HC Deb 07 July 1999 vol 334 cc1097-146
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

We now come to the second debate on the Opposition motions. I must advise the House that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.13 pm
Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the reduction in choice and diversity in education caused by the Government's abolition of grant maintained status, introduction of ballots to close grammar schools and restriction on the ability of schools to determine their own ethos; notes with concern the threat posed to school sixth forms by the Government's review of post-16 education; condemns the pursuit of uniformity at the expense of diversity; believes that the increasing bureaucratic burdens placed on schools, teachers and governors by the Government and its practice of holding back funding at the centre, to be allocated on the basis of a complicated bidding process, have a particularly adverse impact on rural schools; and further believes that these policies will damage children's education. I welcome the opportunity to start this debate—particularly as the Government have not initiated a separate debate on education for the best part of a year—and to set out the damage that the Government are doing to education. Schools and children are suffering as a result of the increases in bureaucracy and centralisation, and of the reductions in choice and diversity. The abolition of grant-maintained status, the ballots to close grammar schools, the restrictions on schools' ability to determine their own ethos—all those policies are aimed at establishing greater uniformity and permitting less choice.

The Government make rigid policy prescriptions from the centre, for example on class sizes and on how money can be spent. That, together with increasing bureaucracy from the centre, has caused real problems for schools. Nowhere are such problems felt more keenly than in rural areas. Small rural schools are under particular threat. Reduced class sizes, and hence lower school numbers, have led to cuts in funding, while prescription by Government takes no account of the different needs of rural schools. In addition, increased bureaucracy is especially difficult for a small school with few teachers.

It is time that the Government woke up to the reality of their policies and realised that, despite their rhetoric, the reality is that education is being damaged and children are suffering.

Mr. Phil Hope (Corby)

I note that the motion states that education will be damaged under the Government's policies. Will the hon. Lady comment on the record of achievement of the previous Tory Government? While that Government were in power, the number of exclusions rose, as did illiteracy levels. There were also more unqualified school leavers, and class sizes grew. Under the Tories, did not choice in education mean education for a few, and poor education for the many?

Mrs. May

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was about to give the page number from which he was quoting in his brief. I am more than happy to comment on the introduction of the national curriculum, which the Labour Government accept, as they accept standard assessment tests, Ofsted and many of the other things that the previous Government introduced.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

My hon. Friend referred to the difference between rhetoric and reality. Last Friday, I visited St. Joseph's school, a small Roman Catholic school in my constituency. The headmistress told me that she had been led to understand that, under the Government's proposals for the so-called national grid for learning, the amount of money that she would receive would be properly assessed. However, the reality was that she was given a formula funding that took no account of her many hours of hard work to present her case for the school. Does that not support my hon. Friend's contention?

Mrs. May

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising the issue of what happened at that school. It supports what I have said, and what I intend to say later in my speech, about the Government's lack of flexibility. The Government constantly prescribe from the centre: Whitehall, and not the schools, decides how the money will be spent.

Liz Blackman (Erewash)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. May

No, I shall make progress.

Since the Government came to power in May 1997, there has been a lot of activity with regard to education, but it is a pity that so much has been destructive. The focus has been on damaging good schools and on drawing power away from local level and into the centre. That much is borne out by the example given just now by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack).

We should make no mistake: in the past two weeks, with regard to local authority spending and the post-16 review, the Department for Education and Employment has taken further steps to reinforce its unenviable reputation as the most centralist Department in government", and brought forward proposals that represent a centralist approach, with significant powers and budgets controlled by unelected people responsible to Whitehall, not local communities. Those are not my words, nor even the words of a Conservative Member. They are the words of Sir Jeremy Beecham, chairman of the Local Government Association and Labour's most senior councillor. [Interruption.] They are a sad comment indeed on the way in which this Government are taking power away from local level—from local education authorities, schools and parents.

Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)

Did my hon. Friend note the scornful reception that Sir Jeremy Beecham's name received among Labour Members?

Mrs. May

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment, and I agree that the reception was scornful. Sir Jeremy has given years of service to his party as a councillor. I am sure that other Labour councillors, and Sir Jeremy Beecham himself, will have noted how his views are being cast aside.

That happens all the time. The Government are not interested in the views of people who understand what is happening in schools and local authorities. They are interested only in their own rhetoric, their own press releases and their own headlines. The Government are interested more in telling parents and teachers what to do than in raising standards.

As I have said, the Government do not take any notice of what actually happens in schools. Ministers take no notice of what teachers say and have turned their back on the teaching profession. I know also the ridicule with which my next comment will be met: perhaps they should take heed of today's comment from the National Union of Teachers: The Prime Minister and his Government are caught in the web they have spun for themselves. They cannot gain the respect of the profession through imposition.

Jacqui Smith (Redditch)

Does the hon. Lady still think that the literacy hour is too long?

Mrs. May

The hon. Lady will have to come up with something better than that. I suggest that she looks at the research from the university of Warwick, which suggests that the literacy hour should be split into different sessions, rather than all being in one session. I suggest that she looks at the impact of the hour on more able pupils, because it is failing them.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. May

I will take one more intervention and then make some progress.

Fiona Mactaggart

On that point and on the hon. Lady's point about how the NUT is right, did she share my concern about the NUT suggestion that the literacy hour should be an entitlement for teachers to train in, rather than an entitlement for children to learn in?

Mrs. May

One of the problems with the literacy hour is that it takes professional judgment away from teachers. We all believe in raising literacy standards, but I suggest that the hon. Lady asks some teachers in primary schools about the matter, as I do frequently. One said to me that the hour was an insult to teachers. I suggest that she thinks about that.

I shall look in more detail at the impact of Government policy in several areas. GM schools have found to their cost that all the Government's protestations, when the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 went through, that they would level up school funding so that GM schools did not lose out were just so many words. Throughout the country, former GM schools find themselves with budget cuts, forced to look at sacking teachers, increasing class sizes, stopping classes—a variety of measures are having to be taken as a result of Government policy.

I have several quotes from GM schools setting out their problems. A primary school in Derbyshire says: The gap between government rhetoric and economic truth is breath-taking…the children in most need are the ones most threatened by these actions". A school in Bolton says that the policy will mean an estimated 15 per cent. reduction in teaching staff. Gloucestershire primary schools say: we would not be able to maintain the current level of teachers per class plus non-teaching head, a reduction in non-teaching staff and no time for staff to monitor teaching and the curriculum".

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

Is the hon. Lady prepared to accept that those comments from the schools were prior to my decision and announcement at the Association of Heads of Foundation and Aided Schools conference, which now incorporates GM schools? Just 10 days ago, the announcement was welcomed by Bob Lloyd, the new chair of that organisation, who said: This is good news for all schools. We are delighted that David Blunkett has listened to the concerns. He is now taking action to ensure all schools are properly resourced". Does that not show that, although she may been told those facts by schools before I made the announcement, she is now entirely wrong?

Mrs. May

I do not accept that I am entirely wrong because those are problems that the schools are facing today, regardless of the future extra funding that the Government have said that they might put in place. Following his statement to that conference, the word that I am hearing from GM schools is that they are very concerned about the future. They still have to face difficult decisions and budgetary problems in relation to the future of teachers and classes, despite what the Secretary of State has just said.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough)

On the same point, does the hon. Lady accept that, under the previous Administration, the vast majority of schools in Britain made those comments because, under her party's policy, additional money went to a few schools that were grant maintained, at the expense of the vast majority, which had to pay for that?

Mrs. May

That comment does not deserve a response. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the money for GM schools in addition to the money that was given to local authority schools was spent otherwise on bureaucracy at local authority level.

Sutton Grant Maintained Schools Finance Group has written to the Secretary of State. It has pointed out that it has nearly £1 million less than is required to maintain staffing and curriculum just at last year's levels. In Liverpool, there was concern that changes in the budget would result in larger class sizes and possible loss of smaller subjects from the curriculum, thus producing a detrimental effect on pupils' education". In Warwickshire, GM schools have spoken about having to do some or all of the following: increase class sizes; lose a second language in key stage 3; reduce option choices at key stage 4; more teaching of second subjects by teachers and the use of non-specialists in some areas; reduction of some special needs support; post-16 reduction in schools with sixth forms; some schools having to consider redundancies this year and the next.

Miss Melanie Johnson (Welwyn Hatfield)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. May

I will in a minute.

Whatever the Government may say about GM schools funding, the blame lies fairly and squarely at the Secretary of State's door. I quote a letter to the Secretary of State from a head teacher of a GM school in Kent: The fundamental working principles that are emerging from the Department, which are being cascaded down through the LEA to schools, is increasing bureaucracy, reducing delegation and restricting school management. In an attempt to curb Leas' control of funds and educational management, the Department appears to be moving towards even greater centralisation.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

That is exactly the experience that two head teachers from my Leicestershire constituency recounted to me at the end of last week. Far from the Labour party policy of education, education, education producing good results, it has been translated directly into lose a teacher, lose a teacher, lose a teacher.

Mrs. May

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that intervention. He points out again to the Government the reality of their policies.

Several hon. Members


Mrs. May

I have not finished responding to the intervention.

The Government's policies mean that teachers are being made redundant, schools are increasing class sizes, and some courses are having to be stopped or taught by non-specialist teachers. The blame lies fairly and squarely at the Secretary of State's door.

Miss Johnson


Mrs. May

I apologise to the hon. Lady and give way.

Miss Johnson

Will the hon. Lady comment on the decision of the new Tory leader of Hertfordshire county council, who, at the policy committee on 1 July, told the new council that it would not be spending all the 6 per cent.—£27 million—extra that the Government will allocate to Hertfordshire next year on education, but would be cutting the increase to schools? Does she support that new Tory leader, or will she dissociate herself from those actions?

Mrs. May

The budget that was set for this year by Hertfordshire county council was the budget that was set by the Labour authority, to which the Secretary of State had to write to complain about Labour councillors' decisions.

All the GM schools that I have quoted will, I am sure, do their best for the children in their classrooms.

Valerie Davey (Bristol, West)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. May

No. I will make some progress.

As GM schools suffer from the impact of Government policy, so that impact will ultimately fall on children in the classroom. Abolishing grant-maintained status reduces diversity.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. May

I will make a little more progress, if my hon. Friend will allow me.

Threats to grammar schools also threaten diversity, as do the actions of a number of Labour-controlled councils that have chosen to refer policies of partial selection to the adjudicator.

Earlier today in Prime Minister's Questions, the Prime Minister tried to put the blame elsewhere, but parents know that he said two years ago in the Wirral: A Labour government will not close your grammar schools. That is my personal guarantee. His Government introduced ballots that are rigged in favour of those who want to get rid of grammar schools. In some ballots, parents of children at the grammar school will not even have a vote. And now we hear—surprise, surprise—that Labour activists are fighting to abolish grammar schools throughout the country.

Good schools should not be closed down; they should be encouraged and, where appropriate, helped to expand. We should preserve the best and improve the rest, not abolish the best and prescribe for the rest.

What of the part played by Labour councils, which are now referring partial selection policies to adjudicators and trying to abolish even that limited selection? Once again, Labour shows that it has no interest in providing the right education for each child. That move by Government—

Several hon. Members


Mrs. May

It is a long time since I had offers from four men all at once. I think that I saw the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) rise first.

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet)

The theme of this debate is choice and diversity. In my constituency in Kent, there is no choice of secondary education because there is only a selective education system. There are no comprehensives within that system. If the hon. Lady believes in choice and diversity, will she join me in the campaign to introduce comprehensive education to Kent so that we have choice and diversity?

Mrs. May

I assume that that means that the hon. Gentleman will be one of the Labour activists out there fighting to abolish grammar schools in his constituency. I hope that the parents let him know exactly what they think about that.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Is my hon. Friend aware that 90 per cent. of all my secondary schools in Gloucestershire are grant maintained? They chose to become so because they wanted to manage their own affairs. Now, they are being penalised. There will be larger class sizes and we will lose teachers because of the Government's policies. Is that not a disgrace?

Mrs. May

My hon. Friend is right, it is a disgrace and it is children who will suffer. Children's education will suffer because of the Government's dogmatic intent to get rid of grant-maintained status.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)


Mrs. May

I shall make a little progress before I give way.

That move by Government to reduce choice and diversity is linked with a reduction in flexibility at local level. Lack of flexibility—for example the lack of flexibility in infant class sizes—is hitting rural schools particularly hard. That policy means, for example, that at Broomley First school in Stocksfield, Northumberland, a rota is being proposed in which three pupils from the 33-strong year 2 class will drop down to year 1, which has only 25 pupils, for three two-hour sessions a day. That migration involving nine youngsters a day would allow both classes to remain below the Government's 30-pupil target.

The director of education for Northumberland county council has said that he believes that many other schools will find themselves struggling when 30-pupil limits become mandatory in 2001. The director said: Mr. Blair promised that all early years children would be in classes of under 30, and while that sounds great at the ballot box, it causes real difficulties in practice. Broomley was faced with a dilemma… From 2000, all year one and two classes will have to be below 30, and what you're seeing here could be multiplied many times over because of the rigidity of the Government rules. I think the Government ought to rethink this particular policy.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)

An avalanche will descend on the Government's shoulders judging by my experience with primary schools in my constituency, some of which are the best in Buckinghamshire. Parents are writing to me about that very matter. Years 1 and 2 are being mixed up to meet totally barmy criteria. Sometimes, three or four children are being moved from classes when there was no difficulty in teaching 33 or 34 children previously.

Mrs. May

My hon. Friend is right. Yet again, it is due to the fact that the Government will not allow schools to decide what is best for children at the local level. Schools that have been providing good education for their children are having to disrupt themselves and move children around in that way. Some parents are finding that their parental choice is being taken away.

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford)

May I clarify the Opposition's policy? Is she telling my constituents that it is all right for classes to be greater than 30? My head teachers tell me that the Government's policy of 30 children to a class is working and is giving more diversity and better education to their children. Is the hon. Lady saying that it is Conservative policy to increase class sizes and to have more than 30 in a class?

Mrs. May

It is important to have flexibility at local level to decide class sizes. That is the policy that we adopted during the passage of the School Standards and Framework Bill. Unfortunately, the Government have set their face against that flexibility. As a result, schools such as those in the Buckinghamshire constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) have to turn children away, move them between classes or introduce mixed age groups when they had not had them before, all of which could disrupt children's education. That is the reality of what is happening and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman considers what is happening throughout the country as a result of the Government's policy. It is a question not merely of disruption in the classroom, but of potential teacher losses.

Again, I am about to do something that will cause laughter on the Labour Benches because I am going to quote another teacher trade union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which surveyed a number of schools in England and Wales. The results showed expected job losses of 2,051 teaching posts nationally. A member of the ATL from Sefton borough council said: Class size reduction policy has given huge amounts to two primary schools to build extra classrooms and reduce the intake…of all other schools. The result is that the two…schools now take over 900 pupils while the rest crumble. Again, that shows the reality of what is happening at the grassroots.

The Government may well say that it is all right because they are putting much more money in to reduce class sizes. However, it is not as easy as that. In The Times Educational Supplement last week, Mike Baker wrote an article about the problems of his local primary school. He said: the schools where I live have a very high proportion of primary classes of 30-plus pupils. Under pressure from the Government, the council plans to reduce class sizes…If my daughter's school cuts class sizes it would be turning away even more children from a good and popular school."—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We must not have these exchanges—in particular the sedentary exchanges between those on the two Front Benches.

Mrs. May

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Mr. Baker continued: It has no space to expand and has too many 'temporary' classrooms which have been there for decades. The school had a policy to deal with that problem: the junior school would move into the infant school and a new infant school would be built. However, the infant school was to be built on a playing field and the Government's playing field policy came into play. So, as Mike Baker says: you can see why this issue has become a spaghetti junction of contradictory national policies: class sizes, popular schools, playing fields". He continues: It is sobering to realise that as Whitehall and Westminster increase their centralising power over education, it is local education issues which most excite parents. At a time when some question the role of local authorities, it is interesting to see how it is often locally-elected councillors who feel the heat generated by conflicting national policies. That is a view with which Sir Jeremy Beecham might, I suspect, agree.

Today, I heard of another problem resulting from the class size problem. In the village of South Marston in Wiltshire, we have a school with 96 pupils. Because of the class size pledge to reduce classes to 30 children, the school needs an extra teacher and an extra classroom. The Government have given it money for an extra teacher, but have turned down its two applications for an extra classroom. What is the point of having an extra teacher if there is nowhere for them to teach?

It is in rural areas that so many of the problems are now coming to the fore. Indeed, the Local Government Association is mounting a three-phase campaign to highlight the difficulties encountered by rural schools, many of which are faced with closure. In March 1998, the then Minister for School Standards, the right hon. Member for Tyneside, North (Mr. Byers) announced on television that he was introducing tough new protection for village schools". The Government, he said, have put in place safeguards and measures that will protect rural primary schools". He should try telling that to the parents of children at Berkley Church of England school in Somerset, or the nine-year-old who has written to me about the closure, saying: I was shocked and upset to hear the proposal of the closure of my school… I can't see how Somerset county council can shut down our school that has just had an excellent Ofsted and Distinction in our last Choral speaking Exam. We put on plays and concerts in St Mary's Church and each time extra seats need to be provided. I have had a great time and Education at Berkley and all other Pupils will say the same, another thing we all agree with is that we are PROUD of our School and won't let anyone Close it.

Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk)

Before the hon. Lady continues as the new champion of rural schools, will she say something about the 500 that her party closed when it was last responsible for the governance of schools? Will she particularly say something to those in my home county of Norfolk about the 100 schools that her party closed? The £2 million that this Government are investing to reduce class sizes is helping rural schools in my environment, as is the building work that is going on. For the first time in 20 years, there is a feeling of optimism in our Norfolk villages.

Mrs. May

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman tells that to the residents of Potter Heigham, where their school is closing.

The Government simply do not understand the needs of rural areas, such as the high cost of school transport and the necessity for many parents to use their cars to take their children to school. Funding is an issue in rural areas. It is not only shire counties and shire unitary authorities that have done badly from the Government's funding settlement.

Mr. Blunkett

Just to show that we all know exactly what we are doing, perhaps the hon. Lady will tell me how many children attend Potter Heigham school, which she has used as an example of how badly we are doing?

Mrs. May

The Secretary of State will know that the impending closure of Potter Heigham school and the impact of the Government's decisions on it caused considerable concern in the village. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] In fact, such concerns—

Mr. David Prior (North Norfolk)

Potter Heigham school is in my constituency. The failure of the Labour and Liberal Democrat-controlled local education authority to support that school led many parents to take their children away from it. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] The school has almost closed thanks to this Government's policies. [Laughter.] Government Back Benchers' laughter is a absolute disgrace and will horrify many parents living in Potter Heigham.

Mr. Blizzard

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for hon. Members to conceal the truth from this House that Potter Heigham school has three pupils?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair; it is a matter for debate.

Mrs. May

In rural areas, funding has always been an issue, but the Government have never understood the funding problems faced in many of them. That is why the Minister for School Standards wrote to North Yorkshire county council to explain that Hull gets more funding per pupil because of social deprivation—as if rural areas have never suffered from deprivation. Rural areas face particular challenges, but they differ greatly. That is why flexibility is especially important.

Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. May

No. I have taken many interventions, so I want to continue.

Many rural schools are most frustrated at the way in which the Government are holding back funds to be spent on projects chosen from the centre, and not on those that would best suit the needs of children in such schools. Many rural schools are worried about the possible closure of school sixth forms as a result of the review that the Government are initiating, which allows for two options for funding—both of which rely on the Secretary of State telling the bodies concerned how much money to spend.

Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East)

Three pupils!

Mrs. May

There are many problems in education today. Through their opposition to school freedom, local decision making and the provision of education that is right for each child, the Government are reducing choice and diversity in pursuit of uniformity. Teachers and schools are weighed down by the Government's bureaucratic burdens and the constant flow of prescription from the centre. In all of that, those who will suffer most are the children.

Mr. McNulty


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not want again to have to call hon. Members to order for repeated seated interruptions.

Mrs. May

I think that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) was marking his own interventions.

I want schools to be set free, teachers to be allowed to get on with teaching, parents to be able to choose for their children and children to be helped and encouraged to develop their full potential. I object to the Government's policies not just because they restrict schools, prescribe to teachers and reduce parents' choice, but because they damage children's education. I encourage all hon. Members who are interested in children's education to vote with me in support of the motion.

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

I genuinely wanted to be able to congratulate the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) on her first speech from the Front Bench as shadow Secretary of State. I thought that she was doing fine until she mentioned Sir Jeremy Beecham. At that point, she misunderstood an "Ooh-ah Cantona" as an attack on Sir Jeremy rather than an echo of Opposition Members' applause for him. We all agree that local government is critical and that we should ensure maximum flexibility locally, but I want to make one or two things clear before I respond to the hon. Lady's speech.

If local authorities like Tory-controlled Buckinghamshire or Northumberland cannot manage to operate our class size pledge without causing the disruption that the hon. Lady has described, we will do it for them. If they are not capable of managing it, they should let us know. The task of coming up with the plans, with the schools, has been devolved to them. It is decentralist. It is not bureaucratic; it is not being run from Sanctuary buildings. It is being run in conjunction with schools and authorities.

Secondly, if Opposition Members are to give the hon. Lady information and she is to use it in this House, she should for God's sake ensure that she has done her homework on it. If she uses an example of a school in north Norfolk in which there are only three pupils—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is not the point."] It is exactly the point; this debate is on diversity and choice. Who has made the choice of which school their children attend in north Norfolk? The parents have made that choice.

Mr. Prior

It was the choice of the LEA to close that school. Following that decision, it was not surprising that parents chose to send their children elsewhere.

Mr. Blunkett

But why was the decision made to close the school? [Interruption.] I am hearing interesting heckling, but I am addressing my remarks to the hon. Gentleman. Why was the decision taken? Was it because the school was succeeding and parents were flooding it with their children, or because the school was struggling and had received a particularly unfortunate Ofsted report and parents had ceased to support it by sending their children there? That is the essence of the debate about diversity and choice. If we want choice and diversity to be in the hands of parents, they should be able to take the decisions to back that up, including having a vote on whether they want a selective system for children aged 11.

None of that comes as a surprise. The hon. Member for Maidenhead is very charming. I do not mind saying that because her husband is here tonight and I want to protect her from the slur that she has made against herself by saying that it was a long time since four men at once were after her. I wondered when the previous time had been. Last year, in her previous Front-Bench Opposition job, she said famously that we had inherited a golden legacy. I have thought about that a lot since. The Conservatives' golden legacy started with early years. They refused initially to accept that nursery provision was necessary for anyone but the better-off, who could pay for it. When they changed their view and reverted to the commitment made by Baroness Thatcher in the early 1970s to expand nursery education, they decided to do it through the voucher scheme.

What was the impact of the voucher scheme? It started to create market chaos in which providers were put out of business, particularly in Norfolk. The previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard), would never accept that she was damaging her county by undermining choice where diversity did not exist. Expanding to ensure a nursery place for all four-year-olds and putting in place admissions policies for infants which ensure that children cannot be denied a place because they had not gone to the nursery school attached to that infants school has increased choice and diversity.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that in rural areas such as Staffordshire, which has small villages without local schools, the voucher system enabled nursery groups to be set up? With the abolition of the voucher system, those groups have had to close, resulting in the children either being unable to go to nursery schools in neighbouring larger towns or being shipped in by parents at great cost?

Mr. Blunkett

But 900 playgroups closed in the last year of the Conservative regime. We have intervened to put an extra £500,000 in, expanding the amount of money available to the Pre-School Learning Alliance. Whatever the attacks on the Government, we shall continue to support that diversity. As we double the number of nursery places for three-year-olds over the next three years, we shall create even more places in rural as well as urban areas.

The golden legacy on class sizes left 500,000 youngsters aged five to seven in classes of more than 30. We are taking the positive action that parents have demanded.

Mrs. May

The Secretary of State talks about the figures for closures of pre-school playgroups. Will he accept the figures produced by the Pre-School Learning Alliance that over the past two years 1,500 pre-schools have closed and there is an expectation that 1,700 will close over the next year?

Mr. Blunkett

I do not accept those figures, because we have to consider those that are opening as well as those that are closing. We have to take into account the resources that have been put in, the opportunities that have been gained and the working party that has been established to ensure that we provide diversity. We can give a clear role to the Pre-School Learning Alliance and other bodies in providing for younger children as well as for four-year-olds. That is linked to our child care strategy. We are linking nursery with other playgroup activity and providing an opportunity for parents to make the decision.

In the end, parents will choose. That is what the debate is about. If they have a choice between a pre-school group and a nursery and they choose the nursery, who am I to intervene? I ask rhetorically, of course, because we are all in favour of diversity and choice. We are in favour of it for those 500,000 youngsters who, through no fault of their own, found themselves in classes of more than 30 at a crucial moment in their education when class size makes a difference. We know that it does because everybody tells us—Ofsted tells us, research tells us, those who buy in the private sector tell us—so we are doing something about it by expanding the number of places in popular schools. We have already added 12,000 places. By September we shall have removed 300,000 of the 500,000 youngsters from over-sized classes in infants schools. That is a good record that I am proud of. If there are hiccups, we shall help the schools and the county councils to sort them out with extra facilities and extra teachers.

What about choice and diversity and the golden legacy of the two out of every five children who could not read, write and add up at the age of 11 when we came to office? What about our terrible imposition of a literacy hour and a numeracy hour? Yes, a full hour. Some 90 per cent. of heads have said that it is working and they welcome it. On Monday, when I went to Wesley Green school on the Blackbird Leys estate in Oxford, I found that the teachers were over the moon, the pupils were enthusiastic and the school had doubled the number of children reaching level 4 in literacy this year and trebled the number of children reaching level 4 in numeracy having piloted the numeracy programme. That is real choice and diversity that offers proper standards rather than rubbish for some and excellence for others.

Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the criticism that has been levelled against the Government by schools in my constituency that every hour of the literacy hour requires at least three or four hours of preparation by the teacher? That takes them away from being in the classroom.

Mr. Blunkett

That would be a shame if it were true, but the literacy framework and the materials provided with it have given a structure and the back-up to help all teachers, including newly qualified teachers. I meet NQTs all the time and they say that it is a phenomenal change and a real improvement. Linked to a new induction from September, it will make an enormous difference to them. They do not have to reinvent the wheel, but simply have to use what works best across the board.

Dr. Stoate

When I visited Knockall school in my constituency, I found those there delighted by the literacy hour. I took part in it with the children and the teachers. They were even more delighted about piloting the numeracy hour. I was astounded by the numeracy of the children in year 5. I was at Fleetdown school this morning, which was also doing extremely well in the literacy hour. Those schools are examples of success in delivering excellent education to children.

Mr. Blunkett

Quite right. I am sure that the chief inspector of schools would not mind my referring to his comments this morning on Radio 4, when he said that the literacy and numeracy hours were not an imposition and were not bureaucracy, but were clearly working in the interests of children.

Mr. Willis

And the chief inspector is always right.

Mr. Blunkett

I am being heckled, but just for once I shall not rise to the bait.

What about the golden legacy of no basic curriculum for teacher training, no new deal for schools, none of the investment that we are making in transforming the environment for schools and no learning grid?

I was interested to learn tonight that there have been grumbles from St. Joseph's primary school about the way in which the learning grid resources are being allocated. I thought that we were supposed to rely on the diversity of local government to arrange that allocation with schools. I thought that we were being chided for being too centralist and for running everything from Sanctuary buildings, and we are told that we should let county councils and schools run everything. However, on every scheme that we are not running from Sanctuary buildings, we are chided for what is happening at local level, which is the fault of the county council.

Here is another conundrum: every time we have formula funding, we are criticised, as we were criticised tonight in respect of St. Joseph's, and when we do not have formula funding, we are criticised for making the funding too specific. What do the Opposition want? Do they want formula funding, or do they want funding to be specifically provided to schools? Do they want the local authority or the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to determine that funding? Do they want a literacy hour and a numeracy hour, or would they like to leave two out of five children languishing without a decent education, as they were before?

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

I have a positive suggestion to make, and I want to know whether the Secretary of State will subscribe to it. Given, as he rightly says, that the key problem is that by the time children move on, at age 11, to secondary school, too much damage has been done by insufficient levels of literacy and numeracy, does he accept that it would be in everybody's interest if national performance tables were published, showing the results of the tests at age seven, so that one could find out which schools were succeeding and which were failing? Would it not be helpful also if the tables contained a register of how much cash was being spent per pupil at each school and the average class size at each school? We would not then be having these debates in a vacuum; we would have solid data and people would know what was working and what was not.

Mr. Blunkett

I thought that we were being criticised for taking too much time and spending too much money on measures that are not directly related to teaching in the classroom. We are criticised for collecting too much information, for asking too much of schools and teachers and for giving them too many forms to fill in, so that too much information is coming out of Sanctuary buildings. We have been so hurt by that criticism that I have asked the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), to spend a great deal of his time unravelling that process and making sure that we do not place greater demands on schools. The Conservatives sent out 80 separate documents when they organised the national curriculum, but we have reduced that to one document.

We are doing our utmost to respond to the needs of teachers and schools. I am hurt by the terrible fact that whatever we do, we cannot get it right. The only consolation is that we are turning things round and making a difference. We are changing what is happening in schools and motivating decent teachers and lifting their morale. We are ensuring that schools are building their confidence. They will have the resources to do that over the next three years. They are having their buildings repaired. They are getting a learning grid that never existed under the Tories.

This August, there will be 1,200 summer schools that never existed under the previous Government. There is a new excellence in cities programme. There is a new pay and performance programme with £1 billion of extra resources to pay teachers. There is a new admissions code that tries to unravel the shambles that we inherited which has bedevilled the delivery of education at a local level and undermined choice and diversity for parents.

Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives)

I seek the Secretary of State's advice and guidance on an area of the legacy to which he is referring. There is a lack of choice in rural areas, such as my constituency in west Cornwall, because as a result of the Rotherham judgment, of which the Secretary of State will be aware, parents can no longer choose to send their children to the school in whose catchment area they live. What action will the Department take to ensure that parents do not have to bus their children to the nearest market town instead of the local school that they want their children to attend? That has been the result of that judgment and previous Tory policy. Will the right hon. Gentleman continue to follow that Tory policy?

Mr. Blunkett

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me that in the admissions code and the regulations that have been published, which take effect from this autumn, we are establishing local admissions forums and providing an independent appeals process for parents. We shall ensure that there is adjudication over school reorganisation and that parents living near the school can exercise their preference, which they must do at the beginning of the process. That process will be open and transparent, and we are building in new information requirements for parents. All that will help enormously.

In the end, parents can only state a sensible preference and have any semblance of choice if we raise the standard of education in schools across the board. People will then make preferences based not on the fact that some schools provide an awful education—in which case supply and demand are out of kilter—but on the diversity to which Conservative Members have referred. If we raise the standard of all schools, choice will be made according to the ethos of the school, not the standard of education on offer. While demand for and supply of schools is not in equilibrium, we are letting down parents and children. Some parents will get their child into a school at the expense of someone else's child.

What we heard from the Conservatives earlier was tragic because it was all about the few, rather than the many. It was all about what had happened to a small number of children. I have made it clear that we value children, teachers and parents, wherever they are and whatever their status. It is no good the hon. Member for Maidenhead or her colleagues going over old ground. They can refight the 1997 election on grant-maintained schools and selection as often as they like, but it is a dead agenda. It has been dead from 1 May 1997. The GM schools have moved on and so have the parents. We have all moved on to ensure that we raise the level of funding in all schools to the level that GM schools had, not the other way round. Those schools respect and accept that, and I am proud that we have managed to reach an accord with them.

In the end, all that matters is that children get a decent education. It does not matter whether we fall out here tonight or whether we knock spots off each other. We shall be judged on whether we have made a difference.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

The right hon. Gentleman will need no lessons about the fact that secondary school heads are extremely busy people with onerous responsibilities. Twenty of them came from Surrey to lobby their MPs, and they included heads of grant-maintained schools who are struggling with the change and have experienced a cut in resources per pupil. However, that is not the point that I want to make.

All those heads agreed that the difficulty that they face is in controlling and getting access to resources so that they can decide how to allocate them in their schools. They said that the complicated bidding process, in which they must bid for money for all the different little schemes, is an enormous bureaucratic burden. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to allow the Under-Secretary, who is examining that process, to consider how funding is allocated to schools and to free up the secondary school heads in Surrey and elsewhere so that they can use the resources as they and their governors see fit?

Mr. Blunkett

I am going to surprise the hon. Gentleman by saying yes. I am very keen to ensure that we consider sensible suggestions about how to deal with genuine problems. Surrey received an extra £21 million, which is an increase of 6.3 per cent. We need to make sure that the money reaches schools. That is why I published the tables two weeks ago. We need to make sure that there is an additional delegation of at least 5 per cent. per pupil from next April. We need to examine how the standards fund and other resources reach schools, and make sure that they do so in the least bureaucratic fashion possible. Surprise, surprise—I am prepared to listen and to take action in the interests of children.

We are in favour of diversity and we are in favour of choice. In the end, those will only be possible because of the resources and changes that we have introduced.

We are determined to pursue our policies because they are working. More failing schools are coming out of special measures than are going in, and they are doing so in a shorter period of time. We are delivering excellence by spreading it between beacon schools, from where it spreads out into the community. We are already doubling and will double again the number of specialist schools, and placing them under an obligation to share that specialism with the community and with other schools.

We are proud of what we are doing and we are going to carry on doing it. We shall continue to ensure that we put pupils and their parents at the heart of this debate. That debate cannot be about going backwards or arguing about the divisions of the past: in the end, it is the standards of the future that matter.

8.10 pm
Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

First, I welcome and congratulate the new Opposition Front-Bench team. I also welcome the Secretary of State's thoughtful speech, although he was somewhat generous in his comments on the speech made by the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). He was absolutely right to say that most of her speech and most of the Opposition motion was concerned with going over old ground. Wordsworth put it slightly differently, writing of: old unhappy far-off things, and battles long ago. I have to tell the hon. Lady that she was fighting battles of long ago and touting an ideology that has been seen to fail and has let down the children of this country for a long time.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Foster

If the hon. Gentleman is about to defend that old policy, I shall be delighted to hear from him.

Mr. Swayne

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, however old the battles may be, they are being fought because Members of Parliament such as myself are continually and constantly approached in our constituencies by head teachers expressing precisely the problems to which we are drawing attention?

Mr. Foster

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I am sure that the House looks forward to hearing a thoughtful speech in which he tells us of the many head teachers who want to go back to how things were under the previous Administration. I shall be extremely surprised if he can seriously tell me that there are many teachers who want to return to a system that was designed to ensure nice schools for nice kids and the scrap heap for the vast majority. If he points out that there are some head teachers who are not entirely happy with everything that the Government are doing, that will not surprise me at all—indeed, I intend to express some of my concerns about Government policy. However, it would be foolish to deny that the new Government have introduced several measures that have brought about real and positive improvements in our education system.

The Liberal Democrats welcome the scrapping of nursery vouchers and the assisted places scheme, both of which added to bureaucracy and, as the Secretary of State is wont to say, gave something to the few but not the many. We welcome the recent White Paper on post-16 education: we believe that the vast majority of measures outlined therein will result in a real improvement in education for that age group. We especially welcome the statement made today by the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), about ways of providing additional support to children from disadvantaged areas. If the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) believes that measures such as those are not popular with head teachers, he must have been talking to an extremely select sample of head teachers.

However, in a debate such as this, it is important to draw attention to those areas of Government policy that cause us concern because they lead to a reduction in choice or in diversity. The Secretary of State has referred to the literacy hour and the numeracy hour. I was not entirely happy with the introduction of the literacy hour and I am still not satisfied on that subject. It is absolutely right for the Government to provide through their website and by other means support, advice and worked examples to teachers. However, to impose on teachers a specific way in which literacy must be taught detracts from the professional autonomy of our teachers in carrying out a task for which they have been trained. Nevertheless, I am delighted that the numeracy hour has been introduced in a way that appears to acknowledge that the literacy hour was overly prescriptive—it is important that such lessons are learned.

I hope that the Secretary of State accepts that our schools are denied choice if they are denied the funding to carry out their work. He has suggested that a lot more money is getting through to schools, but the reality on the ground is that schools are not getting that extra money—it is almost as if the cheque is still in the post. He might want to claim that that is the fault of local education authorities, as he tried to do in respect of the league tables that were published a few days ago—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State says from a sedentary position that I have said it for him.

The Secretary of State would be wrong to make such an accusation. There are two reasons, the first of which is that, according to the Audit Commission—whose figures I hope the right hon. Gentleman accepts—the amount of money per pupil being made available to our schools has gone down by an average of £50 since the Labour Government entered office. The additional money is not coming through. We know that education spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has declined in the first two years of the Labour Government. We also know that the share of total Government spending on education has decreased. Without sufficient money, one's choices are restricted, but by all three counts education spending has gone down, so schools' choices are increasingly restricted.

Even if I am right about the reduction in money in the first two years of the Labour Government, it should be noted that the Secretary of State said today—and it is precisely stated in the Government amendment—that there is to be an increase in funds of £19 billion. That figure is incorrect. That assertion is based not on my analysis of the Government's statement, but on the report produced by the Labour-dominated Select Committee on the Treasury.

The Government are suggesting that £16 billion of the £19 billion will come to England; but the Committee says that the true figure for the real-terms increase is only £8 billion, and that that £8 billion does not represent a significant increase on the previous Government's education spending projections. The Committee's analysis goes further and shows that it is possible that, with that £8 billion, education spending will reach 5 per cent. of GDP by 2002. That was the percentage of GDP spent on education under the previous Administration, so that is no improvement. Of course I am grateful on behalf of my constituents and those of many other hon. Members for the fact that some increase in funding is promised, but it is wrong of the Government to try to pretend that the sum is greater than it is.

This debate is not only about the school-based education system. We must recognise that the reduction in spending has been experienced in other parts of the education service. It is interesting to note that, based on the Government's own figures and despite their introducing a fees system, current projections indicate that the amount of money per student in higher education is also set to fall during the first term of the Labour Government.

I am concerned that the Government are possibly denying choice in our schools in several other areas. The first relates to something of which the Secretary of State is in part rightly proud. I and my party have supported the Government's moves to try to reduce class sizes in key stage 1, but we are genuinely concerned that class sizes in other key stages are rising. They are rising in key stage 2, and in our secondary schools the averages are now at an all-time high for the past 20 years. We hope that when extolling the virtues of reduced class sizes, the Government will bear it in mind that they must start to move as rapidly as possible to put a stop to the increase in other parts of the education sector.

Another area in which the Government are denying choice relates to their target-setting agenda. It is appropriate for the Government to set targets for themselves, for individual schools, for LEAs and even for what happens in individual classrooms, but I am sure that the Secretary of State and Ministers are concerned about what the previous Prime Minister described as the long tail of underachievement. We must do something about children from less-well-off backgrounds with poorer educational provision. As I have said in the Chamber before, it is of real concern to me that no targets are being set at key stage 2 for the bottom 20 per cent. of pupils in literacy and the bottom 25 per cent. in numeracy. If there are no targets for children at the bottom end, there is nothing for them to aim at and nothing to motivate and support teachers to help that group of pupils along. I hope that the Government are prepared to reconsider their policy of not providing targets for that section of the pupil cohort.

Mr. Blizzard

Now that the hon. Gentleman has outlined a number of deficiencies, as he sees them, in our education system, would he care to say how many of them could have been put right by increasing income tax by 1p? Is he saying that his party would increase income tax by 1p to put right some of the things that he says are so wrong?

Mr. Foster

I began my speech by talking about old battles and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman wishes to return to one. We have made it clear that we would increase income tax to increase investment in education. The hon. Gentleman surely knows that it would not require increased investment to introduce targets for pupils at key stage 2. That is a matter not of investment but of educational common sense. It is a straightforward and positive suggestion.

Another issue that does not require increased investment is early-years provision. The Government rightly want diversity of provision to involve the private sector, the voluntary sector and the maintained sector. We very definitely welcome that move. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the way in which the system has been set up. As the hon. Member for Maidenhead rightly pointed out—let us not argue about the figures—there has been a significant reduction in the number of pre-school playgroups available to participate in the partnership between the three sectors.

Solving a further problem, again without additional resources, could improve choice. The Secretary of State was perhaps somewhat unjustifiably proud of the new admissions code of practice. Some parents find themselves almost forced to put their child into a reception class to ensure that the child can get into year 1 of that primary school. When I first raised that problem with the Secretary of State, he promised to examine it. He subsequently came up with what he described as a solution. It was that a spare place could be kept in the reception class, thereby allowing the child to move in not from the reception class but from wherever else early-years provision had been made. However, that is not a realistic proposition because the tight funding regime under which schools currently operate means that no school will want to leave a place open if it will not receive funding for it. I ask the Secretary of State and the Government to look again at that choice.

In two other areas the Government could make a change of policy that would increase rather than reduce choice. The first relates to the way in which money is currently allocated. When the Government the other day accused many LEAs of holding money back at the centre and not passing it on to schools, they demonstrated a degree of hypocrisy. The Labour Government are increasing the amount of money that they are holding back at the centre and reducing the amount that they give to LEAs. The Government's own figures demonstrate that, in the first four years of a Labour Government, there will have been an increase in the Government's share of education spend from 38 to 42 per cent. and a corresponding 4 per cent. reduction in the amount that LEAs will have to spend. That is exactly what the Government accuse LEAs of doing. The Government are holding money back centrally and denying choice to the LEAs. That could be changed, as could the way in which the money that they hold back centrally is allocated.

As I am sure all hon. Members are aware, much of the money held back centrally is now allocated through a complex bureaucratic bidding system. Since the Government came to power, LEAs have made 25,000 separate bids for money. Only 9,000 have been successful. There is a one in three chance of being successful. Two thirds of the bids have required a huge amount of bureaucracy on the part of LEAs, yet some LEAs see nothing for it.

The distribution of the money is incredibly patchy. If one analyses where bids have been successful, one can find no logical pattern. They are not more successful in rural, urban, deprived or wealthy areas.

Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

What the hon. Gentleman has mentioned is a real problem. Does he accept that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in answer to the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) that he would look at the problem? Everyone accepts that there is a problem in the bidding process.

Mr. Foster

The Secretary of State made that remark, but the concerns have been drawn to his attention for a considerable time and we see no change in the procedure. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's support in pointing out that the system has to be changed. I make my remarks as a positive contribution to the debate.

In some respects, the Government have got the provision of diversity almost but not quite right. We welcome the provision of specialist schools and beacon schools. However, we do not accept that there is a need for such schools to maintain the selective system that the Government promised to get rid of before they came to power. They are now going to continue it under the guise of selection by aptitude, yet not a single Minister has yet been able to explain the difference between selection by aptitude and selection by ability. We would far prefer specialist schools to be set up in an area and open to all pupils in that area. If it is a specialist music school, all pupils in the area—whether they are from a musical background or not—could benefit from that specialism. We do not need a selective system to run alongside the selective school approach.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

Does my hon. Friend accept that, for such schools to work, parents must be able to get their children into them, safe in the knowledge that they can fall back on the catchment schools? We still have a problem whereby if the catchment school is full with other first preferences, the kids are bumped off to a school that is perhaps many miles away.

Mr. Foster

My hon. Friend is right. He will know that in Committee we constantly argued against both the Rotherham and Greenwich judgments—another area of denial of choice for local education authorities.

In conclusion, we are in favour of choice and diversity, but we do not want the chaos and division that we had under the previous Administration. We very much hope that, under the new Labour Government, choice and diversity will not lead to centralisation and direction. At the moment, sadly, there is evidence that that is what is happening.

8.31 pm
Liz Blackman (Erewash)

The bottom line in any debate on education is that parents must be in a position not to have to make a choice in terms of good-quality education for their children. Every parent wants that for their children, and it should be an expectation and a right. Clearly, that entitlement is not on offer universally, as the evidence shows. The Secretary of State referred to the shocking figures that we inherited in 1997, which showed that two out of five 11-year-olds were not reaching the expected standards of their age group. I was concerned, but not surprised, that that was not mentioned by the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May).

In government, the Conservatives expressed concern about the need to improve standards—I acknowledge that. However, their analysis of how to raise standards was to implement a crude, market-driven mechanism—the internal market. Much was made of the exercise of choice, and some parents applied to get their children into high-performing schools, as any parent would do. The money and resources went with them.

The corollary was that there was no choice for the many. The children and parents who remained in poorer schools did so often because money was not available to ensure that they could travel to the schools that, in their perception, were performing better. Sometimes they were slow off the blocks, and did not understand the system. Sometimes the schools were full, and sometimes the children were turned down. The poorer schools were often left struggling with diminished rolls and diminished pupil funding, and they faced a multiplicity of other problems that were not necessarily all of their own making.

All of this took place against the backdrop of national underfunding, no national strategy to address poor national results and no recognition of the needs of particular communities, some of which were far more severe than others. Teacher morale was at an all-time low. Ofsted has, and had, a place. However, without the support that I have outlined, it was difficult to work effectively to improve performance. Without making education a clear priority, Ofsted was, in the past, the diagnosis, but not always the treatment.

Our clear objectives are to inspect, measure and demand, but also to support. We have set them out clearly. All sectors of education and lifelong learning have been and will be supported, and there has been recognition of our policies from Opposition Members.

The Government made a choice—in our early years—to support the early years and the infant sector, and rightly so. There is no more critical time than when children are young and at their most receptive. Early-years education in my constituency is purposeful, appropriate and thriving. All four-year-olds are guaranteed a place, and many three-year-olds have access to good-quality education.

As a teacher, I can tell the House that class size does matter, especially with little ones. There was no choice in Derbyshire when we tried to teach children in class sizes of more than 40 in many schools in my constituency. We would have welcomed a policy from the centre to supply resources and to reduce class sizes, which were truly appalling.

Erewash schools, and the children in them, have benefited enormously from reduced class sizes through the abolition of the assisted places scheme. Erewash has benefited from money for new classrooms, and for the additional teachers who were essential to accommodate those reduced class sizes, as promised. That money has been forthcoming.

Schools have been maintained and improved, and the worst are beginning to be replaced. The £5.4 billion of new deal money is beginning to help. A pleasant environment without leaking roofs and with decent classrooms is not an add-on—it is an absolutely essential part of teaching children.

We targeted areas of special need where terrible social and economic problems abound, and we proposed partnerships. The sure start programme reaches out and embraces children and their families, to support them and to create a positive attitude to learning, right from the start. Education action zones lever in not only more resources, but innovative approaches to drive up standards.

I wish to refer to the literacy hour—the most innovative of all our policies. It has been planned and supported, and the resources have been put in place. It is producing stunning results. I agree with the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) that teachers work incredibly hard and put in a lot of extra time. However, any new change as revolutionary as the literacy hour demands extra time. It demands commitment, but the results are so positive that teachers consider the effort worth while. They see that all the planning and preparation will pay off in the long run. The sheer hard work and grind will ease, as the programme continues to evolve.

The training and resources for numeracy hour that are coming on-stream in my constituency are extremely encouraging, as has been acknowledged. The preparations are going well and in many schools in Erewash, it is being tried out, with positive results.

Teachers in the primary sector of the national curriculum, who a few years ago struggled with innumerable folders, welcome a planned, structured timetable in which to deliver numeracy and literacy hours. The benefits are reflected not only in the children's progress in those core skills, but in a positive classroom attitude to children's learning generally.

I spent 25 years in a comprehensive school before I came to this place, and I can tell hon. Members that children have no choice whatever if they cannot read or write and if they are not numerate. They cannot access the curriculum, so it becomes irrelevant to them. They become frustrated and disaffected, they waste their time—unwittingly—and they waste teacher time, drawing teachers away from delivering learning, as they are supposed to do. Other pupils become frustrated as well.

Dr. Julian Lewis

I entirely agree with the hon. Lady's last point. Does she accept that such damage is done long before the age of 11 is reached? Will she, therefore, join me in recommending that the results of the tests that are already done at seven should be published, so that parents can put pressure on failing schools at that stage?

Liz Blackman

No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, for two reasons. First, I agree that the damage is already done by that stage. That is why, when the Government came into office, they specifically targeted the early years and the infant sector. Secondly, the Secretary of State spoke about the Opposition's complaints about additional bureaucracy. Other measures are in place to support teachers and drive up standards.

There is no choice for children who cannot access the curriculum, and because they leave school with such poor core skills, there is limited choice when they move into the world of work.

Mr. Don Foster

If the hon. Lady shares my concern for the bottom 25 per cent. of pupils, does she agree that there ought to be a set of targets for those pupils in literacy and numeracy?

Liz Blackman

I agree that when teachers deliver literacy hour, they should take account of the diverse ability of their charges and the point that the children have reached in their learning, as all good teachers do. In certain elements of the literacy hour, teachers can do that.

I am not against choice or a fair admissions policy that allows choice. I am certainly not against high standards across the board, as that gives real choice. I am not against diversity. I have a beacon school and a specialist school in my constituency. Challenging and appropriate work ought to go on from early years, right the way through school, including literacy hour.

I am extremely pleased with the Government's initiative which allows an alternative curriculum for pupils over 14 if it is more appropriate for them. Some of the children in school are disaffected or unable to access the curriculum for all the reasons that we are discussing. They would be better served by a tailor-made curriculum, designed in co-operation with local colleges and other education providers.

Every school should have its own ethos, and does in my constituency, but the Government should take responsibility for determining standards. There has been a standards vacuum for the past 18 years. There ought to be central guidance, as there are many changes to be made.

A great deal of work is being demanded of teachers. A large part of the teaching profession is committed to that. Radical change cannot be introduced in any walk of life without commitment and hard work, but if the changes are worth making, it is worth asking teachers to go that extra distance to deliver the positive results that we already see speeding through. The benefits of national literacy hour and of numeracy hour as it comes on-stream will be enormous, not only for this generation, but for generations to come.

8.44 pm
Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)

None of us, whether speaking as a Member of Parliament or as a parent, would disagree with the hon. Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman) that we should be doing all in our power to help to raise educational standards, in particular those of children who are not the most able. I agree that they have been neglected by decision makers in politics and in education for decades. However, I confess that I would have listened to her with greater sympathy had she paid due regard to the various initiatives of the Conservative Government: the introduction of independent inspection, regular testing, the publication of test results, league tables and the supply of information to parents. Ministers are now willing to take many of those initiatives on board in some form or other, even though they fought them tooth and nail from the Opposition Benches as Conservative Ministers took them through the House.

A number of colleagues hope to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I shall concentrate on two issues: grammar schools and sixth forms, both of which are of particular interest to my constituents. I must take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). In response to one of my hon. Friends, he referred somewhat disparagingly to what he described as nice schools for nice kids. He used that expression to caricature the approach of those of us who argue for selection in education, whether on academic abilities conventionally measured or on aptitude. I believe passionately that he is wrong to do so.

I was a governor of a north London comprehensive some years ago and I found that the way to guarantee that the so-called nice kids—the children from the well-to-do families—attended the nice schools was to confine parental choice to the neighbourhood catchment comprehensive so that selection was by parents' ability to afford a mortgage in the catchment area of the right school.

Mr. Don Foster

Although I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing me back to the Chamber to listen to his contribution, I fundamentally disagree with him. For every grammar school, we needed three secondary moderns; people tried to tart them up and call them something else. Surely we want to end competition between schools. We need choice within each school and all schools providing high-quality education rather than choice between schools.

Mr. Lidington

That was the dream of the champions of comprehensive education in the 1950s and 1960s, when they advocated the end of selection. The trouble was that it did not deliver the improvement in educational attainment that the advocates of the comprehensive system had argued would take place. To deliver a wide choice of subjects in a single school, people were led ineluctably to argue for the creation of large secondary schools, which entailed all the difficulties of pastoral care, schools on split sites and, in some cases, keeping order.

As the hon. Member for Bath knows, my county is the only one to retain an entirely selective secondary system and the only one to.maintain, without a break, overall Conservative control of its council. I believe that the model of selection that is developing there is true to the vision of R. A. Butler and the Education Act 1944. This country went wrong when, in the old days, it looked on secondary modern schools as a dumping ground and thought that only the grammar schools mattered. Nothing could have been further from what Butler wanted to achieve.

Mr. Willis

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, even though he is in full flow. I cannot resist asking him a simple question: how many parents in Kent, where people are so proud of the selective system, have contacted him to say that they want their child to go to a secondary modern school?

Mr. Lidington

As I am not a Kent Member of Parliament, the question does not really arise.

I have found that certain schools in my constituency are achieving better results—as measured by public examinations—than comparable comprehensive schools in Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes. We would expect grammar schools to achieve higher standards—and they are: that has been acknowledged by the chief inspector of schools, who has singled out a number of Buckinghamshire schools, both grammar and upper, as demonstrating excellence. Even the Government have recognised the achievement of those standards: they have nominated Aylesbury high school, a selective girls' grammar school, as one of their "beacon schools".

In other schools in my constituency, children are being very well educated in conventional academic subjects and—especially in the sixth form—being educated in general national vocational qualifications. That is introducing a new enthusiasm among both students and staff.

Dr. Stoate

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a fully selective system poses a danger? Schools that are non-selective, such as secondary modem schools, tend to involve a high level of special needs and are, therefore, greatly disadvantaged when it comes to competing. Because schools in my constituency, such as Dartford West high school for boys, have extremely high special needs levels, they receive the worst reports from the Office for Standards in Education. As a result, they are branded as special needs schools, and the county council closes them, or attempts to close them. That reduces parental choice.

Mr. Lidington

The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on a point that is by no means specific to a selective system of education. In my constituency, the problem that he mentions applies to individual schools with certain types of catchment area. The hon. Gentleman will probably agree that he would find comparable problems involving the disproportionate concentration of children with special educational needs in an all-comprehensive system, because that is the nature of a system that relies on catchment areas.

The selective system in Buckinghamshire works well. It is achieving results: my county is at or near the top of the Government's league table in regard to both A-levels and GCSEs. It is wrong for the Government to create the uncertainty that they have created with their legislation on grammar school ballots, leaving schools unsure, year by year, whether they will have to engage their energies in fighting to maintain their current status. Moreover, local education authorities must always bear in mind whether they are likely to face a huge financial and organisational upheaval.

The Labour party has gone a bit quieter—in the Chamber, if not in Buckinghamshire county council—about its opposition to selection, but I was pleased, from a constituency point of view, to hear the hon. Member for Bath restate so firmly his party's opposition in principle to selection in education. That is something that Liberal Democrat councillors in Buckinghamshire tend to keep mum about at every opportunity.

It is nice to hear, from time to time, the honesty of the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis). I suppose that, by analogy, he must imply something less than honesty on the part of Liberal Democrats councillors in my local education authority.

Mr. Hilary Benn (Leeds, Central)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Lidington

I will give way briefly.

Mr. Benn

I thank the hon. Gentleman.

If comprehensive reform has been such a failure—and that seems to fly in the face of the evidence of a rise in educational attainments and achievements since its introduction—will the hon. Gentleman explain why there is absolutely no evidence that parents wish to return to a widespread system of selection? Does he accept that, as the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) suggested, no parents want their children to attend secondary modern schools?

Mr. Lidington

The evidence with which I am most familiar—from my own constituency, where a selective system has been maintained consistently—shows that there is considerable public support, as demonstrated in local election results, for a selective system. The approach in areas that have opted for a comprehensive system should be to develop the initiatives of the previous Government, by allowing greater specialisation, in specific subjects, in individual comprehensive schools within a local education authority area.

Sixth forms were one of the subjects dealt with in the Government's recent White Paper. I should, at the outset, say that I think that the idea of encouraging co-operation between local education authority schools and colleges is sensible, and that, equally, I fully support the Government's announced emphasis on trying to raise the standards of those who are not the highest fliers academically.

One of my fears—I hope that, in his reply, the Minister will allay some of them—is that the Government have a hidden agenda. Despite the assurances that the Secretary of State gave in his statement, the current edition of The Times Educational Supplement remarks that only A last-minute intervention by the Prime Minister…saved small sixth forms from abolition", that The original plans for this week's White Paper on post-16 reforms intended that sixth forms and colleges should be given equal funding", and that that change would have left small sixth forms vulnerable. The article goes on to say that the Prime Minister called for changes"— not out of principle, but— because any perceived attack on sixth forms would lose votes in Middle England. I have several fears about the Government's options for the future of sixth forms. It is proposed that, at the very least, local education authorities should be subject to departmental guidance on how they plan and manage post-16 education. One of the options is that, rather than local education authorities being funded by revenue support grant, they should be funded by the new learning and skills councils.

One fear is that the Government are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water. The Government have promised to maintain sixth form funding at current levels in real terms, but they have already said that they will not provide extra money to school sixth forms to cope with the proposed new A-level curriculum. I wonder whether Ministers have a similar plan to cap sixth form grant or expenditure in subsequent Department for Education and Employment initiatives.

Mr. Blizzard

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Lidington

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not, as other hon. Members wish to speak.

There is a risk of a top-down system that relies not on the preference expressed by students or their parents, but on the decisions of central planners on a regional committee.

What will happen to capital expenditure decisions? Who will take them? I am very interested in the answer to that question, as the population of Aylesbury—and of mid-Buckinghamshire generally—is growing fast and, at some point in the not-too-distant future, my constituency may need another secondary school. Under the Government's new proposals, how would a decision on accommodation for post-16 education be taken?

Do the Government have a view on the minimum size of a viable sixth form? In the previous Parliament, when I was on the Education Select Committee, one expert witness said that 250 was the bare minimum.

Mr. Don Foster

Three in a primary school.

Mr. Lidington

Am I am being bid up to 300 by Liberal Democrat Members?

A minimum limit of 250 would have very serious implications, particularly for sixth forms and for secondary schools in rural areas. I hope that the Government, in future plans, will take account of the fact that many parents prefer school sixth forms to colleges—because of the pastoral care that they can provide, and their ability to offer minority subjects, such as classics, and opportunities in music, drama and sport, which many employers think help to provide a rounded candidate, with the right core skills, when it comes to selecting an applicant for a job. Such concerns have been expressed to me by education managers and teachers, and I hope that the Minister will respond to them.

9 pm

Mr. Malcolm Wicks (Croydon, North)

I welcome the debate on choice and diversity. Soon we shall approach the end of the century, our first of full democracy and citizenship. Universal suffrage came for the first time, and this century enjoyed the advent of the welfare state and the national health service. The provision of state education also arrived for primary school children and, with the Education Act 1944, for secondary school children, too. It is interesting to note how recently state secondary education arrived.

We ought to try to relate two sets of themes. Equality and fairness sometimes seem to conflict with diversity and choice, but they need not. The new agenda facing education is how we relate those two themes to each other. The advent of state education for every child brought the principle of equality into practice. Each and every child was important and deserved good state education. The left and right of British politics may have talked differently about equality, focusing on equality of opportunity or some more fundamental form of equality, but all of us agreed on the goal of equal provision for every child.

It is useful to review the results of our first century of citizenship and democracy. I do not have the time to do a full audit, but there have been successes and failures. Numeracy and literacy have risen and more of our children have been able to achieve good GCSEs and A-levels. It is fantastic that about a third of our children will go to university. One day it will be 40 per cent., and perhaps one day 50 per cent. That is a remarkable success story.

However, the success is blended with some failure. Gross inequalities have continued in our society in education and in many other matters. It is a sorry fact that knowing which house or estate a child came from, or knowing his or her postcode or his or her parents' occupations, allowed us to make a good—though not always accurate; there are many exceptions—stab at predicting that child's educational outcome. We could also predict the child's broader life chances in health and in many other areas.

The annual report of the Universities and Colleges Admission Service shows that only 10 per cent. of university entrants came from social classes 4 and 5, although those classes represent nearly a quarter of the population. That is a gross inequality. The youth cohort study shows that by 1996, eight out of 10 state school pupils from professional families gained at least five good GCSEs, while only a fifth of children from households in which no one was in paid employment achieved the same. Despite our successes, which I applaud, at the end of our first century of state education, the system still mirrors inequalities rather than breaking them down.

Equality and fairness are among the great themes of our century; diversity and choice provide the other important strand. The 1944 Act had its own agenda on diversity and choice. Although it brought in secondary schools, it also brought in grammar schools, technical schools that never developed in any great quantity, and secondary modern schools. Later, Labour Governments in particular pushed comprehensive schools and we got into the debate about the comprehensive school versus the grammar school. I agree with the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) that that debate has become rather old-fashioned. Equality and diversity appear to have been in conflict in the public and private sectors.

Although many working-class children go to grammar schools, there is still an equation between socio-economic background and access to grammar school. I was struck by the evidence printed in Hansard on 20 May that used free school meals as an indicator of socio-economic disadvantage. It tells us how many children at grammar schools receive free school meals and compares that figure with the number of children in the relevant local education authorities who were receiving free school meals. In Barnet, 16 per cent. of children attending secondary schools receive free school meals, compared with 1.4 per cent. of those attending grammar schools. In Bromley, 14 per cent. of children receive free school meals, compared with 1.2 per cent. of children at grammar schools. In Birmingham, 34 per cent. of children receive free school meals, compared with only 5 per cent. of children at grammar schools. In Liverpool, 39 per cent. of all secondary school children receive free school meals, compared with just 6 per cent. of children at grammar schools. In Buckinghamshire, which is a pretty wealthy county, 7 per cent. of children receive free school meals compared with just 1.6 per cent. of those at grammar schools. The point is proven.

Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends ask those who support grammar schools to say more about the children who never get to grammar school—in other words, most children. We have to recognise the skew in terms of socio-economic background. It is not surprising, but it is worth emphasising.

Let me change gear now and say that the Select Committee on Education and Employment, which I have the honour to chair, is interested in these themes. We are about to undertake an inquiry into the relationship between public and private education. Owing to the involvement of the private sector in education action zones and other developments in which—perfectly properly, in my view—the Government are trying to bridge the gap between public and private education, we feel it appropriate and timely that the Select Committee should undertake an inquiry into the role of private companies in the management and supply of state education services. We take our first evidence on 10 July and I hope that our report will be of interest to the whole House.

Another illustration of the need for diversity and choice is the necessity to pay more attention to highly able children. The Government prefer the term "gifted" children. I am not worried about the terminology, but we are all concerned—as was the Select Committee when we published our report—by the fact that most schools neglect highly able children. To put it rather graphically, a number of potential Nobel prize winners are sitting in our schools rather sulkily, bored out of their minds because they are not being stretched. That is partly because schools are often more concerned with helping children who are struggling and with average standards.

We neglect the highly able child at our peril, however. The Select Committee made the strong recommendation that every primary and secondary school should have a senior member of staff as a co-ordinator, looking out for the highly able boy or girl.

I said at the beginning that this was the end of the first century of democracy and citizenship in our society. In the education agenda, we find ourselves hovering rather anxiously between three centuries. I do not think that anyone would have predicted in 1944, or at the beginning of this century, that two of the major concerns of Parliament and Government at the end of the 20th century would be literacy and numeracy.

That was the agenda in the 19th century, when primary education was introduced, yet here we are—perfectly properly, because too many children do not get to grips with reading, writing and arithmetic—introducing literacy hours and numeracy strategies. There is something sad and ironic about the fact that we are tackling a 19th century problem when we are trying to summon up the energy to enter the 21st century. The 21st century education agenda should be about creativity and new technology unleashing all sorts of benefits for our young people.

How are we to relate the two important themes of equality and fairness, and diversity and choice? Parents and children want choices. What policies and practices will enable us not to take sides but to pursue the two themes together? That is the challenge in education today.

9.11 pm
Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

Education is rightly put at the heart of the political debate. It affects everything, from the nation's competitiveness, skills and employment to the social conditions of our society. I cannot put it better than the headmistress of Parkstone grammar school in my constituency, in a recent letter: Education is the single most effective route out of poverty. The Secretary of State said that he wanted to talk about the many, not the few. I want to do the same: the whole issue of diversity and choice is about the many, not the few, as Conservative Members have said. There are 39 schools in my constituency. Above all, we have choice. There are seven secondary schools and active sixth forms, with two grammar schools, Parkstone and Poole. Many of our schools feature regularly at the top of the league tables. For good measure, we have one independent school. Four of the seven secondary schools are grant maintained.

In my election pledge, I stated that we owe it to our younger generation to give them the best start in life to succeed in a competitive world. There must be choice and opportunity for all abilities so that we can all be members of a skilled and prosperous workforce, embracing the technological revolution. Two and a half years later, I stand by those words; but can the Government claim to have stuck to their words and pledged intentions?

The 1997 Labour manifesto stated: Labour will never force the abolition of good schools whether in the private sector or the state sector". I believe that the Government's plans for grammar schools renege on that pledge. The plan to allow the fate of grammar schools to be decided through a ballot of parents from feeder schools is a centralist plan imposed on a local community.

The question is not balanced, as in some schools parents will not be able to vote, yet parents with children at feeder schools, who may not want to send their children to the grammar school, will have the final say on the future of other people's children. The proposals will alter who has a say on the issue, and are thus unfair: after all, if one asks a loaded question, one tends to get a loaded answer.

Above all, this country needs choice in education. The right to decide is imperative for a parent. Every child is different and parents know best what is right for their child. Not all children are academic, and vocational skills must be taken into consideration. Taking away choice and diversity limits the opportunities that will best suit the child.

The whole community should decide the fate of a school. A constituent wrote to me recently: Why do we need a ballot, (surely a good school will thrive and a bad school will wither.) If there are 5 people chasing every place at a grammar school—the choice has been made, the school should be kept. We also have excellent non-selective or grant-maintained schools in my constituency which produce superb results and are equally popular, and which have equal standing in the eyes of the community and of parents, who have a valid role to play in the diversity and choice in the education that they have chosen for their children.

If a school's status or the choice available to parents is changed, repercussions will inevitably be felt in an area's whole education system and in the pattern and structure of admission numbers. However, the cost of the exercise could easily render it a wasted effort when it comes to raising pupil achievement.

Mr. Alex Clark, the headmaster of Poole grammar school, told me: If the Government genuinely believes in the overriding priority to address standards and not structure, why does it not at least postpone the issue of grammar school ballots by three or four years? This will allow the maximum effort to meet the required standards by 2002. In that time they may…come to realise the very important dimension to education provided by grammar schools. The irony is that certain members of the Labour party have, in the past, exercised choice for their own children. There is nothing wrong with that, but the drawbridge is being pulled up after them to prevent other parents having the same choices and opportunities.

I turn now to the Liberal Democrats in my constituency. Unfortunately, they run Poole council for the time being. However, East Dorset and Purbeck councils have been Tory since May, so there at least we can express an opinion about education. Sadly, the Liberal Democrats still run Dorset county council. If they remain in power, they will have the choice to pursue their agenda, but parents will not have a choice.

The Liberal Democrats have made what they think about grammar schools clear. During proceedings on the School Standards and Framework Bill, the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) said: We make it clear that we are opposed to grammar schools and selection, partial or otherwise."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 24 February 1998; c. 616.] The Liberal Democrats say that they are opposed to ballots as well, so what will people in my constituency do when the time comes for the two grammar schools to be subject to a local ballot, as will happen? The position of parents will not be represented fairly. Given that the Liberal Democrats on the council are not in favour of a ballot and they do not agree with selection in schools, the parents will be on a hiding to nothing.

Mr. Don Foster

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fraser

No, as I promised to keep my remarks brief.

I am afraid that my constituents whose children attend those grammar schools will be sorely misrepresented by the present council.

Regulations stifle diversity. The increase in bureaucracy has involved 322 new directives in the two years since the Labour Government took office. The fine words about cutting red tape and raising standards have evaporated into a thick og of regulation that has had an adverse impact on schools.

I visit a lot of schools in my constituency, and have got to know the head teachers. They have made it clear that increased bureaucracy could seriously damage children's education, rather than improve it. Head teachers repeatedly tell me of the frustration they feel. The ever increasing amount of regulation and change comes at the expense of work at the chalk face. After two years of the Government's management of the education system, teachers have come to realise that the real agenda is to control the country's 25,000 schools directly from Whitehall, and to stifle all local initiative.

Another constituent wrote to me last week, as follows: Although the Government has repeated the mantra of 'standards not structures', the barrage of initiatives which has been launched this year by the Government seems to have left the central theme of pupil achievement by the wayside. In my speech, I have used real quotations from constituents. They are concerned about education: it is their children who must use the schools in my area. I want the Government to tackle the genuine anxieties that they have expressed. The Government have dismantled the framework and management of grant-maintained schools, and the preoccupation with staffing and financing that has been unleashed is very often to the detriment of children.

Schools in the new unitary authority of Poole must also deal with reassessing their needs and sorting out what happened under the old local education authority. The relationship with the LEA has naturally overlapped with what is being undertaken now.

The process has not been easy. Schools must now deal with the Government's new fair funding system, but they are coping. However, Dorset has lots of rural areas, and schools in the rural part of my constituency are not being treated so well. Mr. Stuart Clarke, a head teacher there, has written to me on the subject. He is the head not of a grammar school, but of a comprehensive school—Lytchett Minster upper school. He voiced his concerns when he told me that rural schools such as mine which attract neither urban nor rural priority…are located in an authority which delegates funds at a lower rate than most other authorities. He said that such schools find themselves in a funding vacuum that prevents them from forging ahead with new initiatives. The Government is also determined to ignore them. In Dorset and the borough of Poole, we have a problem with lack of funding; it is an issue. Despite that, the range of schools in my constituency do well, as they are well-managed and offer not only excellent academic standards but a true choice that reflects the diversity of the community that they serve. I would like that to continue.

9.20 pm
Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

At its heart, the Conservative motion supports not a diverse but a divisive education system, the aim of which is to increase selection, to protect GM schools and to make the post-16 debate into a campaign to save sixth forms—a choice for a few, but not the many. That may be the real world in a small part of the country, but that agenda bears no relationship to the country as a whole—a country which, under the previous Government, saw unbridled competition leading to sink schools, large classes, schools in disrepair and poor standards. As many hon. Members have said, there were appalling levels of numeracy and literacy, which effectively debarred any child from achieving anything. There were real-term cuts in school funding.

The new Labour Government have set about modernising the education system, based on the comprehensive principle and social inclusion. That will mean real choice and diversity. We have new money for books and buildings, numeracy and literacy strategies, class size initiatives, increases in the standards fund, and money to improve pay for teachers.

May I tell the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Minister for School Standards why I am proud of the new Labour Government? We want excellence, academic success and achievement, but we want it for every child. That is why so much of what the Government are doing in education links with their other social policies. If we want to tackle under-achievement across the board, we will have to tackle the problems of social exclusion and social failure and the context in which schools operate and work.

That is why sure start is so important, starting when children are at an early age alongside nursery education. That is why the new deal for communities and excellence in cities, education action zones, health action zones and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 are so important. All those things will be crucial if we want to tackle the under-achievement that is endemic in half our schools.

The new educational maintenance allowance is crucial, but if we could extend it to all pupils, it would help more to go into further education. Relaxation of the key stage 4 curriculum is important, too. It gives the vocational element to 14 and 16-year-olds where they become particularly disaffected. They have something more tangible to be at school for. The post-16 White Paper, protecting sixth forms but looking to extend and to expand opportunity for all, is another important move. That is real choice, real diversity, a celebration of success, while meeting head on the challenge in the most difficult areas.

I go on to a pet theme of mine. If we really want to do something to improve achievement in our secondary schools, we will have to look at the curriculum in terms of 14 to 19. We will have to get some of our people to stay on at 16 if we hope to get them into higher education.

The Tories seem to want to protect only the privilege of a few, but we seek to extend opportunity for the many. So much will depend on the joined-up nature of all that.

On teachers, of course, the contract needs modernising. I say to many of my friends in the teaching profession: for years, the cry was that a teacher could get promoted only out of the classroom—they had to take a management responsibility to get promoted. Under the new contract, they can get promoted for being a good teacher and then stay in the classroom. That will do much to improve standards. Alongside that, it is important that we do not set a quota on the number of teachers who can cross the threshold. If they are good enough, they should be paid and allowed to pass through.

One legitimate concern, which I know the Minister shares, is the work load. We need to take account of the fact that teachers are telling us that they are finding it difficult. If we can continue our efforts to find ways to reduce bureaucracy, it would be helpful. We need to keep talking and negotiating to achieve a just outcome. I met some head teachers in Nottinghamshire on Friday. The work load was the issue to which they drew my attention—it was more important to them than pay and many of the other issues that are often raised.

This Government will go down in history as one of the truly radical Governments—a Government who have sought to deal with the social context in which schools operate, as well as the operation of schools themselves. If we want to raise achievement, it is essential that we realise that schools cannot continue to operate as social hospitals, with teachers being asked to deal with almost every social problem that can arise. Of course, teachers and schools have a responsibility and duty to do something about the problems that come to them, but schools need the support of the community around them. They need the other policies that we have mentioned if they are to achieve their goal of raising standards.

The Tory objective is simple. People often say that there are no differences between the Labour and Conservative parties—it has been said to me. In all honesty, people who read the Hansard of this debate will see clear water between us, and I am proud of that. In essence, the Tory party today is standing for more selection, the protection of grammar and grant-maintained schools, and the protection of an education system that is rooted in the past. That policy would allow some schools and pupils to achieve, but it would not give opportunity to all children.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on being part of a team that has recognised that, if we are to achieve what we want in our schools, we need to tackle social exclusion and to ensure that all pupils have the opportunities to which they are entitled. We need to ensure that all schools succeed and that none are written off, as they have been in recent years.

9.27 pm
Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion)

I will be as quick as possible. I want to make a brief contribution about the need to apply the principle of choice and diversity in Wales. I would argue that diversity ought to apply territorially, especially at this time, and not specifically in relation to the Government's proposals for the teaching profession.

That subject was recently debated in the National Assembly for Wales, of which I am proud to be a Member. I spoke in that debate to a Plaid Cymru motion that rejected the notion of payment by results and called for an alternative approach to be developed in Wales. During that debate, it became evident that a clear majority in the Assembly were in favour of the Plaid Cymru motion. The motion that we tabled certainly reflects the majority view in Wales as a whole.

As was said in that debate, Plaid Cymru accepts that the system of teacher remuneration and professional advancement needs reform. I agree with the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) about that. It is important that teachers should be rewarded for remaining in the class room and for being good teachers—I agree 100 per cent., speaking as a former teacher who never left the classroom for a management position. For that to happen, it would require an evaluation of teacher's performance—their expertise, commitment and professional development.

We are not arguing at this stage—we would not want to close off options for the future—for a separate pay bargaining structure for Wales, or for disparities in pay levels. However, we are arguing that Wales must be allowed to identify and apply criteria and processes for professional advancement and higher pay that might be different from those to be implemented in England. To make it clear, one element that we find totally unacceptable in the Government's proposals is the link between teachers' remuneration and pupil performance—or outcomes. That is certain to lead to injustice and to undermine teamwork. I am sure that many in this Chamber would agree with that.

We also reject the notion of linking teachers' eligibility for annual increments to the process of annual appraisal, as is stated in the technical notes that were published in both England and Wales. That would be intensely bureaucratic and time consuming and undermine the useful role of the annual appraisal when it is used well in schools. That process is based on trust. It is about identifying teachers' strengths and weaknesses, about teachers confessing, as it were, to their weaknesses, and about identifying means by which strengths may be developed and weaknesses corrected.

However, I do not want to get into detailed consideration of the merits and demerits of the Government's proposals, which are, by the way, just about identical for England and Wales, even though we have had a separate Green Paper. I emphasise that it would be entirely unacceptable if Wales, especially now that it has its own National Assembly, were forced to swallow the Government's nasty medicine in order, according to the Government, to make us better.

The suggestion has been made—it was made just before the election by the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain)—that, unless we in Wales agree to implement the Government's package in total, including payment by results, resources to improve teachers' pay will not be made available. That is totally outrageous. If it were applied, it would arouse fury in Wales and would be very damaging to the Government party in Wales, which has already suffered some damage, although there may be more to come.

In the debate in the Assembly, our group showed that it was prepared to be flexible. We did not oppose the amendment tabled by the Government of Wales, which was weaker than our motion. We suggested inserting the adjective "crude" before the sentence on links between pay and results. Ironically, both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in the Assembly voted against the Government amendment, whereas we abstained.

We were flexible on the understanding that the relevant Assembly Committee and its Cabinet would develop an alternative set of proposals, based on a Welsh consensus, that addresses the needs of Wales, and that the Assembly would be able to implement such a set of proposals. It should be clearly understood that, if that does not happen, and if the Assembly Cabinet merely develops proposals that simply toe the United Kingdom Government line, the Assembly can and will defeat the proposals.

In this debate, I merely wanted courteously to ask the Government to ensure that the Assembly be given the flexibility—freedom is the right word, I think—to do what it regards as best for teaching and learning in Wales. That is no more or no less than we deserve.

9.34 pm
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

This has been an important and valuable debate, which has highlighted the way in which the Government's policies are curtailing choice and opportunity in education. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) began the debate with a powerful speech, in which she described the damage that the Government have caused, and are threatening to cause, not least to pre-school provision, rural primary schools, sixth forms, grant-maintained schools and grammar schools.

My hon. Friends have made some excellent speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) made a very thoughtful speech, outlining the threats posed to Buckinghamshire educational system and to sixth forms in his constituency. He made some thoughtful points about the unconvincing assurance given by the Government on future funding of sixth forms and the possible problems in coping with future demands on them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mr. Fraser) touched on some important issues for his constituency and its two grammar schools. My hon. Friends the Members for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) and for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) have been listening attentively, and I know from previous debates, including an Adjournment debate last week, that they are very concerned about the threat to local grant-maintained schools and their funding.

It is always a great pleasure to hear from the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). The theme of his speech was moving on. Thinking back to our debates on the Education Bill in 1993, when the hon. Gentleman spoke at length, I found it hard to identify how he had moved on. He was still saying that the Government were not spending enough and the Liberal Democrats would spend more. I listened for long enough and eventually we heard about the magic penny as well. I agreed with the hon. Gentleman on targets for the lowest 20 or 25 per cent. Without going into the overall merits of target setting, we need to have high expectations for all our pupils, including the lowest 20 or 25 per cent.

After praising the Government, the hon. Gentleman then attacked them on their education funding record, pointing out that the Audit Commission had said that funding per pupil had gone down under this Government. It is difficult to know what the Liberal Democrats found to praise after the hon. Gentleman attacked the central pillar of the Secretary of State's case.

I also listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, North (Mr. Wicks). I did not agree with all of it, but he made an important point about the need to increase the number of children from lower income families who go on to university. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that we must look with concern at the effects that the Government's package on tuition fees and maintenance grants has on the number of children from those backgrounds who have the opportunity to go on to higher education.

I am afraid that I do not have sufficient time to mention all the contributions from Labour Members. Suffice it to say that I think that there was a narrow majority of those who had the benefit of a grammar school education over those who with the benefit of a public school education.

The Secretary of State also took as his theme the need to move on. On grammar schools and grant-maintained schools, the Government have moved on most from the promises that they made before and immediately after the general election. We heard this afternoon about the promises that the Prime Minister gave to the voters of Wirral, South in 1997 that parents there need not worry about a Labour Government doing away with their grammar schools. Barely a month before the general election, he promised in The Times Educational Supplement that "grant-maintained schools will prosper". In her analysis of the funding position of grant-maintained schools and her long list of schools throughout the country that have had difficulties, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead gave the lie to that.

After the general election, we were told by the then Minister for School Standards that the Government's aim was to level up, not level down. He told the Standing Committee considering the School Standards and Framework Bill: We have said that our objective is not to cut the amount being spent on pupils in GM schools, but to increase the funding for pupils in other schools. We are therefore levelling up."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 12 February 1998; c. 461.] If that was the Government's objective, they have failed. Nobody has admitted that more clearly than the Secretary of State, who said that there was a need to introduce cash protection and transitional funding for grant-maintained schools to protect them from the budget shortfalls that they have experienced.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead cited grant-maintained schools throughout the country that have experienced serious difficulties because of budget deficits, causing great problems for the education of their children. My hon. Friend could have added to that list schools in my constituency, including Wroxham school, which I visited this morning. The Secretary of State spoke of moving on, but all that have moved on from Wroxham school are classroom assistants and learning support assistants, who have been forced to do so by the school's £30,000 deficit.

Miss Melanie Johnson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clappison

Yes. Perhaps the hon. Lady will tell us about the difficulties experienced by schools in her constituency.

Miss Johnson

I want to ask the hon. Gentleman the question that I asked the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) earlier. Does he support the present Tory leader of our county council, who proposes not to send an extra 6 per cent. of funding to schools next year? Those schools include ones in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and mine, which will have to make cuts as a result of the failure to send on the extra money that the Government are spending on education, or that they would spend if Tory-run councils would let them.

Mr. Clappison

The hon. Lady knows that the budget for Hertfordshire was set by the so-called administration group, which was Liberal-Labour controlled. The Secretary of State had to write to that group to complain about the amount of money that it was withholding from schools.

Schools have suffered up and down the country. The Secretary of State prayed in aid the words of Mr. Bob Lloyd of the grant-maintained schools joint monitoring group. That is the same Mr. Lloyd who provided us with an analysis of the position this year, rather than next year, which the Secretary of State was talking about. Mr. Lloyd describes the present position in grant-maintained schools and the practical consequences of the Government's policies. The average grant-maintained secondary school on cash protection—two thirds of them are on cash protection—is £96,000 worse off, which equates to approximately four teaching posts. Grant-maintained primary schools are, on average, £22,000 worse off, which equates to one teaching post.

Wroxham school in my constituency is aware of the Secretary of State's announcement about next year, and it is hardly dancing with glee about his alleged generosity in providing the school with barely enough of an increase to match inflation, when the school is already suffering a serious deficit in its budget and the classroom and learning support assistants have already gone. That is the overall picture for grant-maintained schools and, if that is prosperity, goodness save us from this Government and their idea of prosperity.

The Prime Minister has clearly moved on from his promises about grammar schools made before the election. He said: The reason why I don't say it's part of the Government's policy to get rid of all grammar schools is that I think if a school's doing a good job, then you don't want to get rid of that school. Having listened to this debate and heard speaker after speaker express hostility to grammar schools, I know that the Prime Minister's sentiment is not shared by the vast majority of his Back-Bench colleagues or, apparently, by many Labour activists.

Dr. George Turner

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clappison

No. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about ballots?"] Hon. Members mention ballots. The Prime Minister told us today that there was no need to worry because there had been no ballots and there was no need for scaremongering. In fact, ballots cannot be held until September. The Department for Education and Employment has received inquiries from campaigners against grammar schools, many of whom are Labour party activists, about petitions to get rid of grammar schools. The Minister will be aware of newspaper reports about Labour activists throughout the country using Labour party offices, presumably with the blessing of some of the MPs who have spoken this evening, for their campaign to get rid of grammar schools.

I agreed with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury. What do those activists think will be the effect on children and teachers in those schools of the prospect of upheaval of months and months of campaigning? Nothing could be more calculated to damage the provision of education in those schools.

What will be the consequence in the long run? [Interruption.] Hon. Members do not want to know, but let me remind them of the likely consequences of the upheavals that they propose. Eric Hammond, former union boss and governor of Gravesend grammar school, who is battling to keep selection in Kent's grammar schools, said: I wouldn't like to see selection by merit replaced by selection by purse. That is one of the possible outcomes.

The hon. Member for Croydon, North talked about free school meals and gave us a sociological analysis. There could be no clearer division than the one that we face if those activists have their way because, if those schools become independent, the only people who will go to them are those who can afford to pay full fees. The Government are delivering educational opportunity for the few at the expense of educational opportunity for the many, as Labour Members might say.

When one looks at the picture and sees what the Government have done to take away opportunities, by abolishing the assisted places—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. I appeal to hon. Members to calm down and listen to the hon. Gentleman. I also appeal to the hon. Gentleman to calm down.

Mr. Clappison

Labour Members are displaying the vigour with which they wish to abolish grammar schools. That is how the Government pursue their ends—often by stealth, but always with vigour, but so that the Prime Minister can hold up his hands, say, "Not me, guv—it's all scaremongering," and give bland reassurances about the future. Meanwhile, his Back Benchers and his party outside Parliament work and campaign to undermine the promises he solemnly made to voters before the last general election.

When I look at what the Government have done to take away opportunity, especially from those who are less well-off, by abolishing assisted places and attacking grant-maintained schools and grammar schools, I have to ask, what is it that the Labour party has against the less well-off that it wants to take educational opportunities from them at every turn? This debate has highlighted the real threat that the Labour Government pose to choice, opportunity and diversity, with their almost Cromwellian determination to sweep across the country attacking any adornment or centre of excellence in the state education system.

I invite Ministers and Labour Back Benchers to think about the damage that they are doing to schools, the uncertainty that they are causing and the teachers and classroom assistants who might have to be made redundant. The Secretary of State boasted that the Government are making a difference, but, for all too many children in our schools, that difference is that they will receive an inferior education because of the Labour Government's policies.

9.47 pm
The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) on his appointment to the Opposition Front Bench. In the past two years, there appears to have been rapid turnover in the shadow Education and Employment team. I think that this is the third team we have faced; let us hope, for their sake, that they do better than the previous two.

It would appear that one of the qualifications for appointment to the Opposition Front Bench is selective amnesia extending back over the 18 years of Tory rule. In his first speech as an education spokesman, the hon. Gentleman spent nigh on 15 minutes talking about two subjects, and two subjects only: grammar schools and grant-maintained schools. From their speeches today, I gather that the great thing that the Conservatives achieved during 18 years in office—the thing that they most want to defend, the thing that they most mind losing and the thing that, to them, encapsulates diversity—is their policy on grammar schools and grant-maintained schools. Let us see what they achieved with that policy.

The result of the Conservatives' policy on grammar schools was not a grammar school in every town or an expansion of grammar schools, but a steady contraction of grammar schools as the Tory years rolled on. When they left office, they left 160 grammar schools, compared with thousands when they took office in the 1970s. If grant-maintained schools were the second strand of their diverse education system, it amounted to only 1,000 schools. So what the Tories are celebrating today is having left a system that was meant to be diverse and was made up of two elements—160 grammar schools and 1,000 grant-maintained schools. All that after 18 years! If that is what the Tories come to the House today and talk about with pride, with not one word about the 23,000 other schools that make up the English education system, it is not surprising that they lost the last election with such great force.

The Conservative Government fiddled with creating 1,000 grant-maintained schools and thought that that would solve the nation's problems, but they left the nation not an education system rich in diversity but one in which four out of 10 11-year-olds could not read and write properly; in which more than half of 16-year-olds could not achieve five or more higher grade GCSEs; in which 2.3 per cent. of schools were failing; and in which one in 10 schools had serious weaknesses and a third were not as good as they should have been. They left a £4 billion backlog of repairs and an expensive and wasteful nursery voucher scheme. They put a standstill on the expansion in higher education numbers. Schools had to cope with reduced budgets year after year under the Tory Government.

There was no system for dealing with failing LEAs. The Conservative Government had no levers to raise standards. That was what their vision of diversity brought about. That was what Tory diversity and choice was all about—a system that let down too many of the nation's children.

Mrs. May

The Minister has just said that there were no levers for raising standards under the previous Government. Does she accept that we introduced tests and the Office for Standards in Education? The Government are able to talk about standards in schools only because we introduced a rigorous inspection regime that publishes accountable statistics about the standards in schools.

Ms Morris

The hon. Lady talks about that, but the truth is that the Tory Government only did half the job. Tests and inspection reports reveal the problem. The real levers for raising standards are the action taken when the problems have been identified. In cases where inspection has revealed that a school is failing, we now have clear targets for improvement and options for action if it is not made. Where performance tables show a shortfall in the performance of schools, we have targets for improvement. There is monitoring, support, pressure and action where targets are not reached. Those are the levers for raising standards that are needed. It is not a case of letting someone else find the information and turning one's back on it. The Government must accept responsibility to use the levers for raising standards.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Will the hon. Lady tell the House how she and her party voted on the introduction of Ofsted and the inspection of schools?

Ms Morris

I was not a Member of the House at that time so I did not cast a vote. The Labour party did not vote against Ofsted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North (Mr. Wicks) was right when he said that as we approach the millennium the challenge for the educational system is that which it has never been before. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) also intimated that. The challenge is not about raising standards for a few or sectioning off certain schools and giving them more funding. It is about raising standards for all children and making sure that every youngster who leaves school does so with the basic skills, committed to lifelong learning and with the attitudes that will serve them well in adult life. That is the sort of choice and diversity that we have been acting on in the past two years. That is why we turned our back on the old, sterile arguments that were for the last century, not the next. That is why we have taken action to double the number of three-year-olds in nursery places and guarantee a place for all four-year-olds. We have introduced a sure start programme with £450 million. We have made sure that in 18 months' time there will be no five, six or seven-year-old in a class of more than 30.

We have put money into measures to reduce exclusion. We have made sure that every teacher will be trained to use information and communications technology, that every school will be connected to the national grid for learning and that we shall have a teaching force and school system that is kitted up to do the best that it can to meet the challenges of ICT.

The hon. Member for Bath was right. We wait for the Tories to adopt the new and pressing agenda for the nation. Not one word from the Opposition today gives me any confidence that, after two years in opposition, they have learned that lesson. The parents of this country want a Government who face the future and do not look back to the past. What we have heard today is a Conservative Opposition who harp on about arguments that they have lost. They lost with parents, they lost with teachers and, two years ago, they lost at the ballot box.

Conservative Members referred to the 160 grammar schools, and we will leave that matter to the parents. The Conservatives took action at central Government level to abolish more grammar schools than any other party did in a similar time scale.

Mr. Fabricant

Will the Minister give way?

Ms Morris

No, I am nearly out of time. Grant-maintained schools were about differential funding—not on the basis of the needs of children, but on the basis of the status and structure of schools. We have put that argument behind us.

The saddest thing was that, having failed to adopt the new agenda and having wasted three hours talking about grammar schools and grant-maintained schools while the rest of the world has moved on, the Conservatives could not even embrace the success of the literary and numeracy strategy. The hon. Member for Maidenhead quoted out-of-date figures and painted a picture of what teachers feared would happen at the start of the year. All the evidence from Ofsted, the National Foundation for Educational Research and teachers themselves shows that 90 per cent. of heads feel that it is a good system and 80 per cent. of teachers believe that it will raise standards.

I know that the hon. Member for Maidenhead does not believe the Ofsted evidence or the research from the NFER. What I know she likes is evidence quoted in teacher union magazines, so I shall quote from one of her favourite sources—the journal of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers. Adam Gibson, starting his third year at a new primary school in Derby, said of the literacy hour: Most primary teachers feel the literacy framework is at worst a superb scheme of work and at best a genuine educational innovation. I rest my case. Those words are not based on Government research. They are the words of the hon. Lady's tried and trusted friends—those who write in trade union journals.

The hon. Member for Hertsmere not only has a selective memory—he was ungracious in his comments. I was waiting for him to turn away from his sterile arguments of the past and to acknowledge that, in the past two years, we have spent £1.8 million to reduce class sizes in his constituency. In his own area, 2,500 fewer infant children are in classes of over 30. In his own area, there will be 102 extra teachers and nine new classrooms this September to deal with infant class sizes. In his area, £9 million is being put in for capital expenditure to repair schools.

If we throw in the constituencies of the hon. Members for Maidenhead and for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), we find that 4,000 five, six and seven-year-olds are in smaller classes. Between the three constituencies, there are 35 extra classrooms and 200 extra teachers. Between them, they have £35 million capital to repair their schools. That is what two years of Labour has done for three Opposition constituencies. Multiply that many times over, and that shows the nature of the choice and diversity that we have created.

Our policy is not about separation or favouring the few, but about real choice for parents between excellent schools. Our policy on diversity means that parents have the option of out-of-school learning activities, and can choose schools on their strengths. However, the policy is not just about choice and diversity, but about standards. We will be judged by that and by nothing else. All the evidence shows that so far we are making good progress. Over the next few years we will see something happen that has never happened before: we will have an education service that is fit and ready for the next millennium.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 352.

Division No. 228] [9.59 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Amess, David Donaldson, Jeffrey
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Duncan, Alan
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Duncan Smith, Iain
Beggs, Roy Evans, Nigel
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Fabricant, Michael
Bercow, John Fallon, Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Flight, Howard
Blunt, Crispin Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Body, Sir Richard Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Boswell, Tim Fox, Dr Liam
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Fraser, Christopher
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Gale, Roger
Brazier, Julian Garnier, Edward
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gibb, Nick
Browning, Mrs Angela Gill, Christopher
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Burns, Simon Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Cash, William Gray, James
Chope, Christopher Green, Damian
Clappison, James Grieve, Dominic
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Gummer, Rt Hon John
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Collins, Tim Hammond, Philip
Colvin, Michael Hawkins, Nick
Cormack, Sir Patrick Heald, Oliver
Cran, James Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ty)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxboume)
Horam, John Ruffley, David
Howard, Rt Hon Michael St Aubyn, Nick
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Sayeed, Jonathan
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Shepherd, Richard
Jenkin, Bernard Soames, Nicholas
Key, Robert Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Spicer, Sir Michael
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Spring, Richard
Lansley, Andrew Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Leigh, Edward Steen, Anthony
Letwin, Oliver Streeter, Gary
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Swayne, Desmond
Lidington, David Syms, Robert
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Tapsell, Sir Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Loughton, Tim Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Luff, Peter Taylor, Sir Teddy
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Thompson, William
McIntosh, Miss Anne Townend, John
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Tredinnick, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Trend, Michael
Malins, Humfrey Tyrie, Andrew
Mates, Michael Viggers, Peter
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Wardle, Charles
May, Mrs Theresa Wells, Bowen
Moss, Malcolm Whittingdale, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wilshire, David
Norman, Archie Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Ottaway, Richard Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Page, Richard Woodward, Shaun
Paice, James Yeo, Tim
Pickles, Eric Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Prior, David
Randall, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Redwood, Rt Hon John Mr. Keith Simpson and
Robathan, Andrew Mrs. Jacqui Lait.
Abbott, Ms Diane Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Ainger, Nick Bradshaw, Ben
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Brake, Tom
Alexander, Douglas Breed, Colin
Allan, Richard Brinton, Mrs Helen
Allen, Graham Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Browne, Desmond
Ashton, Joe Buck, Ms Karen
Atherton, Ms Candy Burden, Richard
Atkins, Charlotte Burgon, Cohn
Austin, John Burnett, John
Baker, Norman Burstow, Paul
Barnes, Harry Butler, Mrs Christine
Barron, Kevin Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Battle, John Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Bayley, Hugh Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Beard, Nigel Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Campbell—Savours, Dale
Begg, Miss Anne Cann, Jamie
Beith, Rt Hon A J Caplin, Ivor
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Casale, Roger
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Caton, Martin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Cawsey, Ian
Bennett, Andrew F Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Benton, Joe Chisholm, Malcolm
Bermingham, Gerald Clapham, Michael
Berry, Roger Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Best, Harold Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Betts, Clive Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Blackman, Liz Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Blears, Ms Hazel Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Blizzard, Bob Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Clelland, David
Boateng, Paul
Coaker, Vernon Healey, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Coleman, Iain Hepburn, Stephen
Colman, Tony Hesford, Stephen
Connarty, Michael Hinchliffe, David
Corbett, Robin Hood, Jimmy
Corbyn, Jeremy Hope, Phil
Cotter, Brian Hopkins, Kelvin
Cousins, Jim Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cranston, Ross Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Howells, Dr Kim
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hoyle, Lindsay
Cummings, John Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire Humble, Mrs Joan
Dafis, Cynog Hurst, Alan
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Hutton, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Iddon, Dr Brian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Illsley, Eric
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Dawson, Hilton Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Dean, Mrs Janet Jenkins, Brian
Denham, John Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Dobbin, Jim Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Donohoe, Brian H Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Doran, Frank Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dowd, Jim Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Drew, David Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Drown, Ms Julia Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Keeble, Ms Sally
Edwards, Huw Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Efford, Clive Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Ellman, Mrs Louise Keetch, Paul
Ennis, Jeff Kemp, Fraser
Etherington, Bill Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Fearn, Ronnie Kidney, David
Fisher, Mark Kilfoyle, Peter
Fitzpatrick, Jim King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Fitzsimons, Lorna Kumar, Dr Ashok
Flint, Caroline Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Flynn, Paul Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Follett, Barbara Laxton, Bob
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lepper, David
Foster, Don (Bath) Leslie, Christopher
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Levitt, Tom
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Fyfe, Maria Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Galloway, George Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Gapes, Mike Linton, Martin
Gardiner, Barry Livingstone, Ken
George, Andrew (St Ives) Livsey, Richard
Gerrard, Neil Llwyd, Elfyn
Gibson, Dr Ian Lock, David
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Love, Andrew
Godman, Dr Norman A McAllion, John
Godsiff, Roger McAvoy, Thomas
Goggins, Paul McCabe, Steve
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McCafferty, Ms Chris
Gorrie, Donald McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Macdonald, Calum
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McDonnell, John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Mclsaac, Shona
Grocott, Bruce McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Grogan, John McNulty, Tony
Gunnell, John MacShane, Denis
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Mactaggart, Fiona
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McWalter, Tony
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) McWilliam, John
Hancock, Mike Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hanson, David Mendelson, Rt Hon Peter
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Short, Rt Hon Clare
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Singh, Marsha
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Skinner, Dennis
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Martlew, Eric Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Meale, Alan Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Merron, Gillian Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Milbum, Rt Hon Alan Soley, Clive
Mitchell, Austin Southworth, Ms Helen
Moffatt, Laura Speller, John
Moonie, Dr Lewis Squire, Ms Rachel
Moore, Michael Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Moran, Ms Margaret Steinberg, Gerry
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Stevenson, George
Morley, Elliot Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mudie, George Stoate, Dr Howard
Mullin, Chris Stott, Roger
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Stringer, Graham
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Stuart, Ms Gisela
Naysmith, Dr Doug Stunell, Andrew
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Sutcliffe, Gerry
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Hara, Eddie Taylor, Ms Dart (Stockton S)
Olner, Bill Taylor, David (NW Leics)
O'Neill, Martin Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Öpik, Lembit Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Organ, Mrs Diana Timms, Stephen
Osbo Osborne, Ms Sandra Tipping, Paddy
Palmer, Dr Nick Todd, Mark
Pendry, Tom Pend Touhig, Don
Pickthall, Colin Trickett, Jon
Pike, Peter L Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Plaskitt, James Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Pollard, Kerry Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Pond, Chris Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Pope, Greg Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Pound, Stephen Tyler, Paul
Powell Sir Raymond Vaz, Keith
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Vis, Dr Rudi
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Walley, Ms Joan
Prescott, Rt Hon John Wareing, Robert N
Prosser, Gwyn Watta, David
Purchase, Ken Webb, Steve
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce White, Brian
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Whitehead, Dr Alan
Rammell, Bill Wicks, Malcolm
Raynsford, Nick Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Willis, Phil
Rooker, Jeff Winnick, David
Rooney, Terry Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Rowlands, Ted Wise, Audrey
Roy, Frank Wood, Mike
Ruddock, Joan Woolas, Phil
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Worthington, Tony
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Wray, James
Salter, Martin Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Sanders, Adrian Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil Tellers for the Noes:
Sedgemore, Brian Mr. Keith Hill and
Shaw, Jonathan Mrs. Anne McGuire.
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 321, Noes 149.

Division No. 229] [10.17 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Cranston, Ross
Ainger, Nick Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Alexander, Douglas Cummings, John
Allen, Graham Cunliffe, Lawrence
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Ashton, Joe Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Atherton, Ms Candy Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Atkins, Charlotte Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Austin, John Dawson, Hilton
Barnes, Harry Dean, Mrs Janet
Barron, Kevin Denham, John
Battle, John Dobbin, Jim
Bayley, Hugh Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Beard, Nigel Donohoe, Brian H
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Doran, Frank
Begg, Miss Anne Dowd, Jim
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Drew, David
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Drown, Ms Julia
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Bennett, Andrew F Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Benton, Joe Efford, Clive
Bermingham, Gerald Ellman, Mrs Louise
Berry, Roger Ennis, Jeff
Best, Harold Etherington, Bill
Betts, Clive Fisher, Mark
Blackman, Liz Fitzpatrick, Jim
Blears, Ms Hazel Fitzsimons, Lorna
Blizzard, Bob Flint, Caroline
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Flynn, Paul
Boateng, Paul Follett, Barbara
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bradshaw, Ben Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Fyfe, Maria
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Galloway, George
Browne, Desmond Gapes, Mike
Buck, Ms Karen Gardiner, Barry
Burden, Richard Gerrard, Neil
Burgon, Colin Gibson, Dr Ian
Butler, Mrs Christine Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Godman, Dr Norman A
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Godsiff, Roger
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Campbell—Savours, Dale Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Cann, Jamie Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Casale, Roger Grocott, Bruce
Caton, Martin Grogan, John
Cawsey, Ian Gunnell, John
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clapham, Michael Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hanson, David
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Healey, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hepburn, Stephen
Clelland, David Hesford, Stephen
Coaker, Vernon Hinchliffe, David
Coffey, Ms Ann Hood, Jimmy
Coleman, Iain Hope, Phil
Colman, Tony Hopkins, Kelvin
Connarty, Michael Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Corbett, Robin Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Corbyn, Jeremy Howells, Dr Kim
Cousins, Jim Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Humble, Mrs Joan Morley, Elliot
Hurst, Alan Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hutton, John Mudie, George
Iddon, Dr Brian Mullin, Chris
Illsley, Eric Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jenkins, Brian O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) O'Hara, Eddie
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Olner, Bill
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Organ, Mrs Diana
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Osbome, Ms Sandra
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Pendry, Tom
Jones, Marlyn (Clwyd S) Pickthall, Colin
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Pike, Peter L
Keeble, Ms Sally Plaskitt, James
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Pollard, Kerry
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Pond, Chris
Kemp, Fraser Pope, Greg
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Pound, Stephen
Kidney, David Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kilfoyle, Peter Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Prescott, Rt Hon John
Kumar, Dr Ashok Prosser, Gwyn
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Purchase, Ken
Lawrence, Ms Jackie Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Laxton, Bob Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Lepper, David Rammell, Bill
Leslie, Christopher Raynsford, Nick
Levitt, Tom Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Rooker, Jeff
Linton, Martin Rooney, Terry
Livingstone, Ken Rowlands, Ted
Lock, David Roy, Frank
Love, Andrew Ruddock, Joan
McAllion, John Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McAvoy, Thomas Salter, Martin
McCabe, Steve Savidge, Malcolm
McCafferty, Ms Chris Sawford, Phil
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Sedgemore, Brian
Macdonald, Calum Shaw, Jonathan
McDonnell, John Sheerman, Barry
Mclsaac, Shona Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Short, Rt Hon Clare
McNulty, Tony Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
MacShane, Denis Singh, Marsha
Mactaggart, Fiona Skinner, Dennis
McWatter, Tony Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McWilliam, John Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Soley, Clive
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Southworth, Ms Helen
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Spellar, John
Martlew, Eric Squire, Ms Rachel
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Meale, Alan Steinberg, Gerry
Merron, Gillian Stevenson, George
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan Stoate, Dr Howard
Mitchell, Austin Stringer, Graham
Moffatt, Laura Stuart, Ms Gisela
Moonie, Dr Lewis Sutcliffe, Gerry
Moran, Ms Margaret Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dail (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W) Wicks, Malcolm
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Timms, Stephen Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Tipping, Paddy Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Todd, Mark Winnick, David
Touhig, Don Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Trickett, Jon Wise, Audrey
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Woodla Mike
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown) Woolas, Phil
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk) Worthington, Tony
Twigg, Derek (Halton) Wray, James
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Vaz, Keith Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan Tellers for the Ayes:
Wareing, Robert N Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Watts, David Mr. Keith Hill.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Fox, Dr Liam
Allan, Richard Fraser, Christopher
Amess, David Gale, Roger
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Gamier, Edward
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James George, Andrew (St Ives)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Gibb, Nick
Baker, Norman Gill, Christopher
Beggs, Roy Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Beith, Rt Hon A J Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bercow, John Gorrie, Donald
Beresford, Sir Paul Gray, James
Blunt, Crispin Green, Damian
Body, Sir Richard Grieve, Dominic
Boswell, Tim Gummer, Rt Hon John
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Hammond, Philip
Brake, Tom Hancock, Mike
Brazier, Julian Harvey, Nick
Breed, Colin Hawkins, Nick
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Heald, Oliver
Browning, Mrs Angela Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Burnett, John Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Burns, Simon Horam, John
Burstow, Paul Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cash, William Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Chope, Christopher Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Clappison, James Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Jenkin, Bernard
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Keetch, Paul
Collins, Tim Key, Robert
Cormack, Sir Patrick Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Cotter, Brian Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Cran, James Lansley, Andrew
Dafis, Cynog Leigh, Edward
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Letwin, Oliver
Donaldson, Jeffrey Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Lidington, David
Duncan, Alan Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Duncan Smith, Iain Livsey, Richard
Evans, Nigel Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham,)
Fabricant, Michael Llwyd, Elfyn
Fallon, Michael Loughton, Tim
Fearn, Ronnie Luff, Peter
Flight, Howard MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forth, Rt Hon Eric McIntosh, Miss Anne
Foster, Don (Bath) MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey Spicer, Sir Michael
Mates, Michael Spring, Richard
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
May, Mrs Theresa Stunell, Andrew
Moore, Michael Swayne, Desmond
Nicholls, Patrick Syms, Robert
Norman, Archie Tapsell, Sir Peter
Öpik, Lembit Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Page, Richard Taylor, Sir Teddy
Paice, James Thompson, William
Pickles Eric,Prior David Tredinnick, David
Randall, John Trend, Michael
Redwood, Rt Hon John Tyler, Paul
Robathan, Andrew Tyrie, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewkb'ty) Wardle, Charles
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Webb, Steve
Ruffley, David Whittingdale, John
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Willis, Phil
St Aubyn, Nick Wilshire, David
Sanders, Adrian Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Sayeed, Jonathan Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Woodward, Shaun
Shepherd, Richard Yeo, Tim
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Tellers for the Noes:
Mrs. Jacqui Lait and
Mr. Keith Simpson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the Government's success in cutting infant class sizes after 10 years of rising class sizes and the successful introduction of the literacy hour, which is restoring phonics, spelling and grammar to the primary school curriculum; notes the plans to extend daily numeracy lessons nationwide from September, which will place strong emphasis on mental arithmetic; recognises the Government's strong commitment to diversity through the rapid expansion of specialist schools and beacon schools; welcomes the success to date of the Government's policy in support of failing schools; supports the considerable work already undertaken to reduce bureaucracy in schools following years of neglect; supports the Government's new code of practice on school admissions; welcomes the new White Paper on reform of post-16 education and the clear guarantees it offers on sixth form funding; supports the Government's plans to reward good teaching; and believes that the extra £19 billion allocated to education is beginning to make a real difference to the money available to schools, not least in tackling the substantial repairs and maintenance backlog.