HC Deb 15 July 1998 vol 316 cc504-19

Lords amendment: No. 139, in page 91, line 24, leave out ("Subject to subsection (2),")

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 140 and the Government motion to disagree thereto.

I must inform the House that amendment No. 139 involves privilege.

Mr. Blunkett

I remember that, when the Bill returned from Committee for Report and Third Reading, we had this debate at about 3 o'clock in the morning. Given the length of today's debates and the pressure on the House, I do not intend to go over all that old ground. Suffice it to say that we are dealing not with partnership agreements but with an amendment that was understood in the Lords to be determined to remove any objections to the introduction of an alternative assisted places scheme. That would be the effect if we did not overturn the decision of the Lords.

The Lords carried the amendment by one vote, with the help of hereditary peers and against the Government's express wishes and our manifesto commitment. The Lords knew exactly what would be the impact of the amendment, and Lord Lucas made no bones about where he stood.

The debate is not about reaching partnership agreements. The Bill does not in any way infringe the ability of local authorities to purchase places for special educational needs requirements. It does not interfere with the legitimacy of local authorities in having sensible discretion, but our position on the amendment would stop them introducing assisted places schemes, which the House voted to abolish in a separate Bill, which received Royal Assent on 31 July 1997. A year later, we are back where we started. We simply cannot progress in this way.

The atmosphere is entirely different from that of Monday night, but we should not waste each other's time. Enough time has been wasted in this Session putting this and other Bills on the statute book. I do not mind sensible, rational debate, but repeating the same rational arguments time and again and having the Lords making amendments that they know perfectly well will be overturned by the Commons and playing silly political games does not endear people to the democratic process.

I want the House tonight to adopt the simple principle that we passed a Bill last summer, we have a manifesto commitment, we know perfectly well what we are doing, and we are not interfering with legitimate partnership arrangements, but we will not have other people introducing assisted places schemes, which we have abolished. What is more, we will not allow public money to be used to purchase provision in the specific circumstances that apply to the operation of assisted places schemes. That money, which is allocated through the taxpayer by the Government, is for reducing class sizes, improving standards and ensuring that children get a decent education wherever they go.

That is why we shall overturn the amendments. I hope that we shall not have, as we did ad nauseam until 10 past 5 in the morning on Report and Third Reading, people playing silly devils.

Mr. St. Aubyn

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for reminding us that this is a far more reasonable hour than the early morning to consider the important points raised by the amendments. The strength of feeling on the matter could not have been more evident in our previous discussion, but the strength of argument will be greater at this time.

The Secretary of State had the gall to suggest that, by abolishing the assisted places scheme, the Government have been able to afford everything that they are doing for the education service. The facts speak for themselves. On their own figures, by the third year, the cumulative saving from abolishing the assisted places would be only £100 million, and we heard only the other day from the Minister for School Standards that the cost of simply reducing class sizes would be £100 million a year. Today, we hear that the Government are spending £150 million of capital on building new classrooms for that project. Regardless of whether one agrees with lower class sizes—we have acknowledged that there is something to be said for that objective—no one can pretend that abolishing assisted places went anywhere near paying for that project, let alone the Government's other ambitions.

Labour Members may ask what this has to do with the amendment. That is a very good point. The amendment does not ask the Government to rediscover or reproduce that £40 million a year. It simply asks the Government to accept that local councils, with the support of local schools, parents, charities and sponsors, should be allowed to take advantage of the chance to give some local children for whom the idea is appropriate their best opportunity in life. That chance should not be denied by the prejudice that Labour Members have displayed not only in this House but in another place.

I am delighted to report to the House that Surrey county council recently received a glowing report from Ofsted. There can be no doubt that Surrey LEA achieves some of the best results for children of any LEA in the country. Surrey wants to introduce a partnership places scheme with local schools because of local conditions and local ambitions to achieve the best result for every child.

9.45 pm

The Secretary of State appeared to be trapped in the past; he appeared to be hung up on the old assisted places scheme. The Conservatives believe that that scheme had a lot to offer, but we want to go one better: we want to build on our experience, not deny it. In developing a new partnership scheme at the local education authority level, we want to build a scheme that will not demand a pound extra from the Department for Education and Employment but will introduce additional resources from outside the local education authority budget.

It is ironic that I have been in continual correspondence with the Minister for School Standards concerning the schools budget in Surrey. He tells me time and again how much more he would like Surrey county council to spend on education—and Surrey county council would certainly like to delegate more of its budget to education. However, the Minister's colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions have cut the council's funding allocation. In a year when council tax has had to be increased by more than 10 per cent., there is a limit to how much local tax payers can bear.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying wide of the amendment. I ask him not to talk in generalities, but to return to the amendment that is before the House.

Mr. St. Aubyn

Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The problem is that local education authority budgets are constrained by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions at the same time as the Department for Education and Employment demands that LEAs spend more on education. We have identified that we can spend more on local children by introducing money from private sources and the independent sector. It is clear from the comments of the Secretary of State tonight, and from those of his colleagues on previous occasions, that they wish to deny us that opportunity of increasing the amount that is spent on children in Surrey and in other county council areas.

I have no more wish than the Secretary of State to cover old ground, so let us consider what has happened since the House last debated the issue. Several schemes involving independent schools and the Government were submitted to the Secretary of State; Only 16 per cent. of them were accepted. More than four out of five of the schemes developed and produced locally have been knocked down by the Department for Education and Employment. What confidence can we have that, under the regulations that the Government are demanding be reimposed by knocking out the Lords amendment, the Department will adopt a slightly more broad-minded approach and allow local education authorities—such as Surrey—which have been innovative and imaginative, to use their initiative to come up with their own schemes, instead of being constrained by the ideological diktats of the Labour party?

I quote briefly from the debate on the matter in the House of Lords. Baroness Blackstone, speaking of the clause that the Government are seeking to reinstate, said: The key objective is to prevent LEAs establishing the assisted places scheme at a local level."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 16 June 1998; Vol. 590, c. 1473.] Let us contrast those comments with the words of the Secretary of State, not so long ago, in the autumn of 1995—when he was seeking votes, not merely enjoying power—when speaking to the Independent Schools Information Service, the independent schools' spokesbody. The front cover of its magazine of that period bore the headline: Labour: Ready to be friends? That magazine reports that, in answer to the question, Would that be locally determined or would there be some kind of national scheme? the current Secretary of State said: Primarily we would have to allow local judgments". Primarily, all that the Lords amendments are seeking is that we allow local judgments.

Mr. Blunkett

Not to prolong the debate but just for clarification, I should say that my remarks referred entirely to the type of excellent scheme that my hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards has approved for the development of the links between St. George's community school in inner-city Bristol and the Wells cathedral school. It is entirely at that level that they developed that programme, and we supported it with resources.

Mr. St. Aubyn

I am all for links between choir schools—one of my children attended one—and I am all for links with ballet schools. I am all for all sorts of local links, depending on local circumstances. It is not for the Secretary of State to dictate what those circumstances are. If we are talking of excellence, let us refer to the recent research published in The Times Educational Supplement of 27 March 1998, which found that potential high-flyers who do not have university-educated parents have greater difficulty realising their potential in comprehensives than in private schools.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is now widening the debate again. Will he please return to the amendment before the House?

Mr. St. Aubyn

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are talking about leaving with local authorities a power to develop a scheme under which such children can go to independent schools if it is judged in their best interests—a power which the Secretary of State has made it clear he wishes to deny to such children.

The message of that report, reported in The Times Educational Supplement, is that some such children clearly benefit from such an education. If I may, I shall quote very briefly from that report again. The report concluded—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

No. The hon. Gentleman must speak much more directly to the amendment. This is not a general debate.

Mr. St. Aubyn

There is clear evidence that children who win an assisted place at a private school go on to a better university and a better job than would otherwise be the case.

That raises the next issue. Should the question of local partnerships between local schools and a local education authority be determined locally in the interests of the child, or by the Minister in the interests of his policy? On a number of occasions, the Government have prayed in aid schemes that they deign to approve. In the House of Lords debate that I mentioned, the Front-Bench spokesman for the Government cited a scheme in Bromley.

It is ironic that the council in Bromley wants to enter a partnership scheme involving independent schools that is much wider than the one that the Department has approved. The reason is that there is a problem of class sizes in local secondary schools. If the council can buy places at local independent schools for the children for whom that is most appropriate, the class size problem in secondary schools will be alleviated.

The Government's announcement this afternoon of new classes to be built is not relevant to Bromley. Many of those schools are already over-subscribed, and lack the space to build new classrooms on their own ground. Therefore, the ability to buy places at other schools in the area answers a local need. However, we know from what the Minister has said before and what we have heard tonight that Bromley education authority and LEAs in Surrey and elsewhere will be denied the possibility of coping with a local problem in a way that answers their needs and those of children, parents and local schools, including those in the maintained sector.

If such a scheme were allowed, it is implicit in the Lords amendment that the selection of children to go to the local schools should be determined locally, which means involving the local education authority.

Mr. Don Foster

Hear, hear.

Mr. St. Aubyn

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who has previously compared the situation to that of the nomination rights of a local authority in a local housing association. If, in devising a local scheme, an LEA wished to claim nomination rights, under the Lords amendment that the Government seek to reject, it would have those rights if it made them part of the scheme. It is right and proper that an LEA should have the power to do so.

The Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to whom he reports were both taken to court by an 11-year-old child in order to make them meet their commitment to see that child through with an assisted place at the same school until the end of the child's education. The child had to learn that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I want to explain to the hon. Gentleman that this is not a debate about the assisted places scheme. Will he now speak specifically to the amendments before the House?

Mr. St. Aubyn

I want the Minister to comment. If he is intractable in his insistence on the regulations that his amendment seeks to reimpose, does he consider it reasonable that children who currently have an assisted place, who have a reasonable expectation, based on his comments and those of his Prime Minister, that they will see that education through to the age of—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman cannot speak to the amendments, I suggest that he close his remarks.

Mr. St. Aubyn

I am about to do so, but this relates to whether we should accept the amendment from the Secretary of State. If he is prepared to concede that, in the regulations that his amendment anticipates, he will allow children who currently have an assisted place to see their education through with the help of their LEA, that would be a move in the right direction. I urge the House to reject the Government's proposals.

Mr. Hayes

I am grateful to be called, and I will be brief. [Interruption.] Some hon. Members who have recently entered the Chamber are trying to make contributions; they may want to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in order to make more formal contributions.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary of State remarkably combined pomposity with fatuousness. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is now impersonating a seal, so we can add that to the cocktail. The fatuous element of his speech was his statement that we had not moved forward since this time last year. In fact, the House of Lords has suggested something quite different: partnership schemes—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business), That, at this day's sitting, the School Standards and Framework Bill and the Teaching and Higher Education Bill [Lords] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Dowd.]

Question agreed to.

Lords amendment again considered.

Mr. Hayes

In regard to fatuousness, the Secretary of State has moved no further forward. The solution suggested in the Lords amendment is different from the solution that we discussed when the matter first came before the House. Their Lordships suggest local discretion: they suggest that local people, through local education authorities, should be allowed to develop community schemes.

I know that it is some time since the Secretary of State served in local government, where he established a distinguished record; and I know that, once some people come to this place, they often forget their roots. Perhaps the Secretary of State has forgotten his. It is understandable: buoyed by money and power, people do forget. Nevertheless, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the fact that discretion, innovation, choice and diversity will result from allowing local communities to devise schemes that are sensitive and responsive to local traditions and needs. Surely, in the context of his education policies, the Secretary of State should take that on board.

We are not debating—or re-debating, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested—the principle of assisted places. Of course the Government have a mandate to deal with the issue in whatever way they wish. We are debating the Lords, considered and intelligent attempt to amend Government policy to allow for local discretion. In the interests of local democracy, in the interests of innovation and, surely, in the interests of trying to make the policy more moderate, the Secretary of State should give ground.

I shall end on this point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, rather than testing your patience any further. I mentioned pomposity. I think that pomposity emanates from a Secretary of State and a Government who object to any revision of their policy. This is not about the hereditary principle—although the Secretary of State threw that into his remarks as a cutting aside; it is about the opportunity to question, to challenge, to attempt to moderate and to amend policies that are born of little more than arrogance.

Mr. Brady

I shall endeavour not to try your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that of Labour Members—even the Secretary of State, who began this short debate by saying that he had become rather tired of proper democratic discussion of the subject. If he will give me a specific assurance on this very precise matter, I guarantee that I shall sit down immediately, and not say another word. I hope that we can work together for the benefit of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn), who has made a strenuous case for the partnership places scheme that the people of Surrey have chosen to introduce. However, I want to deal with a very different matter, relating to circumstances that many of my constituents have enjoyed for some 50 years, going back to the second world war. I refer to the practice of the borough of Trafford, and what used to be Cheshire county council, of sending Roman Catholic pupils to fee-paying St. Bede's grammar school in order to provide denominational education in a co-educational environment.

I am pleased to see my neighbour, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Mr. Goggins), in his place. I believe that he benefited from the excellent education that St. Bede's has to offer. I do not know whether he did so through a fee-paying arrangement or with the help of the local authority, as many of my constituents still do.

I shall be less concerned about the Government's proposals if the Secretary of State can give me a simple assurance that the historic practice of the borough of Trafford of providing extra denominational places by sending children to a fee-paying Roman Catholic grammar school will not be affected by the Bill. I do not believe that the clause was intended to cover a situation such as that of St. Bede's. It was specifically intended to rule out any deliberate return to the assisted places scheme through other means. I accept what the Secretary of State has said on that. I do not believe that there was an intention to prevent a local authority from continuing a practice that has gone on with wide acceptance for many years.

The practice has become controversial this year, because the ruling Labour group on Trafford council, which came to power a couple of years ago, has decided to end it. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Trafford—I welcome the support of the Liberal Democrat Members here, backing up their local people in Trafford—have guaranteed that, if and when they take back control of the borough, they will restore the practice of funding places at St. Bede's. The issue is of vital local significance.

The council's withdrawal of the scheme has caused considerable difficulty in the provision of denominational places for Roman Catholic children. There are now insufficient places, and Catholic children are having to go to non-Catholic schools against their wishes. I would welcome an assurance that the Secretary of State will not use the powers in the Bill to prevent the borough of Trafford from continuing the practice, which has gone on for 50 years, of sending Roman Catholic children to a co-educational denominational school which happens to be fee-paying.

Mr. Don Foster

I find myself in a difficult position. I agree more with the tone of the remarks of the Secretary of State than with what I have heard from the Conservatives, but I shall vote against the Secretary of State's recommendation. I shall try to explain why.

The Secretary of State rightly made clear his strong opposition to the assisted places scheme introduced by the previous Government. I entirely support him on that. We voted with him to bring about the end of the centralised assisted places scheme, which did not meet even the conditions laid down for it.

The Secretary of State has also said how much he is in favour of the development of partnerships between the state and independent sectors. I praise him and his Minister for their work on developing opportunities for such links to flourish. In about 1993, in an interview with the Independent Schools Information Service magazine, I talked about the importance of links between the state and independent sectors. About two years later, the current Secretary of State also gave an interview in which he repeated, almost word for word, what I had said. There is great agreement between us on the issue. We both believe in the importance of partnership between the two sectors.

The amendments relate to changes to the Education Act 1996. Section 518 of the Act made it possible for LEAs to pay the whole or any part of the fees and expenses payable at fee-paying schools. The Government want to replace that section, which the Lords oppose, so that LEAs may not pay all or part of the fees or expenses payable at independent schools unless regulations allow them to do so. The Government are to constrain a permissive power in regulation that no hon. Member has yet had the opportunity to see. We do not know what constraints central the Government will impose on local government.

It is the duty of local education authorities to seek to meet the educational needs of children in their areas and to ensure high-quality education for every child. If necessary, it is right and proper for LEAs to seek to meet some of those needs through other education providers as they see fit, which may include the independent school sector. Local, democratically elected LEAs should be given unfettered powers to decide how best to meet needs. I do not want a return to the centralised assisted places scheme.

In another place, their lordships decided that it was inappropriate for central Government to try to lay down in regulations, which, as I have said, we have not yet seen, limits on how LEAs should choose to develop partnerships. I support in its entirety the view of their Lordships' House. It would be wrong for central Government to impose regulations on local government about how it should fulfil its fundamental responsibilities to provide high-quality education for every child in its area.

Mrs. May

I was disappointed by the way in which the Secretary of State opened the debate. This debate is not about the assisted places scheme. We have had that debate, and legislation on it has gone through the House—whatever our views of the rights or wrongs of the Government's policy. This debate is about partnership between local education authorities and independent schools in or beyond their areas.

I was also disappointed that the Secretary of State again told the House that we should take absolutely no notice of amendments agreed in another place. He more or less dismissed the other place as something that should not exist. Is the Secretary of State suggesting that the Government's position is that there should be no revising Chamber? Should they choose to introduce proposals on such a position, they would have a very difficult time. The other place has a valid role as a revising Chamber, looking again at legislation passed by this House. We are given the opportunity to think again on the basis of what their Lordships propose.

The Lords amendments would allow local education authorities freely to enter into partnership with independent schools, as opposed to the Government's rather prescriptive arrangements. Such arrangements are hardly surprising given the prescription throughout the Bill, which even includes, as we learned earlier, what constitutes the school meal. The Lords are rightly saying that that flexibility and freedom should be there for local education authorities.

10.15 pm

I find it somewhat surprising that the Government are opposing the Lords amendments on that matter, given the statements that have been made by the Secretary of State and others about partnerships between the public and private sectors. Only in February, in a speech to the Labour party local government conference, the right hon. Gentleman said: The central thrust of the policy is to encourage innovation in order to provide higher standards in places where current provision is inadequate. It is in this context that we are keen to develop new public-private partnerships. The White Paper, "Excellence in schools", contains a section on independent schools, which says: The new partnership should embrace independent as well as state schools… The educational apartheid created by the public/private divide diminishes the whole education system".

Mr. Blunkett

Hear, hear.

Mrs. May

If the Secretary of State genuinely stands by what he said in the White Paper about partnerships between independent schools and the state sector, he should welcome the Lords amendments and agree with them, because they are an attempt to ensure that the Bill puts into practice the statements made by the Government in their White Paper.

Even more recently, in a speech to the Social Market Foundation at the beginning of this month, the Minister for School Standards said: We believe that bridges should be built to enable the independent sector to play a part in our standards agenda. The response from the private sector has been extremely positive. Old hostilities are being put to one side". The hon. Gentleman may have thought on 1 July that old hostilities were being put to one side, but it is clear from the speech by the Secretary of State about these amendments that that has not happened. If the Minister for School Standards stands by what he said to the Social Market Foundation, he too should support the Lords amendments, because that is precisely what they would do.

The amendments would give the local education authorities the opportunity to put together, with businesses, the private sector and independent schools in their areas, schemes that could work to the benefit of the children of the area in terms of the education provided. They would allow LEAs the whip hand; they would have the nomination rights and could determine where those rights would be taken up and how they would be allocated. The LEAs would be able to say, "Here is a child for whom we cannot in the normal course of events provide the education that we believe would be right. We believe that that could be provided by an independent school, so we will enter into a partnership so that that can be done."

That concept is accepted throughout the House in relation to children with special educational needs. Local authorities often cannot meet such children's needs within their own schools, so a place has to be bought in the non-maintained sector. I suggest that very bright children have needs every bit as special as those of others who are more naturally considered in the category of having special educational needs. If a local educational authority chooses to educate a child with those special needs outside the maintained sector, it should be free to do so. The Lords amendments would give freedom at local level.

I return to the issue that we have heard about throughout our debates tonight. Ministers stand up and talk about the importance of local decision taking, meeting local needs and accepting local circumstances, yet if we judge by how they vote on the Lords amendments and what they put into their legislation, the message is different.

Ministers are trying to restrain what goes on at local level, and to restrict the rights, flexibility and freedom of local education authorities. The amendments are about giving LEAs the opportunity to enter into partnerships with the private sector—partnerships that Ministers applaud in their rhetoric. However, as we see yet again, the reality of what the Government are doing is far from their rhetoric. The Lords amendments are about giving extra freedoms and flexibility to local education authorities to provide the education that is right for the children of their area. On that basis, we should support them.

Mr. Blunkett

I am sad that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has taken the view that he has. If I had read his 1993 speech, I would have saved myself about 55 minutes by ticking it and handing it over to the Independent Schools Information Service. We could have saved ourselves a lot of bother. Nobody is against discretion, and nobody wants to stop local authorities entering partnerships or placing children for special reasons.

I say to the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) that, if the local authority should in future choose to exercise its discretion, it would be able to do so in the circumstances that he described.

I was deeply offended and hurt by the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes), not least because I love the area that he represents. To be called pompous, or whatever it was—was it fatuous?—was deeply offensive. It has hurt me.

Mr. Brady

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Blunkett

I certainly will. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to hurt me as well.

Mr. Brady

I am seeking to atone for any offence that may have been caused, by giving the right hon. Gentleman heartfelt thanks on behalf of my constituents and the people of the borough of Trafford. They will be grateful for his assurance that should they choose, through the democratic process locally, to elect parties that support the provision of places at St. Bede's, they will be allowed to do so.

Mr. Blunkett

I am grateful, but I regret that that is unlikely to prevent the hon. Gentleman from voting against us. However, I am always happy to make others happy.

I cannot make the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn) happy, because he did not address the issue at all—he addressed something entirely different, which underpins why we cannot accept the Lords' view. In the end, what the Lords' view entails is exactly what the hon. Member for Guildford wants—to introduce an alternative assisted places scheme. He simply wants to be able to flout what we agreed in this House last year. For that reason, I say to the hon. Member for Bath that politics is full of guile, hidden meanings and what is written between the lines. When Conservative Members talk about partnership, they mean an assisted places scheme.

Mr. Don Foster

The Secretary of State is absolutely right—politics is about reading between the lines. The problem is that we have no lines to read between. We have not been given the opportunity even to look at draft regulations in relation to the clause. Will he acknowledge that, unless we have some indication of what sort of fettering powers he intends to impose on local education authorities, it will be difficult for anybody to accept that he should be given carte blanche to stop LEAs doing what they think is appropriate?

Mr. Blunkett

If the hon. Gentleman has accepted that we are entering partnership arrangements—which we are—he has accepted that we will not fetter any discretion in relation to special educational needs. We are dealing with the introduction of discretion to provide for an assisted places scheme at local level, which is what the hon. Member for Guildford was advocating.

Mr. St. Aubyn

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Blunkett

I certainly will. I am hoping for some clarification of the matter.

Mr. St. Aubyn

I have been thrown into confusion by the Secretary of State. He accused me of being pompous, but then complained when my colleague returned the compliment. What is being claimed by the Lords, and what has been claimed in debate after debate in this House, is the right for local authorities to decide what is needed locally, building beyond the assisted places scheme with newer, more positive schemes. The right hon. Gentleman has gone on time and again about the number of children in classes in primary schools. If a local education authority seeks to reduce the number of children in a class in a secondary school by sending some other children to an independent school in the same area, will he deny that class smaller numbers in the classroom?

Mr. Blunkett

The Government are doing a great deal about reducing numbers in the classroom, some of which we announced this afternoon. The idea that, in order to reduce numbers in a secondary school classroom, we must send children off to a private school on a local assisted places scheme beggars belief. This debate has to have some credibility, but I do not for a moment believe that either the intention or the outcome of what the House of Lords proposes would ensure partnership or give local authorities the discretion to do their job better. The amendments are entirely to do with facilitating a better, broader, more expansive or whatever one wants to call it assisted places scheme.

We have thought about the matter and decided that our original thoughts were better than those of the House of Lords, which wanted to change the position back to what we thought we had changed in the first place. We do not want an assisted places scheme, either local or national, which is why we shall ensure that the amendments are overturned.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 294, Noes 137.

Division No. 338] [10.25 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Cranston, Ross
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Crausby, David
Alexander, Douglas Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Allen, Graham Cummings, John
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Ashton, Joe Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Atherton, Ms Candy Dalyell, Tam
Atkins, Charlotte Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Banks, Tony Darvill, Keith
Barron, Kevin Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Battle, John Davidson, Ian
Bayley, Hugh Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Beard, Nigel Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Dawson, Hilton
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dean, Mrs Janet
Bennett, Andrew F Dismore, Andrew
Benton, Joe Dobbin, Jim
Bermingham, Gerald Donohoe, Brian H
Best, Harold Doran, Frank
Betts, Clive Dowd, Jim
Blackman, Liz Drew, David
Blears, Ms Hazel Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Borrow, David Edwards, Huw
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Efford, Clive
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradshaw, Ben Etherington, Bill
Brinton, Mrs Helen Field, Rt Hon Frank
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Fisher, Mark
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Browne, Desmond Flynn, Paul
Buck, Ms Karen Follett, Barbara
Burden, Richard Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Burgon, Colin Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Butler, Mrs Christine Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Byers, Stephen Foulkes, George
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Fyfe, Maria
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Galbraith, Sam
Campbell-Savours, Dale Gardiner, Barry
Canavan, Dennis George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Cann, Jamie Gerrard, Neil
Caton, Martin Gibson, Dr Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Godman, Dr Norman A
Chaytor, David Godsiff, Roger
Chisholm, Malcolm Goggins, Paul
Clapham, Michael Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Grogan, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Gunnell, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hain, Peter
Clelland, David Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clwyd, Ann Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Coaker, Vernon Hanson, David
Coffey, Ms Ann Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Coleman, Iain Healey, John
Colman, Tony Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Connarty, Michael Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Heppell, John
Cooper, Yvette Hesford, Stephen
Corbett, Robin Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoey, Kate
Cousins, Jim Home Robertson, John
Cox, Tom Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey Mullin, Chris
Hope, Phil Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hopkins, Kelvin Naysmith, Dr Doug
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Howells, Dr Kim O'Hara, Eddie
Hoyle, Lindsay Olner, Bill
Humble, Mrs Joan O'Neill, Martin
Hurst, Alan Pearson, Ian
Hutton, John Pickthall, Colin
Iddon, Dr Brian Pike, Peter L
Jamieson, David Pollard, Kerry
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Pond, Chris
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Prosser, Gwyn
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jowell, Ms Tessa Quinn, Lawrie
Keeble, Ms Sally Radice, Giles
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Rammell, Bill
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Kemp, Fraser Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Rooker, Jeff
Khabra, Piara S Rooney, Terry
Kilfoyle, Peter Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Rowlands, Ted
Kingham, Ms Tess Ruane, Chris
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Ruddock, Ms Joan
Laxton, Bob Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Leslie, Christopher Salter, Martin
Levitt, Tom Savidge, Malcolm
Linton, Martin Sawford, Phil
Livingstone, Ken Sedgemore, Brian
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Sheerman, Barry
Lock, David Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Love, Andrew Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McAllion, John Skinner, Dennis
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McCabe, Steve Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield) Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Macdonald, Calum Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McDonnell, John Snape, Peter
McFall, John Soley, Clive
McIsaac, Shona Spellar, John
McLeish, Henry Squire, Ms Rachel
McNulty, Tony Starkey, Dr Phyllis
MacShane, Denis Steinberg, Gerry
Mactaggart, Fiona Stewart, David (Inverness E)
McWalter, Tony Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Mallaber, Judy Stringer, Graham
Mandelson, Peter Stuart, Ms Gisela
Marek, Dr John Sutcliffe, Gerry
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Martlew, Eric Temple-Morris, Peter
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Michael, Alun Timms, Stephen
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Tipping, Paddy
Milburn, Alan Touhig, Don
Miller, Andrew Truswell, Paul
Mitchell, Austin Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Moffatt, Laura Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Moran, Ms Margaret Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Vaz, Keith
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Wareing, Robert N
Morley, Elliot Watts, David
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) White, Brian
Mudie, George Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W) Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen) Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wilson, Brian Wyatt, Derek
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C) Tellers for the Ayes:
Wise, Audrey Mr. Robert Ainsworth and
Woolas, Phil Mr. Kevin Hughes.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Keetch, Paul
Allan, Richard Kirkwood, Archy
Arbuthnot, James Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Leigh, Edward
Baldry, Tony Letwin, Oliver
Beggs, Roy Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Bercow, John Lidington, David
Beresford, Sir Paul Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Blunt, Crispin Livsey, Richard
Body, Sir Richard Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Boswell, Tim Loughton, Tim
Brady, Graham Luff, Peter
Brazier, Julian Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Breed, Colin MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Browning, Mrs Angela McLoughlin, Patrick
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Madel, Sir David
Burnett, John Malins, Humfrey
Butterfill, John Maples, John
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Cash, William Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Chidgey, David Moss, Malcolm
Chope, Christopher Nicholls, Patrick
Clappison, James Norman, Archie
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) ÖPik, Lembit
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Ottaway, Richard
Collins, Tim Paice, James
Cotter, Brian Paterson, Owen
Cran, James Pickles, Eric
Curry, Rt Hon David Prior, David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Randall, John
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Duncan Smith, Iain Rendel, David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Robathan, Andrew
Evans, Nigel Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Faber, David Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Fabricant, Michael Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Fallon, Michael Ruffley, David
Fearn, Ronnie Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Flight, Howard St Aubyn, Nick
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Sanders, Adrian
Foster, Don (Bath) Sayeed, Jonathan
Fraser, Christopher Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Garnier, Edward Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gibb, Nick Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Gill, Christopher Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Spicer, Sir Michael
Gorrie, Donald Spring, Richard
Gray, James Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Green, Damian Stunell, Andrew
Grieve, Dominic Syms, Robert
Hammond, Philip Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hawkins, Nick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hayes, John Tredinnick, David
Heald, Oliver Trend, Michael
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Tyler, Paul
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Tyrie, Andrew
Horam, John Viggers, Peter
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Wallace, James
Hunter, Andrew Walter, Robert
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Wardle, Charles
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Webb, Steve
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wells, Bowen
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Wilkinson, John
Willis, Phil Tellers for the Noes:
Wilshire, David Mr. Stephen Day and
Woodward, Shaun Mr. Nigel Waterson.
Yeo, Tim

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Lords amendment No. 140 disagreed to.

Forward to