HC Deb 28 January 1997 vol 289 cc212-40

'For section 548 (no right to give corporal punishment), section 549 (interpretation of section 548) and section 550 (no avoidance of section 548 by refusing admission to school) of the Education Act 1996, the following sections shall be substituted—

"Corporal punishment lawful with parental consent

  1. 548.—(1) Where a pupil to whom this subsection applies is required on disciplinary grounds to be excluded from school for a fixed period, the school may make arrangements in accordance with subsection (2) for him to be given corporal punishment at his school as an alternative to that exclusion, and such punishment shall not be unlawful if his parent's consent to it has been given in accordance with subsection (2) and if the conditions set out in subsection (6) are satisfied.
  2. (2) After the decision has been made to exclude the pupil the school may contact the parent to indicate that instead of and as an alternative to that exclusion, with the parent's consent, the pupil may be given corporal punishment, and if the parent indicates his consent in the form of a signed parental declaration the corporal punishment may be given instead of excluding the pupil.
  3. (3) Subsections (1) and (2) apply to—
    1. (a) any pupil for whom education is provided—
      1. (i) at a school maintained by a local education authority,
      2. (ii) at a special school not so maintained, or
      3. (iii) at a grant-maintained school;
    2. (b) any pupil for whom education is provided at an independent school—
      1. (i) which is maintained or assisted by a Minister of the Crown (including a school of which a government department is a proprietor) or is assisted by a local education authority, and
      2. (ii) which falls within a prescribed class;
    3. (c) any pupil for whom education is provided by a local education authority otherwise than at a school; and
    4. (d) any pupil who is an assisted person for the purposes of this paragraph and for whom education is provided at an independent school not falling within paragraph (b) above.
  4. (4) A pupil is an assisted person for the purposes of subsection (3)(d) if—
    1. (a) he holds an assisted place under the scheme operated by the Secretary of State under section 479;
    2. (b) any of the fees or expenses payable in respect of his attendance at school are paid by—
      1. (i) the Secretary of State under section 491, or
      2. (ii) a local education authority under section 517, or
      3. (iii) the funding authority or a local education authority under paragraph 9 or 10 of Schedule 4;
    3. (c) any of the fees payable in respect of his attendance at school are paid by a local education authority under section 518; or
    4. (d) he falls within a prescribed category of persons.
  5. (5) The Secretary of State may prescribe, for the purposes of subsection (4)(d), one or more categories of persons who appear to him to be persons in respect of whom any fees are paid out of public funds.
  6. (6) The conditions referred to in subsection (1) are:
    1. (a) that the head teacher of the school must have previously determined, and made generally known within the school and published in a form prescribed by the Secretary of State that corporal punishment is one of the measures that may be taken with a view to regulating the conduct of pupils;
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    3. (b) that the punishment must be given by the head teacher or by a member of the staff who is a senior teacher specifically or generally authorised by him for the purpose;
    4. (c) that in addition to the member of the staff giving the corporal punishment, a female member of the staff must be present when corporal punishment is being given to a female pupil and a male member of the staff must be present when corporal punishment is being given to a male pupil;
    5. (d) that the punishment must be reasonable in all the circumstances;
    6. (e) that the reasons for the punishment must be set out in writing and given to the parent before the punishment takes place, and those reasons shall also be recorded in a register which, in accordance with regulations made under this section, is to be maintained by the school and open to inspection, and a parent shall have the right to see a copy of every entry relating to his own child on giving reasonable notice of his desire to do so; and
    7. (f) that the register shall also record details of the nature of the corporal punishment, along with the names of those present when it is given.
  7. (7) In determining for the purposes of subsection (6)(d) whether a punishment is reasonable, the following matters in particular shall be taken into account—
    1. (a) whether the punishment constitutes a proportionate punishment in the circumstances of the case; and
    2. (b) any special circumstances relevant to its imposition on the pupil which are known to the person imposing it (or of which he ought reasonably to be aware) including in particular—
      1. (i) the pupil's age,
      2. (ii) any special educational needs he may have,
      3. (iii) the pupil's state of health, and
      4. (iv) the pupil's disciplinary record.
  8. (8) If the parent does not consent to corporal punishment as required by subsection (2) the period of the exclusion referred to in subsections (1) and (2) shall not be affected.
  9. (9) Section 572, which provides for the methods by which notices may be served under this Act, does not preclude a notice from being given to a pupil's parent under this section by any other effective method.
  10. (10) Where, in any proceedings, it is shown that corporal punishment has been given to any pupil to whom subsections (1) and (2) apply by or on the authority of a member of the staff and the requirements of this section have not been met, giving the punishment cannot be justified on the ground that it was done in pursuance of a right exercisable by the member of the staff by virtue of his position as such.
  11. (11) A person does not commit an offence by reason of any conduct relating to a pupil which would, apart from this section, be justified on the ground that it is done in pursuance of a right exercisable by a member of the staff by virtue of his position as such.
  12. (12) Where, in any proceedings, it is shown that corporal punishment has been given to any pupil by or on the authority of a member of the staff, giving the punishment cannot be justified if it was inhuman or degrading.
  13. (13) In this section—
  14. (14) The Secretary of State may make regulations under this section.

"Interpretation of section 548

  1. 549.—(1) A person is not to be taken for the purposes of section 548 as giving corporal punishment by virtue of anything done for reasons that include averting an immediate danger of personal injury to, or an immediate danger to the property of, any person (including the pupil concerned).
  2. (2) In section 548 and this section 'pupil' does not include any person who has attained the age of 18.
  3. (3) In section 548 'member of the staff' means—
    1. (a) in relation to a person who is a pupil by reason of the provision of education for him at a school, any teacher who works at the school and any other person who has lawful control or charge of the pupil and works there; and
    2. (b) in relation to a person who is a pupil by reason of the provision of education for him by a local education authority at a place other than a school, any teacher employed by the authority who works at that place and any other person employed by the authority who has lawful control or charge of the pupil and works there.

"No avoidance of section 548 by refusing admission to school etc.

  1. 550.—(1) A person shall not be debarred from receiving education (whether by refusing him admission to a school, suspending his attendance or otherwise) by reason of the fact that any provision of section 548 applies in relation to him or, if he were admitted, might so apply.
  2. (2) Provided the decision to exclude referred to in section 548(1) complies with subsection (1) of this section, nothing in this section shall be interpreted as interfering with the ability of the school to proceed with that exclusion where the parental consent required by section 548(2) is not given.".'.—[Mr. Pawsey.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Pawsey

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss new clause 6—Corporal punishment lawful in certain circumstances'For section 548 (no right to give corporal punishment), section 549 (interpretation of section 548) and section 550 (no avoidance of section 548 by refusing admission to school) of the Education Act 1996 the following section is substituted—

"Corporal punishment lawful in certain circumstances

  1. 548.—(1) Where, in any proceedings, it is shown that corporal punishment has been given at school to a pupil to whom this section applies on disciplinary grounds, giving the punishment can be justified on the ground that it was done in pursuance of a right exercisable by the member of the staff by virtue of the authority given to him by the governing body in accordance with subsection (5) below.
  2. (2) Where, in any proceedings, it is shown that corporal punishment was given at a school to a pupil to whom this section applies on disciplinary grounds, his punishment shall not be held to be inhuman or degrading if it was given in accordance with the conditions set out in subsection (5) below.
  3. (3) Where, in any proceedings, it is shown that corporal punishment was given at a school to a pupil to whom this section applies on disciplinary grounds, his punishment shall 215 not be held to be unlawful by virtue of the absence of his or his parent's consent to it if the conditions set out in subsection (5) are satisfied.
  4. (4) This section applies to any pupil who is attending—
    1. (a) a school maintained by a local education authority;
    2. (b) a grant-maintained or grant-maintained special school; or
    3. (c) a city technology college or city college for the technology of the arts.
  5. (5) The conditions referred to in subsection (3) are—
    1. (a) that the governing body and head teacher of the school must have previously determined, and made generally known within the school, that corporal punishment is one of the measures that may be taken with a view to regulating the conduct of pupils:
    2. (b) that the punishment must be imposed by the head teacher or by another teacher at the school specifically or generally authorised by the governing body for the purpose; and
    3. (c) that the punishment must be reasonable in all the circumstances.
  6. (6) In determining for the purposes of subsection (5)(c) whether a punishment is reasonable, the following matters in particular shall be taken into account—
    1. (a) whether the punishment constitutes a proportionate punishment in the circumstances of the case; and
    2. (b) any special circumstances relevant to its imposition on the pupil which are known to the person imposing it (or of which he ought reasonably to be aware) including in particular—
      1. (i) the pupil's disciplinary record,
      2. (ii) any special educational needs he may have,
      3. (iii) the pupil's state of health, and
      4. (iv) the pupil's age".'.

Mr. Pawsey

I shall briefly, and somewhat unusually, say what the new clause is not about. It is not about beating, thrashing, flogging or any of the other emotive phrases so beloved by those who oppose corporal punishment. New clause 5 is about discipline in schools and caning. It is, at all times, about reasonable punishment.

7.15 pm

For some time, I, like many hon. Members, have been concerned about the degree of disruption that is taking place in some of the nation's schools. That indiscipline is increasingly reflected in the number of exclusions that take place. Exclusion damages a child much more than one or two strokes of the cane. The effect of exclusion is to put a child outside the school gates, but then the very children who would gain most from being in the classroom and benefiting from education are thrust outside.

If the new clause was adopted, it would simply provide schools and teachers with an additional sanction that they might use in place of exclusions. Caning would be used only in serious cases of misdemeanour when otherwise exclusion would take place. In the case of an excluded child, the new clause would enable the school to contact a parent and to offer an alternative to the exclusion: that alternative would be caning. If the parent was agreeable to the child being caned, he or she would have to say so in writing.

Mr. Beggs

The hon. Gentleman referred to the damage that might be done to the child who was excluded. Does he agree that damage is done indirectly to other children in the classroom, through the high cost of providing home tuition for the growing number of pupils who have been excluded?

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman clearly knows much about the subject and I congratulate him on the strength of his intervention. He makes a valid point and I am grateful to him.

Express permission from the parent would allow the school to cane the child instead of excluding him. Without that permission, caning could and would not take place. In response to a parliamentary question that I tabled on 13 November 1996, my hon. Friend the Minister of State said that nearly 9,000 exclusions took place in the school year 1994–95. That was the number of children permanently excluded from secondary schools. The House will note the word "permanently". How many youngsters were temporarily excluded? I frankly do not know and neither does the Department. However, I believe the figure to be substantial and, more to the point, it is growing. It has been argued that the number of pupils excluded is relatively small and I am sure that it is, but the House will understand that for the individual child who has been excluded, the figure is 100 per cent.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

If no one in a school was prepared to cane, or if the licensed caner was away for the week, would there be a residual obligation on the local education authority to ensure that it had someone on its books who could pop round and flog people who needed it?

Mr. Pawsey

I am sorry that I gave way to my hon. Friend, whose intervention was not worthy of his intellect.

Mr. Gunnell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pawsey

No. I shall give way in a moment, but I want to make some progress.

Recently, I received a booklet produced by the Commission for Racial Equality, entitled, "Exclusion from School: the Public Cost". It sets out in considerable detail the cost involved in permanent exclusions, and maintains that one permanent exclusion, starting in 1994–95 and extending into 1995–96, would cost £5,134 a year.

To that figure, however, must be added the cost of the involvement of various agencies. For example, 20 per cent. of those who are excluded use social services, at a cost of about £1,100; 20 per cent. use the health service, which costs about £100; and 25 per cent. incur a cost to the criminal justice system of about £2,000 per case.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Pawsey

Let me make it absolutely clear that my advocacy of corporal punishment owes nothing at all to hard cash. It is based on the truism that a pound funding exclusion is a pound less for schools—a pound less that we might use in the classroom. I believe, therefore, that exclusions can be regarded as a misuse of scarce resources. That argument would apply most especially if a viable alternative to exclusion were available. The new clause offers that alternative.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the increase in the number of exclusions dates from the time when corporal punishment was first removed? That should mean a financial cost benefit, but the real problem is the behaviour that precedes the exclusion; if we had a decent deterrent in schools, the appalling behaviour that leads to the exclusions would not happen.

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend makes a strong point, and I am grateful to him.

Mr. Rowe

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Pawsey

I shall give way presently.

I invite the House to consider for a moment the impact of both temporary and permanent exclusions. Clearly, there will be a substantial impact on the individual child. Exclusions substantially damage the child, who is being deprived of a reasonable education.

Several of the members of Standing Committee D, which considered the Bill for well over 40 hours, are present today. They will note that there is a fundamental difference between the new clause that I tabled in Committee and the one to which I am speaking at the moment. Principally, the reference to corporal punishment would no longer be contained in the school-parent contract. For a child to be caned, it would be necessary for the parent to give specific permission, in writing, for each individual offence.

Mr. Rowe

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Pawsey

I accept that a blanket provision, for the period of a child's school life, is simply not on. I now give way to my hon. and persistent Friend.

Mr. Rowe

I am most grateful. Has my hon. Friend been able to make any assessment of how many of the children excluded from school have the kind of parent who would accede to such a request, and of how effective corporal punishment would be on the damaged children who are most commonly excluded?

Mr. Pawsey

The answer to my hon. Friend's first question is certainly yes. I have in front of me The Sunday Telegraph of 3 November 1996. The headline clearly says, "Bring back the cane, say voters" and the article tells us that 68 per cent. support corporal punishment. That 68 per cent. includes parents who are prepared to let their children receive corporal punishment.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Pawsey

Let me make a little progress.

The new clause lays down rules for the way in which corporal punishment would be administered, in line with case law and opinions given under the European convention on human rights. As the parent will have given permission and the punishment is at all times to be reasonable, European law would not be breached. It is also worth recalling and repeating that at no time has the European Court of Human Rights found or ruled against the United Kingdom in matters of corporal punishment in schools.

The new clause would ensure that teachers could smack a delinquent child without any risk of civil prosecution, and removes the risk of parents changing their mind when learning that their child might be subject to corporal punishment. Let me make it absolutely clear that the new clause is permissive, not prescriptive.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

Does my hon. Friend agree that he is being a little mealy-mouthed, on the basis that a good, sound thrashing is to the advantage of the child and of the local authority that pays for that child? Will he be a little more robust in his arguments in the remainder of his speech?

Mr. Pawsey

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his helpful advice, but I do not intend to take it. I am convinced that I am being sufficiently robust; I am spelling out in some detail the fact that the new clause is responsible and would improve the quality and standard of state education in our schools.

The new clause is permissive, not prescriptive. It does not force or require schools to adopt corporal punishment. It merely provides corporal punishment as an added sanction that might be available in cases of severe misdemeanour. It should be remembered that the caning would at all times be reasonable.

A common theme running through the Government's education reforms has been devolving additional power to individual schools. Conservative Members do not believe that all schools should be identical, with identical punishments or identical administrations. We want choice and diversity.

If some schools decide to accept the principle of corporal punishment in place of exclusions, so be it; they are not forced to do so: the choice lies with the individual school. The introduction of the cane would be a decision taken by the head teacher, the governors and the parents. They would decide what was best for their children and their school. The new clause simply gives added choice to individual schools.

Recently, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been much concerned about the increase in the number of premature teacher retirements. I suspect that one of the reasons for those retirements is the indiscipline in some classes. I believe—with, I am sure, the full support of my right hon. and hon. Friends—that there are few who enter the teaching profession to grow rich. Most teachers enter the profession from a sense of genuine vocation and because of the satisfaction that they derive from imparting knowledge. That satisfaction must be much reduced when a teacher is faced with a disruptive, undisciplined and at times violent class.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

From my 23 years' experience in the teaching profession, including 12 years at a comprehensive with 1,100 boys at King's Cross, I believe that there is a place for moderate and reasonable corporal punishment, but I have not yet understood from my hon. Friend's argument how the new clause would work. Would corporal punishment be an alternative to every possible exclusion order, or would it apply only in particular cases relating to particular offences? We cannot pick and choose: pupils would look for consistency, and the alternative should be available either in all cases or in none.

Mr. Pawsey

I would leave it up to the school. I am anxious that schools should have greater powers. I want individual schools to express their views on the issue. I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris), who said: I trust head teachers to behave in a way that protects their pupils and to ensure that members of staff behave in the most professional manner."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 12 December 1996; c. 426.] She is right. The overwhelming majority of the nation's teachers are committed both to their profession and to the children under their charge.

7.30 pm

Recently, one of my constituents—a well-respected, retired teacher of English—said in my local newspaper: When I started in 1958 I very occasionally caned the odd miscreant so that the class could study quietly and listen and learn. Children knew that they were expected to behave reasonably and that there were sanctions if they did not. That teacher spoke with 35 years' experience of teaching English in a secondary school. The House will note the use of the word "occasionally". As my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) said, the cane is a powerful deterrent. The fact that it exists is enough in most cases to ensure classroom discipline.

To return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), in polls conducted by newspapers, 68 per cent. of those polled were in favour of corporal punishment. Interestingly, that support was consistent across the political spectrum. The principal question that the House has to answer is: what does the greater damage to a child, exclusion or being caned?

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

I note that my hon. Friend has made provision for female pupils to be caned. Is he serious that girls should be caned in school? To be honest, I think that that is barbaric.

Mr. Pawsey

The decision is not one that my hon. Friend or I will make—it is a matter for the school. If it is thought appropriate in a specific case—

Mr. Steinberg


Mr. Pawsey

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not give way.

In the United Kingdom, the teacher acts in loco parentis—in place of the parent. The teacher should, therefore, act as any reasonable parent would.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

May I venture the opinion that, if girls behave in as barbaric a way as some boys, they deserve to be treated identically?

Mr. Pawsey

I think that the House will agree that learning best takes place in a reasonably disciplined environment. The new clause will merely ensure that teachers have an added sanction that will allow them to teach a class without too much disruption. Conservative Members have a free vote tonight and I understand that Opposition Members also have a free vote. I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House can come together in agreement that we want the best for children. We want our children to be educated in a reasonably disciplined environment. That is all that the new clause does.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)

I could have gone to the theatre tonight, but I am glad that I did not because the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) was hilarious and I am grateful for the entertainment that he provided. Anyone who took the issue seriously could no longer do so having heard the hon. Gentleman.

I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would set out what constitutes "reasonable" corporal punishment. The details of his new clause take up several pages of the amendment paper, but I am still no clearer about what he means by reasonable corporal punishment. The new clause fails to clarify a number of important points. He mentioned that the cane would be the implement to be used and implied that there is such a thing as "reasonable" use of the cane. I should be interested to hear a little more about what he means by reasonable use. He has not made clear in the new clause or in his speech which parts of the body are to be struck by the cane. We used to get struck on the head at my school—[Interruption.] As hon. Members will be aware, it worked very well. Is it to be the head, the hands, the backside or the legs? It is not clear from the hon. Gentleman's comments what he proposes.

I had also hoped that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth would explain what he means by "reasonable punishment" and what is the boundary between reasonable chastisement and assault. I have had to deal with that boundary because, before I came to the House, I worked in social services for many years, dealing with children who had received corporal punishment, some of which might be defined by more civilised Members of Parliament as unreasonable. For instance, would the hon. Gentleman accept that if a child's body is marked, it is unreasonable chastisement? I am happy to give way for him to answer because those areas concern me. I have had to give evidence in a court of law in cases in which children had received what I and the local authority regarded as unreasonable chastisement. They had weals on their buttocks and legs. Is that reasonable or unreasonable? I want to know because it is not clear from the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Mr. Jamieson

Is my hon. Friend aware that the "Oxford English Dictionary" definition of corporal punishment is as follows: Punishment inflicted on the body, originally including death, mutilation, branding, bodily confinement, irons, the pillory, etc."? Is he also aware that in 1868 the House abandoned corporal punishment in the Army? Would he suggest that pupils could avoid it by joining the cadets?

Mr. Hinchliffe

My hon. Friend makes his point well. I heard one or two hon. Members saying that they would subscribe to the dictionary definition in its entirety.

Mr. Gunnell

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) made matters even more confusing because he did not correct the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), who was talking about "flogging"—I guess he was thinking that he might apply to be the flogger in Devon after the next election—or the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who talked about "thrashing"? Clearly, both those hon. Members used language that suggested that they were unreasonable, but the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth did not correct them or say that they were going beyond the bounds of what he regarded as reasonable.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I made it clear at the start that interventions should be brief and to the point. That applies to all hon. Members who participate in the debate.

Mr. Hinchliffe

My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) makes the point that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth did not exactly discourage those of his colleagues who were more enthusiastic than he was about making bestial noises on this subject; nor has he intervened to define "reasonable" and "unreasonable". May I invite him instead to tell us what he regards as inhuman and degrading punishment?

Would the punishment of a boy or girl in a public arena be deemed degrading or inhuman? Punishment in front of other pupils used to happen regularly in my school. Would it be inhuman or degrading if, for good effect, pupils' clothing was lifted or removed when they were being caned? Does that excite the hon. Gentleman? It is important that he should clarify those points. This is a sick and sad new clause and it needs further explanation.

Mr. John Carlisle

Many Conservative Members have suffered the indignity of caning, which most Opposition Members probably have not suffered, for various reasons such as fathers' income. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that no clothing had to be removed? In fact, many of us put cardboard in our pants in an attempt to remit the punishment. It was degrading and painful, weals were put on one's buttocks and blood was drawn, but it was done on the basis that, because of the punishment, one did not commit that particular offence again. That is what the new clause is all about.

Mr. Hinchliffe

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that it did him the world of good, why is he sitting on the Conservative Benches?

I made it clear on Second Reading that my opposition to these attempts to restore corporal punishment was based on my experience and observations in a secondary modern school. Like the hon. Gentleman, I experienced various forms of corporal punishment. I was reminded of that last summer, when I attended the funeral of the head teacher of that secondary modern school, for whom I had a degree of respect. He did not cane or slipper me—he was a decent teacher and a good human being.

At that funeral, I met my former physical education teacher, whom I had not seen for 35 years, since leaving the school. Having shaken hands with him, I said that I owed him an apology. "What is it, David?" he asked. I replied that, 35 years ago, I had failed to turn up for the slipper, having been last out of the changing rooms after one of his lessons. We used to receive corporal punishment if we were the last to finish getting changed after PE or rugby. When I told him that, he was embarrassed to be reminded of the regime used in my school 35 years ago.

Also at that funeral was my former deputy head teacher, who was my form teacher in my first year at secondary modern school. His behaviour as deputy head teacher made me believe passionately that corporal punishment was inhuman and degrading and that it should be done away with as soon as possible. Each week, in front of our form—a mixed class of boys and girls aged 11 and 12—boys from across the school were wheeled in and slippered.

I remember vividly one boy who would now be regarded as having special needs, or even as being delicate. Each week, that child screamed, wept and had to be helped out of the class room. Eventually, he was transferred to special education—damaged for life by that experience. That sort of brutality stuck with me and I was reminded of it when listening to the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth. On Second Reading, I mentioned that, to me, the best possible reason for arguing against the restoration of corporal punishment was my memories of being in 1J at the age of 11, watching the same boys coming back, week after week. That proved to me, even as a simple soul at the age of 11, that corporal punishment did not work. If it was a deterrent, it obviously did not work in respect of the sort of boys who attended my school.

7.45 pm

I went back to my school in the autumn and asked the staff specifically about the abolition of corporal punishment and about the current regime used in place of corporal punishment. They gave me a detailed breakdown of what they call "discipline for learning", which is the system now used at the school. It is based on positive rewards for good behaviour, a range of rules that are understood by pupils, a gradual grading of rewards and behaviour checks and punishments and, at the end of the line and for serious misbehaviour, exclusion—which is rarely, if ever, used.

The staff showed me cards that are given out by teachers to pupils who have done good work, for example, asking the pupil to go for coffee with a teacher as a reward—an honour—for good behaviour. Teachers give pupils vouchers—positive rewards for good behaviour—which contrasts sharply with the negative regime that I had to put up with when I attended that school 35 years ago.

Many teachers are desperate about the current state of the education service, but I have not met one teacher who argues in favour of the return of corporal punishment. I have visited many schools, but I have not met one head teacher who argues for the return of corporal punishment.

Mr. Harry Greenway

What the hon. Gentleman has described is a serious abuse of corporal punishment, not moderate and reasonable corporal punishment. I do not believe that corporal punishment should ever be used in response to bad or late work, or in the absurd cases cited by the hon. Gentleman: it must be strictly confined to serious offences, for which it can be a suitable punishment. Abuse of that sort should be condemned and I support the hon. Gentleman's comments in that respect.

Mr. Hinchliffe

In my opinion, corporal punishment is in itself an abuse of children.

I note with great interest that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth has been unable to define what is reasonable or unreasonable corporal punishment. Therefore, if the new clause were passed, the whole issue would end up in the courts, and no one wants that. If the hon. Gentleman responds to the debate, he has a duty to state exactly what he means by reasonable and unreasonable.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

I support the new clause because I start from the premise that we demand of our teachers—especially our head teachers—that they maintain an orderly and disciplined school; only in that framework can they provide the environment for disciplined education and learning. My concern is that, since the 1960s, we have progressively withdrawn all the sanctions, controls and deterrents with which teachers can maintain discipline.

Mr. Mike Hall (Warrington, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how many teachers have contacted him demanding the reintroduction of corporal punishment in our schools?

Mr. Arnold

Parents and teachers have contacted me—I shall refer later to teachers' views on the subject. The new clause proposes that a deterrent be placed at the disposal of schools to be exercised according to the judgment of head teachers. I think that all hon. Members will agree that teachers are professionals who can exercise good judgment. That is a key element of the new clause. Since the 1960s, we have increasingly sent defenceless teachers into the classroom, and it is no surprise that they have avoided maintaining discipline or tried to pass the buck to someone else—invariably unsuccessfully.

Mr. Jamieson

Will the hon. Gentleman assist the House by informing us which party was in government when corporal punishment was abolished in the 1980s?

Mr. Arnold

It was a Conservative Government with Labour local education authorities. I will return to that point later.

The Bill is beginning to reverse the trend of denying schools the means of maintaining discipline. Part IV of the Bill moves in that direction, and I believe that we should take a further step forward. The corporal punishment sanction should never have been withdrawn. I was a member of the local education authority of the Labour-controlled Northamptonshire county council in 1982, and I remember well when the sanction was withdrawn. Teachers' representatives appeared before the education committee and told us, "Stick to your guns. We are right behind you; we must have this sanction available, even if we do not use it. It is a deterrent."

We advanced our case, as did the teachers' representatives. However, when the crunch came, they voted with the Labour and Liberal groups to abolish corporal punishment in schools. When I asked them why they had bothered to argue to retain corporal punishment as a deterrent to be used according to their professional judgment, their rather supine response was, "We have to live with the Labour group who control the education authority, so we must go along with them and not upset them." As a consequence, teachers in our classrooms are defenceless and have no adequate deterrents.

We are discussing the issue today in a beautiful wood-panelled hall—our meeting in Northamptonshire took place in a similar setting—and we are seeking to outbid each other by claiming, "We are not barbaric; we think that corporal punishment is uncivilised." However, it is the teachers who have to maintain disciplinary standards in our schools and it is the teachers whom we are sending defenceless into the classroom. I ask hon. Members to empower the teachers and to demonstrate our trust in their judgment. I urge hon. Members to support the new clause.

Mr. Kilfoyle

I shall be brief, as another new clause deals with substantially the same subject. I have nothing but contempt for the new clause—especially in view of the way in which it has been presented today. I hope that the increased number of Conservative Members in the Chamber—there are more present now than at any other time during the Report stage of the Bill—reflects support for the enlightened view of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) rather than for what I would describe as the Neanderthal view of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle): I hope that he made his contribution to the debate with his tongue firmly in his cheek, and I am sure that the good burghers of Luton would share my view.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) is a cheerful cove at the worst of times and amiable at the best of times. I was extremely surprised to hear him use the phrase "choice and diversity" in the context of punishment. We must ask: whose choice and what diversity? My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) referred to many body parts and the diverse implements that can be used to inflict pain upon them. I remind the hon. Member for Luton, North that, like many of my colleagues, I suffered continued indignities and punishments of the kind that he believes should occur on a regular basis.

I believe that the clause, as it stands, is unworkable. New clause 6 makes allowances for children with special needs, but there is no provision to deal with the somewhat grey area of emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children. We do not know whether such children—the group most likely to be brutalised by corporal punishment—would be exempt. There is also the question of legal definition.

Despite the protestations of the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, I believe that the new clause is contrary to the European convention on human rights and, if tested, would prove demonstrably so. I also believe that it is counter-productive. There are examples on both sides of the House of people whose recidivism was not ameliorated by liberal lashings of the strap, taw or cane. It is no wonder that in Committee the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth earned the soubriquet "flogger".

Mr. Pawsey

Only by you.

Mr. Kilfoyle

That view was certainly shared privately by hon. Members on both sides. I echo the hon. Gentleman's remarks about allowing a free vote on the new clause and I hope that all hon. Members will take a lead from the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam and view the measure as barbaric. I can think of nothing more barbaric than state-sanctioned assault on children—and that is what is being advocated in the House today.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Although I have no Nolan-type interests in the debate, I do have some relevant experience to declare. I was at the receiving end of corporal punishment when I was at school. It was probably richly deserved, and I have not the slightest idea now whether it did any good or any harm. However, as it happened more than once, I guess it did not act as a deterrent. I am the parent of two children, both of whom were smacked by my wife and by me when they were young. That had the desired effect at the time, and they do not appear to have suffered any physical or psychological damage.

I was a teacher for a short time when corporal punishment was permissible in schools—although I never used it and I cannot remember whether other teachers did. When I was a teacher, we could clip students around the ear—that did occur in my school—and not get sacked or sued. I have worked for a long time with many children in the voluntary sector, and I have had to separate fighting children physically. I have used a rap across the knuckles as a means of enforcing discipline and protecting children from damage, and I have found it to be a necessary sanction.

That experience has led me to several conclusions. First, although physical chastisement of children can clearly be harmful and damaging—as the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) pointed out correctly—it can also be positive and helpful if it occurs within a loving and caring relationship. My second conclusion is that the use of corporal punishment at home and at school raises separate issues, which I shall not explore this evening. Thirdly, I can see a difference between using corporal punishment as an immediate response and as a delayed ritual. For example, an instant smack or rap across the knuckles is different from a smack administered by father when he comes home or sending a child to the head's study. We would need to explore that difference if we were to go further down this route.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my hon. Friend agree that tonight we should concentrate on ensuring that we introduce safeguards that would protect teachers who must smack or manhandle a child outside the classroom? Should we not also make it clear that children cannot be caned without inflicting damage in the form of weals or even bleeding? There is no way of hitting someone gently with a cane, because it is not designed for that purpose.

Mr. Wilshire

I understand my hon. Friend's point. New clause 4, which we dealt with yesterday, achieves those aims—which is why I voted for it enthusiastically.

Returning to the subject at hand, it follows that for me the new clause raises practical issues rather than matters of principle. For example, is corporal punishment wanted in schools and will it work in schools? It occurred to me, as one or two Opposition Members suggested it should, to ask my constituents what they think. I asked the parents and the teachers in my constituency. I wrote to the head teachers of all 36 schools. I persuaded the Staines Informer to run a telephone poll to ask its readers. I included a question on corporal punishment in schools in my newsletter, which goes to 30,000 homes.

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My questionnaire is still on-going, but the early replies are overwhelmingly in favour of corporal punishment. The telephone poll run by the Staines Informer got a result of 65 per cent. in favour and 35 per cent. against.

More interestingly, of the 36 schools, 15 replied. Twelve said no, two said that they were not sure and one said yes. The one school that said yes held an informal ballot among its teachers, who voted 10 in favour and eight against. The other schools' responses seem to have been the view of one person. Equally interestingly, of the schools that said no, six volunteered the view that capital punishment was perfectly acceptable in the home, if not in the school. [Laughter.] When thinking about what I was going to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was convinced that I would refer to capital punishment before I finished, for which I apologise to you and to the House.

What can we make of the research that I carried out? It tells me that, at least in my constituency, many parents and some teachers support corporal punishment. They believe that some form of corporal punishment has a legitimate protective and educational role in bringing up children. I agree with them in principle, but I must tell the House that, if I were still a teacher, I doubt whether I would want to go beyond the immediate physical restraint and the immediate clip around the ear. I would not wish to cane a pupil. That is an individual choice.

When I was bringing up our children, when my wife was bringing up our children, and when I was teaching, I could choose whether corporal punishment was appropriate. For better or worse, I had that choice and I could make it for myself. Today, parents and teachers do not. I believe that today's parents and today's teachers should have exactly the same choice as my wife and I had.

If I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) correctly, the new clause would not force parents to accept corporal punishment, and would not force teachers to administer it. The new clause would give parents and teachers a choice. On that basis, even though I have reservations about the detail, and even though I doubt whether, if I were a teacher, I would wish to use the provisions, because it gives a choice I am happy to vote for it.

Mr. Steinberg

I shall be brief, as many hon. Members want to speak. I understand the frustration of many Members and others who want the cane to be reintroduced. Since I left the teaching profession 10 years ago, the situation in the classroom has got worse and worse. Many schools and teachers are having a difficult time.

Often I, too, think it is a damn good idea to give certain children a good hiding, but ultimately it does not work. The children who are chastised are the ones who keep coming back for it, time and again. Moreover, if a teacher gives a child a good hiding, the child's parent is likely to come into the school and give the teacher a good hiding. That must not be overlooked.

It is all right to conduct research and ask parents whether they want their children to be flogged. I suspect that, as the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) probably found out, the vast majority of parents want corporal punishment to be brought back, but they want it to be brought back for someone else's kid, not their own kids. As soon as a teacher touches their kids, there is hell on and they come to the school to see the head teacher.

Let me tell the House about my experience. I was a teacher for 20 years and a head teacher for 10 years. I have experienced both being flogged and flogging. I remember, at the age of 12, being off with the 'flu and coming back to school to find that a piece of homework had been set by the art teacher. As I was terrified of the art teacher, a man called Mr. Lynn, I attempted to do the art homework, which was on perspective. I handed it in and got flogged because it was not correct. I have always remembered that. Eventually, I got my own back on the gentleman. Several years later, when I applied for a deputy headship at a certain school and he applied for the same job, I got it and he did not.

As a head teacher, I used the cane, for about three years. The system in the school was that if, at the end of the day, a teacher felt that a particular child was causing so much disruption that the teacher felt unable to cope, the child was sent to my office. I had to decide whether to use the cane on the child. To back the teacher up, nine times out of 10 I had to cane the child in cold blood. The child would be brought into the office and told to put his hand out, and I would hit him with the cane.

As the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) said, when one uses the cane, one does not intend to tickle the child: one intends to hurt him, otherwise there is no point. On many occasions, one missed the child's hand and got him across the wrist, and immediately one could see the blood come. I did that on several occasions. Officially, I was allowed to do it. I entered the child's name in the punishment book and he would go away.

Amazingly, the children who were caned were always the same ones. I began to think that was ridiculous. There was a lad called Simpson—I remember him now—who used to come backwards and forwards. Every week he was in front of me and I was thumping hell out of him. He would go away, and two days later he would be back again. In the end, I remember him telling me to "eff off" and rushing out the door. I chased him, grabbed him by the neck, brought him back and whopped him again. Two days later, Simpson was back for another one.

The entire exercise was pointless and a waste of time. I was caning the same kids over and over again, with absolutely no effect. After three years, I said, "Enough is enough. This is ridiculous. It is getting me nowhere, it is getting the kids nowhere, and it is not improving discipline in the school." I adopted a completely different approach. If one rewards children, they respond. They respond to kindness and to being well looked after. They do not respond to a bloody good hiding.

The new clause is too stupid for words. I believe that the vast majority of teachers do not want caning brought back into schools. It is ridiculous to say that they do. Teachers have their own ways of dealing with disciplinary problems. It is about time we put more resources into our schools and considered other methods, rather than bringing back the archaic approach of trying to thump kids into submission.

Mr. Marlow

When the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) said that corporal punishment could have a positive impact on discipline problems in schools, his instincts were quite right. He then made the wrong judgment. He cited the example of the child who kept coming back for more. Perhaps it did not work for that child, but what about the other children who were never sent to his study in the first place?

New clause 6, standing in my name, is similar in thrust to new clause 5, but different in detail. We used to have caning in our schools; now we do not and something has gone badly wrong in some of our schools. That is largely recent and to a large extent it coincides with the abolition of corporal punishment.

Mr. Rowe

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Marlow

I shall not give way, as many hon. Members wish to speak.

As we have seen on television recently, sadly, some of our schools have been reduced to a savage anarchy. There is no discipline and, without discipline, there can be no education. For so many of our children, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of learning the foundation for a successful, prosperous and independent life is negligently and needlessly blotted out. We see the results on a daily basis in crime on our streets.

There is no single cure for indiscipline, but control cannot be regained until sufficient respect for authority is restored. In some schools, that respect could in part be restored by the reintroduction of caning. Louts and bullies are almost inevitably cowards. The threat of pain is an effective corrective. Our proposals are not barbaric. Sadly, the conditions in some of our schools are barbaric.

New clause 6 proposes that, if the board of governors and the head teacher of a school want to reintroduce corporal punishment, they should be entitled to do so. It would be up to them to decide. I understand that many schools would not opt for it, but some would find it effective and others might follow suit. It would be neither mandatory nor a requirement, but optional, and for some it would work and some of our problems could begin to be solved.

Why are we here today? Why are we in this position? The system was operating and then the European Court of Human Rights intervened. It is gross that an international court across the channel should tell us how we should behave and what is civilised in our country. That is a matter for the House to decide. We are a democratically elected Parliament and we should take the decisions.

I understand that, believe it or not, the new clause would be in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights. If it were passed, it would become the law of the land and schools would immediately be able to reintroduce corporal punishment should they so wish. Some people might then want to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights, but it would probably be thrown out. If it were not, if we had corporal punishment in our schools and it was found to be effective, if some foreign court at that stage decided to throw out the laws of our land and this Parliament, we would take a significant view to that court.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

Will the hon. Member give way on that point?

Mr. Marlow

No. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but there is very little time and others are waiting to speak.

Finally, there has been a load of steamy nonsense in the press suggesting that, if there is a vote, the Government will be embarrassed. The Government have wisely and decently decided that there is to be a free vote. That is quite proper and appropriate. I understand that there is also a free vote for the Opposition. Let us see what that means. We have heard about free votes for the Opposition before.

The Government are probably unable to accept the new clauses. Given their position in respect of the European Court of Human Rights and an election fairly shortly, I understand their difficulty. I do not blame them for that, but tonight the British people will find out who understands the problems in our schools and who can do something about it. It is the Conservative party, and not the Opposition.

Mr. Don Foster

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) was absolutely right to express concern about the number of exclusions in our schools and the damage that does to the education of those young people. He then told the House that the most fundamental question we had to address tonight was: which was more damaging to children—exclusion from school or caning? He was absolutely wrong. The fundamental question was posed to him by the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe): was there any evidence whatsoever to show that the reintroduction of corporal punishment would reduce the number of exclusions from schools?

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth has repeatedly failed to provide any evidence to suggest that the reintroduction of corporal punishment would reduce the number of exclusions or the indiscipline in our schools, about which we are all concerned.

Mr. John Marshall

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Foster

No, time is very short.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth can produce no such evidence. In fact, all the evidence is to the contrary and suggests that the reintroduction of corporal punishment would not reduce indiscipline in schools. Not one country in eastern or western Europe uses corporal punishment or considers it to be of value.

8.15 pm

In 1989, the Elton committee examined the issue. I remind the House of its conclusion: there is little evidence that Corporal Punishment was in general an effective deterrent either to the pupils punished or to other pupils. The very people whom the hon. Gentleman wants to use corporal punishment are opposed to its reintroduction. None of the teacher unions or professional associations believes that a return to corporal punishment would be beneficial to reducing indiscipline in our schools.

It is also instructive to consider the views of the pupils. One hon. Gentleman, whom I shall not name because I did not have an opportunity to inform him that I would refer to him, wrote in his local newspaper that, when he was at school, he was caned every single week. It is interesting to read the ensuing correspondence from year 9 pupils in a school in his constituency. I shall quote only two examples. The first wrote: You said you'd been caned frequently at school; but doesn't this mean you behaved badly again and again to get such treatment—you didn't learn your lesson. The second wrote: It didn't make a difference to the way you behaved, did it? What makes you think it'll work for us? There is no evidence that a return to corporal punishment would reduce indiscipline in our schools.

Surely when people in the country and the House should be trying to reduce violence in society, is it not strange even to contemplate reintroducing a violent form of punishment? I hope that, even on a free vote, the majority of hon. Members will vote against the new clause.

Mr. John Carlisle

The speech by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) was the most extraordinary intervention that the House has heard for some time. I suppose that the hon. Gentleman would recommend some form of counselling so that those poor youngsters could talk it out of their system. He and the House know that that is complete nonsense.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), for whom I have some affection, made an extraordinary accusation against the Conservative party when he said that too many Conservative Members were trying to speak. It is extraordinary in our great democracy that those of us who wish to express our opinion on a subject on which we feel strongly should be criticised by the hon. Gentleman for being here to do so in numbers.

I fully support my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), albeit on the basis that he presented his case far too reasonably. We are discussing a serious subject that must be approached with the vigour and enthusiasm of those of us who have suffered and even administered the cane to offending youths. My hon. Friend's arguments were far too reasonable, given that those who have offended—and some of my hon. Friends speak from experience—agree that the offence is such that punishment requires physical pain and that the counselling that the hon. Member for Bath would envisage would have no effect.

Some of us are somewhat proud of the old school tie. I am wearing mine tonight in deference to the punishment that was inflicted on me and that I inflicted on others on the basis that, in many cases, it is ultimately the only answer to a terrible problem. We should inflict on those who easily inflict physical punishment on others the physical punishment that they understand. It is the short, sharp shock type of treatment that is needed and the House should allow it to be administered. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth is right.

This issue goes back to the days of the Criminal Justice Bill of 1980. I see in the corner my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who was in the House at the time. This issue matters, and corporal punishment is the language that young thugs, wherever they come from, begin to understand.

It is the deterrent value of corporal punishment that means something, rather than the punishment itself. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth is right to propose that the choice should be available. I believe that it should be mandatory on teachers and those in local education authorities to inflict corporal punishment.

I remind the House that, many years ago, when the European Community, as it was in those days, tried to impose its will on the House, the National Union of Teachers supported the continuation of corporal punishment because it felt that it should be available to its members.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carlisle

I give way to the hon. Gentleman in the red cardigan.

Mr. MacShane

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for praising the NUT in a previous speech. No doubt that praise will be suitably noted.

I had a conversation with my daughter and a group of her nine-year-old friends the other day. One of them asked, "Do you know Mr. Major?" I said, "Yes, I have seen him now and then." They asked, "Is it true that he is going to bring back caning for us if we go to secondary school?" Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if those nine-year-olds had the vote, they would not vote for the Conservative Members who are coming in from the wilder shores of the Internet with their sadism and perversion tonight?

Mr. Carlisle

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making one of his rare visits from Switzerland. He has given his wisdom to the House, of which it will have taken note. The Prime Minister must make his own decision. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has some sympathy with the views that have been expressed by Conservative Members.

If we do not pass new clause 5, we shall regret it for a very long time. I fear that, if it falls tonight, it will be gone for ever.

Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Carlisle

My hon. Friend is a very dear and close friend; he will forgive me if I do not give way.

The measure proposed in the new clause, which was admirably put by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, should be available to teachers and those in local education authorities. I hope that the House supports it tonight.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I have always supported corporal punishment, but I much prefer new clause 6 to new clause 5. In my view, the people whose sons—it is unlikely to be girls, but it may be—require corporal punishment would assent to it. If new clause 6 became law, the school, governors and head teacher, in conclave, could make that part of a mission statement to be placed before prospective parents.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I will not give way.

Those people would inform parents that corporal punishment was among the disciplinary measures that might be taken. Opposition Members—I believe a Yorkshire Member—object. It seems to me that they object on health grounds, mental health grounds and so on. The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) spoke only about new clause 5. Had he thoroughly read new clause 6, he would have found that those aspects were covered. The school must consider not only the pupil's disciplinary record but any special educational needs that he may have, his state of health and his age. I believe that that covers all the points made by the hon. Member for Wakefield, the ex-social worker.

No doubt all hon. Members regularly visit schools in their constituencies, so they cannot have failed to notice a steady but rapid deterioration in discipline in many schools. That applies across the country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) said, that deterioration dates from about 10 years ago, when caning was abolished. My recollection is that the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, not the NUT, wished to retain it, and I believe that it still does.

One of the kindest headmasters whom I have ever had the good fortune to know, who has been in post for 25 years at a school in my constituency—he was more of a teddy bear than a headmaster, but the discipline in the school was exceptionally good—said to me, "I have been here for 25 years and I have used the cane only once, but everyone knows that it is behind the door. I believe that it is essential."

I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). I would never give a child a clip round the ear. Hitting a child's head can damage their hearing or their brain. However, I believe that it is perfectly acceptable to hit a child on the hand, and I believe that the power to do so should be restored.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). I was amazed at the hilarity with which his speech was received by Opposition Members. It is obvious that they are completely out of touch with the ordinary people in this country, especially parents. I support this move, for two reasons.

First, I believe in variety and choice in education and the Opposition believe in uniformity. No one is saying that every school should have the cane, but if a few schools had it, parents who wanted a highly disciplined school with appropriate punishments could send their children there.

Dr. Lynne Jones

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Townend

I will not give way because I want to get on.

Many parents are witnessing their child's education being ruined by classroom anarchy caused by a few people. Many parents are worried sick because their children go to school frightened of being bullied, and are bullied. We have a duty to consider not only the naughty children who are being caned but the rest of the children in the class.

There is nothing wrong with the new clause. It is based on choice: the choice of the parent and the choice of the school. The Opposition are frightened that if only one or two schools introduce corporal punishment, an avalanche of parents will want to send their children to them.

I would say to the hon. Members for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) and for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) that corporal punishment, as practised at their school, was obviously wrong and ineffective. Corporal punishment, to be effective, must be rarely given. At my school, if one went to the headmaster, one did not return the next week and the week after.

One of the very fine headmasters in my constituency—the headmaster of a comprehensive school, who has now retired—who was not a Conservative but a lifetime socialist, said to me, "Mr. Townend, you would be surprised, but I agree with your views on corporal punishment. I have caned only a few times in my career, never more than once a term, but I believe that by caning young thugs at the right time I have saved four or five of them from a life of crime."

The second reason why I support the new clause is the alternative. The alternative ultimate punishment is exclusion. That is damaging for the child, and excluded children are encouraged to commit vandalism and petty crime on the streets, and before too long petty crime becomes more serious crime.

In my constituency, crime is a real problem. A high proportion of my constituents are old and it is often they who suffer when 14, 15 and 16-year-olds are excluded from school and roam the streets.

I wish my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth well. The new clause should be passed, because if there were a referendum on the subject today we would bring back not only caning in schools but corporal punishment.

8.30 pm
Mr. Forth

It is about 10 years since corporal punishment was last debated in the House. I shall leave it to others to decide whether this debate was worth waiting for. My hon. Friends the Members for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), as we expected, argued their cases with commitment. We were not disappointed. I hope that it will come as no surprise to the House when I say that the Government will resist the new clauses.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear, the Government will not support the new clauses. The remarks of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) were a disgrace. For him to imply to his doctrinaire friends that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would support the new clauses was grossly dishonest, but the House will not be surprised that I am not surprised about that.

I recognise that new clause 6 is the attempt of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North to bring back corporal punishment. His new clause would effectively repeal the prohibition of the use of corporal punishment, which is set out in section 548 of the Education Act 1996. The effect of that would be broadly to revive the common law principle that applied before the Education (No. 2) Act 1986—that a teacher acting in loco parentis would be able, where merited, lawfully to administer corporal punishment, even where parents specifically objected to that form of punishment. That would be in violation of the European convention on human rights.

Mr. Marlow

As my hon. Friend is considering what line he will take on this issue, may I reassure him that I have taken advice? The new clause would not be in conflict with the European Court of Human Rights. The court is concerned with degrading and inhuman punishment. The clause is defined in such a way that if corporal punishment were reintroduced, it would not be carried out in a degrading and inhuman way. In other words it would be all right. That being so, my hon. Friend can vote for the new clause.

Mr. Forth

It seems that my hon. Friend and I have received conflicting advice, which is not unusual in legal matters. I must rest on the advice that I have received. The prohibition of corporal punishment in state schools in 1986 was prompted by the 1982 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that the United Kingdom was in breach of article 2 of protocol 1 to the convention. The court found that UK law failed to respect the philosophical convictions of parents who were opposed to schools using corporal punishment for their children. I believe, therefore, that new clause 6 falls at the first hurdle, and would be in breach of the European convention. As the United Kingdom is a signatory to the convention, my hon. Friend's approach would not work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth tabled new clause 5. He has taken account of many of the points that were made in Committee. He has gone to considerable lengths to seek to take account of what I have said about the European convention and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. I have received advice that his new clause may—this is not certain—deal with the points made by the convention and the court.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forth

I shall give way, but I must seek to make rapid progress.

Mr. Arnold

Was not the whole point of the convention to provide an avenue of judicial recourse for individuals in France and Italy, were their countries to go communist, so that they might have protection against what happened to individuals in eastern Europe? As that circumstance no longer exists in Europe, is it not high time that the convention in its current form were scrapped?

Mr. Forth

A debate on our membership of the Council of Europe and our adherence to the European convention on human rights awaits another day. It is my advice that as long as we are a signatory to that convention, we must adhere to it and to the rulings of its court.

I move on to two or three substantive points. The first of those points was made by the hon. Members for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) and for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) and by others. The analysis of punishment books before the abolition of corporal punishment revealed, as has often been said, that many pupils' names appeared again and again, even though they had been subjected to corporal punishment. That seems to suggest that the punishment was ineffective in deterring pupils from committing misdemeanours. Surely that must be a telling point.

Another argument that has been raised—

Dr. Lynne Jones


Mr. Forth

I shall not give way at this stage.

Another argument that has been advanced by several Members is surely key to the debate. There is little, if any, evidence, in spite of the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) and for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire)—evidence that I am aware of, or the Department is aware of—that there is a demand from teachers for the restoration of corporal punishment and its availability to them. To the extent that that is so, the mere restoration of corporal punishment would not mean that it would be used in schools. Therefore, restoration would not have the effect that my hon. Friends seek.

The final point—

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forth

No. I shall not give way at this stage. I apologise to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forth

I am not giving way to my hon. Friend or other hon. Friends. I want to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman); it is possibly the most crucial of all the arguments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth has had to rest on the concept of parental consent to get around the problems posed by the European convention on human rights and the European Court of Human Rights. Surely those parents who are likely to consent are the very ones whose children would not need corporal punishment. Equally, the parents who would withhold consent are almost certainly those whose children, it is alleged, would most benefit from corporal punishment.

Moreover, in resting the case on parental consent, we would create a situation in which schools would contain two categories of pupil. There would be those who would be subject to corporal punishment and those who would be immune from it because their parents had not given consent. That would create an intolerable position in our schools. For these practical reasons, and perhaps with some regret, I cannot recommend acceptance of the new clauses.

Mr. Pawsey

This has been a particularly interesting debate.

I shall deal first with the speech of the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe). The Education Act 1996 does not define corporal punishment. I have, therefore, followed the precedent that has already been established. The hon. Gentleman made a great point about reasonable punishment. The essence of new clause 5 is reasonable punishment. A teacher could be sued in the civil courts for trespass to the person unless the corporal punishment was carried out in accordance with the new clause. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's argument.

The hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), who sits next to the hon. Member for Wakefield, told us that he undertook caning. Does the hon. Member for Wakefield really believe that his hon. Friend is a violent character of the sort described? The hon. Gentleman knows his hon. Friend better than I do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold), in a thoughtful speech, said that an additional sanction was being made available to teachers. He was right to advance that argument. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) said that corporal punishment could be of benefit in a loving and caring environment. He was right to make that point. Indeed, that is what the new clause emphasises. It is a reasonable amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) said that without discipline there is no learning. He is right. Learning best takes place in a reasonably disciplined environment. My hon. Friend was critical of the European Court, and I was not surprised about that.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who is now in his place, mentioned exclusions and evidence. The best evidence that I can give him is that 68 per cent. of those who have been polled are in favour of the reintroduction of corporal punishment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) supported the new clause. He described me as being too reasonable. I was somewhat surprised to hear him say that, given the way in which I was attacked by Opposition Members. Perhaps I have got things about right and have achieved a mid-way position between Opposition extremists and the extremists who sit behind me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) made a typically robust speech. He argued that the new clause would enhance choice in schools and in education generally. He made a good point about the responsibility of schools to the children who wish to learn.

My hon. Friend the Minister made one of the more disappointing speeches that I have heard from the Government Dispatch Box. That means that he did not give me the unconditional support that I wished to hear from him. He said that he would resist the new clause, and that was a surprise. He thought that I had sought to deal with some of the objections that might come from the European Court. I appreciate that there is conflicting advice, but I have been advised that I have answered the court's objections.

The new clause would allow schools to reintroduce corporal punishment. It would be at the discretion of the school, its governing body, its head teacher and its parents. No one is forcing corporal punishment down anyone's throat: it is a matter for the individual, and parents would have to give their consent. That 68 per cent. poll clearly includes a substantial number of teachers—we cannot exclude them.

The debate has been about the need to provide a reasonably disciplined environment for learning. I urge my hon. Friends and Opposition Members to join me in the Lobby tonight.

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

The House divided: Ayes 101, Noes 376.

Division No. 57] [8.40 pm
Alexander, Richard Leigh, Edward
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) MacGregor, John
Atkins, Robert Mans, Keith
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Marland, Paul
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Marlow, Tony
Beggs, Roy Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Bendall, Vivian Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Bowden, Sir Andrew Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Boyson, Sir Rhodes Monro, Sir Hector
Brazier, Julian Neubert, Sir Michael
Brown, Michael (Brigg Cl'thorpes) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Pawsey, James
Butcher, John Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Butterfill, John Porter, David
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Rathbone, Tim
Carttiss, Michael Redwood, John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochf'd) Renton, Tim
Colvin, Michael Richards, Rod
Cope, Sir John Riddick, Graham
Cormack, Sir Patrick Roe, Mrs Marion
Cran, James Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd) Shaw, David (Dover)
Day Stephen Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Dicks, Terry Shepherd, Sir Colin (Heref'd)
Dover, Den Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Duncan Smith, Iain Sims, Sir Roger
Dunn, Bob Skeet, Sir Trevor
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld) Smith, Tim (Beaconsf'ld)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Speed, Sir Keith
Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim) Stewart, Allan
Fry, Sir Peter Sumberg, David
Gallie, Phil Tapsell, Sir Peter
Gardiner, Sir George Taylor, Sir Teddy
Gill, Christopher Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Townend, John (Bridlington)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexf'yh'th)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Trotter, Neville
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Hamilton, Sir Archibald Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Hannam, Sir John Whittingdale, John
Harris, David Wilkinson, John
Howell, David (Guildf'd) Wilshire, David
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Hunter, Andrew Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesf'ld)
Jessel, Toby Yeo, Tim
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Knight Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Tellers for the Ayes:
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Mr. Walter Sweeney and
Legg, Barry Mr. Warren Hawksley.
Abbott, Ms Diane Amess, David
Adams, Mrs Irene Ancram, Michael
Ainger, Nick Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Arbuthnot, James
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Ashby, David
Aitken, Jonathan Ashdown, Paddy
Alison, Michael (Selby) Ashton, Joseph
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try SE)
Austin-Walker, John Cunningham, Dr John
Baker, Kenneth (Mole V) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Baldry, Tony Curry, David
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dafis, Cynog
Barnes, Harry Dalyell, Tarn
Barron, Kevin Davidson, Ian
Bates, Michael Davies, Bryan (Oldham C)
Batiste, Spencer Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)
Battle, John Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bayley, Hugh Davis, David (Boothferry)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Denham, John
Beith, A J Deva, Nirj Joseph
Benn, Tony Devlin, Tim
Bennett, Andrew F Dewar, Donald
Benton, Joe Dobson, Frank
Beresford, Sir Paul Donohoe, Brian H
Berry, Roger Dorrell, Stephen
Betts, Clive Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Biffen, John Dowd, Jim
Blunkett, David Duncan, Alan
Boateng, Paul Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Eagle, Ms Angela
Booth, Hartley Eastham, Ken
Boswell, Tim Eggar, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Elletson, Harold
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Emery, Sir Peter
Bowis, John Ennis, Jeff
Bradley, Keith Etherington, Bill
Brandreth, Gyles Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bright, Sir Graham Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)
Brooke, Peter Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Evennett David
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Faber, David
Browning, Mrs Angela Fabricant, Michael
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Fatchett, Derek
Burden, Richard Faulds, Andrew
Burns, Simon Fishburn, Dudley
Burt, Alistair Fisher, Mark
Butler, Peter Forman, Nigel
Caborn, Richard Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Callaghan, Jim Forth, Eric
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Foster, Derek
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Foster, Don (Bath)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Foulkes, George
Campbell-Savours, D N Fowler, Sir Norman
Canavan, Dennis Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Linc'n) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Carrington, Matthew Freeman, Roger
Channon, Paul French, Douglas
Chapman, Sir Sydney Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Chidgey, David Galbraith, Sam
Chisholm, Malcolm Gapes, Mike
Clapham, Michael Garel-Jones, Tristan
Clappison, James Garnier, Edward
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Garrett, John
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) George, Bruce
Clelland, David Gerrard, Neil
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Gilbert, Dr John
Coe, Sebastian Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Coffey, Ms Ann Godman, Dr Norman A
Cohen, Harry Golding, Mrs Llin
Congdon, David Goodlad, Alastair
Connarty, Michael Gorst, Sir John
Conway, Derek Graham, Thomas
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Grant, Sir Anthony (SW Cambs)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Grocott, Bruce
Corbyn, Jeremy Gummer, John
Corston, Ms Jean Gunnell, John
Couchman, James Hague, William
Cousins, Jim Hall, Mike
Cox, Tom Hampson, Dr Keith
Cummings, John Hanson, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hardy, Peter
Hargreaves, Andrew Maclennan, Robert
Haselhurst, Sir Alan McNamara, Kevin
Hawkins, Nick MacShane, Denis
Hayes, Jerry Madden, Max
Heald, Oliver Maddock, Mrs Diana
Heath, Sir Edward Madel, Sir David
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hendry, Charles Maitland, Lady Olga
Heppell, John Malone, Gerald
Heseltine, Michael Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hicks, Sir Robert Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Higgins, Sir Terence Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Martlew, Eric
Hinchliffe, David Mates, Michael
Hodge, Ms Margaret Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hogg, Douglas (Grantham) Maxton, John
Home Robertson, John Meacher, Michael
Hood, Jimmy Meale, Alan
Horam, John Mellor, David
Hordern, Sir Peter Merchant, Piers
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Michael, Alun
Hoyle, Doug Miller, Andrew
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hughes, Robert (Ab'd'n N) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Morgan, Rhodri
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Morley, Elliot
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hutton, John Moss, Malcolm
Illsley, Eric Mowlam, Ms Marjorie
Jack, Michael Mudie, George
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough) Mullin, Chris
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Murphy, Paul
Jamieson, David Nelson, Anthony
Janner, Greville Newton, Tony
Jenkin, Bernard (Colchester N) Nicholls, Patrick
Jenkins, Brian D (SE Staffs) Norris, Steve
Jones, Barry (Alyn & D'side) Oakes, Gordon
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Jones, Dr L (B'ham Selly Oak) O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Oppenheim, Phillip
Jones, Robert B (W Herts) Orme, Stanley
Kaufman, Gerald Ottaway, Richard
Kennedy, Charles (Ross C & S) Page, Richard
Kennedy, Mrs Jane (Broadgreen) Paice, James
Key, Robert Patnick, Sir Irvine
Khabra, Piara S Pattie, Sir Geoffrey
Kilfoyle, Peter Pendry, Tom
Kirkhope, Timothy Pickles, Eric
Kirkwood, Archy Pickthall, Colin
Knapman, Roger Pike, Peter L
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Pope, Greg
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Portillo, Michael
Knox, Sir David Prentice, Mrs B (Lewisham E)
Kynoch, George Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe) Purchase, Ken
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles) Radice, Giles
Lewis, Terry Raynsford, Nick
Liddell, Mrs Helen Rendel, David
Lidington, David Robathan, Andrew
Lilley, Peter Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Litherland, Robert Robertson, Raymond S (Ab'd'n S)
Lloyd, Sir Peter (Fareham) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretfd) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Loyden, Eddie Rogers, Allan
Luff, Peter Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Rowe, Andrew
McAllion, John Rowlands, Ted
McAvoy, Thomas Rumbold, Dame Angela
McCartney, Ian (Makerf'ld) Sackville, Tom
Macdonald, Calum Sainsbury, Sir Timothy
McFall, John Scott, Sir Nicholas
MacKay, Andrew Sedgemore, Brian
McKelvey, William Sheerman, Barry
Mackinlay, Andrew Shephard, Mrs Gillian
Maclean, David Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Tipping, Paddy
Snape, Peter Touhig, Don
Soames, Nicholas Tredinnick, David
Soley, Clive Trend, Michael
Spearing, Nigel Trickett, Jon
Spellar, John Turner, Dennis
Spencer, Sir Derek Waldegrave, William
Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset) Walden, George
Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs) Walley, Ms Joan
Spink, Dr Robert Ward, John
Spring, Richard Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Sproat, Iain Wareing, Robert N
Squire, Ms R (Dunfermline W) Waterson, Nigel
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Watts, John
Stanley, Sir John Wells, Bowen
Steel, Sir David Wheeler, Sir John
Steen, Anthony Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Steinberg, Gerry Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Stephen, Michael Willetts, David
Stern, Michael Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Stott, Roger Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Streeter, Gary Winnick, David
Sutcliffe, Gerry Wise, Mrs Audrey
Sykes, John Worthington, Tony
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Wray, Jimmy
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wright, Dr Tony
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Young, Sir George
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Tellers for the Noes:
Thurnham, Peter Mr. Timothy Wood and
Timms, Stephen Mr. Patrick McLoughlin.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for raising a point of order at this time, but I wonder whether there is any way of urgently contacting a Home Office Minister in connection with the hunger strike at Rochester prison—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. That has absolutely nothing to do with the Chair, and there is a telephone outside.

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