis" or what my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) called quango mania. The Secretary of State has given us two quangos in two years. In fact, he has more power to hand out jobs than do some jobcentres.

The ranks of the Tory faithful must again be expectant at the prospect of even more appointments coming their way by gift of the Secretary of State for Education. The right hon. Gentleman already controls what is taught and how it is assessed. Now he wants to control how the teachers are taught and which courses should be funded. Never has there been a Secretary of State for Education who has striven so successfully to achieve political correctness.

No one is saying that initial teacher training is perfect. There are real difficulties. There are real problems to be overcome. There are difficulties in combining theory and practice effectively. For example, how can we teach young teachers to motivate children who come from homes that place little or no value on education, or to exert effective discipline over 40 small children? How can we constantly remind teachers to place firmly within their ideology the fact that their expectations of a child will be a crucial element in that child's success? Those difficulties must at the very least be described as a challenge for those who have to address the issue of teacher training.

However, the Bill will not help to meet that challenge. By isolating student teachers from other graduates, by failing to realise that effective teachers master the process that links theory with practice and by placing a burden on schools that will detract from their main purpose, the Bill fails to meet the only criterion by which it can be judged —whether it will improve effective teaching and learning in our schools. The Bill makes no contribution to that task, which is the task of all of us. For those reasons, it does not deserve the support of the House.

7 pm

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

I shall begin with a couple of comments about the two Front-Bench speeches.

I was slightly concerned to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State say that the Bill represents the last piece of the jigsaw. I believe that there is still more work to be done. We need to complete the process of freeing educational institutions from the control of local education authorities. We started the process with the polytechnics —the universities already had their freedom—and we continued it with sixth form and further education colleges. It is now time that we did the same with all secondary schools.

My right hon. Friend may remember—although he probably does not—that on Second Reading of the Education Bill of 1993 I argued that we should turn all secondary schools into grant-maintained schools.

Mr. Patten

I remember.

Mr. Riddick

My right hon. Friend kindly says that he remembers my speech; I am pleased to hear that.

I believe that we should turn all secondary schools into grant-maintained schools, so that effectively they would compete as autonomous schools, albeit within the state sector. I think that education policy is going down that route anyway. The benefits to be obtained from grant-maintained status are now well known, and it will be difficult for the Labour party to argue at the next general election that it would abolish all grant-maintained schools.

As for the speech delivered from the Opposition Front Bench, it was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) wriggling so tremendously when challenged about her position on the National Union of Teachers' boycott of tests. Now that Sir Ron Dearing has made appropriate changes, I see no excuse for such behaviour by any of the teaching unions. Yet the hon. Member for Dewsbury refused to condemn the test boycotts proposed by the NUT. She should be ashamed of herself; her refusal to condemn the NUT was disgraceful. It is pathetic, and an indictment of the Labour party, that it feels unable to condemn a teaching union that recommends such disreputable action. It shows, I suppose, that the Labour party is still in the pocket of the trade unions.

Most of the speeches in the debate so far have concentrated on the teacher-training aspects of the Bill, so I shall concentrate on the second part of the Bill, which relates to student unions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Surprise, surprise"] I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be delighted to hear that. He may remember that I initiated an Adjournment debate on the subject in June 1992.

Last December I had the pleasure of speaking to Conservative students at Hull university. Before the meeting I went into the student union shop to buy a newspaper, only to find that The Sun and The Daily Star were banned on the ground that they were sexist. [Interruption.] That censorship had been ordered by the student union executive, and Opposition Members may be interested to know that it was supported by the Labour students. Indeed, I heard one or two hon. Members shout, "Hear, hear," when I said that The Sun and The Daily Star had been banned for being sexist.

Mr. Enright

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the pictures displayed on page 3 of The Sun and The Daily Star are the sort of thing that we should put before our children? Or does he agree with the students that we should set a moral tone, and that such perversion should not be thrust into our homes?

Mr. Riddick

I am interested to hear that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of censorship. I am not sure that students would be altogether pleased by his referring to them as children. I should have thought that once they are beyond the age of 18 they are old enough to decide for themselves whether to read those newspapers. Indeed, if they are offended by such pictures, they do not have to look at them. It is as easy as that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman never looks at the offending pictures, does he?

Mr. Enright

I never look at those rags, not even wrapped round fish and chips.

Mr. Butler

In view of the recent change in the editorial policy of The Sun, does my hon. Friend not agree that a ban on it throughout the country might be advantageous?

Mr. Riddick

My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion, but I do not believe in censorship, so I want to see The Sun on sale, despite any reservations that I may have about it now. Incidentally, my hon. Friends may be interested to know that at Hull university I would have been able to buy a copy of a rag called Socialist Worker, which was on sale at the entrance to the student union when I went in.

I had also visited Hull students union the year before; my speech cannot have been all that bad, because I was invited back the following year to speak to the Conservative students again. The first year, I was threatened with physical violence because I had had the temerity to point out in my speech—I suppose it was a slightly provocative or controversial speech—that the implementation of socialism by the communists in eastern Europe, China, Africa and Asia had caused more misery, poverty and death than the Nazis under Hitler ever managed to achieve. A small minority of left-wing students did not like my message, so they threatened me with violence. Such unrepresentative behaviour gives students as a whole a bad name, and that is most unfortunate.

There are many examples of abuses perpetrated by student unions and the NUS. Innumerable left-wing causes have been supported, anti-abortionists have been victimised, and even the IRA has received support from within the student union movement.

Mr. Pope

I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman was threatened at Hull university—the university that I attended—but does he accept that he was threatened or intimidated, not by the student union itself, but by members of it? It is important to draw that distinction.

Mr. Riddick

I accept that distinction, and I intend to deal with that aspect of the matter.

My next example comes from somewhere not far from the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The Conservative association at Lancaster university was fined £400 by the students union there because it had the nerve to suggest that the student union's commercial activities could be organised in a more orderly and effective way.

So far as I am concerned, individual students can say or do whatever they wish. However, I object when a small number of students do and say extreme or absurd things in the name of all students, and at the taxpayer's expense. I also object to the fact that young people who go to study in institutions of higher education find that they have to belong to the local student union. The fact that they have no choice is a shocking state of affairs. I do not suppose that it is a state of affairs about which Opposition Members care very much, but I think that it is a serious matter.

Many students have complained to me about the student closed shop. More than 200 Members of Parliament signed an early-day motion calling for the student closed shop to be abolished, and 50 or so Members attended the Adjournment debate, which was an indication of the interest and concern felt in the House about abuses in the student union closed shop. Students should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether they wish to belong to their local student union. We have abolished the trade union closed shop; it is time to abolish the student union closed shop as well. That is what the Bill, albeit in its truncated form, is intended to do.

The Bills's original intention of splitting the political and campaigning activities from the provision of services was the right approach. It would have given individual students the right to opt into the political aspects of student union activities, while, at the same time, allowing all students to enjoy the benefits currently provided by student unions. It would certainly have maximised choice. Unfortunately, the dinosaur defenders of the status quo have managed to blunt the original intention.

First, the officials in the Department for Education produced proposals, which, in my view, were too complicated and too bureaucratic. Of course, it is fair to point out that the officials in that same Department were also responsible for producing proposals in relation to the implementation of the national curriculum, which were too complicated and too bureaucratic. It is time that the officials in the Department learnt their lesson from that.

Secondly, the vice-chancellors and others in the House of Lords—

Mr. Patten

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Riddick

Yes, of course.

Mr. Patten

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. His is one of the best speeches that I have heard all evening. It is only Ministers who decide and only Ministers who are responsible. So, if my hon. Friend has strictures, his lash must be aimed at my back or at the back of my predecessors and not at my splendid officials at the Department for Education.

Mr. Riddick

I do not want to be one of those who is having a go at my right hon. Friend. I have—[Interruption.] I have a great deal of respect for him and I like him very much. I, for one, think that he is doing a jolly good job. [Laughter.] Perhaps improvements in the Bill concerning student unions could be made. None the less, I stand by what I have just said.

I was talking about dinosaur defenders. The vice-chancellors and others in the House of Lords who represent the vested interests of the higher education establishment did their best to deny their students more choice. From their ivory towers, they were unable to recognise the important principle of freedom of association that was being made available to students. I regret that the protection of vested interests has become more important in the House of Lords in recent years than the offering of expert advice and opinion.

The Bill, as amended, will in practice, I fear, change very little in the world of student unions, but at least it embodies the principle that students can choose whether they wish to belong to the student union. My understanding is that, with the Bill as it is drafted, those choosing not to join a student union will not be able to use the current facilities provided. Such students will not even have a proportion of fees paid on their behalf to the union returned to them. Making such a payment to individual students who opt out is something that should be considered by my right hon. and hon. Friends, and perhaps we could consider it in Committee.

Students who opt out are likely to do so because they do not wish the student union to campaign or make political statements on their behalf. They may, however, wish to use the bar or the cafeteria or the student welfare facilities. At the moment, they will not necessarily be able to do so. Therefore, I believe that the Bill needs to be amended so that all students, regardless of membership of the union, have access to the facilities. Indeed, we should be considering how we can strip away the political and campaigning activities of student unions so that those students who wish to be involved in such activities have to take a positive decision to join the appropriate body, separate from the student union, and use their own money, not taxpayers' money. Theoretically, of course, the charitable status of student unions means that they should not be involved in political activity. In practice, many student unions are involved. Therefore, the Bill should stress the responsibility of governing bodies to ensure that the charity laws are complied with in general and that political activity is not permitted in particular.

Mr. Don Foster

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what funds he believes that institutions of higher education should use to pay for their membership of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals?

Mr. Riddick

I am not quite sure of the relevance of that point. It is—[Interruption.] I suppose that it is typical that one hears an intervention which is of no interest—[Laughter.]—which contributes nothing to the debate.

Mr. Foster

It is of interest to this particular debate.

Mr. Riddick

It is of no interest to this particular debate.

Mr. Foster

It is of interest.

Mr. Riddick

No, it is of no interest to this particular debate, but then the Liberals—

Mr. Enright

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Riddick

No. As we know, the Liberals—

Mr. Enright

I want to help the hon Member.

Mr. Riddick

If the hon. Gentleman wants to help me, I shall give way to him.

Mr. Enright

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall try to speak in simple words. Does the hon. Gentleman consider that the position of the NUT and testing is more a part of the debate than he considered the subject on which the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has just asked him a question to be part of the debate?

Mr. Riddick

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may be interested to know that, in Yorkshire, there is a television programme that goes out on the BBC every Sunday afternoon called—I think—"North of Westminster". The hon. Gentleman was putting in his bid to get on that programme this Sunday. We all know that he is a hit of a smart Alec, but he is not being very smart in this case. I should have thought that he would recognise that I was making two very different points. At the beginning of my speech, I made reference to the point to which he has just referred, but the part of my speech that I am currently addressing relates to student unions. The hon. Member for Bath raised a completely separate issue, and I hope that the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) was able to understand that point.

We should be considering the possibility of establishing a student ombudsman. At the moment, when abuses occur, if charitable law is broken, concerned students have to go to the courts to put a stop to the abuse. It would be extremely useful for students to be able to appeal to an impartial individual who would not be in any way involved with the institution where abuses had occurred. We could set up a post for an individual along the lines of those of the commissioner for trade union rights. Alternatively, a more appropriate approach may be to ensure that an official in the Charity Commission is designated as responsible for student union issues.

I wish to make a point concerning external organisations. We need to consider the donations and commercial payments that some student unions make to outside organisations, because some of them are often disguised affiliations to or means of support for political or other organisations. The NUS is certainly the most obvious example of that. We should not forget that at the last election the NUS targeted 70 marginal seats with the clear intention of helping the Labour party. The NUS has announced its intention of becoming a charity. We have not heard much about that in recent months, and I look forward to hearing more about it. Indeed, I look forward to the day when the NUS is a charity.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Riddick

No. I shall bring my remarks to an end.

I am pleased that we shall have the opportunity of debating the Bill in Committee. I am sorry that it is not as it was when it was presented to the other place, but as it provides for voluntary membership of student unions, I am happy to support it.

7.19 pm
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

In some respects, I am happy to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick). Having read his biographical details, I understand that he was once a student at one of the universities at which I was a student. I do not know which department he was in at Warwick or what degree he obtained there, but it is clear that something bad happened to him there that left him with a festering discontent with higher education, the vice-chancellors and student unions—the whole lot. Something happened in the hon. Gentleman's past that led to his fetish about student unions.

The Secretary of State said in an intervention that the hon. Gentleman's speech was the best contribution that he had heard to the debate. Nevertheless, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will stand firm and support what has happened in the other place. The Bill is a compromise, and life is all about compromise. Progress is made only by compromise. I hope that we can all support the compromise that is before us. I think that most Conservative Members who have spoken would be of that opinion. The Secretary of State is right to take that view.

All teachers these days have been students. Some members of student unions go on to teach. Why do they bother to train to teach? The answer lies in the spirit of education. A child—we have not talked too much about children this afternoon—who is deprived of even an adequate education will not stand a chance of succeeding in life. That matters a great deal to everyone, irrespective of whether he or she is a parent.

We must ensure that teachers are trained. In turn, they must ensure that the children in their charge try hard at school. Teachers must make children work hard at school. It is crucial that children are pushed to the limit.

We are told in the Bill that its enactment will lead to no net cost. Whenever I read that statement in a Bill, I am suspicious. There is a draft Bill in my name on an unrelated matter that contains the same statement. There are gross costs around somewhere, and I am sure that they will be found when the Bill's provisions are implemented.

When it comes to education, there is no anti-tax mood among the British people, irrespective of the party to which they belong. Any party that sought to tap into such an anti-tax mood would be in for a nasty shock. I think that education is underfunded as a whole within the Government's expenditure programme. More resources should be put into it. Many take that view but, whether inside or outside the House, there is no unanimity when it comes to priorities.

My priorities would be smaller classes and increased pre-school provision before extra salaries for teachers, for trained teachers or better trained teachers. That is my personal view. I do not deny that higher salaries would lead to higher pupil achievement, but they would have to be tied to specific programmes and policies.

We must attract the best graduates into teaching, and no doubt higher salaries would have a part in that. So would staff development, a properly funded mentor teaching programme, properly funded bilingual teacher training, and improved maths and science teacher training. Such developments would all cost money, but they are all part of the overall programme.

We must acknowledge the importance of retaining experienced teachers in difficult or disadvantaged areas. There are good schools in such areas, but we would be naive not to realise that special help is needed to retain experienced staff and maintain a good level of specialist support in difficult schools in deprived areas. In other words, across-the-board pay increases would not do in a nation as diverse and unequal as ours in terms of education and social progress.

It is vital that we create a good schools programme for teachers. Unfortunately, the Bill will not take us to that. Having succeeded in getting his hand on the legislative lever this year, the Secretary of State could have embarked on that course. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) said, if the root of all evil in 1979 was perceived to be what had gone wrong with teachers in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, why are we only starting in 1994 to put things right? In that sense, the Bill is a missed opportunity.

My response would have been different if the Secretary of State had produced a good schools programme and said, "We shall have a learning guarantee and ensure that teachers are trained to deliver it. We shall ensure that all our schools improve their performance every year in a measurable way because our teachers will be better trained. Better training will ensure that every school improves its performance in a measurable way each year."

Having better trained teachers—intelligent people—would lead us to say that simplistic and inaccurate league tables are not the right approach. Instead, we would construct a system to measure the education distance travelled by pupils each year within a school. That is how the progress of a school should be measured.

I would have no compunction in arguing that the distance travelled in those terms could trigger extra cash for a school. That could be used as a trigger mechanism. I make no bones about that. I could not say to better trained teachers that we would continue with simplistic and inaccurate league tables.

Parents are extremely interested in these matters. Unlike national health service consultants' merit pay, a school's entire performance must be known to the entire community. It will get through to the Secretary of State one day that he has taken the wrong course. There is an alternative approach that could result in cross-party support and support from parents and teachers, and that means finding a way of measuring the distance travelled in education terms by pupils, and therefore by schools, over a year. People want the best for their community, for their school and above all, as individuals and families, the best for their children.

I see no problem in advancing the cause of fixed-term, well-paid contracts for some head teachers, or all heads. We should not rule out that approach in the search for policy progress. We must take education seriously, and search for the right motivators. I know that that may cause problems among some head teachers, but I would have no compunction about doing it. Ultimately, we rely on the head teachers to ensure that teachers perform.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley described so well, we rely on head teachers under the existing system. Judging by their existing input into teacher training, anyone would think that schools, heads and teachers were not involved in teacher training, but they are. It seems that the refusal of Ministers to admit that has led them to introduce this misguided Bill.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr. Robin Squire)

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is making an interesting speech and I do not want to interrupt his flow. I agree with him on the importance of measuring progress. I should like him to develop the issue a little further, although that means taking him back to where he was in his speech two minutes ago. Surely the only way that we can satisfactorily measure progress is by regular testing at appropriate ages. If we do not test, against what measurement and achievement can we measure the children—something that he and I agree that it is important to do?

Mr. Rooker

I do not want to be diverted from the main subject. The issue raised by the Minister is for another day, but I do not want to run away from it. There is no dissension between my hon. Friends and me, or between Opposition and Conservative Members, but Conservative Members have chosen the wrong test—a narrow test.

If we are to measure the distance that a child travels during the year or during his period at school, we must know where he originally started. We are not agreed on the way to do that. If we use only simple, narrow tests at one-off times, as under the Government arrangements, we shall not be able to measure the distance travelled by the child or the school. We can then look at output simply in terms of examinations, which pay no heed to the original state, which is crucial.

I represent a part of Birmingham that is setting a target under its excellent new chief education officer. Every school has to measure progress during the year; every school has to do better. We have not set a target for the whole city, as that would be ludicrous for a city of 400 schools—it would be bad in a city of only 40 schools. The target must be that every school must make progress every year, and woe betide it if it does not. There must be sanctions; there must be a genuine investment of resources to enable the schools to achieve that progress.

It comes down to the question how one measures the distance travelled. I am happy to debate that issue in greater detail with Ministers on another occasion. We shall see what happens in the city of Birmingham in the next 18 months.

Professor Wragg, who is involved in teacher training, will return with his commission to measure what has happened in Birmingham since he wrote and published his report last year. He has put the city, the new education committee, the new leader of the council and the new chief education officer on trial. He presented his report and said that he would return to check on it in two years time.

His checks will involve looking at what has happened in schools and how they have gone about raising the performance of not only pupils, but teachers—the two go hand in hand. We can never have a good schools programme if everything is driven from the centre by the Department for Education. That was probably where our difficulties began.

Mr. Butler

I hope to make a helpful intervention by taking the hon. Gentleman back to the issue of each school improving magnificently each year. That is fine, and I agree that we need to know, assess and improve the value-added element on each pupil every year. In the real world post-school, that pupil will have to be measured against other pupils who have emerged into the world. Ultimately, he must be measured against absolutes of achievement—what the hon. Gentleman describes as the output quota.

Mr. Rooker

At the end of school life—not educational life, as no one should ever opt out of education—on the other side of the barrier that we have assembled, when we cross from secondary to further or to higher education, there will be points of measurement. But yardsticks exist —whether in the form of GCSEs, A-levels, results from the Business and Technician Education Council or the record of achievement—against which all pupils are measured on a "level playing field", a phrase that I hate to use. Our task is to bring pupils to that level.

We stand a better chance of bringing all pupils nearer to the yardstick tests if we insist that every pupil is measured in terms of the distance they travel educationally, and demand that every school should improve every year. That would be better than the current wide system, under which we operate the carrot-and-stick approach, and nothing is measured at school. Such a system would be welcome, although not perfect. It would provide a better test for pupils than exists under the present arrangements.

The last thing we want is teacher training to be organised and controlled by schools. Hon. Members have mentioned vested interests. Progress in any walk of life can be obtained only by challenging vested interests. We all have vested interests, no matter what sector we work in. People do not like change. Therefore, we must be aware of vested interests, which sometimes stare us in the face and we still fail to recognise them. Good, sweet arguments are made as to why no change is necessary, everything is fine and people can manage as they are. I do not accept that argument, whether it be made in terms of housing, industry or education—

Mr. Pawsey

Trade unions?

Mr. Rooker

I do not accept that argument in relation to trade unions. Massive progress has been made in trade unions in recent years, because members have challenged vested interests in them.

Mr. Pawsey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rooker

I should not give way, because the hon. Gentleman intervened from a sedentary position, but I shall do so as he is such a decent, one-nation Tory who supports the Secretary of State.

Mr. Pawsey

I shall accept that, and any terms from the hon. Gentleman, because I can return the compliment. His integrity in the House is beyond all doubt. If he believes that the reform of the trade unions challenges vested interests, why did he not support the legislation introduced by my right hon. and hon. Friends challenging the vested interests of those unions?

Mr. Rooker

I am not going to be diverted, and I shall not be challenged on my ability to face up to vested interests in the House in any way, shape or form.

Vested interests must be challenged. The Department for Education has a vested interest in education. Local authorities have a vested interest. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has made clear on other occasions, nothing in those organisations commands the confidence and trust of those working in education or those interested in the subject.

We should check on the performance of the schools of education in our higher education institutions. For one moment earlier today, I thought that I was back in the mid-1970s, when I sat on the other side of the Chamber and listened to the then Shirley Williams talk about teacher training colleges. I do not know what a teacher training college is. Such colleges disappeared decades ago and do not exist in the form that hon. Members have described them.

When discussing education, it is dangerous for any hon. Member or policy former to use his own experience as a pupil or a teacher, in higher or further education, 20 or 30 years ago, to form policy today. I cannot impress firmly enough on hon. Members the danger of doing that. It causes major problems because things have changed so much. It is highly dangerous, and damages the system, if we make quick visits to institutions or schools and then say that they are not as good as they were, so we must devise a new policy.

We must be able to measure performance. There is a case for better performance checks in schools of education in the higher education institutions. By and large, Ministers have spent a good deal of their time denigrating teachers and educationists in the past few years. I know that there has been a slight amelioration of that today, but over a period more time has been spent denigrating educationists than applauding them. They are not the people to do it through the quango, because it will not command confidence. If there is scope for a standing commission or something for the advancement of education, it is certainly not the Department for Education.

My hon. Friends realise that all is not well in education as it is structured at present. It is not right that education is as highly centralised and in the grasp of Ministers as it is at present. I know that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench do not want the powers that the Secretary of State has taken unto himself recently, because it is not the way in which education should be run.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

The hon. Gentleman said that he does not believe in control from a distance. I suggest that, in a large number of schools, parents and governors are realising that the best way of running them is to do it themselves. That is why grant-maintained status has been so successful. The real problem is control by local education authorities, especially those run by the hon. Gentleman's party.

Mr. Rooker

I will not go down that road, because the idea that local education authorities are controlling schools is a fallacy. Schools control at least 85 per cent. of their own financial resources. I am aware of the inability of local education authorities to act in some areas. I wish that LEAs could act in some areas, but they say that they cannot do so because they do not have any control—it is down to the governors. Sometimes, governors are not fully seized of the responsibility that the House has thrust on them. A major change has taken place out there.

I speak as a member of a further education corporation —I have been so for more than 20 years. I am aware of the extra responsibilities that incorporation has placed on it. However, in terms of schools, governors are only just becoming aware of the great responsibility that they have for what happens in their schools. In some areas, that is making it difficult to find replacement governors; people realise that they cannot give the time and effort to their duties and responsibilities. It is not all plain sailing and sweetness and light, as the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) imagines.

If we are to take education seriously—I do not think that the Bill does—we must stop messing about with it. For example, if there is a superficially attractive case for hypothecated taxes for the national health service, there is an overwhelming case for a special tax for education, whether it be through income tax, value added tax or education bonds. The fact is that we must examine different ways of funding education, because education covers the whole gamut, whether it is teacher training, running schools or training teachers in higher education institutions.

We need all the levers possible to ensure value for money. However, we should spend and raise what is required to do the job, because as a nation we cannot afford not to. That means to say yes. As a nation, we must assess what is needed to do the job in education, whether it be pre-school education, school education, further education or higher education. We must then make the resources available to do the job. That does not mean that we are not interested in value for money—I am as interested in that as any other hon. Member.

I do not think that we as a generation have a right to restrict the educational advancement of a younger generation, but that is what we do by not making resources available. We have a moral duty to push that generation to work and study harder with the resources required to make it available. That includes teachers, trainee teachers and pupils of every age.

I shall finish by referring briefly to a point made earlier. —indeed, the Secretary of State made the point in an intervention—about adults turning from industry to teaching, which they had never done. I applaud that. It is not easy for people to make that transition. People enter the higher education system to train as teachers. While I do not want to go down the road in detail, I do not think that we fund higher education properly. It is extremely difficult for people to move over. People may move over, having reassessed their lives. It may not be a conscious decision to leave the boardroom or the shop floor one day and to enter education. It does not happen like that. People have a period of reflection which usually comes about when they have moved from one job to another or when they have lost a job.

People ask themselves whether they are doing the right thing. What do they want to do with the rest of their lives? What opportunities are available for them to make a contribution? How best can they use their previous experience to benefit themselves, their families and their communities? Such questions cause people to consider offering their experience to the world of education.

It is extremely difficult for people who have become unemployed and who are highly motivated to enter the world of education, simply because the way in which higher education is structured means that there are unfair distinctions between full-time and part-time. That distinction should be abolished. It would enable us to have a decent funding system, and it would enable more people to train to become teachers on a part-time or modular basis, rather than having to go the whole hog into a full-time position. Probably for the first time in their lives, they are applying for a mandatory grant, and they then find that they may lose free school meals for their children, housing benefits and all the other things that would keep them going while they are undertaking teacher training.

Our present system does not allow for lifelong learning involvement or continuity in education. Recently, there has been a phenomenal expansion, which cannot be denied. I only wish that more people knew about it, because they would then ask serious, intelligent questions about funding, instead of resorting to one-liners about restoring grants or abolishing loans, which means either billions of pounds of public expenditure or a massive cut in existing student numbers. That is the consequence of such one-liners.

Students should be decently funded. If Madam Speaker had selected my reasoned amendment—I make no criticism about that; in some ways, I would have been horrified if she had selected it—we could have raised some of the issues that I raised in it.

Some of today's students, some of whom are training to be teachers, are queuing up for their refectory meals or collecting one meal and three plates to divide it by three because there is not enough money to go round. In some colleges, lecturers are sharing their lunch boxes with students, because the students do not have enough money to buy food to eat during the week.

By and large, they are not the ones who may be getting the full grant and taking out the full loan; it is those who may not be getting the extra contributions that they should get from their parents, or it is the part-timers who are not being properly funded and assisted by the system. There is no problem with students putting something back into the kitty when they are doing well later, but it is certainly not possible under the present unfair system.

It is sad that we have not got it right. We know that Ministers will claim that we have the best-funded student support system anywhere in Europe.

Mr. Patten


Mr. Rooker

I am not denying that, when one looks at the global figure. But if it is so good, why do we have abject student poverty in pockets in every college and university in the country? At the same time, we are making money available, frankly, to those who do not need it. I pointed that out in my reasoned amendment, and I do not wish to go into that in further detail.

Generally, education and social policies are synonymous with social justice. I do not think that we have social justice in education in Britain, either for trainee teachers or for anyone else, and the Bill will not bring it about. If the Secretary of State had come forward with a programme based on a good schools programme with equity funding, he would have found a great deal of support across the House. He would probably have been astonished by the areas in which he found support. I am sad that he has not taken the opportunity to do that. I am gratified that he accepted the compromise reached in the House of Lords on part II.

I was the first to respond to the Secretary of State's original statement on 1 July last year. He told me that I put the "R" back into "rant" when I pointed out that his programme and proposals for student unions would not work. If it was worth a rant, it worked, and for that I am grateful.

7.49 pm
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

May I at once declare an interest as an adviser to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers?

I reassure the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) that to the best of my knowledge none of my right hon. or hon. Friends has ever attacked or denigrated teachers. They have gone out of their way on numerous occasions, all of which are on the record in Hansard, to applaud teachers and to thank them for their excellent work with the nation's children. Unlike the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), I served on the Committee examining the education Bill to which she referred and I well recall the tone and language of Opposition Members in opposing some of our measures, which included the national curriculum and OFSTED.

Mr. Win Griffiths

We supported the principle of the national curriculum and the principle of local management of schools, which many Labour authorities pioneered. We wanted a better inspection system and we said that the way in which the Government introduced those measures was wrong and that they were ahead of the pilot schemes. The whole of the Dearing review shows how much we were right and how much the Secretary of State was wrong.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman confirms that what I said was right. He says that the Government were wrong. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues opposed the Bill in Committee.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury failed to answer the question about the cost of nursery schools. I appreciate that I may be intruding on private grief but it would be helpful if the hon. Lady could bring herself to say that it will cost £500 million or £800 million or whatever the figure is. She must have some idea, and if she wishes to intervene I shall willingly give way.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I can tell the hon. Gentleman how much nursery education will cost if he can tell me how much progress Tory councils will make. How is it that Labour councils can manage to afford nursery places for 40 per cent. of their three and four-year-olds while Tory councils manage to find places for only 13 per cent.? If the Government made that a priority, they could find resources. I wrote to the Secretary of State some time ago about surplus places, requesting that before any such places were identified and taken out of the system the scope for developing nursery education in those areas should be examined. The Secretary of State has not even had the courtesy to reply.

Mr. Pawsey

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is able to say that in his view the cost of introducing universal nursery education would be about £800 million. If he can put a figure on it, why cannot the hon. Lady?

Mrs. Taylor

It is because the Secretary of State has made many assumptions. I could assume that local authorities have sufficient money to fund nursery places at the Labour average rate. I cannot understand why Tory councils fail to make the provision that Labour councils are making.

Mr. Pawsey

I understand the hon. Lady's clear reluctance to put a figure on it. I suspect that she has been hauled over the coals by her hon. Friends, who have successfully gagged her. Perhaps I could draw her on another matter. The hon. Lady opposes grant-maintained schools, grammar schools, the independent sector and city technology colleges. Do Her Majesty's principal Opposition have any discernible policy in education?

Mrs. Taylor

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will eventually get to the Bill. Before he does, perhaps I may recommend Labour's Green Paper on education, "Opening Doors to a Learning Society," and suggest that our objective that the education of everyone really matters must be the way forward. I remind the hon. Gentleman that before Christmas the Prime Minister said that 15 per cent. of our children get an education that is as good as anywhere in the world. He went on to say that unfortunately the rest do not. Giving a decent education to 15 per cent. is inadequate. Britain has no future as a low-skill, low-wage economy, but that is the direction in which the Government are taking us. When more children passed examinations, as happened a couple of years ago with the GCSE, the Secretary of State complained that too many were passing —what an indictment that is.

Mr. Pawsey

We have still not had a detailed exposition of what the Opposition would do if they came to office. My concern is shared by The Independent, which stated:

Mrs. Taylor has offered two bundles of rehashed reflection liberally laced with out of date waffle. Her papers are so palely green they are virtually translucent. Mrs. Taylor should be fired. I welcome the Bill and I welcome the Secretary of State's remark that this is the last piece in the education jigsaw. I share that view. A missing piece distorts and spoils the picture, but we can now visualise the scene when the jigsaw is complete. The Bill is the final step that is needed to transform education in British schools.

I shall confine my speech to one aspect of the Bill—part I on teacher training. My concentration on part I should not be taken as a sign that I am disenchanted or in disagreement with part II. It is simply that I wish to concentrate on teaching and schools. As my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) said, many hon. Members wish to speak about part II, which deals specifically with student unions.

The Government's stated intention is to raise the standards of education for every child, and that prize is well within our grasp. For a long time I have believed that our nation has an almost infinite capacity to denigrate our institutions and achievements. That point was recently made by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. We concentrate on the defects and seldom seem to lift our eyes to our general and genuine national achievements. The Government's education reforms, which started principally in 1988, are at last beginning to bear fruit. The national curriculum and testing are increasingly accepted as a means of improving the quality and standard of state education by which the majority of the nation's children are educated.

OFSTED is doing much to improve the nation's schools. So far, it has produced reports on more than 350 schools and, additionally, has undertaken more than 3,000 inspection visits. I was disappointed to hear the Secretary of State refer to what was taking place in East Anglia, where it appears that OFSTED is still being fought by the Liberals. I was dismayed because it shows that the Liberals have failed to grasp what OFSTED is about. The justification for OFSTED can be found in its substantial contribution, through those inspections, to raising standards. OFSTED is another of the Government's success stories. It is worth remembering that it was yet another reforming measure that was opposed by the short-sighted Opposition. On its introduction, it was derided by Labour and Liberal spokesmen. We were then told that it would be the end of education as we knew it.

OFSTED has a particular relevance to the Bill and it would be helpful if I quote Professor Sutherland: I was struck by the consistency with which inspections show how close, at all stages of education, is the statistical relationship between the standards and quality of learning, on the one hand, and the quality of teaching on the other". Here, then, is the justification for the Bill, which in part I sets out the method by which teacher training will be improved.

The Bill will ensure that student teachers spend more time in schools learning from good practising teachers, and that teachers will be able to play a major part in designing the courses to be followed by the student.

The training for primary teachers will include more time on maths, English and science, with greater emphasis on the basic skills of reading and arithmetic. The Bill will set up a new Teacher Training Agency, and I am delighted to have the support of my hon. Friend for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson). Although I was not surprised, as I know of his interest in these matters, it is always good to hear him speaking in support. The Bill will set up a new Teacher Training Agency which will bring together the various training strands, to the benefit of school children generally.

Currently, the situation is complex because those involved with teacher training include the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the Department for Education, and the teaching as a career unit. The Bill enables a new and independent body to be established, dedicated to teacher training. The importance of teacher training can scarcely be overstated. I was interested but not particularly surprised that, according to the Campaign for Real Education: Teacher training institutions are the engine rooms of progressive education. I suspect that not many Conservative Members would disagree with that description, but the campaign is not alone in its view.

The point was particularly well underlined by the leading article in The Sunday Times on 10 April this year. It referred to the National Union of Teachers conference in Scarborough: A procession of militants trooped to the rostrum to proclaim the enduring validity of all the loony-left nostrums from the 1960s and 1970s that have done so much to condemn huge chunks of a generation to illiteracy and falling numeracy. It continued: Their main concern was to oppose the regular testing of pupils and the compilation of league tables based on such tests". It went on to refer to grant-maintained schools and said that they were bringing in higher standards by opting out of the often dead hand of local authority control". That is one answer to the hon. Member for Perry Barr. So frequently the local education authority is a dead hand.

The leader went on—I am not in total agreement with all this: The barbarians are no longer at the gate; they are inside our classrooms. The Bill will certainly help to reduce the number of barbarians and should make life easier for the ordinary teachers who form the strong and splendid backbone of the teacher force in the United Kingdom.

As I said earlier, the Bill completes the schools picture. It builds on what has gone before—the national curriculum and tests, local management of schools and grant-maintained schools. It consolidates OFSTED and emphasises the need for performance tables. Anyone who doubts that a success story in education is now emerging need only look for proof to advanced education, where student numbers have increased to well over 1 million.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's last phrase and I thank him for giving way. Is he aware that, in terms of graduate applicants to teacher training courses this year as compared with last year, there has been a 40 per cent. drop in physics graduates, a 23 per cent. drop in mathematics graduates and also falls in the numbers of other graduates—a significant percentage in chemistry and a smaller percentage in biology? There is an enormous shortfall in applications from science graduates in comparison with last year. If the hon. Gentleman is so convinced that this is the last piece of the jigsaw, can he explain why, with all the other pieces in place, there is such a drop at the present time, and how he thinks that the Bill—which I consider irrelevant—will have anything to do with getting the numbers that we need to teach science effectively in our schools?

Mr. Pawsey

I recognise the sincerity with which the hon. Gentleman speaks. Perhaps he will agree with me that science graduates are not coming forward because of the greater employment opportunities that now exist. Unemployment is falling, thank God, and as it falls there is greater competition for the well-trained science graduates to whom the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Gunnell

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that we can attract science graduates only when there is nothing else for them to do, is that not an indictment of the opportunities in teaching that we are offering if we cannot compete with the outside world?

Mr. Pawsey

Let me give the hon. Gentleman an alternative view. If I were a science graduate and I saw what was taking place at Scarborough when the NUT was at the rostrum with the remarkable procession of teachers repeatedly attacking their own profession and what it seeks to do, I wonder whether I would choose to join their ranks. That, I suspect, is the real and direct answer to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

As a science graduate, I am sure that my hon. Friend will be pleased for me to support his argument. If we take measures to improve the professional status of teachers, as the Bill is designed to do, it will surely attract science graduates into the teaching profession, so the point is irrelevant to the Bill.

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend speaks with his usual knowledge and wisdom. When we came to office in 1979, only one in eight of the target group was in advanced education; the figure is now one in three. That confirms at least two things: first, the additional funding has been made available to advanced education; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there is a growing number of young people sufficiently well educated in the nation's mainstream schools to take advantage of the new opportunities which now exist in our universities.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his predecessors, but particularly my right hon. Friend, can take pride in the Government's achievements, which are often denigrated by Opposition Members for nothing more than cheap political advantage. The Bill will do much to ensure that students have a much better grasp of what takes place within the classroom, with less time being spent on theory and more on the practicalities of teaching and the imparting of knowledge.

Recently Peter Smith, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, drew attention to the professionalism of teachers, and he was right to do so. I have said many times in the House over a considerable number of years that in my view the overwhelming majority of the nation's teachers are dedicated both to their profession and to the children in their charge. The Bill will ensure that those dedicated teachers will be able to impart their own hard-won skills and knowledge to newcomers.

I must emphasise that neither the Government nor the new Teacher Training Agency will force schools to accept additional responsibilities. It will be purely a voluntary step. I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman).

Mr. Colin Pickthall (Lancashire, West)

If the hon. Gentleman is so convinced that the measures proposed in the Bill will do exactly what he envisages, how does he reconcile that with the voluntary principle that he is now praising so highly?

Mr. Pawsey

I reconcile it in the same way as I reconcile the voluntary principle for grant-maintained schools. Both are equally good. I look forward to schools taking up the challenge posed by the Bill, as I am sure that they will, in just the same way as I look forward to more and more schools receiving grant-maintained status.

The Bill emphasises the importance of the teacher and the school. The Government have already acknowledged those two factors by substantially increasing average teachers' pay by some 46 per cent. in real terms, since 1979. The Government have acknowledged the importance of the school by increasing spending per pupil by some 47 per cent., again in real terms since 1979. The Government have made the funds available, but the extra funding has not been reflected in an equivalent increase in standards —hence the Bill and the emphasis that it places on the good training of teachers. I stress that the Government have not hestitated to make money available for education. Significantly, overall spending on education has risen by 50 per cent. since 1979.

Mr. Dunn

Hear, hear.

Mr. Pawsey

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his support. He is a man well known for his expertise in education.

Earlier, I referred to the new Teacher Training Agency and I found clause 13 to be of particular significance. Clearly, it will not be an unlucky number. It will give the new agency a statutory role in the accreditation of institutions. A new agency will ensure that those providing teacher training will be able to deliver quality courses, and all courses will be subject to inspection by OFSTED. Needless to say, the new agency will be able to withdraw accreditation if an institution fails to produce a course of sufficient quality.

Mr. Hawkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that that is precisely the importance of the measure in the eyes of parents and governors? My hon. Friend will be aware that having campaigned for about 15 years for the reform of teacher training, long before I came to the House, I particularly welcome this part of the Bill. It is essential that parents and governors be given the confidence that teachers will be trained properly and that failing institutions will be disqualified from training teachers.

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend makes a formidable point and he is right to do so.

It is worth while restating the fact that higher education will continue to provide teacher training and that teacher training will remain part of higher education, but the schools will rightly have a much greater part to play. One of the things that I find genuinely surprising is that in the past the very schools where teachers work have not been properly involved in the training of teachers. Clause 4 ensures that initial training will continue and enables funds to be made available to support in-service training. The agency will be able to fund existing schemes for licensed and overseas-trained teachers.

Earlier, I referred to the NUT. The House will be interested in a recent article in The Daily Telegraph which said: The NUT claims to oppose the national curriculum tests be cause they are 'educationally flawed'. This is rich coming from a union whose madly anti-learning philosophy has softened the brains of a generation. One 'flaw"'— according to the NUT—

is that the tests focus on real skills and real knowledge—in the case of English, for example, on comprehension, spelling and grammar…They see literacy as a tool of oppression and prefer to focus (in the words of Labour spokeswoman Ann Taylor) 'on how relationships develop in a school'. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dewsbury is not in her place, but I remind her of a piece written by David Woodhead, the Independent Schools Information Service's national director, which, interestingly, was headed, "Taylor-made to depress." It said: Mrs. Taylor gives an impression of impatience with the concept of parental choice. The consequence of this for the state and independent sectors if she became Education Secretary would be serious. I put it to my hon. Friends that that is an understatement.

I come now to a point made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State during the course of his remarks—

Mr. Dunn

I apologise for not being here to listen to all my hon. Friend's speech, but given his knowledge of both Conservative and Opposition education policy, does he think that the Opposition parties have learnt anything about education in the 15 years that we have been in the House? Or are they still committed to neighbourhood comprehensive schools, social engineering, NUT policies and all the things that we came into Government to stop?

Mr. Pawsey

Sadly, I have naught for my hon. Friend's reassurance. As I understand the Labour party's policy, inasmuch as it has one, it seems to have learnt nothing. [Interruption.] Yes, as my hon. Friend says from a sedentary position, it would continue with its policy of abolishing the grammar schools.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)


Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend refers to Opposition Members as Bourbons, and he is right. [Interruption.] No, not the biscuits—the other kind.

I want teachers to reoccupy the place that they formerly held in a society in which they were once regarded in similar fashion to doctors. During the past 20 years, the profession has suffered a dramatic loss of public esteem. The teacher unions, especially the NUT, must accept their fair share of responsibility for the way in which the classroom teacher is now all too often regarded.

Mr. Hawkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that the main difficulty has been that many of the unions, and the NUT in particular in this area, have pretended to be industrial, smokestack industry unions, which in itself has been damaging to the reputation of good teachers? The militant unions, especially the NUT, have dragged down the image of teachers. They have done the biggest disservice to education. Only when teachers stop playing at being militant trade unionists will they recover their respect.

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend's point is a further answer to the hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell).

The Bill improves teacher training, which in turn enhances the stature of the individual teacher. It will increase the esteem in which teachers are held. It helps to restore a true professionalism to what at times has been a desperately beleaguered group. I commend the Bill to the House.

8.17 pm
Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

I apologise for being absent for part of the debate, and I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for nevertheless giving me the opportunity to speak.

I declare an interest. I am an adviser to the NUT and to UCAC, the National Union of Teachers of Wales—"national" meaning something different in both those titles.

In discussing part I, I want to open on a positive note. During the past week I have spoken at some length to various people interested or involved in the kind of pilot partnership training schemes that have flowed from circular 9/92 and, in Wales, circular 35/92. I talked with two union officials, a headmaster, more than one member of staff at a university education department and the head of English at a comprehensive school. I emphasise that they all spoke positively about the principle of partnership and school-based training. I was most impressed by the enthusiasm that they showed for the active involvement of practising teachers in the training process. It is recognised that that is an entirely new approach and that something fresh is happening—that schools and teachers are sharing the training process so that it is not left entirely to university staff, with schools simply providing them with facilities. Something new, valid and important is happening.

There is recognition also of the enormous gain for students in being closely involved in the life of a teaching department and of a school. In the model that I examined, that involvement lasts 24 and one half weeks out of the total of 36 weeks for the school year. The teacher to whom I spoke told me of the satisfaction and stimulus that she derives from that involvement with students, who become part of an academic as well as a training process.

The same teacher told me also that she is beginning to feel exploited. She spoke of the extra burden of work imposed, which meant that she and her colleagues must seriously reconsider whether to continue the partnership, and she said in effect that that would be conditional on her and her colleagues being given extra time as teachers or extra money.

The burden is considerable. The responsibilities of that teacher, who is a general mentor, are defined so as to ensure that the students' school experience is broad, coherent and relevant; lead the team of subject mentors and co-ordinate work across subject areas to achieve that; introduce students to the school; assign students to shadow form teachers, to gain classroom experience; arrange for students to pay weekly visits to feeder primary schools; liaise with tutors from the department; meet students weekly for a training session focusing on different areas of competence; provide support, professional guidance and counselling to students; and assess and discuss progress and help to set goals. There is more to it than that. I could read a similar list of responsibilities in respect of subject mentors.

The House does not need to be reminded that teachers are already overworked. That is having a significant negative effect on their morale, imposes strain and in some cases breakdowns, and causes people to leave the profession. That is the result of an overburdened national curriculum, the process of continuous assessment, recording achievement and so on—and constant changes in school curriculums.

For that burden of extra work, that general mentor is allowed two additional free lessons, as we used to call them —two additional protected times. No wonder she spent most of her May day holiday at school, in preparation—as she does for much of her so-called holidays. Being a rather hard-boiled old nut who spent some years in the teaching profession, I find it astonishing that teachers are willing to participate in all that. If somebody had asked me four years ago to undertake that work in addition to my existing responsibilities as a head of English, I would have shown them the door. I might have felt guilty, and perhaps I would have telephoned the university education department to say that I would, after all, participate.

It is a tribute to the commitment and professionalism of teachers that they are prepared, as are so many schools, to take on that extra burden and to extol the virtues of the new system to me—but at the same time they say that they are seriously overburdened. Theirs is a labour of love, no less.

One senior member of the university department to whom I spoke explained that the partnership system is surviving because of the tremendous reserve of good will in terms of the dedication of teachers and their desire to be part of the process of helping a new generation of educators. That is why the system works for now. But the same person told me that the system would not be sustainable in the long term. That bold statement perfectly mirrors the comments of the school teacher—that staff will not continue unless additional resources are provided for extra time.

Accordingly, the university concerned agreed to increase the sum delegated to schools from £600 per student to £900 for the next year. At the same time, the transitional funding provided for the university education department is coming to an end, with the loss of £120,000 per year. As a result, the department is running the teacher-training course in deficit—it is not paying its way. It is subsidised by other aspects of the department's work, such as degrees and postgraduate work. Teacher training constitutes one third of the full-time equivalents in that particular education department.

It may be thought that, if more work and funding are delegated to schools, less work will have to be done by universities, so that there will be a transfer of responsibilities, functions and funds. It does not work like that. The new model of teacher training, which has much merit, is a much more intensive process than used to be the case. It requires extra input from the school and university —not from one rather than the other, but from both. That corresponds with the teacher's comments.

Mr. Gunnell

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the financial deficit that he described is common to a large number of higher education institutions because their transitional funding has decreased while they have to pay money to schools? Does he agree also that, because schools are not coming forward in sufficient numbers, an inherently and fundamentally unstable situation is being created that will cause the initiative's eventual demise?

Mr. Dafis

I was making exactly that point, but would prefer not to have to make it. The policy is unsustainable. The Government should have learned some lessons about unsustainable initiatives from the national curriculum. The same will be true of the new system.

The teacher to whom I spoke confirmed the need for the university to maintain at least its current level of activity, rather than reduce it. She wanted more input from the university, not less. She referred me to the value of the theoretical and academic expertise that the university can provide—the theoretical backing to her work at a practical level in the school. That contradicts the dismissive and philistine comments of Conservative Members about trendy theorists and eggheads.

Everything indicates that the initiative is underfunded and under-resourced. Leaving that aside for the moment, given proper resourcing, and if mentors were provided with substantial extra time to perform the extra work, we would have a useful model for teacher education. It has a sensible division of responsibilities between school and higher education institutions, and it is being created as a result of the combined expertise and enthusiasm of school and university staff in partnership. The word to emphasise is "partnership". The model has the particular advantage of creating a close, interactive relationship between academics, who are important people, and practising teachers, bringing developments in theory and innovative ideas to schools from the universities and feeding back the day-to-day realities of teaching and learning to the universities. That, in turn, would have a significant potential effect on the quality and direction of research.

Our concern should be how to make that fundamentally, good model sustainable in the long term; it is manifestly not so at present. It is currently, and will continue to be, increasingly difficult to get schools to participate. That should occupy our attention, as it does the schools and university in Dyfed. They are looking carefully at the quality of the work that is being done and are conducting seminars and conferences in doing so. Instead, the Government have what I can describe only as a hare-brained scheme to make schools into lead institutions.

As I understand it, higher education institutions would be nothing more than contractors offering services to schools—in the market, of course—and have no more security or ability to plan for the future, no more ability to think long term in terms of innovation, research programmes and so on, than the market alone ever affords. This is part of a syndrome that people everywhere are worried about in relation to institutions of higher education and research generally.

It is clear to me that the hidden agenda is to water down the intellectual, theoretical and educational content of teacher training. It is no accident that words such as theoretical and intellectual are being rubbished tonight. That is a disturbing tendency, and that kind of language and vocabulary is far too familiar from right-wing Governments and political movements. In effect, we are seeing a move towards the return of the pupil-teacher. My mother was an uncertificated pupil-teacher. I am sure that she was excellent, and if she were alive today she would be doing a degree, following a proper course in teacher training, and would be a far better teacher than she was in those days.

All of this is utterly unacceptable in Wales. Surveys conducted in Gwynedd and Dyfed—in Gwynedd by Bangor normal college—have shown overwhelming opposition to the idea of school-led training among headmasters and headmistresses of schools. The enormous contribution of higher education institutions and the development of educational practice in Wales is well recognised. I could speak at length on my experience of the value of a theoretical approach, for example, to linguistics as backing for the way in which language is taught in schools, and the linkage of teaching language and using language to teach and learn. A whole area has sprung from a theoretical base in the work of people such as Douglas Barnes and shows perfectly how valuable and practically important a good, theoretical basis is for pedagogy, for proper teaching.

In Wales, we wish to see continuation of the integration of academic and theoretical study, research and training for the practice of teaching. Let us have no misunderstanding that we wish to see accreditation remain a function of higher education institutions. We wish to see partnership develop and grow. I trust that the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales will hear that message loud and clear. I hope that it will not see it as part of its business. One needs to understand that, praise the Lord, we will not have an independent and separate funding council in Wales. The Higher Education Funding Council will take charge, and I trust that it will not see the promotion of the idea of schools as the lead institutions for training as part of its functions, although the Government intend to give it that power.

I hope that the writ of the Teacher Training Agency will not run in Wales. I ask for confirmation of that, and refer to clause 17, which says that the Secretary of State will be able to provide for the transfer to the Teacher Training Agency of the property, rights and liabilities … of the Teaching as a Career Unit. What will happen to the Wales office of the teaching career unit? It has done good work and I hope that it will not come under the aegis of the TTA, which we very much wish to see as an English institution. I would like to see the Bill amended to make it quite clear that it will not—[Interruption.] I can only offer my deepest sympathy to all those who will have to suffer the effects of the existence of such a body.

Clause 16(2) provides: The Secretary of State may by order confer or impose on the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales such functions supplementary to their functions as a funding agency as he thinks fit. All I want to know is which Secretary of State that is. Is it the Secretary of State for Education or the Secretary of State for Wales? It should be the latter, and I trust that even the existing Secretary of State for Wales will not wish to impose functions that are foreign to what we want to see in Wales.

We are fortunate in Wales that the reality of Welsh nationhood and distinctness offers us some protection from the worst potential effects of the Bill. I welcome the intention, stated in the consultation document last September, to introduce different arrangements for certain aspects of teacher training in Wales. In Wales, what we need is not the inadequate protection of administrative devolution. Although that offers a degree of protection, as is the case here, we need more than that. We need the power through the democratic process in Wales to take our own initiatives, to carry through our own reforms, based on the principles that are dear to us of co-operation and partnership, and the sensible idea of pragmatism at the same time. I hope that it will not be too long before we can start that process.

8.37 pm
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

The debate has been extremely enlightening, because it seems that we have heard from the Opposition an endless stream of destructive dogma. I wonder whether they are seeking to skate over endless reasons why there cannot be a teachers training agency. When I look, for instance, at my notes of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) I see that she said that the Bill is not constructive or purposeful; that it is a waste of time; that it is a tatty Bill. Can those really be the remarks of a serious spokesperson on education who genuinely cares about the children in our schools? Perhaps she is trying to cover up the serious flaws of the Labour party and its record on education. For instance, I remind her that the worst 10 A-level results in 1993 were returned largely by Labour-controlled local education authorities. The only exception was Tower Hamlets. I remind her that the most damning indictment of Labour's local education policies is, perhaps, the high percentage of children in Labour areas who leave school with no examination passes at all.

Mr. Enright

Would the hon. Lady care to cite the figures for the correlation between poverty and backwardness, while she is at it?

Lady Olga Maitland

I am talking about education standards in schools. Let me list the worst 10: Rochdale, Lambeth, Manchester, Islington, Liverpool, Haringey, Tower Hamlets—again—Salford, Birmingham and Southwark.

Mr. Gunnell

The hon. Lady is clearly concerned about standards in schools; she clearly believes that the Bill will help. Why is it better to impose a great deal of student teaching, rather than professional teaching, on schools? The Bill proposes to increase the number of classes taught by people who are learning the job. Can you explain how that will help children?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that I am not answering the questions.

Lady Olga Maitland

I will deal with the hon. Gentleman's remarks in due course. Let me say straight away that the whole purpose of enabling teachers to learn the job in schools is to allow them to learn from the experienced teachers who are already there, and to gain expertise in the task first hand.

We have heard many disparaging remarks about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I can only say that I regard his tenure as an enormous success: he has produced many considerable achievements, and the Bill is another step along the road. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Do any of the hon. Members who are interrupting hope to catch my eye?

Lady Olga Maitland

The Bill may well be scorned by Opposition Members, but it will be enormously welcome to parents who want their children to benefit from the very best teacher training that is available.

Mr. Pickthall

If the hon. Lady is so sure that the majority of parents will welcome the Bill, will she tell us why the Department has published no evidence of parents' opinions?

Lady Olga Maitland

We are still trying to collate evidence from the pilot schemes, but the evidence that we have obtained so far is extremely encouraging; otherwise, we would not have acted as we have.

I welcome the Bill, because it fulfils a real need. Some 12 years ago, I launched my pro-NATO organisation Families for Defence. It was not directly related to education—save for the fact that I received evidence from school children about the pressures of heavy political indoctrination and bias imposed on them by teachers who had just left teacher training colleges. They were clearly interested not in education, but in manipulating young children. A paper to which I contributed—"Peace Studies in our Schools—Propaganda for Defencelessness", written by Dr. John Marks—revealed the depth of this serious problem.

I found it particularly sad that the teachers who were undermining our young people were also undermining the dedicated work of good teachers who found it difficult to stand their ground. I pay tribute to the majority of teachers —decent-minded people who care only for the children. They care not a jot how many hours they must work; they do not watch the clock; they serve only to provide for future generations. They, however, have been undermined by weak, out-of-date, misguided teachers who have come up through the system and are a long way from what I would describe as traditional standards in teaching—what we would associate with "Mr. Chalky".

We must beware of the political mischief that can go on. We should look at the source from which teachers come, and ensure that we provide them with the training which has breadth, diversity and flexibility that will give them a chance to develop their talents unhindered by the dogma that has imbued teacher training colleges up and down the country. The time has come for us to focus on children's needs, and their right to learn unfettered by other issues. The teacher—the person in whom a child puts his faith and trust—will be the vehicle for that child's future, and it is therefore important to look seriously at how teachers are trained.

There should be rigour in the classroom; we should concentrate on the national curriculum. I am delighted that even Labour now admits that the core curriculum has enormously benefited young children, having opposed it bitterly in the past.

The fact is that all professions work within accepted boundaries, whether the profession involved happens to be medicine, law or, indeed, teaching. In setting out the boundaries for education, we should be quite clear about what we expect from our teachers. We expect rigour, and concentration on the basic skills that children need for the future—the ability to read smoothly and fluently at the right age, comprehending what they are reading; the ability to write correctly and fluently; the ability to spell; and the ability to punctuate their written work correctly. Unless teachers focus on those important skills, they will have under-served their pupils when they go out into the world of work.

During last year's rows about teacher tests, I was saddened by my encounters with a number of English teachers who said that they did not approve of such tests. Spelling tests, they said, destroyed a child's love of literature. What nonsense! It is time for teachers to set standards, and I believe that they will do so much more readily and easily if they can develop their skills unfettered by what I would describe as the political masters in teacher training colleges.

Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

Can the hon. Lady identify one of the teacher training colleges where all these awful things are happening? Let me offer a simpler challenge: can she identify a teacher training college?

Lady Olga Maitland

I shall give examples a little later.

We must look seriously at the crazy world of teacher training. Far too much time has been devoted to education theory; we must examine what is actually happening. Teachers coming out of training colleges tend to focus on racism, sexism and gender politics. What has that to do with children learning? The HMI report published on 7 December 1993 was scathing about the standard of teaching, revealing that in urban schools 40 per cent. of lessons were judged unsatisfactory and that, in some schools, two thirds were found to be poor or unsatisfactory. We cannot be complacent about that. The inspectors were highly critical of the low expectations that teachers had of children; overall, nearly 30 per cent. of lessons in primary schools were found to be unsatisfactory.

Mr. Jamieson

There is a slight inconsistency in the hon. Lady's argument. She says that teachers are inadequate, yet the Bill hands over instruction of new teachers to those very people.

Lady Olga Maitland

The schools in which teachers will train will not be the inadequate ones. We should, however, bear in mind that some teachers are performing poorly, and look at how they came to be trained. We should note, for instance, that In the worst schools the inspectors criticised … the inadequate knowledge the teachers of older primary children had of their subject areas; the unacceptably low standard of work; the fact that many children were engaged in mundane tasks such as copying and colouring; the poor punctuality, persistent bad behaviour of pupils, unfinished homework, and the slow pace of lessons". We have so much to work on.

Mr. O'Hara

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. As the hon. Lady is referring to the HMI report, is she also aware that in paragraphs 110 to 112 of that report the inspectors are extremely complimentary about the quality of preparation of teachers in the departments? About 90 per cent. of courses are at least satisfactory. In the same paragraphs, they are critical of the support which is offered to these teachers from the schools during initial training and during induction. Yet the hon. Lady is proposing that the training responsibility be taken from the colleges and given to the schools. Where is the consistency in that?

Lady Olga Maitland

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks, but I will continue. He asked me earlier to give some examples of poor teacher training. I refer him to the South Bank university—or, as it used to be known, the South Bank polytechnic. The HMI inspectors, commenting on the university's two-year degree for mature students from ethnic minority backgrounds, said: The quality of the students' writing is a cause for concern. Apart from the work of a few fluent writers, assignments display persistent formal problems—particularly with articles, suffixes, paragraphs and spelling … One student has such chronic difficulty with tense and number that she would make a poor model for pupils. That is simply looking at the way that students are performing, without taking into account the fact that in many other colleges, which I could draw to the attention of hon. Members, political dogma gets in the way of real learning.

At the University of Brighton—or Brighton polytechnic, as it was known—on the first day of a course a student teacher was told that competition in sport was elitist and that the words "first", "second" and "third" should not be used to rank children. The students were told to use words such as "beetroot" and "turnip" instead.

The student pointed out that he had marks deducted for using the word "his" when talking about an imaginary teacher in a presentation. The student was also told that using a word such as "caveman" instead of "cave person" would result in failure in the final examination. Finally —this is perhaps the most worrying point—the student was told that spelling and grammar were of secondary importance. These are the many reasons why we have to concentrate on building the base of teacher training.

The Institute of Education in London does not encourage rote learning of mathematics tables, for instance. It prefers children to learn through games. A course at the College of Education in Scotland was explained by a student who said: The course … had turned out to be largely Left-wing sociology overlaid with Politically Correct discipline. These kinds of attitude are not helpful in preparing children for life.

Ms Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Does it not occur to the hon. Lady that the Institute of Education may be right and that children can learn spelling and tables very well through games—in fact, it may be a better way of learning than boring them to tears with learning by rote?

Lady Olga Maitland

Over and over again, it has been found that learning by rote is an essential discipline for children through their school careers. There is no soft option in learning; it is very unfair to lead children to believe that they can somehow skate through their school careers without any pain. There is always pain; schooling is a preparation for later life.

The way in which some colleges have become obsessed with their own ideologies is extremely worrying. I draw the attention of the House to Nene college in Northampton. Hon. Members may recall that in 1990 it twice rejected a Cambridge classics graduate for a teacher training course. When Mrs. Annis Garfield reapplied posing as a left-wing, Afro-Caribbean, animal rights activist and filled out her form with appalling spelling errors she was immediately invited for an interview. It is hardly surprising that we have to persist in this endeavour. I am also concerned that the correct rigour be applied to the education of young children.

The curriculums in colleges are loaded with political ideology. They seek to demean religious education, for instance. They seek to undermine the teaching of Christianity, which is part of the ethos of our society. This society is a Christian society, no matter what multi-cultural mish-mash teachers choose to make of it.

Last week, as a member of the Education Select Committee—the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) accompanied me on this occasion—I went to Bristol to look at inner-city education. The hon. Gentleman and I may well have different views about what we saw on our visit to some schools in deprived areas. I found it very worrying that, by and large, the male teachers were unfit to be what I call perfect role models, in the sense that they were scruffy and full of sociological jargon.

At one school, only three out of seven male staff members wore shirts and ties; the rest wore jumpers. I do not feel that it is at all helpful for young people, who perhaps come from very broken and disturbed homes, to find that the one male figure in their lives whom they trust is hardly a fit person to look up to as a role model. At a primary school in Tower Hamlets a teacher had a pony tail as well as a woolly sweater. We are trying to give teachers a certain status so that they may be respected. How can they be respected if they undermine the very professionalism which the majority of their colleagues exhibit?

I think that the whole purpose of teacher training colleges and the Teacher Training Agency should be to look at the methods by which children are taught. We examined examples of mixed ability teaching and that, combined with mixed topic teaching, to my mind was an absolute disaster.

Mr. Dafis

Is the hon. Lady suggesting that the Teacher Training Agency would prohibit young men with pony tails from teaching?

Lady Olga Maitland

I would hope that, when people applied for teacher training, we would select only the most dedicated and those who meet the required standard.

We are considering the opportunity for teachers to train on the spot, in schools where there are already the highest standards and where there is no mixed ability teaching which seems merely to confuse children and benefits neither the weaker nor the brighter child. We are also considering how we can enable new teachers to develop in what I call the halls, or schools, of excellence, where they can be taught and guided by a peer group which has years of training behind it, schools which already have the best possible results and which will therefore provide an example from which trainees can learn.

8.58 pm
Mr. Colin Pickthall (Lancashire, West)

I like to think of myself as a courteous man and I have no wish to be ungallant, but I do not think that I have ever heard such a load of ignorant tripe as the speech of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland). It could have come only from someone who has never been near teacher training in her life. Indeed, I wonder whether she has ever been near teaching or schools with her eyes open.

In an attempt to understand why the Government should persist with this pathetic mutilated Bill after its terrible mauling in another place, I read some of the ponderings of the Centre for Policy Studies on teacher training and, in particular, I re-read a pamphlet entitled "Teachers Mis-Taught" by Sheila Lawlor of the CPS, who seems to have been responsible for what passes as the thinking behind Conservative policy on teacher education. It is interesting that Lawlor's pamphlet appears to have provided the structure for the Library briefing on the subject, although the latter is mercifully free of Lawlor's dogma assertions and errors of fact.

I read Lawlor's work and the Bill in the wake of 22 years' work at a former teacher training college. I emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) was trying to tell the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam—there are no such things as teacher training colleges any more and there have not been any since the mid-1970s. The fact that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), the Minister and the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam repeatedly referred to teacher training colleges shows that they are stuck in a time warp. The hon. Lady said that the people coming out of those training colleges were responsible for some of the horrors that she described—for example, the evidence of pupils being indoctrinated—as having happened 10 years ago. The colleges did not exist by that time.

I began my career in a training college which diversified into BA courses and other forms of work in the mid-1970s. It became fully diversified in the 1980s. I worked alongside many colleagues who were going through immense changes in their professional lives while fashions in education were dictated not by educationists but by politicians from Shirley Williams to Lord Callaghan, from Lady Thatcher, to Lord Joseph, to the present Secretary of State.

The pamphlet to which I referred is extraordinary because of its mixture of lies and virulent prejudices masquerading as argument. On the very first page, it states: the present system demands that all teachers are trained to teach in the same way, irrespective of subject, pupil or teacher". That is simply untrue. It also states: Teachers have imposed on them in training courses and later, a single method of teaching, often at the expense of the subject itself". That is also untrue.

We heard from the Secretary of State today that, to his pleasure, he has discovered that some tutors from higher education institutions have been going into schools. I have news for him: I was going into schools as a tutor of teacher education 24 years ago, and so were all my colleagues. We were teaching there and learning. He and the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth talked incessantly about the producer interest. The latter also said that schools are not involved in training. That is untrue.

Ms Lawlor also said that, given subject mastery, the teacher will learn "how" to practise with "time and experience". Practise on what and whom and to what effect we are not told. There follow 45 splenetic pages dressed crudely as research but based on a hatred of theory, a word that is trotted out as though it came from Dennis Wheatley. She tells us that education students can undertake theory so long as it is not linked with practice. I have never heard such nonsense—what theory is not linked with practice? The pamphlet evinces a hatred of special needs education, a hatred of anything multicultural, of anything to do with gender and of anything contemporary.

Ms Lawlor's underlying desire, it seems, is the closure of the education departments of higher education institutions, which, coupled with the closure of local education authorities, as recommended by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick), would leave schools and education in the hands of Government-appointed quangos stuffed with Tory ideologues.

The Secretary of State says—no doubt it will be repeated—that the choice of whether to go into the new system will remain. Opposition Members do not believe him. What will be the outcome if, as is happening now and as the SCOP—Standing Conference of Principals—survey suggests, schools do not take up the option in sufficient numbers? Only 12 head teachers out of about 1,300—

Mr. O'Hara

Out of 1,202.

Mr. Pickthall

Only 12 head teachers out of 1,202 said that they were not interested in participating in the exercise. If schools do not come in in sufficiently large numbers they will be dragooned—first bribed, but then dragooned—in precisely the same way as we have seen happen in the case of grant-maintained status.

I would not normally dignify this appalling piece by Ms Lawlor by referring to it in the House. However, I do so because it demonstrates clearly the paucity of thinking behind the Bill. When the Conservative Government consult, it appears that Ms Lawlor is the consultee. It is hard to find anybody else who agrees with the Government on the teacher education policies that are before us.

As a relief from Lawlorism—if I may use that expression—it is appropriate that we should remind ourselves of what exactly a student teacher has to undergo. I intended to go into that matter at some length, but my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) has done so much more clearly and brilliantly than I could. First, the student has to acquire subject expertise, either through the PGCE route, in which case he or she already has it, or in an integrated way through the BEd or the BA(QTS).

Secondly, the student has to learn about the legal and social structure of schools and the education system, about health and safety regulations and practice, about child and adult psychology, about pastoral care, about the methodologies of teaching and about the functions of learning. He or she has to learn about what the curriculum is, what its component parts are and how to operate it, and a great deal more. All of that is what the Tories dismiss, with a simple sneer, as theory.

Trainee teachers have to prepare for practice—I have spent many years helping students with this—in structuring a timetable for the first time and in structuring individual lessons and groups of lessons. The last of those is a difficult and time-consuming business—to be referred to these days as episodes, I suppose. That has to be done for a variety of talents and for a variety of levels. Then comes the practice, in which the students are supervised not only by the school teachers but by the tutors with whom they have been working for many weeks. After the practice comes the process of evaluation and debriefing —again an extensive process—in school and in the higher education department.

Then the cycle starts again, ratcheted up a notch to a more sophisticated level. That is an immense and complex task. Given the stress that school teachers are under, particularly at present, it is impossible to imagine how they would cope with all that on top of their prime responsibility, which is to teach their pupils. Teaching, and not the training of students, is the job for which they are trained.

Of course, students are not expected to cope. I believe that, under a system like this, they are expected to flounder on their way through a new system. I quote again from the introduction to Ms Lawlor's pamphlet, which refers to the need to acquire experience of how to be a good teacher, often insensibly"— I repeat, "often insensibly". Many smaller primary schools do not even have proper staff rooms in which a student can be taken aside and talked to. Certainly there is no spare staff time in which to do any of this work. Clause 12 says virtually nothing about the implications for resources and nothing about staff time, although there are clear hints, in the "Review of Pay and Conditions", that teachers may be required in future to participate. I should like the Minister to clarify that point.

In the circular of 23 November 1993 we were told that primary schools should take the lead responsibility for training—in this case, the training of class assistants—and for handling funds. There is nothing in the Bill about how even that task would be resourced. Even large secondary schools are squirming under the pressure caused by the increase in training weeks introduced by circulars 9/92 and 14/93. I know that from experience because my wife, who is the deputy head of a large comprehensive school and is responsible for that activity, tells me, in great detail, about it.

The Lords amendments made sensible changes, but unfortunately the Lords could not ditch the Bill entirely. We shall have to ditch it, because of the recent growth in partnership, which other hon. Members have discussed at length, and because of the necessity to work out the complexity of the costings, which are still not clear even in the existing partnerships. There is no doubt that they will present us with great difficulties. We should ditch it because it leaves no time to evaluate the recent pilot schemes. School-based initial teacher training is to be forced in without evidence, on the basis of dogma and an ignorant misunderstanding of what higher education and schools in partnership are trying to achieve.

Mr. Butler


Mr. Pickthall

I shall not give way, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind. I am not trying to be discourteous, but I know that a couple of my hon. Friends want to speak, so I shall finish as rapidly as I can.

The partnerships achieved so far represent the response of institutions, students and schools to the perceived need for more class-based teaching. They are based on people's experience and day-to-day expertise. The Government seek to stop all that, and to impose the idiocy of Lawlorism, regardless of the consequences. Teacher education should be about partnerships and consortia, in which higher education must play a major part. Such partnerships have to grow and be negotiated—they cannot be forced.

Legislation should be enabling and fostering, not destructive, as the Bill is. It should ensure higher status for newly qualified teachers, the best quality of subject acquisition, a variety of experience in different schools —my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) talked about that—access on a daily basis to research-quality libraries and to technology and collaboration with peers and tutors, as well as the maximum possible classroom experience. The Bill is designed to achieve only the last of those aims and it does so only for reasons of dogma.

The Bill is based on a Grand Old Duke of York policy, for surely, having marched that nonsense up to the top of the hill, the Government, if they have the time, will have to march it back down again.

9.11 pm
Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport)

What a pleasure it is to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall), who spoke so powerfully, with good sense based on experience. We have not heard much of that from Conservative Members.

The Bill was conceived in prejudice, spawned in rhetoric at Tory party conferences, and born in ignorance. What a pity that it was only half strangled in the other place before it came to us. It has been driven by dogma masquerading as raising standards. So here we are, picking over the remains of the Bill after its mauling in another place. I hope that, despite what the Secretary of State said, some of the chunks bitten off it in another place will not be replaced by means of a whipped vote here.

There is no question but that good teachers are a prerequisite for the good education of children. The right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) took us on a stroll down memory lane—but my experience was somewhat different from his. He was right to say that some of the emergency trained teachers were excellent, but equally some of them were not very good. In my experience, some of the best people who have come into schools in recent years are those who have taken either a university degree followed by a PGCE course or a four-year BEd course. Those are the people who have provided real quality in teaching in our schools.

I shall limit my brief comments to part I, which deals with the training of postgraduate teachers. The Secretary of State talked about raising the standards of teachers, and I have no quarrel with that. If we can find ways of doing that, I shall agree with them. The Secretary of State then said that 46 per cent. of teachers are not able to teach reading properly when they leave college. If any of the new proposals were to address the task of putting some of those shortcomings right, we on the Labour Benches would be voting for them.

The Bill contains a number of curious contradictions. It will remove the responsibility from those who know what they are doing and place it in the hands of those who do not know. It is little wonder that we are getting things wrong —or the Government, at least, are getting it wrong—if we consider the comments of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) and the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), who is not in his place at the moment.

The hon. Lady was talking about teacher training colleges that have not existed for almost 20 years. Asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) to name one college, she named two universities instead. It is small wonder that the Government are getting things wrong when Conservative Members do not understand the basics of the subject.

The present system relies on a partnership between schools and higher education, and schools are currently very much involved in the process of teacher education. However, there are some strains on the present system, because there is sometimes a reluctance in schools to take on too many student teachers.

Even in large schools, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West pointed out, there are sometimes pressures not to take more than three or four students at a time, because of the amount of energy that that consumes of the existing teachers in the school. The main fault of the present system is that the teacher mentor role has not been properly resourced or properly funded.

We also need to consider the proposals in the context of the present situation. Schools are struggling to implement local management of schools. They are grappling with the constant change being brought about in the national curriculum. They are dealing with the testing and all the uncertainties that that has introduced, as well as with the new regime of inspection and, increasingly, they are dealing with children in schools who are challenging the authority of teachers. Many schools are barely coping with those things already, yet those very schools, which are now only just coping with all the so-called reforms that the Government are throwing at them, are being asked to do the job of training the teachers as well.

What effect will all that have on our schools? What about those schools which will do the training? The governors make the decision to put the proposal to the Teacher Training Agency, which then hands over that responsibility. Can the Minister, if he is listening, answer the following questions? Will he tell us what consultation there will be with parents whose children attend those schools? The proposals will seriously affect the children in those schools. If 10 or 15 student teachers are to be permanently taught at that school, what attention will be taken from the children there?

The Bill will draw good teachers away from the job that they are doing in the classroom and put them into the job of teaching teachers instead. When the governors put their proposals to the Teacher Training Agency, will the Minister tell us what consultation there will be with teachers? Teachers will need to change their contracts of work. I shall ask the Minister again: who will train the teachers to teach the new teachers? Where will the funding come from? How will we release those teachers from their schools so that they may perform that task?

There is another inconsistency in the Bill. Originally, before the House of Lords amended it and took out the proposal, it was suggested that five to seven-year-olds would be taught by people who were barely qualified at all —the so-called mums' army proposal. Yet part I proposes that those people, who barely have qualifications themselves, will be teaching the people who are to carry out the rest of the teaching in the school.

That seems to be quite extraordinary and the Minister ought to address that issue. How many of those training students would the Minister expect there to be in any one school? I hear that the cost-effective number is in the region of 15, and I am trying to picture a small primary school coping with 15 students in the school, as well as all the other pupils and all the other tasks.

Is the Bill not going to create a two-tier system of schools—those that are training teachers and those that are not? What will happen to those good schools which are presently working in co-operation with higher education institutions to train students?

The Bill will not help the postgraduate education of students, who must have a combination of academic study and school experience, and time to reflect on that experience in a neutral place. The students must have a grounding in the art and practice of teaching, and the effective pedagogy that goes with it. They must he well prepared outside school for practice inside it.

The Bill proves that there is a danger when fantasy becomes reality, when irrational remarks made to draw applause at the Tory party conference become real, when Sheila Lawlor's guide to solving Britain's education problems goes into print, and when the reader in the Conservative club sees last week's bird-brained idea from the inebriate on the corner bar stool turn into yesterday's leader in The Sun, and wakes up to find that it is today's Government policy.

That is the road to destruction of education. The Bill represents the ascendency of prejudice over good sense. It puts teacher education in reverse, and does nothing to improve children's learning. That is why we shall oppose the Bill.

9.20 pm
Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

I have little to say that is good of the Bill, but at least it has given us the chance to engage in an interesting and, in some respects, stimulating debate about the fundamentals of education. It is a pleasure to take up the remarks of my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) and for Lancashire. West (Mr. Pickthall), which were based on their experience in education, as opposed to some of the prejudices of Conservative Members that have been on display.

What a desperate old nag the Secretary of State has entered into the legislative stakes this year. This old horse —the Bill—is running to placate the fierce right-wing challenge that the right hon. Gentleman always senses from within the Conservative party. Although he purports to come—some say that it is the reality—from a more liberal stable, his ministerial career largely belies it.

So we have a legislative measure that is largely anti-student and anti-teacher. It is meant to be a brisk, no-nonsense populist measure that will bring the student unions, and especially the National Union of Students, to heel. It is designed to put teacher training and education into a straitjacket of classroom-based experience. If it is implemented, it will produce not educators but education technicians.

Behind the Bill is a deeply flawed philosophy, if such a ragbag of prejudices can be called a philosophy. My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport rightly identified the antecedents of the Bill. The Secretary of State is pandering to the elements in the Conservative party—they comprise a substantial number—that respond to the word "union" like the dogs responding to Pavlov's bell.

The NUS and student unions generally are to get the same harsh and restrictive treatment that has been meted out to trade unions over the past decade. Does it not dawn on Conservative Members that student unions are not trade unions? They are very different. Their relationship to university life is integral. Universities are not teaching factories with operatives, workers and consumers. Instead, they are educational communities.

I know that the Thatcherites on the Conservative Benches say that there is no such thing as society, so how can they understand the concept of a community? Let us remind them that, in a free society, universities, with a degree of self-government and some independence from the state, are important in our national life. It must be recognised that students are a part of that community—they do not simply attend university: they are part of it.

The philosophy behind the Bill's approach to teacher education is also desperately flawed. Who, in any part of the House, doubts the significance of classroom experience? Who thinks that anyone was ever trained as a teacher without having classroom experience? But how can teachers teach without an understanding of their subject and the educational principles?

There was an interesting minor debate among Conservative Members in the early part of the debate, when three Members—the right hon. Members for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) and for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) and the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson)—wrestled with the issue of what teacher education should consist of.

From what I could discern, the right hon. Member for Brent, North believed on the whole that no training was necessary, that most teachers received gifts from God, and that one could readily identify those who were not gifted and should be booted out.

The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, in a thoughtful speech, spoke of the problems related to teacher training. She recognised that it was important to consider how best to train teachers and argued for classroom experience.

The hon. Member for Norwich, North argued strongly and passionately for the careful training and education of teachers, but, for the life of me, I was unable to identify whether he thought that classroom, school-based teaching alone would be sufficient.

With the Bill, the Secretary of State goes back to the 19th-century monitoring system. As the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said, the Secretary of State has returned to the education of Nicholas Nickleby. Some Conservative Members think that they can identify that teacher education went badly wrong in the 1960s and produced degrees of incompetence in the literacy of our children today.

When I first came to the House in 1974, I was privileged to join Christopher Price, who then represented Lewisham, West, and the late Gerald Fowler, a Minister of State, in order to obtain money for a literacy programme—a minor pump-priming exercise that I am glad to say has, over the years, born substantial fruit in the development of the adult literacy movement in this country. In 1974, we were wrestling with millions of functionally illiterate people. The Government suggestion that the old forms of training and skills, and the old schools, produced a literate and numerate society is hogwash.

The Bill is a horse bred of populism and prejudice. The old nag is meant to chase around the parliamentary course once again. It has already been subject to some parliamentary scrutiny—[Interruption.] Perhaps the Secretary of State will listen. He has undoubtedly read the proceedings from the upper House and he must have realised what an appalling race the horse ran on that first outing. We all recall that, when it arrived at the starting gate in the other place, it had already lost a portion of its intended content. The mums' army proposal had already been jettisoned even before the Bill was published. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) said, the jettisoning of that proposal was a precursor to the Government backing down on other proposals in the House of Lords.

But having then charged away on Second Reading in the upper House, the Bill ran into severe difficulties the moment that their Lordships began to consider the second part of the Bill relating to student unions and the National Union of Students. As Lord Beloff indicated, the Bill had succeeded in uniting the most reactionary vice-chancellor with the most radical student in opposition to what was being proposed.

Not only was the NUS against the proposal; so were vice-chancellors and university teachers. There was also widespread opinion in the House of Lords, which was reflected among Tory Members on the Secretary of State's own Back Benches, who had already expressed their reservations about the proposal. The clause then had to be withdrawn. What we face is a compromise that is not entirely to the liking of my hon. Friends. However, we recognise gains from a largely obdurate Administration when they occur, and we intend to support the change.

As for the Secretary of State, not even his most sympathetic colleague would refer to Lord Beloff as anything but a somewhat reluctant arrival in the Labour Lobby on that occasion. I can only assume that the Secretary of State must say that he can look after his enemies, but God protect him from his friends.

The poor old Bill then staggered off into the country, and was lost from view for a couple of months while the Government scratched their heads to find out how they could make the poor horse run again at all. On the Bill's return to the upper House, it was about to be somewhat knackered again, as certain aspects of it proved unacceptable to their Lordships.

As my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) and for Lancashire, West said, the House of Lords accepted a Labour amendment. We recognise that the Government now define it as technically deficient, but nevertheless it contains the principle which the House of Lords made clear—it does not believe that the training of teachers should be separated from higher education. Indeed, there should be no such divorce. We should recognise that divorcing the training of teachers from higher education would have the same impact as all divorces: it would be the children who suffered.

How easy will it be to organise such school-based courses? At present, the Government are proceeding with the legislation against the background of an experiment which is not even half-finished. An absolutely minuscule number of students are participating in the present scheme. Harrow school is involved in the scheme. I hope that I can quote Harrow school to Tory Members as having some authority in education. It has pulled out of a partnership arrangement with the Institute of London because of the strain on senior staff of coping with students. If one of the best-resourced schools in the country finds the strain of training the next generation of teachers extremely difficult, where will the Government find willing volunteers in the hard-pressed ranks of teachers in our state schools?

Consideration in the Lords has conferred some advantages. At least the upper House recognised that the Teacher Training Agency, which we shall subject to intense scrutiny in Committee should the Bill get a Second Reading, is obliged to restrict its research to matters directly related to its work. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said, the success of students on any course, and certainly on courses concerned with teacher education and training, depends upon adequate resources, and for more than a decade the Government have set a record in impoverishing students.

The Bill received a mauling in the upper House, and even the truncated version has won few friends. Predictably, the most radical criticism on the Government side came from the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick), who told the Secretary of State that he will have a rough ride on the remaining stages of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman feels that the Bill does not go far enough, and he wants to revive what the Secretary of State now regards as quite impossible—the full-blown onslaught on the National Union of Students and student unions which the Secretary of State envisaged when he set about the Bill.

Far from satisfying Conservative interests and completing a jigsaw of education, the Bill is creating a jigsaw of prejudice about the development of British education—perhaps I should say, English education, because substantial parts of the Bill do not relate to Wales or Scotland.

The Secretary of State has not delivered what his party hoped and expected. Therefore, it is no surprise that the somewhat less than benevolent influence of the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) has been drifting around the Chamber, no doubt bent upon that restructuring of the parliamentary Conservative party which he alone thinks will enable it to survive.

This poor old exhausted Bill will not run well for the Secretary of State. Touchstone introduced his friend Audrey to the court in the Forest of Arden with the phrase, "A poor thing, but mine own." The Bill is a poor thing but the Secretary of State's own, but Touchstone, interesting character as he was in "As You Like It", was the fool.

The Secretary of State may try to make the horse run again, but we think that he is guilty of cruelty, and that he should be relieved of his burden. His friends should put him out of his misery, and they can do that by joining us and voting against the Bill. That is the only humane way to ensure that the Bill disappears, and that the Secretary of State saves what little face he has left.

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

With the greatest charity, my only comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies) is that they never come back and even when they are reshod they are liable to slip a shoe and leave themselves trailing in the race.

I am delighted to deliver the winding-up speech for personal reasons as well as those of policy. My wife trained as a teacher and many members of her family and quite a sprinkling from mine were teachers in their time. I therefore have an interest, as we all should have, in the vital subjects of teacher education and teacher training. In addition, exactly 30 years ago I was president of my own student junior common room, so I know something about these matters. We carried out a free and fair election and the beaten candidate is one of my constituents.

I was for a moment persuaded of the possibility that there might be a measure of consensus in the House on the measure. I refer the House to the opening words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's blue paper on teacher training issued last autumn, from which the proposals are derived. The very first sentence stated: In education, the role of the teacher is central. Indeed, it is essential. Most of us would accept that.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) almost surprised me by saying that she had one goal: to improve the quality of education. I cannot argue against her goal, although I find her means somewhat defective. She is still inexorably impaled on the crossover point of those twin searchlights which hold her fixed. One is ideological correctness and the other is vested interest. She cannot get out of it; she is not allowed to move because it would not be correct and in any case it would upset at least one of the teacher unions. So nothing comes out of the Opposition.

Despite the blandishments of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth), we heard no clear answer on the hon. Lady's view of testing. She did not say yes, no or even "don't know". Equally, we had no condemnation from her of the remarkably stinging but entirely inappropriate if characteristic criticism from her clients—if such they be—the NUT, in relation to specialised teachers' assistants. We had nothing from the Opposition on that.

I come to such debates with one clear purpose in mind. If I had any tendency to what the theologians call doubts, I would soon lose them when I got here. If I had any worries about the Bill before I started, the Opposition would put them out of my mind.

If my hon. Friends think that the Labour party is static on these matters, the Liberal Democrats are still more so. Neither made any attempt to address the present position. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of lessons delivered by new teachers are deemed unsatisfactory, 10 per cent. of new teachers are not up to the job and many new teachers themselves admit to unhappiness and uncertainty about their central role of delivering the essential educational attainment of reading. That cannot be right. Equally, when Opposition Members whinge or cackle about our proposals for the reform of student unions, can they honestly say that what has happened in the past has been entirely in order and desirable, when we all know that it has not?

In this long and interesting debate, there has been a remarkable contrast between the speeches of Opposition Members and the contributions from my right hon. and hon. Friends, which without exception have been thoughtful and positive. I should also record that they have been supportive of the Government. They reflect the reality which I concede has been expressed on both sides of the House. I give way to a fellow classicist.

Mr. Enright

While I accept that there is always party solidarity in these matters, is the Minister honestly telling the House that he agrees with every word spoken by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick), whom I do not see in his place at the moment, let alone the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) in his divisive speech?

Mr. Boswell

If the hon. Gentleman sets up an Aunt Sally, it is not surprising when it is then knocked down. We are not a monolithic party and we do not have to agree with every last word. Unlike the Opposition, however, we are united in our determination to raise educational standards.

When the hon. Gentleman interrupted me, I was about to make the bipartisan point that both sides have admitted that teaching is a complex matter. As we are on the classics, it occurred to me during the debate that the most appropriate story that I could produce to the House was the one about the former professor of classics who took his turn on the golf course. He was not very good and his caddy became exasperated with his performance and eventually said, "Well, Latin and Greek are all very well, but when you come to this game you must have a head." That is precisely the point of these proposals. That man was placing a proper emphasis on moving from the academic grounding that was necessary or desirable to the practical execution which was essential in the task.

I shall respond to the points made as far as I can and if I overlook any I will write to hon. Members. Once again, we had a vacuum in the speech of the hon. Member for Dewsbury. We had a policy-free zone. Spinning around in the vacuum only two points of interest were discernible. Yet again, we had the stale call for a general teaching council. A general teaching council as envisaged by the hon. Lady would be merely a talk shop. It would not achieve anything. Because of her ideological positioning, she is unable to suggest anything stronger than a little chat and a discussion—as though it might ever be possible to proceed by consensus in the teeth of vested interests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson), in an extremely thoughtful speech, put a much more helpful spin on a general teaching council. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has always said that he would consider the possibility of the teaching profession bringing forward a professional body to concern itself with standards in the form of a royal college of teaching, or something like that. That would be the right way to approach the matter, although I look forward to debating it again.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury, who is not paying attention at the moment, made much of one defeat by two votes that we suffered in the other place on a particular point when, frankly, their Lordships did not exactly conclude the matter, at a time when we defeated by a substantial majority in the other place an amendment seeking to establish a general teaching council. Yet again —the only other point that I want to select from the hon. Lady's remarks—we had the canard that schools would be forced to particpate in the teacher training proposals. I can assure the House that that is not the case.

We then had a very interesting speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), in which he drew on his unmatched and unrivalled experience of running difficult schools with leadership. He taught us a few home truths and ran up a drainpipe to teach them to us.

The hon. Member for Hindburn (Mr. Pope) made a number of points. It will be the responsibility of the Teacher Training Agency to consider teacher supply. It will continue to do so based on the advice of and the general steer from the Secretary of State. That matter will continue to be looked at just as it is now. The hon. Gentleman should not confuse that with structural changes in the Bill.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), another distinguished former Minister, specifically rejected a return to the past, but drew on that valuable past experience to emphasise the importance of teaching and delivering.

As for the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), he keeps on droning away and occasionally tries to sting us, but he does not often succeed. He talks occasionally about general teaching councils and that was about all that I made of his speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North not only mentioned the general teaching council in a much more positive way, he emphasised the importance of standards and rigour. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) spoke as ever with some passion on that. Out of a speech with which I did not substantially agree, I must take the hon. Lady up on one point. All participating schools will require their student teachers to go into more than one school. That will be an essential part of the scheme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) made a characteristically trenchant and interesting speech. [HoN. MEMBERs:Where is he?"] My hon. Friend advised me of the reason for his absence from the Chamber now and apologised. However, his spirit is with us. I assure my hon. Friend, in his absence, that his arguments will be carefully considered. As ever, these are not simple matters—as the Committee will discover. I look forward to debating them in detail.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) made a wide-ranging speech, although I had to be absent from the Chamber for part of it. Almost alone among Opposition Members, he is not frightened to confront the facts. I hope that that is not seen as an insult to him. The new proposals for the Open university to participate will provide some additional flexibility.

My neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, spoke strongly about the Opposition's constant inability to come to terms with earlier reforms and their amazing propensity for claiming credit for reforms when they are in place. It is reform at one remove. My hon. Friend referred rather alarmingly to teacher training as having softened the brains of a generation, but it was not my hon. Friend's brains that were softened.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) spoke interestingly about the Welsh aspect. I will reflect on his comments and communicate them to my colleagues. It will be for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales to determine the transfer of functions within Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) spoke with great passion and illumination about what goes on in some of the worst boroughs in the delivery of education, and of the political correctness of some colleges of education. Despite the jeers of Opposition Members, those are the plain facts. If Opposition Members cannot see the problem, I invite them to consider it.

The hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall) was in teacher training for 22 years, which may have been a year or two longer than he might have been. He was not able to advance a substantive argument, so proceeded by proxy—by referring to an article by a Conservative academic that is not part of the Bill. Just as there is no requirement for schools to participate in school-centred training, neither is there any requirement for individual teachers to do so. Additional resources will be made available by the agency to help make the scheme more acceptable and practical for schools.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) was, as ever, strong on the rhetoric of which he accuses others. He referred to the implications for governors. It is entirely for them to bring forward their proposals on behalf of their schools. The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies) attacked proposals for the National Union of Students that we have now changed. He referred in extenso to our philosophy. That is rather like the argument about a hidden agenda. Every time somebody refers to a philosophy, I metaphorically reach for my revolver because I know that the Opposition cannot have read the Bill and followed the arguments. We have no hidden agenda for driving higher education out of teacher training. We do not wish to force schools to assume responsibilities that they do not want. If we had a hidden agenda, we would not have provided in the Bill that students on training courses must be on degree courses or already be graduates. Many of our teachers are not, but all new teachers will be—except for the specific exceptions of licensed and overseas teachers.

At present, we approve every individual course of teacher training at every university and college of higher education. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State also approves and directly funds all school-centred courses. He can choose whatever rate he wants for that work. He has exactly adopted a level playing field between them. The hon. Member may be interested to know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State currently has the power to pursue any agenda that he wants. In a mood of characteristic humility and self-denial, however, he proposes to relinquish those sweeping powers in favour of a new and independent agency with an open and positive agenda. That agenda is set out in clause 1 of the Bill, and I invite the House to reflect on the agency's objectives: to raise the standards of teaching; to promote teaching as a career; to improve the quality and efficiency of all routes into teaching; and to secure the involvement of schools in all courses and programmes for the initial training of school teachers.

Are there any sinister motives in that? Are there any in the additional requirement that the agency should ensure that teachers are able to promote the aims of education set out in clause 1 of the Education Reform Act 1988? There are not. There is nothing in the Bill about driving out higher education or forcing schools to take on training.

Mrs. Anne Campbell

Does the Minister agree that one of the things that teachers find difficult in today's schools is the total lack of morale brought about by too many Government reforms? Does he feel that the Teacher Training Agency will do anything to improve that?

Mr. Boswell

I urge the hon. Lady to visit some schools and ask them. There are some very positive attitudes. If there is any problem, it is with some of the disinformation that is flying around. I hope that what I put on the record will help to disabuse the hon. Lady of that.

We believe in equal treatment of schools and higher education providers. We believe in a focused agency to take over—

Mr. Don Foster

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Boswell

This will be the last intervention.

Mr. Foster

On equality between schools and teacher training institutions, can the Minister give us an estimate of the number of students under the postgraduate certificate of education scheme who are likely to go into the school-based only system, and tell us whether he believes that the average unit cost for the two types of training will be the same, or will it be different?

Mr. Boswell

I am not prepared to give an estimate of what may happen in the next year or two. That will depend on the readiness of schools to come forward. The agency is charged with securing both quality and value for money. I simply cannot see why the proposals should be seen as a threat.

Equally, I cannot see why our proposals on student unions should be seen as a threat. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his statement last July, we believe in a firm foundation of principle for our reforms: choice, democracy and accountability, and the subordinate principle of the avoidance of victimisation. Those are now being debated in another place.

Our measures will ensure that students have power over the union, rather than the other way round. Student unions can focus on their primary role, which is to look after students, and not to promote the political objectives and careers of a few committed individuals. I remind the House that the old Adam is still around in colleges of education and student unions. For example: Within a psychosemiotic framework the shared reading lesson is viewed as an ideological construct where events are played out … children need to learn to opposition themselves in three interlocking contexts". I thought that they were supposed to be learning to read and write.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam referred to those who dared to use the word "caveman" being marked down for not using the term "caveperson". All the cavepersons are on the Opposition Benches. It is nearly as bad with student unions. I went to visit a university and was greeted thus: "Picket. Big mistake. We are going to insist that one or two hundred students are ready to great you." Join the picket, get your face on the telly and have some fun! Demand,"— among other things— the withdrawal of the threat of voluntary membership. What have they to be frightened of?

The Bill is a further reforming measure, taking its place with pride and confidence alongside those great reforming measures that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State catalogued. We will establish a Teacher Training Agency. We will make student union membership voluntary. We will promote proper behaviour by student unions within a framework of democracy and accountability and within the bounds of charity law.

I commend these reforms, and the Bill that takes them fore, ard, to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 299, Noes 244.

Division No. 228] [10 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Aitken, Jonathan Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alexander, Richard Carrington, Matthew
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Carttiss, Michael
Amess, David Cash, William
Arbuthnot, James Clappison, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Ashby, David Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Aspinwall, Jack Coe, Sebastian
Atkins, Robert Colvin, Michael
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Congdon, David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Conway, Derek
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Baldry, Tony Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Couchman, James
Bates, Michael Cran, James
Batiste, Spencer Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Beggs, Roy Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Bellingham, Henry Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bendall, Vivian Day, Stephen
Beresford, Sir Paul Deva, Nirj Joseph
Biffen, Rt Hon John Devlin, Tim
Blackburn, Dr John G. Dickens, Geoffrey
Body, Sir Richard Dorrell, Stephen
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Booth, Hartley Dover, Den
Boswell, Tim Duncan, Alan
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Dunn, Bob
Bowden, Andrew Durant, Sir Anthony
Bowis, John Dykes, Hugh
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Elletson, Harold
Brandreth, Gyles Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Brazier, Julian Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bright, Graham Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Evennett, David
Browning, Mrs. Angela Faber, David
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fabricant, Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Fenner, Dame Peggy
Burns, Simon Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Burt, Alistair Fishburn, Dudley
Butcher, John Forman, Nigel
Butler, Peter Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Forth, Eric Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) MacKay, Andrew
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Maclean, David
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
French, Douglas McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fry, Sir Peter Madel, Sir David
Gale, Roger Maginnis, Ken
Gallie, Phil Maitland, Lady Olga
Gardiner, Sir George Major, Rt Hon John
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Malone, Gerald
Garnier, Edward Mans, Keith
Gill, Christopher Marland, Paul
Gillan, Cheryl Marlow, Tony
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gorst, John Mates, Michael
Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW) Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Merchant, Piers
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mills, Iain
Grylls, Sir Michael Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hague, William Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Moate, Sir Roger
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hampson, Dr Keith Monro, Sir Hector
Hanley, Jeremy Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hannam, Sir John Moss, Malcolm
Hargreaves, Andrew Needham, Richard
Harris, David Nelson, Anthony
Haselhurst, Alan Neubert, Sir Michael
Hawkins, Nick Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hawksley, Warren Nicholls, Patrick
Hayes, Jerry Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Heald, Oliver Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hendry, Charles Oppenheim, Phillip
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Ottaway, Richard
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Page, Richard
Horam, John Paice, James
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter Patnick, Irvine
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Patten, Rt Hon John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Pawsey, James
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Pickles, Eric
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hunter, Andrew Rathbone, Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jack, Michael Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Richards, Rod
Jenkin, Bernard Robathan, Andrew
Jessel, Toby Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Key, Robert Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Kilfedder, Sir James Sackville, Tom
King, Rt Hon Tom Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Knapman, Roger Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Knox, Sir David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shersby, Michael
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Sims, Roger
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Legg, Barry Soames, Nicholas
Leigh, Edward Spencer, Sir Derek
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lidington, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lightbown, David Spink, Dr Robert
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Spring, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Sproat, Iain
Luff, Peter Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Steen, Anthony Walden, George
Stephen, Michael Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Stern, Michael Waller, Gary
Stewart, Allan Ward, John
Streeter, Gary Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sumberg, David Waterson, Nigel
Sweeney, Walter Watts, John
Sykes, John Wells, Bowen
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Whitney, Ray
Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd) Whittingdale, John
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Widdecombe, Ann
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Temple-Morris, Peter Wilkinson, John
Thomason, Roy Willetts, David
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Thurnham, Peter Wolfson, Mark
Townend, John (Bridlington) Yeo, Tim
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tracey, Richard
Tredinnick, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Trend, Michael Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Twinn, Dr Ian Mr. Timothy Wood.
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Abbott, Ms Diane Cousins, Jim
Adams, Mrs Irene Cox, Tom
Ainger, Nick Cummings, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Allen, Graham Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dafis, Cynog
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Dalyell, Tam
Armstrong, Hilary Darling, Alistair
Austin-Walker, John Davidson, Ian
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Barnes, Harry Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Battle, John Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bayley, Hugh Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Denham, John
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Dewar, Donald
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dixon, Don
Bennett, Andrew F. Dobson, Frank
Benton, Joe Donohoe, Brian H.
Bermingham, Gerald Dowd, Jim
Berry, Roger Dunnachie, Jimmy
Blair, Tony Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Blunkett, David Eagle, Ms Angela
Boateng, Paul Eastham, Ken
Boyes, Roland Enright, Derek
Bradley, Keith Etherington, Bill
Bray, Dr Jeremy Evans, John (St Helens N)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Faulds, Andrew
Burden, Richard Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Caborn, Richard Fisher, Mark
Callaghan, Jim Flynn, Paul
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Foster, Don (Bath)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Foulkes, George
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Fraser, John
Canavan, Dennis Fyfe, Maria
Cann, Jamie Galloway, George
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Gapes, Mike
Chisholm, Malcolm Garrett, John
Clapham, Michael George, Bruce
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Gerrard, Neil
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Clelland, David Godsiff, Roger
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Golding, Mrs Llin
Coffey, Ann Gordon, Mildred
Cohen, Harry Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Connarty, Michael Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Corbett, Robin Grocott, Bruce
Corbyn, Jeremy Gunnell, John
Corston, Ms Jean Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hanson, David O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Hardy, Peter O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Harman, Ms Harriet O'Hara, Edward
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Olner, William
Henderson, Doug O'Neill, Martin
Heppell, John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Parry, Robert
Hinchliffe, David Patchett, Terry
Hoey, Kate Pendry, Tom
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Pickthall, Colin
Home Robertson, John Pike, Peter L.
Hood, Jimmy Pope, Greg
Hoon, Geoffrey Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hoyle, Doug Prescott, John
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Primarolo, Dawn
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Purchase, Ken
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Randall, Stuart
Hutton, John Raynsford, Nick
Ingram, Adam Redmond, Martin
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Reid, Dr John
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Rendel, David
Jamieson, David Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Rooker, Jeff
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Rowlands, Ted
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Ruddock, Joan
Keen, Alan Sedgemore, Brian
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Sheerman, Barry
Khabra, Piara S. Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Short, Clare
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Simpson, Alan
Lewis, Terry Skinner, Dennis
Litherland, Robert Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Llwyd, Elfyn Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
McAllion, John Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McAvoy, Thomas Snape, Peter
McCartney, Ian Soley, Clive
Macdonald, Calum Spearing, Nigel
McFall, John Spellar, John
McKelvey, William Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Mackinlay, Andrew Stevenson, George
McLeish, Henry Stott, Roger
McNamara, Kevin Strang, Dr. Gavin
McWilliam, John Straw, Jack
Madden, Max Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Maddock, Mrs Diana Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mahon, Alice Turner, Dennis
Mandelson, Peter Tyler, Paul
Marek, Dr John Vaz, Keith
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Wallace, James
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Walley, Joan
Martlew, Eric Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Maxton, John Wareing, Robert N
Meacher, Michael Wicks, Malcolm
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wigley, Dafydd
Milburn, Alan Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Miller, Andrew Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Winnick, David
Moonie, Dr Lewis Worthington, Tony
Morgan, Rhodri Wray, Jimmy
Morley, Elliot Wright, Dr Tony
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tellers for the Noes:
Mullin, Chris Mr. Alan Meade and
Murphy, Paul Mr. Peter Kilfoyle.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).