HC Deb 27 January 1997 vol 289 cc73-9

After section 259 of the Education Act 1996 there shall be inserted—

"Significant enlargements for the purposes of section 259


  1. (1) For the purposes of section 259 an enlargement of the premises of a grant-maintained school is a significant enlargement of those premises if (and only if) the effect of the enlargement, taken with all previous enlargements (if any) taking place since the appropriate date, would increase the school's capacity by more than 50 per cent. or 30 pupils (whichever is the greater) as compared with—
    1. (a) its capacity on the appropriate date; or
    2. (b) if at any time after that date its capacity was lower than its capacity on that date, its lowest capacity at any such time.
  2. (2) An enlargement of the premises of a grant-maintained school is accordingly not a significant enlargement of those premises for the purposes of section 259 if its effect, taken with all such previous enlargements (if any), would not be to produce such an increase in the school's capacity.
  3. (3) In subsection (1) "the appropriate date" means whichever is the latest of the following dates—
    1. (a) the date falling four years before the date on which the governing body form the intention to make the enlargement concerned,
    2. (b) the date when the school was established,
    3. (c) where any proposals for a significant enlargement of the premises of the school have been approved by the Secretary of State under—
      1. (i) section 261 below or section 98 of the Education Act 1993, or
      2. (ii) section 37 or 43 above or section 12 or 13 of the Education Act 1980.
      the date (or latest date) on which any such proposals were implemented, and
    4. (d) where the local education authority have determined to implement any proposals for a significant enlargement of the premises of the school under section 38 above or section 12(7) of the Education Act 1980, the date (or latest date) on which any such proposals were implemented.
  4. (4) The Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe the method for determining a school's capacity for the purposes of this section; and in this section references to a school's capacity are references to its capacity to accommodate pupils.
  5. (5) Nothing in this section applies to a school requiring special measures to be taken.".'.—[Mr. Forth.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Mr. Eric Forth)

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

Some hon. Members will recognise this clause as an old friend—which almost survived a number of attempts in Committee to spoil its clarity and simplicity. In re-introducing it, we have felt the need to change only one word in new section 259A, and that change is purely technical.

New clause 3 makes an important contribution to the deregulation of controls over the expansion of grant-maintained schools, by enabling GM schools to enlarge their premises by up to 50 per cent. without the need to publish statutory proposals. The provision is not entirely new, as non-significant enlargements can already be made to all schools without the need for publishing statutory proposals. Under current legislation, changes would normally be regarded as non-significant—and therefore not require statutory proposals—if they increased the size of a school by less than 25 per cent., or fewer than 30 places.

New section 259A(1), which is introduced by the new clause, would effectively change the definition of "significant enlargement" for grant-maintained schools to one in which the capacity of the premises is increased by more than 50 per cent. Similarly to current provision, schools would be able to add 30 places without publishing proposals, even when such a change would increase the size of premises by more than 50 per cent. To avoid very rapid cumulative increases occurring, schools would be required to examine the previous four-year period to assess whether a change is significant.

The increased freedom provided by the new clause would enable grant-maintained schools to respond to the wishes of parents and to decide for themselves what size of school will most usefully serve their specific area. Such changes will not necessarily require investment of additional public funds, because putting decisions more directly into the hands of schools will increase incentives for governors to explore other ways in which to finance necessary capital work. That is not freedom without responsibility, because—as we made clear in Committee—the Bill requires governors who propose to make enlargements to decide who has an interest, and to consult them about the proposals before making a decision to proceed.

Some hon. Members may be concerned that the change is limited to the grant-maintained sector, but we believe that it is appropriate for GM schools to take the lead in this matter. Not only are many GM schools popular with pupils and parents, but they are in the best position to investigate innovative approaches to funding additional provision. New clause 3 should enable them to expand to meet demand. I realise that, in some cases, expansion will occur in areas where there are surplus places, but there are ways in which to remove those places if they are in schools that parents do not choose.

I also realise that many popular schools are outside the GM sector. Those schools will continue, in the normal manner, to be able to make proposals for significant enlargements. We have made it clear that there will be circumstances in which, in the interests of increasing choice and diversity, we will be willing to approve increases in places, even when surplus places exist in the area, and especially when subsequent removal of unsatisfactory provision is likely.

I hope that hon. Members will therefore understand that new clause 3 is a useful measure in increasing the autonomy and responsibility of GM schools and in giving them an opportunity to respond imaginatively to parents' wishes. It is an integral part of the Bill, and I hope that the House will approve it.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton)

As we have already fully deployed our arguments in Committee on new clause 3—on 3 December 1996—and it was lost by the Government, there is little or no point in revisiting them; they have been reported in Hansard. I believe that we should move to a vote on the new clause.

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

The House divided: Ayes 272, Noes 273.

Division No. 52] [7.3 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Aitken, Jonathan Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Alexander, Richard Coe, Sebastian
Alison, Michael (Selby) Congdon, David
Amess, David Conway, Derek
Arbuthnot, James Cope, Sir John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cormack, Sir Patrick
Ashby, David Couchman, James
Atkins, Robert Cran, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Curry, David
Baker, Kenneth (Mole V) Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd)
Baldry, Tony Day, Stephen
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Bates, Michael Devlin, Tim
Batiste, Spencer Dicks, Terry
Bellingham, Henry Dorrell, Stephen
Bendall, Vivian Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Beresford, Sir Paul Dover, Den
Biffen, John Duncan, Alan
Body, Sir Richard Duncan Smith, Iain
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dunn, Bob
Booth, Hartley Dykes, Hugh
Boswell, Tim Eggar, Tim
Bowden, Sir Andrew Elletson, Harold
Bowis, John Emery, Sir Peter
Boyson, Sir Rhodes Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld)
Brazier, Julian Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bright, Sir Graham Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)
Brooke, Peter Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Browning, Mrs Angela Evennett, David
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Faber, David
Budgen, Nicholas Fabricant, Michael
Burns, Simon Fenner, Dame Peggy
Burt, Alistair Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Butcher, John Fishburn, Dudley
Butler, Peter Forman, Nigel
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Linc'n) Forth, Eric
Carrington, Matthew Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Cash, William Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Channon, Paul Freeman, Roger
Chapman, Sir Sydney French, Douglas
Churchill, Mr Fry, Sir Peter
Clappison, James Gale, Roger
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochf'd) Gallie, Phil
Gardiner, Sir George Marland, Paul
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marlow, Tony
Garnier, Edward Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gill, Christopher Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Goodlad, Alastair Mates, Michael
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gorst, Sir John Merchant, Piers
Grant, Sir Anthony (SW Cambs) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Moate, Sir Roger
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Monro, Sir Hector
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Gummer, John Neubert, Sir Michael
Hague, William Newton, Tony
Hamilton, Sir Archibald Nicholls, Patrick
Hanley, Jeremy Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hannam, Sir John Onslow, Sir Cranley
Hargreaves, Andrew Ottaway, Richard
Harris, David Page, Richard
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Paice, James
Hawkins, Nick Patnick, Sir Irvine
Hawksley, Warren Patten, John
Heald, Oliver Pattie, Sir Geoffrey
Heath, Sir Edward Pawsey, James
Heathcoat-Amory, David Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hendry, Charles Pickles, Eric
Heseltine, Michael Porter, David
Hicks, Sir Robert Portillo, Michael
Higgins, Sir Terence Powell, William (Corby)
Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test) Rathbone, Tim
Hogg, Douglas (Grantham) Redwood, John
Horam, John Renton, Tim
Hordern, Sir Peter Richards, Rod
Howell, David (Guildf'd) Riddick, Graham
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Robathan, Andrew
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Roberts, Sir Wyn
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensb'ne) Roe, Mrs Marion
Hunter, Andrew Rowe, Andrew
Hurd, Douglas Rumbold, Dame Angela
Jack, Michael Sackville, Tom
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Sainsbury, Sir Timothy
Jenkin, Bernard (Colchester N) Scott, Sir Nicholas
Jessel, Toby Shaw, David (Dover)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jones, Robert B (W Herts) Shephard, Mrs Gillian
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Shepherd, Sir Colin (Heref'd)
Key, Robert Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
King, Tom Sims, Sir Roger
Kirkhope, Timothy Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knapman, Roger Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfld)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Speed, Sir Keith
Knox, Sir David Spencer, Sir Derek
Kynoch, George Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Spink, Dr Robert
Legg, Barry Spring, Richard
Leigh, Edward Sproat, Iain
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe) Stanley, Sir John
Lidington, David Steen, Anthony
Lilley, Peter Stephen, Michael
Lord, Michael Stern, Michael
Luff, Peter Stewart, Allan
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Streeter, Gary
MacGregor, John Sumberg, David
MacKay, Andrew Sweeney, Walter
Maclean, David Sykes, John
McLoughlin, Patrick Tapsell, Sir Peter
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Madel, Sir David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Maitland, Lady Olga Taylor, Sir Teddy
Major, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Malone, Gerald Thomason, Roy
Mans, Keith Thompson, Sir Donald (Calder V)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Watts, John
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Wells, Bowen
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wheeler, Sir John
Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexl'yh'th) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Tracey, Richard Whittingdale, John
Tredinnick, David Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Trend, Michael Wilkinson, John
Trotter, Neville Wilshire, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Wolfson, Mark
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wood, Timothy
Waldegrave, William Yeo, Tim
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Young, Sir George
Waller, Gary
Ward, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Mr. Gyles Brandreth and
Waterson, Nigel Mr. Anthony Coombs.
Abbott, Ms Diane Cox, Tom
Adams, Mrs Irene Cummings, John
Ainger, Nick Cunliffe, Lawrence
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try SE)
Allen, Graham Cunningham, Dr John
Alton, David Dalyell, Tam
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Darting, Alistair
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Davidson, Ian
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Davies, Bryan (Odharn C)
Ashdown, Paddy Davies, Chris (Littleborough)
Ashton, Joseph Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)
Austin-Walker, John Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Denham, John
Barnes, Harry Dewar, Donald
Barron, Kevin Dixon, Don
Battle, John Dobson, Frank
Bayley, Hugh Donohoe, Brian H
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Dowd, Jim
Beith, A J Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bell, Stuart Eagle, Ms Angela
Benn, Tony Eastham, Ken
Bennett, Andrew F Ennis, Jeff
Bermingham, Gerald Etherington, Bill
Berry, Roger Evans, John (St Helens N)
Betts, Clive Fatchett, Derek
Blair, Tony Faulds, Andrew
Blunkett, David Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Boateng, Paul Fisher, Mark
Bradley, Keith Flynn, Paul
Bray, Dr Jeremy Foster, Derek
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Foster, Don (Bath)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Foulkes, George
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Fraser, John
Burden, Richard Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Byers, Stephen Galbraith, Sam
Caborn, Richard Galloway, George
Callaghan, Jim Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Garrett, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) George, Bruce
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gerrard, Neil
Campbell-Savours, D N Gilbert, Dr John
Cann, Jamie Godman, Dr Norman A
Chidgey, David Godsiff, Roger
Chisholm, Malcolm Golding, Mrs Llin
Church, Ms Judith Gordon, Ms Mildred
Clapham, Michael Graham, Thomas
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clelland, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Grocott, Bruce
Coffey, Ms Ann Gunnell, John
Cohen, Harry Hain, Peter
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hall, Mike
Corbett, Robin Hanson, David
Corston, Ms Jean Hardy, Peter
Cousins, Jim Harman, Ms Harriet
Harvey, Nick Morgan, Rhodri
Hattersley, Roy Morley, Elliot
Henderson, Doug Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Heppell, John Morris, John (Aberavon)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Mowlam, Ms Marjorie
Hinchliffe, David Mudie, George
Hodge, Ms Margaret Mullin, Chris
Hoey, Kate Murphy, Paul
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Nicholson, Miss Emma (W Devon)
Home Robertson, John Oakes, Gordon
Hood, Jimmy O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Hoon, Geoffrey O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Howatth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Olner, Bill
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Neill, Martin
Howells, Dr Kim Orme, Stanley
Hoyle, Doug Paisley, Rev Ian
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Pearson, Ian
Hughes, Robert (Ab'd'n N) Pendry, Tom
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Pickthall, Colin
Hutton, John Pike, Peter L
Illsley, Eric Powell, Sir Raymond (Ogmore)
Ingram, Adam Prentice, Mrs B (Lewisham E)
Jackson, Ms Gtenda (Hampst'd) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hitsborough) Prescott, John
Jamieson, David Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Janner, Greville Purchase, Ken
Jenkins, Brian D (SE Staffs) Quin, Ms Joyce
Johnston, Sir Russell Radice, Giles
Jones, Barry (Alyn & D'side) Randall, Stuart
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Raynsford, Nick
Jones, Dr L (B'ham Selly Oak) Reid, Dr John
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd SW) Rendel, David
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Jowell, Ms Tessa Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Kaufman, Gerald Roche, Mrs Barbara
Keen, Alan Rogers, Allan
Kennedy, Mrs Jane (Broadgreen) Rooker, Jeff
Khabra, Piara S Rooney, Terry
Kilfoyle, Peter Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles) Rowlands, Ted
Lewis, Terry Ruddock, Ms Joan
Liddell, Mrs Helen Sedgemore, Brian
Litherland, Robert Sheerman, Barry
Livingstone, Ken Sheldon, Robert
Lloyd, Tony (Stretf'd) Shore, Peter
Loyden, Eddie Short, Clare
McAllion, John Simpson, Alan
McAvoy, Thomas Skinner, Dennis
McCartney, Ian (Makerf'ld) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McCrea, Rev William Smith, Chris (Islington S)
Macdonald, Calum Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McFall, John Soley, Clive
McKelvey, William Spearing, Nigel
Mackinlay, Andrew Spellar, John
McLeish, Henry Squire, Ms R (Dunfermline W)
Maclennan, Robert Steinberg, Gerry
McNamara, Kevin Stevenson, George
MacShane, Denis Stott, Roger
McWilliam, John Strang, Dr Gavin
Madden, Max Straw, Jack
Maddock, Mrs Diana Sutcliffe, Gerry
Manon, Mrs Alice Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mandelson, Peter Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Marek, Dr John Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Thurnham, Peter
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Timms, Stephen
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Tipping, Paddy
Martlew, Eric Touhig, Don
Maxton, John Trickett, Jon
Meacher, Michael Turner, Dennis
Meale, Alan Tyler, Paul
Michael, Alun Vaz, Keith
Milburn, Alan Walker, Sir Harold
Miller, Andrew Walley, Ms Joan
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Mike Worthington, Tony
Wicks, Malcolm Wray, Jimmy
Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Wilson, Brian Tellers for the Noes:
Winnick, David Mr. Greg Pope and
Wise, Mrs Audrey Mr. Joe Benton.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of the consequential measures dependent on the new clause and given that the Bill is now severely damaged, will the Government withdraw the measure and come back to us so that we can form a consensus on those parts of the Bill on which the whole House agrees?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse)

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Ms Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification. The clause was lost in Committee, but we went on to consider further clauses that related to it on the understanding that the Government would bring it back on Report. The Government have failed to carry this important new clause, on which later clauses depend. Can we have your guidance on what will happen to clauses that refer to the new clause that has been lost?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We must proceed with the Bill. The Government will no doubt take note of the points that have been made.

Mr. Blunkett

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would not dream of challenging your decision, but as it was ruled in Committee that the deletion of the clause would have consequential results on the remainder of the Bill, it is difficult to see how the Government can proceed with the Bill in its present form. They said in Committee that they could not.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have nothing to add to what I have said. We must carry on with consideration of the Bill. I have no doubt that the Government will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.

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