HC Deb 17 July 1996 vol 281 cc1247-72

Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 1, line 14, at end insert ("(2A) No arrangements may be made under subsection (1) above in respect of grants payable under this Act on or after 1 April 1997 before the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament an evaluation of the operation over a period of twelve months of any grants for nursery education in the area of any local education authority made during the financial year 1996/7.")

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mrs. Gillian Shephard)

I beg to niove, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I inform the House that this amendment involves privilege.

Mrs. Shephard

During the passage of the Bill, we listened carefully to the arguments made in debate. As a result, several amendments have been made, relating particularly to children with special educational needs, to what should be specified in regulations, and to admissions. They are all useful improvements to the Bill. The effect of the amendment before us, however, would be to delay the introduction of full implementation of the nursery education voucher scheme by requiring an evaluation of the first year of the first phase. Such a delay would be both unnecessary and damaging.

Our policy for nursery education is based on increasing parental choice of the setting for the pre-school education of their children, rigorous quality standards through the desirable learning outcomes that the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority developed last autumn, a new education inspection regime, and the injection of substantial amounts of new money—£165 million per year, £390 million over the first three years.

Extending parental choice is vital. Parents know what is best for their four year-old children—not local authorities, and certainly not Whitehall. That is why the voucher scheme puts parental choice at its centre. It allows parents to choose pre-school education in the maintained sector, the private sector and the voluntary sector. We have set in place new means to make sure that the quality is good. I will briefly remind the House of them.

First, the sorts of provider that can enter the scheme are limited to maintained schools, independent schools, and private and voluntary sector institutions registered under the Children Act 1989. Secondly, all providers must work towards the set of desirable learning outcomes developed by the SCAA, which cover the six main areas of learning for children. Thirdly, all providers must give information to parents about what they do to enable parents to make informed choices. Fourthly, all providers must submit to inspection. In the case of the private and voluntary sectors, this will be a new inspection regime, under the control of the chief inspector of schools, and it will look specifically at national educational standards.

We have ensured that there are particular safeguards for children with special educational needs. The requirement for all providers to have regard to the SEN code of practice has been universally welcomed.

The popularity of the scheme is clear. More than 106,000 copies of the Department's "Next Steps" document have been issued. The help line has taken more than 43,000 calls. The scheme has been warmly welcomed. Roselyn Donovan, the head teacher of Riversdale primary school in Wandsworth, said: If private nurseries are providing a better quality of education and my parents are looking to go out there, then I want to see what they are providing, and improve my position. That's what it's about. That's what education is about. Clare Harris, principal of the Phoenix Montessori nursery school, Kings Lynn, said: Parents have reacted to the scheme with delight. In poorer rural areas many struggle to send their children for a few sessions each week and to find they can now come for five is a huge bonus". Margaret Lochrie, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said: vouchers rectify the unfairness which has prevailed up to now, that parents using schools get provision free, where others do not.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

Will the voucher scheme allow parents who live in a local authority that does not have nursery provision to choose a place in a local authority school if they want one? That, too, would be choice.

Mrs. Shephard

Over time, parents will have a choice of a place in the setting that they wish for their four-year-old. That is the point of the scheme.

The Pre-School Learning Alliance has surveyed its member playgroups to find how parents in phase 1 are benefiting from the scheme. Eighty per cent. of them think that parents value vouchers and 27 per cent. of them had increased the number of sessions that they offer, even in the first term of operation.

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

Will the right hon. Lady tell us how that squares with the Pre-School Learning Alliance evaluation survey of 6 June in her county of Norfolk? It stated: While some pre-schools have been able to increase the number of sessions, very few if any new places for four-year-olds have been created … funding for premises was identified as being necessary if new places are to be created. Should we not listen to the people on the ground rather than to the administering organisations?

Mrs. Shephard

I should be happy to let the hon. Gentleman have some letters from people on the ground, also in Norfolk, who are providing precisely pre-school education. For example, those at the Watlington pre-school said: To summarise our whole playgroup"— these are people on the ground— feels that we have gained a great deal from the scheme and that the standard of education is already beginning to increase, it has opened our eyes as to what is or what will be missed out on if the scheme fails to go nationwide. That failure is the hon. Gentleman's aim.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the quality of the education provided and not the fixed facilities that matter? Does she share the relief of a playgroup at Whitstable that was nearly closed because of a shortage of lavatories, despite offering excellent facilities for children for nine years, but which has now fortunately been saved as a result of a helpful departmental circular?

Mrs. Shephard

I am delighted to have that encouraging example from my hon. Friend. The quality of teaching and of provision are obviously of key importance.

The amendment claims to be about the need for evaluation, but that claim is bogus. Opposition Members know that the Government believe that the scheme should be evaluated. We have said so consistently as the Bill has made its passage through both Houses.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way again. There is no doubt that the provision of vouchers is the most challenging initiative in the education of young people for many years. I am sure that all hon. Members have taken stock of the situation in their own area. We clearly will not be able to please everybody because there are many schools that are concerned about vouchers, but equally, as my right hon. Friend has said, the Pre-School Learning Alliance and pre-school playgroups welcome their advent. The crunch is that if we accept the Lords amendment, parents of four-year-old children next year will not have the opportunity of a place and that choice and opportunity will be lost for ever for those children.

Mrs. Shephard

That is perfectly right, of course, and that point was clearly perceived by members of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, both those at the top of that organisation and those who provide service at the grass roots, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett).

Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

On a number of occasions the right hon. Lady has prayed in aid the Pre-School Learning Alliance. Is she therefore aware of the view of the Kensington and Chelsea branch of that organisation about the need for evaluation? Its branch secretary recently wrote: As we have only had 4 months of the pilot scheme it is far too early to be thinking of making any plans. We believe the monitoring should continue for over a year. Does the right hon. Lady agree with that view?

Mrs. Shephard

I would say that Mrs. Margaret Lochrie, the chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, does not agree with it. She has said that if the House of Commons vote to uphold this amendment it will vote to deprive at least 200,000 four-year-olds of free pre-school education. Is that the hon. Gentleman's intention?

The evaluation has already begun. Some results are already available, and lessons are already learnt for phase 2.

We have commissioned a survey of parents in the four phase 1 areas. The results were placed in the Library 10 days ago. That survey was commissioned as a result of questions asked by Conservative Members. We had no need to place the results in the Library, but we did so.

The hon. Member for Brightside, who knew about the existence of the survey because he asked a parliamentary question about it, may want to claim that the survey shows that all is not well in phase 1. He might say that parents do not know enough about the scheme. It is true that six in 10 parents wanted to know more—hardly surprising in the early stages of a new scheme, but we responded to that by making more information available through providers, where parents said that they wanted to find it.

10.30 pm

The findings of the survey are as follows. Sixty per cent. of the parents interviewed rated the scheme positively—more than two and a half times as many as were against. That is consistent with the findings of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, which were that playgroups thought that 80 per cent. of the parents valued the scheme. In Norfolk, where the survey found that parents were most likely to know the key facts about the scheme, 87 per cent. of parents rated it "quite good" or "very good", which suggests to me that, when unclouded by misinformation, parents can see the benefits of the scheme.

Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

Will my right hon. Friend qualify what she just said as it relates to councils which are high providers, such as Solihull, and the views of the National Association of Head Teachers? Is it true that good providers were not included in the survey that she talks about?

Mrs. Shephard

I hoped that I had made it clear that the survey took place in pilot areas. I hope that that clarifies the matter for my hon. Friend. We are, of course, aware of the views of his local authority, of which he has told the House many times. I reassure him yet again that, where there is excellent provision, parents are likely to choose it. I have seen the provision in his local authority. As he knows, it is of high quality, and I have no doubt that, when the scheme rolls out, parents will wish to choose it. The point is that as a result of the scheme they will have the right to choose: an institutional choice will not be imposed.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

My right hon. Friend knows that parents in Dorset were keen for Dorset, which was a very low provider, to provide more nursery places. They were very angry that, last year, the Liberal Democrats on Dorset county council prevented them from getting the scheme in, and I am afraid that they will be very angry with the Government if we do not overturn this Lords amendment so as to ensure that we get the scheme in for them next year.

Mrs. Shephard

I know that there is enthusiasm in Dorset for the scheme. My hon. Friend told me that coachloads of Dorset people are to visit Norfolk to see how the scheme is working there.

Parents have not had difficulty with the applications: 72 per cent. found the forms "very easy to complete"—so much for the bureaucratic nightmare that parents were supposed to suffer.

As I said, many parents wanted more information about the scheme. We revised the material and we made certain that it was available through the providers.

We commissioned a survey of providers in the same areas. The report was placed in the Library today. The providers found registration easy—60 per cent. found the administration "very easy" or "quite easy". Three quarters found voucher redemption "very easy" or "fairly easy" and a similar proportion found the self-assessment schedule helpful.

The report raises other points. Some providers found the administration rather time consuming, and we will consider that in making the arrangements for phase 2.

Sir Donald Thompson (Calder Valley)

As my right hon. Friend knows, because we have discussed it often, my area is a high provider and for 20 years has provided nursery education of the type that has only now been made available in more tardy authorities. However, the administration will cost money. Can some of the £1,100 that must be remitted be kept by my local authority to contribute to administration?

Mrs. Shephard

I know that my hon. Friend is proud of the nursery provision in his area, and I can give him the same reassurance as I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills). Obviously, since parents are so satisfied with provision in his area, they will continue to wish to choose that provision. Administration costs are met centrally, of course.

Thirdly, we are analysing the issue of vouchers to parents and their redemption. Overall, 91 per cent. of the estimated number of parents have applied for vouchers. In Norfolk, that figure is 97 per cent., and in Wandsworth 96 per cent; 83 per cent. of voucher parts have been redeemed so far. We shall continue to collect and analyse data, with the results from the first two terms being collated in the autumn. They will be reviewed by the project team already in place, which will implement phase 2 with the help of an implementation advisory group drawn from local authorities, the private and voluntary sectors, grant-maintained schools and independent schools.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

Is the Secretary of State aware that there are no pilot schemes in Wales, and that it would cost the Government less than the money they are putting into the voucher scheme to provide 100 per cent. coverage in Wales because there are so few four-year-olds who do not already have pre-school provision? Is she not wasting money by introducing the scheme in Wales?

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman knows better than I that there are several differences between Wales and England. There is also higher provision in the former, which accounts for the slightly different arrangements.

Information on evaluation will also be taken from the Audit Commission, the National Audit Office, the National Children's Bureau, and so on. The first inspection reports will be available in October, and the chief inspector will give us an overview in the new year.

We already know a lot about the operation of the scheme from solid data taken from surveys of parents and providers who have experience of how the scheme is working. The picture is positive. Parents are actively playing their pan. There is already some expansion. In other words, it is crystal clear that there is no need to prolong the evaluation.

In any case, the amendment is not about evaluation: it is about delay, because Opposition Members do not want parents to have the choice and diversity offered by the scheme. Why should they change the habits of 17 years? Since 1979 they have voted against every measure to increase choice and diversity, and under the guise of this amendment that is what they are seeking to do now. That speaks volumes about where the Opposition's priorities lie. Delay will have an impact on many families, particularly those who currently use pre-schools. No wonder the Pre-school Learning Alliance said of the amendment: The Lords have got it wrong". The Clackclose pre-school in Norfolk spoke for all parents and their children when it wrote to me on 1 July: All in all, parents want as we do, a good start in life for their children. After all it is the children that benefit from this scheme overall". There could be no better argument for overturning this amendment. The evidence shows that the scheme is working. Delay is both unnecessary and harmful. I therefore urge the House to disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Blunkett

Tonight we ask the Commons to support and retain the Lords amendment. We believe that grandparents and parents in the House of Lords have shown more sense than Conservative Members of the Commons, who clearly have no idea of the impact of a market-driven voucher scheme.

It is not pieces of paper that people are applauding in Norfolk; it is the opportunity of an early-years place—the opportunity not made available by the voucher scheme but by the allocation of new money. That is why, in low-providing authority areas, parents naturally want something which they believe to be better than nothing.

Did not the Government previously promise nothing, whereas good local education authorities of all political parties promised something? Did not the Secretary of State, 18 months ago, write to her colleagues who have been saying "Hear, hear" to her drive for nursery education tonight, telling them that they should monitor their authorities to stop them spending money on nursery education? Is it not hypocrisy at its worst when the Government seek to delude parents into believing that there is only one option—a voucher or nothing—when there is no such single option? The option is to spend all the new money—£185 million—on creating real nursery places for real children, not bits of paper circulated in a pseudo-artificial market.

Mr. Steinberg

Is not the position even worse than my hon. Friend describes? The hon. Members for Meriden (Mr. Mills) and for Calder Valley (Sir D. Thompson) said that their local authorities, like mine in Durham, are high nursery providers. If the nursery scheme is successful and goes through this evening, authorities like theirs and mine will lose money—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, they will not."] My local authority will lose £2 million when the scheme is introduced, which means that nursery places in Durham will be lost, not gained.

Mr. Blunkett

The hon. Members for Calder Valley (Sir D. Thompson) and for Meriden (Mr. Mills) are entirely right, because they represent areas that have been investing in nursery education. And my hon. Friend is right to say that money will be lost. The first three months of the voucher scheme in the so-called pilot authorities have shown that that is so. Almost £1 million—£980,000—has been allocated to manipulate the position, otherwise those pilot authorities would have found themselves without adequate resources to cover the number of four-year-olds because of the changes in the four-year-old population that have already taken place. I want the Under-Secretary of State to deny that fact when he replies to the debate. The Government are spending £74 per four-year-old on publicity in the four pilot authorities. If that is extended to a nationwide scheme, they will spend £47 million on publicity alone.

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

I do not want to save all my answers for the summing up. The hon. Gentleman knows, because we have exchanged questions and answers on the matter, that in practice the publicity during phase 1 has extended significantly into phase 2 areas at the request of parents and providers.

Mr. Blunkett

Research among parents and providers, the results of which came out late last night, shows that, despite the fact that £74 per head has been spent on publicity, many parents in the pilot programme do not know about the scheme and need more information. They seek more information because, despite the fact that the Government have spent £1.2 million on publicity in those four authorities, they are still confused. That is why Conservative Members have raised perfectly legitimate issues. On Report, the hon. Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) said: can my hon. Friend assure me that the pilot scheme is genuine? I told my head teachers that it was".—[Official Report, 19 March 1996; Vol. 274, c. 225.] Somebody had better tell him that they are not, because the Government have decided that they are no longer pilot schemes; they are phase 1 schemes instead.

Why were there four pilot schemes if they are not pilots? Who was navigating when the idea was first presented to the House? Who suddenly decided that the scheme would not be implemented in a big bang like the poll tax, but that phase 1 would be called a pilot scheme? Who decided that the pilots would be evaluated for only three months, before inspections start, early next year, or before the Office for Standards in Education has had a chance to evaluate them? By that time, the local authorities will have had their standard spending assessments manipulated. Money will have been removed from high providers and transferred to local providers, not for provision, but through the voucher scheme.

On Report, the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) said about the pilot schemes: if they are genuine pilot projects, it would be greatly preferable if we could take a bit longer to build up the empirical evidence to find out whether or not it is a good idea."—[Official Report, 19 March 1996: Vol. 274, c. 220.] He is right, like the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills). They both know that if there is a pilot scheme, it is sensible to evaluate it.

If £185 million will be spent on new places that do not exist, people will welcome it. If parents are promised £1,100 instead of nothing, there is a fair chance that some of them will think that that is better than before, because before they had nothing.

10.45 pm
Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

If the Labour party were elected to government some time next year and the nursery voucher scheme had already been introduced, would a Labour Government abolish the scheme?

Mr. Blunkett

I shall give the hon. Gentleman a straight answer. We have made it clear that the millions of pounds that will be spent on bureaucratic administration of the scheme will instead be spent on proper, professionally provided nursery places for children, including Kirklees in the hon. Gentleman's constituency of Colne Valley, which has an excellent record of developing coherent and integrated early-years policies that make sense and do not rely on the market. Yes, we will replace the vouchers with a free entitlement to a place for all four-year-olds and we will set targets to provide places for three-year-olds. Those early-years places will be provided with a qualified teacher in charge of the class, proper inspection and proper facilities.

We will ensure that, instead of money being spent on inventing ways to waste essential resources on bureaucracy, the children who need places will get them. We will not spend money on a tendering process to find firms to administer the scheme. Those firms include Securicor, Group 4, CSL, Z-Yen—whatever that might be—Handling Solutions Ltd. and SIA Ltd. or Social Research Consultancies. None is in the business of education. They are all, rightly from their point of view, in the business of making money. They will not make money from providing nursery places, but from administering the scheme. The £20 million that has been earmarked for that exercise will not be adequate.

I will tell the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) something else. The next Labour Government will have to pick up the pieces and sort out the mess that the Government have created. We will have to tell parents that if there are no places, they cannot redeem the vouchers. We will have to translate the Government's mythological paper promise into a practical reality. Within 18 months of taking office, we will ensure that the pledge is redeemed and all four-year-olds will have a place.

Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough)

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Kirklees. Does he remember the former chairman of the Kirklees education authority describing parental choice as a piddling technicality?

Mr. Blunkett

I presume that the former chairman used that wonderful language when no choice was available. Where there is no place, there is no choice; where there is no multiplicity of places, there is no choice. If children want a nursery education place, they will have it. The majority of people in the playgroup movement are deeply opposed to vouchers, but they want genuine co-operation and they want to join together as voluntary organisations with private and statutory bodies to develop plans to provide a pluralistic approach to early years provision— and we will co-operate with them. We will ensure that development plans and forums are provided at the local level so that no one is excluded.

Regardless of what the leadership of the Preschool Learning Alliance says, the Labour party's proposals to spend all the money on providing nursery places will not deny any child in any authority a decent and properly provided nursery place. If parents wish to place their child in one provision rather than another, they will have that choice—but that choice will exist only if there is a plan to ensure that nursery teachers and nurses are available and that the facilities are provided.

Sir Donald Thompson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blunkett

No, I shall not give way because I wish to make some progress. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether the facilities that are being provided in the pilot schemes will be provided in the general schemes. For example, the pilots are receiving well over £200,000 in extra administrative costs and extra credit approvals are being granted over the next two years to allow the authorities to invest in capital for the facilities.

I have already referred to the extra resources for publicity and to the way in which authorities have had to change the scheme from the one that was placed before the House. The criteria of no voucher, no place has been overridden because authorities have discovered that if they apply it they exclude the most vulnerable children from entering nursery education.

How are the Government going to deal with the situation when they have not had the opportunity to evaluate the scheme? Research for parents and providers has thrown up considerable doubts—more than 50 per cent. of parents in Westminster and Wandsworth are opposed to the scheme, and they are getting a better deal than the people in Norfolk. People want to know why the Government are not prepared to delay the scheme for one term next year so that an evaluation can take place.

There can be only one answer to that question—in fact, there are two answers. I will show that numeracy reached me when I was at school—even though it is falling short under the Conservative Government. First, the Government are afraid of what a proper evaluation of the scheme would reveal. Secondly, they are determined to get the vouchers out before the general election and to pretend to literally millions of parents that if they receive a piece of paper they will be provided with a nursery place.

I say to the Preschool Learning Alliance that if, for a term, people are prepared to sell their souls for a mess of pottage, they will regret it and we will regret it. We will have to sort out the administrative chaos confronting us. Under the standard spending assessment, we will have to redistribute money to authorities that are high providers and allocate the new money to those who need it. We will have to sort out the bureaucratic nightmare and explain to parents why they are unable to redeem a voucher that the Conservatives promised would provide a nursery place. The scheme is deeply dishonest and deeply flawed. We should support the Lords amendment tonight because it allows time for thought, time for evaluation and time for common sense to prevail.

Mr. Mills

Thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I find it very difficult—and rather sad—to speak opposing my right hon. Friend, but she and others know my views. My dilemma could be resolved quite simply if high-achieving councils were excluded from the scheme. I am in real despair about why the Government—who are committed, as I am, to the market—cannot accept what parents, teachers and others involved in education in my constituency of Meriden, which is part of Solihull, want.

The Government are forcing us to join the scheme. We are high achievers; we provide the example to which others look. The Government have recognised that my borough is the best provider of nursery education. I have spoken to parents in my constituency who have children aged three and a half in reception classes. I have talked to my hon. Friend the Minister and to my right hon. Friend time and again about the issue, and I shall continue to do so. Why do the Government not allow us to do our own thing? Why are a Conservative Government forcing us into a straightjacket, along with the rest of the country?

I accept that some local education authorities do not provide the correct sort of nursery education and must be forced to do so. That is fine. The four pilots have been running for only a short time, but I have lots of information about them. I could quote various sources chapter and verse, as my right hon. Friend did, but I shall refer to only one or two. My right hon. Friend said that the take-up in Westminster was 90 per cent., but my figures say 60 per cent. I do not accept the Government's figures which show that the pilots are successful.

Why the rush? My constituents say to me, "OK, if the Government are determined to go ahead, we understand the reasons. But why proceed so quickly?" I understand the reasons too, but I do not understand why the deadline is April 1997. Why is it not later?

How will the vouchers reach those already enjoying good nursery provision in Solihull and Meriden? It will be like issuing tickets for a garden fete. How will it happen? It is unbelievable to expect the local education authority to produce something that is already being produced, is working and is satisfactory—the Secretary of State has recognised that fact. Little bits of paper will be put into envelopes and sent to parents. Will they go to the right people? Will those who have places for their children in reception classes receive the bits of paper?

The Government's recent record in calculating standard spending assessments does not provide any grounds for believing that, if we had the number of four-year-olds required to subtract the £1,100 from the SSAs, leaving the council to top up the rest, that would be the end of the matter. That has never happened. On Solihull local education authority, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will argue that this year it has been quite good; I do not disagree that it was bad, but in the past couple of years it has been an absolute disaster.

I am aware that I should not take up too much time of the House, but perhaps the passion in my voice will show how strongly my constituents feel about this matter. I am not against a national voucher scheme, but what I am totally beside myself about is not exempting those who have demonstrated that they can do it. They have a good scheme. Why not leave it at that?

11 pm

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) demonstrated perfectly that this issue should not be a party political matter. Fifty-two years go, R. A. Butler and all the parties agreed on the need for nursery education, and I have presented a petition signed by 106,000 people, so how the Secretary of State can say that Opposition Members are not in favour of nursery education and want to stop it is almost beyond belief. But she is right, up to a point.

The Secretary of State is careful not to use the words "nursery education" in her speeches, because she knows too much. She has used the word "settings". What the voucher will buy might be what we understand by the words "nursery education"—properly housed and properly taught by people who are properly qualified—but it might not. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Sir D. Thompson). It will not necessarily be—

Sir Donald Thompson


Mr. Spearing

Time is very short.

The voucher will not necessarily buy what the hon. Gentleman thinks it will, and what the Government and the Prime Minister have said time and again that it will buy.

Sir Donald Thompson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Spearing

Well, I did mention the hon. Gentleman.

Sir Donald Thompson

The hon. Gentleman pointed to me and to my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden (Mr. Mills) and for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), whose local authorities are high providers. The only reason why the money has to be given in a voucher is so that it can be ring-fenced. Every local authority has received enough money from the Government over the past 20 years to be in the same position as Durham and Calder Valley, but they have chosen to spend it on other priorities.

Mr. Spearing

I was not referring solely to Calder Valley. It might be able to retain nursery education, as might Solihull and Meriden, but the point is that the rest of the country might not necessarily purchase it, because it will not be available as it is today.

In my earlier point of order, I referred to a letter that the Minister of State had written. As far as I can tell, it was sent to his hon. Friends who were worried, and it tried to tell them that the evaluation would be all right and was already showing some success. I shall not quote the letter, but the evaluation of parents claimed that general awareness of the scheme was high, with three out of four parents claiming to have heard of "a new government scheme". When prompted, 94 per cent. were aware of nursery education vouchers.

The quality of the survey by the Central Office of Information, which was farmed out to contractors, is, I suggest, very much in question, as is the one that appeared in the Library this very day, which relates to a survey of providers. It is the only one that relates to the quality of education. Surely the quality of education is inherent in the word "evaluation". Paragraph 9.1 says: Four in ten providers agreed that quality of nursery education would improve in their LEA. That means that six in ten did not. This is the evaluation that the Minister is commending to his hon. Friends, who might send it to questioning parents, one of whom wrote to me. I think that it was an attempt by the Minister to reassure his friends, but the content of the papers suggests the opposite. Ultimately, it will be up to him to reply.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) said, the delay referred to by the Secretary of State amounts to only a term; but if it were two terms, or even a year, what would that be in comparison with the three or four years for which the Prime Minister and his friends have been bickering about the issue? What would it be in comparison with the 17 years for which the Conservative party has been in office, not implementing the genuine nursery scheme that was introduced by Lady Thatcher in a White Paper shortly after she became Secretary of State for Education? What have the Government been doing all that time?

Lady Thatcher introduced another novel scheme, which was her downfall. She tried a pilot scheme for the poll tax in Scotland. She did great damage to her party, and even more to herself, by not understanding the impact of that pilot scheme when it was introduced in other parts of the country. Conservative Members voted for a scheme involving contractual provision, with providers and purchasers, in the health service. We know what is happening to that. The Government were begged to organise a pilot scheme to see whether the system worked. Who were the victims? The elderly and the sick.

We are now confronted with an opportunity to provide for a proper evaluation after a proper period. This is not a proper evaluation, but a proper period could be available for the youngest of our children. The Government are risking their future, and the education of those children. I put it to Conservative Members—because persuasion is the basis of this place—that, if they reject the Lords amendment, they will pose a risk to our young people that they will have to bear on their consciences regardless of whether they are Members of Parliament in the next few years.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

The House will know of my lingering doubts about the scheme, because I expressed them on Third Reading. I base my remarks on the assumption that Conservative Members will still be on the Government Benches after the next general election, and that we will inherit the consequences of the decisions on which we are now embarking.

I was pleased by what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about further empirical evidence suggesting that the pilot scheme has proved acceptable to the great majority of people in the limited number of areas where it has taken place. I should like to hear from the Under-Secretary of State whether the representative bodies of parents of rising five children have been consulted about the experiment, whether the governors' representative bodies have been consulted, whether the unions and others representing nursery school teachers have been consulted and, briefly, what has been their response. Those bodies' views are relevant.

I also want to be reassured that there are precedents for a consultation as limited as this—limited in terms both of scope and of time. By the standards of Government consultation, it strikes the layman as being rather brief. I would be reassured if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary could give examples of similar educational procedures.

Bearing in mind what I have said about the assumption that the Conservative party will be in government after the next general election, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who I trust will remain in her post, where she is doing such a good job, will keep the scheme under review beyond the period that she has in mind, because it will need revisiting to ensure that our confident assumptions are borne out in practice.

My final point goes back to one of my first speeches in the House more than 20 years ago. I hope that it is no part of the Government's policy for the scheme to be regarded as the thin end of the wedge in the further application of the voucher principle in the statutory education age range—from five to 16. That, I have always thought, is a bad idea in principle—I do not have time to go into the reasons why tonight. I would welcome the reassurance from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that our policy is not the harbinger of the wider application of vouchers in the statutory age range.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

I think that the whole House, having heard the speech of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), will feel considerable sympathy for the Minister who, if he is to give the hon. Gentleman the assurances that he seeks, will have to pull off a number of tricks that he is not capable of.

I note the hon. Gentleman's opening premise. I hope that the opening premise of the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) was not that he is the only Conservative Member, or Conservative, who opposes certain aspects of the voucher scheme. If that was his premise, he is mistaken. Many Conservatives, both in Parliament and outside, strongly oppose the voucher scheme. They certainly oppose its rapid implementation without proper evaluation. Only this evening, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) passed to me a fax that he received from Gloucestershire county council. At its council meeting this evening, it passed a resolution stating: That this Council welcomes the amendment to the Nursery Education and Grant Maintained Schools Bill passed with all-party support by the House of Lords on 17 June which requires an evaluation of the current pilot nursery vouchers scheme before the full scheme is started. The hon. Member for Meriden may especially wish to know that none other than Mr. Richard Izett, leader of the council's Conservative group, was among the signatories to that resolution. I shall be relatively brief because my opposition, and that of my party, to the nursery voucher scheme is well known. It is equally well known, I hope, that we favour a significant expansion of high-quality early-years education for all three and four-year-olds whose parents want it for their children.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

The hon. Gentleman says that his party favours the expansion of early-years education. Could he please tell me how he squares that with the policy of his party's councillors who want independence for the Isle of Wight because such a move would take it out of the national education system and mean that vouchers would not be available to anyone there? To ensure that vouchers are not extended to my constituents is the most spiteful reason for introducing independence to the Isle of Wight.

Mr. Foster

The House has greatly enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's interventions this evening. Unfortunately, so many of my hon. Friends were giving me advice as to the variety of responses that I could give him that the full force of his arguments passed me by, but he will be aware of the fact that, whatever course the Isle of Wight takes, the Liberal Democrat party, wherever it may be, will have high-quality early-years education as a high priority. Whatever happens to his constituency, which will no doubt become a Liberal Democrat constituency, high-quality early-years education will be available for three and four-year-olds there.

I was trying to make the important point that I am in favour of the expansion of high-quality early-years education. It is important that that is done through a mixture of provision in the local education authority, voluntary and private sectors. My party's policy proposals have been fully costed. We have said what the cost will be and where the money will come from to pay for it.

Mr. Ian Bruce

The hon. Gentleman is very proud of the fact that the Liberal Democrats have taken over in a number of county councils in the south-west. To my knowledge, not one additional nursery place has been found by the Liberal Democrat county council in Dorset or, I suspect, in any of the rest of the south-west.

Mr. Foster

The hon. Gentleman is not going to get away with that sort of comment. He is well aware that 80 per cent. of the funding for local education authorities comes from central Government. It is the Government's failure to make available the money to allow authorities such as his to expand the provision of high-quality early-years education—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Can we get back to the Lords amendment?

11.15 pm
Mr. Foster

I should be delighted to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We are in favour of high-quality early-years education, but opposed to the voucher scheme because we believe it to be highly bureaucratic and cumbersome. If it had been proposed by Brussels, I have no doubt that it would have caused Conservative Members to scream hell fire. It is a cumbersome scheme and a complete scam. In reality, it is a cash-for-votes bribe.

If the Government have their way tonight, and the amendment passed in another place is defeated here, vouchers will be delivered through letter boxes throughout the land just before a general election, yet after that election many people in many parts of the country will find that there is nowhere to cash them in. It is a pre-election bribe at least as staggering as tax cuts in the forthcoming Budget would be.

No doubt some right hon. and hon. Members will conclude that my opposition to the Government's proposal is purely to help ensure that the evil day of nursery vouchers is at least postponed. Hon. Members who believe that are absolutely right. I believe that I am not alone. Today, my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) talked to a group of teachers from St. James's Church of England voluntary aided primary school in his constituency. They explained their opposition to the nursery voucher scheme.

Many other organisations are opposed to the scheme. Many of them believe that, if it is to go ahead, it should do so only after a thorough and proper evaluation. That will be difficult to achieve in a short time, given the Government's failure to get a large sample for any evaluation. Only four local education authorities have agreed to it.

There is a need for a proper evaluation—the Secretary of State agrees with that proposition. She will recall that, when the scheme was first announced in July 1995, the press pack that went out with it said: Phase 1 will ensure that we have the details of the policy right before implementing them across the country. More recently, the Secretary of State promised in the Chamber—in column 32 of the Hansard of 22 January—that phase one would be "a thorough test". There cannot be a thorough test unless it takes place over a reasonable period of time, which is what the Lords amendment proposes. It cannot be a thorough test if it is conducted in a short period of time and in a small area. It cannot be a thorough test when all the evidence to date suggests that the scheme is nowhere near as successful as the Government would have us believe.

The scheme cannot be successful when that evidence suggests that approximately 10 per cent. of people did not even collect their vouchers, despite all the publicity. It cannot be a success when there is no evidence that there has been any increase in choice. All the evidence shows that people made exactly the same decisions about where to send their children as they had made in previous years.

If this scheme is to go ahead, it deserves a thorough evaluation. That is what has been proposed in another place, and that is what the House should support. We should oppose the Government's attempt to railroad through in a scandalous manner a scheme that the country does not want, that has not been thoroughly evaluated and that will not work.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) let the cat out of the bag when he said that he was completely opposed to the voucher scheme, and everything that he said in support of Lords amendment No. 2 should be taken in that context. I believe that the House can discount all his arguments—every single one of them—for extending the phase 1 period and for the measurement of it.

It was a great pity that more education authorities did not apply for phase 1 of the scheme. The Liberal Democrat-controlled East Sussex education authority, for example, did not apply, and it is quite a high provider. It is not a very high provider, but it is quite a high provider. That authority showed a disinclination to improve on the performance that it has established over the years by ducking the possibility of applying for the scheme.

As you pointed out to the hon. Member for Bath, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the speeches in this debate have gone fairly wide of the mark—the Lords amendment. What the amendment is in fact saying is: do not judge on the basis of the knowledge to date, judge on the basis of the knowledge that could be accumulated in a 12-month period of the scheme's operation.

I do not believe that much more useful information can be gathered to make a more sophisticated evaluation or business application of phase 1 so that extension to phase 2 is made that much better. Therefore, I believe that the House should support the Government in overturning Lords amendment No. 2.

I add only two provisos to that. In opening this debate, the Secretary of State said that we "must work towards" quality thresholds. I have been concerned about this scheme because of a worry—which I believe is shared by many other people—about the quality of nursery education that will be on offer. I believe that working towards quality thresholds is pushing off too far into the future the establishment of good quality nursery education for our young people. I hope, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) said earlier, that there will be continuing monitoring and policing of this scheme to ensure that quality is being delivered.

My second proviso rides on that monitoring process, so that the necessary places will be established in those areas of the country—particularly in impoverished urban areas—where there is less parental push for this type of nursery education, so that people who want to use the vouchers will have the opportunity to do so. With those two provisos, I urge support for the Government in the Division

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

It is interesting that with the exception the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone)—whom I shall charitably pass over—the previous two speeches by Conservative Members have been, to say the least, less than enthusiastic in their support for the Government's objective.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) varied between gloom and hopeless optimism in his speech. The greatest speech by a Conservative Member, however, was made by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills), who pointed out the damage that is likely to be caused to the authority in Solihull, which has traditionally provided good nursery education. I remind the House that, until this April, Solihull was the last metropolitan borough in the United Kingdom to be controlled by the Conservative party. It was not without some courage that the hon. Gentleman made the speech that he did. I hope that he will follow through the logic of what he said by voting for the amendment passed in the other place.

I speak briefly against the background of a constituency in the borough of Sandwell which, in the Government's league tables, is second in the country in its nursery provision. That is a record of which we are justly proud and not one that I want to see menaced by what the Government propose in their voucher scheme. In the context of Sandwell's wide-ranging provision, the voucher scheme is of no benefit to my constituents.

Sandwell sees the development of a part-time nursery place for every child in the borough as a key element in its education strategy. The council's policy is also to ensure—something which I hope that the Secretary of State applauds—that nursery provision is an education provision by having a teacher in every nursery class. The borough's policy for early-years education is additionally supported by admitting children to reception classes at the beginning of the academic year in which their fifth birthday takes place.

The Government have a straight dilemma which they can resolve this evening. They can tell us where the money is coming from for their voucher scheme. Either it is to be new money or it is to come from education resources currently allocated throughout the country. There is nowhere else. The Under-Secretary may well tell us that it is new money. There might be yet another bunch of kids, to quote the Chancellor of the Exchequer today, busy at this moment in the Treasury, tapping away on a word processor producing a new policy, but I doubt it.

We all know that the money is coming from the money allocated to education provision in the borough of Sandwell, in the constituencies of Meriden, Calder Valley, City of Durham and all the others, largely represented by my hon. Friends, where over years nursery provision has been given the importance that it merits.

I for one am fed up with seeing resources being transferred from a deprived town such as West Bromwich and heaped on favoured Tory flagship boroughs such as Westminster. Equally, when resources and services are taken from towns such as Wednesbury and given to Wandsworth,;it is long past the time when the regional media in Britain should stop pursing the same silly agenda as their national counterparts and start reporting what is happening with regard to local government finance.

The voucher scheme is yet another attempt by the Government to rig local government finance in a deplorable way. We all know who the sufferers will be from the scheme. In Sandwell, 97.8 per cent. of children now have access to and enjoy nursery education. To quote the Secretary of State, how is that for parental choice? We will surely not stand idly by and see that nursery provision diluted with this barmy piece of ideology which is intended to bribe electors in areas where there has been no such provision for many years.

The House of Commons has a duty today to uphold the decision of the other place if it is to protect nursery provision for the nation's children.

Ms Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)

The debate was a chance for the Government to try to explain why there should not be a full and proper evaluation of phase 1 of the nursery voucher scheme before phase 2 is implemented. Nothing that has been said from the Front or the Back Benches will convince parents or providers that they have got it right.

The argument for proper evaluation is unanswerable. It is simply that the nation cannot afford for the Government to get it wrong. There is too much at stake. There is the money that might be wasted and the providers that might be damaged. Most important of all, there are more than 500,000 four-year-olds in England and Wales who should not be made guinea pigs for an untested and untried scheme. Any arguments that the Government have made in the past against full evaluation must have been completely discredited in the light of the problems that are emerging from phase 1 of the pilot scheme.

We have heard tonight of the confusion, the administrative chaos and the problems with capital spending. Only 110 new places have been created. Almost more important than that are the big questions of substance that still hang over the nursery voucher scheme that have not been answered. Where are the answers to the big questions?

11.30 pm

The Government cannot say how vouchers have affected the pattern of admissions to primary schools in phase 1 of the scheme. They gave no evidence of how the scheme affects the crucial issue of special needs provision. They have not said how many new providers have emerged or commented on whether the value of voucher is right. They remain silent on the hidden administrative costs. No account has been taken of how existing providers have been affected.

It is no good the Secretary of State reading out snippets from letters from individuals, important though they may be. That is not proper evaluation or evidence on which we should decide future nursery provision for our children. The Government cannot answer the crucial questions because they do not have the information to do so. The inspection of individual providers does not even start until the autumn term and the Government's evaluation has not yet been completed.

We are left to ask: why bother with pilots if the Government will not take the time to evaluate them? It is plain that the Government's idea of evaluation is to fiddle with the edges and look at the mechanics. They have no intention—and never had any—of evaluating the scheme itself. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) must be fully aware of that before he decides how to vote tonight because I know that he has been concerned about that for many a month.

If that is the Government's idea of evaluation, so be it. But it is now clear that hon. Members on both sides of the House who have sought assurance over the past few months that the scheme would be properly evaluated must realise that it cannot be given if the Lords amendment is overturned. There are too many examples of the waste and upheaval that have been caused by the Government's failure to pilot their policies properly: the poll tax, the health service reforms, the national curriculum, testing, and teacher training. The lessons should have been learnt.Let us face it, the Government invariably get it wrong, but they get it even more wrong if they do not pilot and evaluate before implementation. That is not a point for or against vouchers; it is common sense.

Let us be honest. The Minister made it quite clear why he does not want a proper and full evaluation. In Committee—this has been confirmed by the Secretary of State tonight—the Minister said that he did not want a full evaluation because it would delay the scheme's introduction."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 1 February 1996; c. 64.] That is a bit rich coming from the Government. His concern about delay is unbelievable.

Where was the Minister last year when his colleagues were telling local authorities to cut nursery education to pay for the teacher's salary increase? Where have the Government been for the past 17 years? As far as nursery education is concerned, they invented the word "delay". They have delayed and deferred nursery education for almost two decades and now they have the cheek to tell the House that it cannot be delayed for one term for proper evaluation. That has more to do with the electoral needs of the Conservative party than with the needs of the children about whom we should be concerned.

The nursery voucher scheme is administratively expensive, deeply flawed and damaging to existing provision. Whether or not Conservative Members agree about that, there can be no doubt that the scheme is unproven and untested. Early years education is too important to gamble with.

Good provision in the maintained, voluntary and private sectors has been built up over 17 years, despite the lack of Government support. Let us not put all that at risk for the sake of a full and proper evaluation. Most important of all, do not let down the millions of parents and children who look to the House to get it right. I believe that we are in danger of getting it very wrong. That is why we should support the Lords amendment for proper and full evaluation and reject the Government motion.

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

I begin by emphasising that the Bill is about reinforcing three strong strands of Government education policy—increasing parental choice, increasing the diversity of provision and promoting good quality education. The amendment is partly about evaluation and partly, as we have heard from several Opposition Members, about the Opposition's hatred for enhancing parental choice.

Even though the scheme has only just begun, parents are welcoming it, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already pointed out. The vouchers enable parents to choose between the maintained, the private and the voluntary sectors, depending on what is best for them and their child. We have already heard how the scheme is enabling some four-year-olds to have a pre-school place for longer than before. That should be welcomed by right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House.

We have seen, too, how 27 per cent. of pre-schools are extending the number of sessions that they offer. The maintained sector has expanded due to the new recurrent funding that the voucher scheme offers. That, too, should be welcomed. The new quality control regime is coming into play, and will deliver for the first time a national standard for the education of four-year-olds.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

My hon. Friend has referred to Opposition Members' denial of choice. Will he confirm that no local authority will lose money that is currently going into nursery education provided that it offers the same number of places as it offers now? There will be absolutely no loss of cash, and for the Opposition to say that there will is nonsense.

Mr. Squire

Not only is my hon. Friend absolutely correct, but that is the answer to the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), who sought to suggest the reverse.

Those children without a place in the maintained sector are, for the most part, already provided for in the private or voluntary sectors. They are not, however, always attending a pre-school group for five sessions a week or for three full terms before compulsory school age. Those children will particularly benefit from the scheme because it is inclusive. The standards of provision will be inspected, voucher funding will be provided to promote training and quality will increase over time.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) spoke about figure work and implied, wrongly in one case, that publicity expenditure equated to £74 per pupil. We have had that exchange before and he knows that if he takes the total publicity expenditure so far and divides it only by pupils in the phase 1 area, despite significant publicity costs in phase 2 areas, he will end up with a silly answer. In due course, that is exactly what he did.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman implied that there was some underhand funding of the four phase 1 areas. Not true. I remind him and the House that the four phase 1 areas had a short time to prepare for the implementation of the scheme—a full year less than local education authorities in phase 2. That has meant that they have incurred greater costs than they otherwise might, particularly because they were working closely with my Department and with the voucher agency to finalise details of the full scheme.

Mr. Blunkett

Given the time constraint, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Perhaps he will tell us therefore what expenditure in the current year, without voucher income, all the remaining authorities not in the pilot phase will be expected to expend in preparing for the introduction of the scheme? What other services will they have to cut to implement it?

Mr. Squire

It is easy to answer the hon. Gentleman, because he has been told this before. By the time phase 2 starts, the contractor selected to administer the scheme will be undertaking almost all the administrative work. There will be no significant additional burden on local education authorities or schools. I have the following to say to the hon. Gentleman and to those who are pursuing a similar line: if their LEA is now complaining about what may happen in phase 2, why did it not volunteer to be in phase 1? If those LEAs had done so, they could have helped to shape the scheme at that stage.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) made some excellent points. I assure him that we have consulted, and are continuing to consult, widely on several aspects of the scheme, and the organisations consulted include governors' bodies. My officials have had very many discussions with, for instance, the Early Childhood Education Forum, which includes about 40 representative bodies, including the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations and the teachers' unions. Those discussions continue.

I emphasise that the principal people at the heart of this measure are the parents, and evaluations show that the majority of parents welcome the scheme.

Mr. Steinberg


Mr. Squire

I have given way, and I believe that the House wishes to move to a Division shortly.

I assure my hon. Friends the Members for Carshalton and Wallington and for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) and the House that we will keep these matters under review. We will do so not least because we wish to discover how academic results at key stages 1 and 2 improve in the years to come as a result of this reform. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington that this scheme stands alone. It is separate from any consideration of vouchers for any other age—good, bad or indifferent. This scheme is about vouchers for under-fives, and it is an excellent scheme.

What struck me most forcefully in the speech by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) was his comment, which one or two of my colleagues noted, that this measure may sway many people to vote Conservative. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will bear that uncovenanted benefit with due modesty tonight and look forward to that thought being devoutly recognised and realised at the next general election.

I pay tribute to the long-standing advocacy of nursery education by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes. I wholeheartedly share his regret that more LEAs did not volunteer for phase 1. That would have been in their interests, and in the interests of the parents of four-year-olds this year. I am grateful for his support tonight.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) made a speech—an approximation anyway—in which he got it fundamentally wrong on funding. Because of the lateness of the hour, let me simply say to him that an extra £165 million will be injected next year, which is not money taken from his borough, and is money that will provide additional places in his borough.

Mr. Steinberg


Mr. Squire

I will not give way; we are seeking to move to a finish.

We have shown that the benefits are already accruing. They are accruing to parents now, and evaluation is under way. The only consequence of not agreeing with their Lordships tonight would be to deny many benefits to many parents and children next year.

Mr. Steinberg

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you inform the House whether this is a timed debate or whether it can go on until any hour?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Any hour.

Mr. Steinberg

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Squire


The hon. Member for Brightside said that, should his party come to power at the next election, it would stop vouchers going to parents. His words will be transmitted by my right hon. and hon. Friends up and down the streets of this country. We shall ensure, beyond argument, that parents know that that is what would happen if there were a Labour Government. That will guarantee, as much as any other single action on its part, that Labour stays in opposition after the next election. I urge the House to disagree with the Lords amendment.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes: 275, Noes 251.

Division No. 206] [11.44 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Dykes, Hugh
Alison, Fit Hon Michael (Selby) Eggar, Rt Hon Tim
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Elletson, Harold
Amess, David Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, James Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Ashby, David Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Faber, David
Baldry, Tony Fabricant, Michael
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bates, Michael Fishburn, Dudley
Batiste, Spencer Forman, Nigel
Bellingham, Henry Forth, Eric
Bendall, Vivian Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Beresford, Sir Paul Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Booth, Hartley French, Douglas
Boswell, Tim Fry, Sir Peter
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gale, Roger
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gallie, Phil
Bowden, Sir Andrew Gardiner, Sir George
Bowis, John Garnier, Edward
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gill, Christopher
Brandreth, Gyles Gillan, Cheryl
Brazier, Julian Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bright, Sir Graham Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Gorst, Sir John
Browning, Mrs Angela Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)
Bruce, Ian (South Dorset) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Budgen, Nicholas Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Burns, Simon Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Burt, Alistair Grylls, Sir Michael
Butcher, John Hague, Rt Hon William
Butler, Peter Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Butterfill, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hampson, Dr Keith
Carrington, Matthew Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Carttiss, Michael Hannam, Sir John
Cash, William Hargreaves, Andrew
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Chapman, Sir Sydney Hawkins, Nick
Churchill, Mr Hawksley, Warren
Clappison, James Hayes, Jerry
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heald, Oliver
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hendry, Charles
Coe, Sebastian Hicks, Sir Robert
Colvin, Michael Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Congdon, David Horam, John
Conway, Derek Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Couchman, James Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cran, James Jack, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jenkin, Bernard
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jessel, Toby
Davis, David (Boothferry) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Day, Stephen Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Devlin, Tim Key, Robert
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen King, Rt Hon Tom
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kirkhope, Timothy
Dover, Den Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Duncan, Alan Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Duncan Smith, Iain Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dunn, Bob Knox, Sir David
Durant, Sir Anthony Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, David (Dover)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shaw, Sr Giles (Pudsey)
Legg, Barry Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford)
Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe) Shersby, Sir Michael
Lidington, David Sims, Sir Roger
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Soames, Nicholas
Lord, Michael Spencer, Sir Derek
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spicer, Sr Michael (S Worcs)
MacKay, Andrew Spink, Dr Robert
Maclean, Rt Hon David Spring, Richard
McLoughlin, Patrick Sproat, Iain
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Maitland. Lady Olga Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Malone, Gerald Steen, Anthony
Mans, Keith Stephen, Michael
Marland, Paul Stewart, Allan
Marlow, Tony Streeter, Gary
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sumberg, David
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Sweeney, Walter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sykes, John
Mates, Michael Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Merchant, Piers Temple-Morris, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thomason, Roy
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Moate, Sir Roger Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thurnham, Peter
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nelson, Anthony Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Neubert, Sir Michael Tracey, Richard
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tredinnick, David
Nicholls, Patrick Trend, Michael
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Trotter, Neville
Norris, Steve Twinn, Dr Ian
Oppenheim, Phillip Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Ottaway, Richard Viggers, Peter
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Page, Richard Walden, George
Paice, James Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Patnick, Sir Irvine Waller, Gary
Patten, Rt Hon John Ward, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Pawsey, James Waterson, Nigel
Pickles, Eric Watts, John
Porter, David (Waveney) Whitney, Ray
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Whittingdale, John
Powell, William (Corby) Widdecombe, Ann
Rathbone, Tim Wilkinson, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John Willetts, David
Richards, Rod Wilshire, David
Riddick, Graham Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Robathan, Andrew Wolfson, Mark
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wood, Timothy
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Yeo, Tim
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Tellers for the Ayes:
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Mr. Bowen Wells and Mr. Roger Knapman.
Sackville, Tom
Abbott, Ms Diane Ashton, Joe
Adams, Mrs Irene Austin-Walker, John
Ainger, Nick Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Allen, Graham Battle, John
Armstrong, Hilary Bayley, Hugh
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beggs, Roy Gerrard, Neil
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bennett, Andrew F Godman, Dr Norman A
Bermingham, Gerald Godsiff, Roger
Berry, Roger Golding, Mrs Llin
Betts, Clive Gordon, Mildred
Blunkett, David Graham, Thomas
Boateng, Paul Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Bradley, Keith Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, N (N'ctle upon Tyne E) Grocott, Bruce
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gunnell, John
Byers, Stephen Hall, Mike
Caborn, Richard Hanson, David
Callaghan, Jim Hardy, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Harvey, Nick
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, D N Heppell, John
Canavan, Dennis Hid, Keith (Streatham)
Cann, Jamie Hinchliffe, David
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Hodge, Margaret
Chidgey, David Hoey, Kate
Chisholm, Malcolm Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Church, Judith Home Robertson, John
Clapham, Michael Hoon, Geoffrey
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Howells, Dr Kim (Pontypridd)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hoyle, Doug
Clelland, David Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Coffey, Ann Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Connarty, Michael Hutton, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Illsley, Eric
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Ingram, Adam
Corbyn, Jeremy Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Corston, Jean Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Cousins, Jim Jamieson, David
Cox, Tom Jenkins, Brian (SE Staff)
Cummings, John Johnston, Sir Russell
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dafis, Cynog Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Darling, Alistair Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Davidson, Ian Jowell, Tessa
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Keen, Alan
Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth) Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kennedy, Jane (L'pooi Br'dg'n)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Khabra, Piara S
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Kilfoyle, Peter
Denham, John Kirkwood, Archy
Dewar, Donald Lewis, Terry
Dixon, Don Liddell, Mrs Helen
Dobson, Frank Livingstone, Ken
Dowd, Jim Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Llwyd, Etfyn
Eagle, Ms Angela Loyden, Eddie
Eastham, Ken Lynne, Ms Liz
Etherington, Bill McAllion, John
Evans, John (St Helens N) McCartney, Ian
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Macdonald, Calum
Fatchett, Derek McKelvey, William
Faulds, Andrew Mackinlay, Andrew
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) McLeish, Henry
Fisher, Mark Maclennan, Robert
Flynn, Paul McMaster, Gordon
Foster, Don (Bath) McNamara, Kevin
Foulkes, George MacShane, Denis
Fraser, John McWilliam, John
Fyfe, Maria Madden, Max
Galbraith, Sam Maddock, Diana
Galloway, George Mahon, Alice
Gapes, Mike Marek, Dr John
Garrett, John Marshall, David (Shettleston)
George, Bruce Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Martlew, Eric Raynsford, Nick
Maxton, John Reid, Dr John
Meacher, Michael Rendel, David
Meale, Alan Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Michael, Alun Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Mills, Iain Rooney, Terry
Moonie, Dr Lewis Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Morley, Elliot Rowlands, Ted
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Salmond, Alex
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Sedgemore, Brian
Mowlam, Marjorie Sheerman, Barry
Mudie, George Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Mullin, Chris Short, Clare
Murphy, Paul Simpson, Alan
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Skinner, Dennis
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
O'Hara, Edward Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Olner, Bill Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
O'Neill, Martin Snape, Peter
Pearson, Ian Soley, Clive
Pendry, Tom Spearing, Nigel
Pickthall, Colin Spellar, John
Pike, Peter L Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Pope, Greg Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Steinberg, Gerry
Prescott Rt Hon John Stevenson, George
Primaroto, Dawn Stott, Roger
Purchase, Ken Strang, Dr. Gavin
Radice, Giles Straw, Jack
Sutcliffe, Gerry Wicks, Malcolm
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Wigley, Dafydd
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Timms, Stephen Winnick, David
Touhig, Don Wise, Audrey
Trickett, Jon Worthington, Tony
Turner, Dennis Wray, Jimmy
Tyler, Paul Wright Dr Tony
Vaz, Keith Young, David (Bolton SE)
Walley, Joan
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Tellers for the Noes:
Wareing, Robert N Mr. Joe Benton and Ms Janet Anderson.
Watson, Mike

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 3 to 6 agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up a Reason to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their amendment No. 2: Mr. Anthony Coombs, Mr. David Blunkett, Mr. Richard Ottaway, Ms Estelle Morris and Mr. Robin Squire; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Richard Ottaway.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reason for disagreeing to Lords amendment No. 2 reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.

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