HL Deb 19 July 1979 vol 401 cc1532-65

House again in Committee.

4.53 p.m.


In calling Amendment No. 5 I must point out to the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 3, leave out subsection (4) and insert: (" (4) Where any proposals to which this subsection applies have not been so approved but public notice of them has been given under subsection (3) of section 13, the proposals shall continue to be treated as if they had been submitted to the Secretary of State under subsection (1) or (2) of that section unless the local education authority or managers or governors of voluntary schools concerned elect to the contrary; but no such election shall have effect unless it is made in writing to the Secretary of State before 31st December 1979 ".)

The noble Baroness said: The aim of this amendment is to save those authorities which have put in proposals and have had them approved and which still want to proceed, from having to go to all the trouble of going to the secondary or schools sub-committee, to the education committee, to the council just to say: " Yes, we do want to go ahead ", when it can be assumed with certainty that they do. It seems wrong to demand this of them when they have complied with the law. The amendment does not stop those authorities which wish to revoke, from applying to do so. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

The effect of the amendment is of course to reverse what is said in the particular subsection in the Bill: that under this amendment proposals of which public notice had been given but on which the Secretary of State had not yet made a decision should continue to be treated as though they had been submitted to him voluntarily under the 1944 Act unless the relevant bodies notified him by the 31st December 1979 that they wish them to be withdrawn. This is in fact the opposite course of action from that which is proposed in the Bill as at present drafted, under which the proposals would be considered to have been withdrawn unless the Secretary of State is notified to the contrary by the 31st December 1979.

I should like to assure the noble Baroness, Lady David, that if the local authority wish to go ahead with the proposals as submitted they only need to notify the Secretary of State that they wish to do so and if he approves they will go ahead and implement them. If in fact this amendment was carried it would create more uncertainty because it would have the effect of prolonging the uncertainty for schools and for parents and for pupils—something which I am sure no one in your Lordships' House would wish to see, because of course uncertainty in these circumstances is undesirable. So we have deliberately drafted the Bill in this way for those authorities that wish to go ahead. They can say that they would like to go ahead and there is therefore nothing to prevent them from doing so, which is what I believe the noble Baroness would wish and that is what the Bill says. We believe this is the way which would create the least uncertainty in the educational system, and it is for that reason that I cannot accept this amendment.

Baroness DAVID

I am not altogether satisfied with the Minister's reply, but since the date has been changed in another place from the 1st October to the 31st December I do not feel so strongly as I did about this and I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.56 p.m.

Baroness DAVID

I do not want to repeat my Second Reading speech, which I am sure everyone here will have read, but I want to stress that on this side of the Committee we are totally opposed to this Bill for the uncertainty that it will cause, for the harm that it will do to the education of many children up and down the country, for the hostility that it will give rise to in the teaching profession and for the divisions in society that it will perpetuate. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, spoke movingly and with authority on this at Second Reading, in regard to the total irrelevance of the Bill to the needs of education and of the country in the 'eighties and 'nineties.

On Tuesday last, four speakers on the Conservative side of the House, including the Minister, spoke in favour of the Bill and yet they all said that they were not against comprehensive education. There was opposition to the Bill from the Labour Benches, the Liberal Benches and the Cross-Benches. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, with all his long experience in education, spoke against it. There is not a mandate in the country for it, as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said at Second Reading. If we add up all the Labour and Liberal voters on one side at the general election and the Conservatives on the other side there is certainly no mandate, and I hope that noble Lords opposite have noticed in the Daily Telegraph this morning the latest Gallup poll figures showing a 5 per cent. Labour lead over the Conservatives compared with 1½ per cent. last month. Even more interesting, when people were asked whether they approved or disapproved of the Government's handling of 14 policy areas the result in the case of education was: approved 37, disapproved 46, don't know 17.

We must stop this political ping-pong with secondary education, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said at Second Reading. People are genuinely worried about this Government's reactionary education policies—if they can he called policies. We shall oppose the clause.


I am in full agreement with my noble friend. I think we had eight Labour, two Cross-Bench and one Liberal speech against this Bill, and it would be a waste of everybody's time to go through it again; but I must just repeat the main objection, which is that by reintroducing selection at 11 the Government are making it more—not less—difficult for 80 per cent. of the children in this country to get the best education possible. We simply cannot vote for this in any way.

We exercised the restraint which we have learned to exercise in this House in regard to not opposing a Second Reading. If we oppose a Second Reading from the democratically elected body in the other place we kill the Bill and invoke the Parliament Act. What we are doing today is to attempt to reject a clause in the Bill. I have to admit that the Bill would be very different without this clause because there would be very little left, but the fact remains that the Bill could go back to the other place and the clause could be put in again. So the situation is rather different and I think it is constitutionally acceptable. I and my noble friends are quite determined that we will not go down in history as having accepted this clause.


Before the noble Lord sits down, both he and the noble Baroness, Lady David, have spoken against this clause. The noble Baroness remarked that the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, from the Cross-Benches had been firmly opposed to this Bill, and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, also referred to two independent Members. Anyone who heard the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, speak could not have missed how adamant he was that we should provide the proper education to stretch the top 3 per cent. as we are prepared to provide for the handicapped at the bottom 3 per cent., and he made a most effective speech on that point.

5 p.m.

Baroness BACON

Like my noble friend, I do not want to repeat my speech on Second Reading, but I fully agree that we should oppose this clause. When I spoke earlier in the debate I had not heard some speeches from noble Lords opposite. What my noble friend Lord Donaldson said on another amendment is quite true; there are two points of view on the opposite side of the Committee. There is the view of some noble Lords, like the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who fully agree with comprehensive education while still agreeing with this Bill. But then we heard the winding-up speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and we heard the speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. The noble Baroness is the present Minister of State in the Department of Education and Science and the noble Viscount is an ex-Secretary of State for Education and Science. It was very clear from their speeches that it was not just a matter of whether or not local authorities should be able to decide for themselves; they really did not believe in the principle of comprehensive education. This is a small Bill which is worded peculiarly—I do not blame the Government for that; we all know the difficulty of producing these Bills—but nevertheless this is the only opportunity we will have to vote on a principle which we hold dear.


I am intervening very briefly on a point that some of your Lordships may feel is an irrelevant point. The noble Baroness, Lady David, speaking just now, said hopefully that she was sure that everyone had read the debate that took place last Tuesday, 17th July, on Second Reading of this Bill. I am quite certain that very few, if any, of your Lordships have read that debate. Some of you were here to listen to the debate and may remember much that was said. I listened to it all, because I was speaking. But the non-appearance of Hansard makes it quite impossible, except for those who made a rush to the Library, to have access to the report of that debate. I think it is a most distreesing and serious thing that we are discussing the Committee stage of an extremely important, and, in my view, destructive and retrogressive measure without having had the benefit of looking at the debate that took place on Tuesday and considering this Bill on its merits, rather than simply going into the Lobbies on Party political lines, I am speaking from these Cross-Benches in saying that.


In order to help the noble Lord, may I say that the Hansard for the debate in this House is available for everybody. The debate in the other place is more difficult.


May I say this in reply to the noble Baroness opposite who spoke about what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, had said from the Cross-Benches. Lord Alexander made it quite clear that he was against this Bill, and there is no one in this House with more experience than Lord Alexander.


I am intervening very briefly, if I may. I am in no danger of repeating my Second Reading speech because I did not have the chance to make one. I did not know that the Second Reading was taking place until too late to catch the train; otherwise I would have made a speech. Nor have I had a chance to read it because in fact it is not available.

A noble Lord

It is here.


I know, but it does not get to Wensleydale. I know pretty well what Lord Alexander said and had I made a Second Reading speech I would have said something similar, something I have said in your Lordships' House ad nauseam; that is, that many of us believe that in certain contexts the comprehensive school is the right one, but we also believe that it is essential to have a system of education that gives an opportunity to the very ablest child that a universal comprehensive does not do. That is because—and I have explained this in words of one syllable—there are not enough teachers of advanced subjects to go round. We are coming up against the problem that some of us forecast 25 years ago; that is, that rare subjects are having to be dropped from the curriculum. We are faced then not with doctrinaire opposition between two things, but with the provision of sufficient variety in our educational system to enable us to do justice to that small percentage that Lord Alexander has championed over the years. That is why I should have said something very similar to Lord Alexander. Let us at all costs keep a certain variety.

What has astonished me throughout these debates over the years is the lack of faith the defenders of the comprehensive school have in comprehensive schools. They dare not let them co-exist with the grammar schools. If they are as good as all that, and if they believe in parental choice and parental consultation, then let them go side by side until the day of judgment. Anyway, that is the sort of thing I would have said; that is the sort of thing I believe in. If we are counting heads, and as it was implied that practically no one spoke in favour of this Bill from the Cross-Benches, well, here is one more voice from the Cross-Benches.


Could I just say to the noble Lord that if he reads the examination results and admissions to Oxford only this week he will see there that the comprehensive schools have really done magnificently in scholarships. It is absurd to say that you cannot have in a comprehensive school an education suitable to the needs of the brilliant child—that is an absurd position. I admire the noble Lord very much, but I always used to regard him as " Lord Tripartite "; he has always been a great defender of the three sectors, and so he has made it plain again today. This Bill is a bad Bill.


With regard to what the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches has said, has he seen what the National Association of Head Teachers have said about this Bill? Has he read what the General Secretary, Mr. David Hart, has said and done about the Bill? Not only has he said that the Bill will put education back I do not know how many years, but he has also sent letters to the parents telling them what the expenditure cuts will do.


With respect, this has nothing to do with the expenditure cuts. As an ex-member of the National Association of Head Teachers my withers are still unwrung as regards anything it might say about this Bill. As regards expenditure cuts, those we are not discussing.


With regard to entry to universities, I was under the impression that you can get into some universities if, you come from a comprehensive or secondary modern, with one less A-level. I do not think noble Lords are being at all logical in this argument, because if you give special tuition for handicapped children, then surely you should also give special tuition for the most brilliant 3 per cent., because the wealth of this country depends on the best education that the most gifted children can get.

Viscount SIMON

When the noble Baroness asks us to vote against this clause she asks us to vote against the whole Bill except the Title and the fact that it does not apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland. When she does that, she must blame herself if we seem to be having another Second Reading debate. From these Benches, while we oppose the Bill, as I said at Second Reading, we do not think it is in accordance with general practice in this House to reject a clause which would completely eliminate the Bill which has been passed by the elected House. That was the advice that we were constantly given by the Labour Government when they were in power. They said that we should not reject something which had been passed by the other House. We should amend, but not reject. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, said, " I am only amending the Bill ". However, let us see what is left: Clause 2 says:

"(1) This Act may be cited as the Education Act 1979 ".

It goes on to say:

  1. " (3) This Act shall be construed as one with the Education Act 1944.
  2. "(4) This Act does not extend to Scotland or Northern Ireland ".

We cannot send a Bill back to the House of Commons like that.

Noble Lords: Oh, yes we can.

Viscount SIMON

Noble Lords on my left think we can do so. I think that we cannot and I shall advise my noble friends to abstain. We shall not vote for the Clause as we do not like it.


I should like to ask the noble Viscount to think again about what he has just said. I had the same qualms. However, I looked into the situation because there are many people in the Labour movement and in the educational world who fail to understand why we, on this side of the House, did not vote against the Bill on Second Reading. As those of your Lordships who heard the speeches made on that occasion will appreciate, we took that course not because we did not feel strongly opposed to the Bill but; as my noble friend has said this afternoon, we could not register our strong feelings as it is the worthy custom of the parties in this House to abstain from voting on Second Reading in order not to frustrate the will of the elected Members of Parliament. If this House were by a majority to reject the Bill that had passed through the Commons, that Bill would be sunk and the Commons could do nothing more about it for the rest of the Session. So we confine our voting to the Committee stage. We may amend; and the other place may, in time, accept or reject our amendments. However, we are faced with a dilemma when we come to a Bill, as we do today, which consists of one clause which cannot be amended without being wrecked.

What is the difference between the total destruction on Second Reading of a Bill approved by the elected House and its wrecking at the Committee stage? I was anxious about that matter and I took advice. I am assured that there is a vital difference. Although the content of the Bill could be removed by a majority of the House opposing the clause stand part Motion, the Bill would nevertheless remain in being. It would not be sunk: it would simply be on the rocks and the other place could immediately, without any lapse of time, refloat it and redirect it in our direction. So, for that reason, I shall oppose the Motion and I hope that noble Lords on the Liberal Benches will consider the point which I have raised.


I agree with my noble friend and I should like briefly to point out to the noble Lords who sit on the Liberal Benches the peculiar constitutional doctrine which they have now invented for themselves. If their doctrine were right, and one could not vote in this House against a Second Reading, against the will of the elected other place, and one could not vote against a clause—be it the important clause of a Bill—because that is the will of the elected other place, then it would always be possible for the Government to have their way in this House by bringing forward one clause Bills. That would be a most peculiar state of affairs. My noble friends have said that this is the only way in which properly and constitutionally we can vote and express our revulsion and horror at this attack upon comprehensive education.

When noble Lords, like the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, talk about the wealth of this nation being contained in its education, they should bear in mind that most of us do not come from a particular part of the educational system. Most of us have had experience of seeing those people by our side, whose names were not read out when the successes in the 11-plus examination were announced, rejected by society. We wish to express—and to let the country know that we express—our horror, revulsion and total opposition to the Bill.


I think that I am right in saying that the noble Lord said that this Bill was an attack upon comprehensive education. It is not, as my noble friend Lady Young has said on many occasions. It is an attack on the continuing forced putting-into-practice of comprehensive education. That is why I am voting for the Bill. I am not voting for it because I believe, as the noble Lord has just said, that it is an attack upon comprehensive education per se. I firmly believe that it is not.


The noble Lord has expressed the difference between us so clearly that I think we should now vote.

Viscount ECCLES

I should like to say something about the constitutional position. I cannot say that I have been here more than 15 years or so, but to move to leave out the first clause of a Bill, which contains the principle of the Bill is what in the other place would be called a wrecking amendment. So far as I know, this House has not for some time moved wrecking Amendments.


What about shipbuilding?

Viscount ECCLES

I am just asking whether noble Lords opposite can give us examples of amendments leaving out clause 1 which destroy the Bill, as they know it does in this instance. It is equivalent to saying that we entirely disagree with the other House. That may be so, but I think that it is very rare to do it.

Turning to the Bill itself, one would think from listening to the speeches made by noble Lords on the other side, that this was a Bill against the comprehensive principle. It is not. Any noble Lord who reads the Bill will realise that it is against compulsion of the comprehensive principle and that is something different. I would not vote for the Bill if it were a straight Bill against the comprehensive principle. Noble Lords opposite know very well that I have taken a considerable part in the introduction of comprehensive schools. I am against bad schools. I am not against comprehensive schools. In other words, I am against schools which do not afford the type of education which the children in those schools really ought to receive. If, at some stage, all comprehensive schools provide the best possible education for all children, then I should have thought that there would be no opponents to the comprehensive principle.

However, the question is: where are we now? Now, in 1979, we have a distribution of secondary schools which is not satisfactory. Therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, has said, we must move towards different methods of trying to give the maximum number of children the best possible teaching. It is no good saying that there are enough teachers to give the best possible teaching to all the children of this country. One only has to look at the Amendments that were moved as regards the 1976 Act when, for instance, it was stated with complete truth that in the primary schools only half the teachers had O-level mathematics.

One of the main reasons why it is so difficult to teach mathematics in a great many of the comprehensive schools is that there are not A-level mathematicians in the comprehensive schools. That is nothing to do with politics: it is a fact. It is a fact about which surely anyone who is interested in the best possible use of our teacher force is concerned. All that one wants is the best possible training of young people in sixth forms to A-level in the subjects in which there is now a shortage of teachers.

While the situation remains like it is, in my view it is totally wrong to say that we must have 100 per cent. comprehensives. We ought to say that where, in the opinion of the local people and in the opinion of parents as well, some variety in education will do better by their children, we should give them that opportunity. The Bill is not against comprehensive education, it is against compelling local authorities to establish comprehensive schools when they do not want to.

5.20 p.m.


I should like to say a few words on the constitutional issue. No one will pretend that it is a particularly earth-shaking case, and I entirely accept the point put by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and other noble Lords, that there is a significant constitutional difference between rejecting the Second Reading of the Bill and a wrecking amendment which completely emasculates the Bill and sends it back to the Commons. Nevertheless, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. Although I have not been as long as he has in this House, I have been here some 11 years. I cannot think of a serious attempt having been made to return a Bill in this particular way. It is probably going outside the bounds of what we accept in this House.

The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, made some passionate remarks on the constitutional issue. But the point remains that this House is a very imperfect House, as we all know—although that is not entirely through any fault of ours—and as the noble Lord's party and everyone on those Benches knows. Because it is an imperfect House, we deny ourselves a certain number of indulgences, even righteous indulgences. I, for one, believe that if, for instance, a Labour Government had tried to put forward a two-clause Bill such as this one and a Conservative Front Bench had argued against it in this kind of way and had tried to emasculate the Bill, the noise which would have been heard from the ex-Ministers who have spoken in favour of this Bill today would very easily have reached another place.

I ask noble Lords sitting on the Labour Front Bench—and I particularly ask the Opposition Chief Whip, if I might have her attention for a moment—and the Leader of the House, that if the time comes when they again hold power and if a situation such as this occurs, they would accept that a Tory Opposition would be justified in using this kind of emasculating process, with the majority that they have. Is it not true that the Labour Front Bench, in almost the nicest possible way, is indulging in a fit of self-indulgence because it knows that it does not have the majority to carry it through, and would be appalled if it found it had? I beg noble Lords to think again.


As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, mentioned me specifically, I would point out that I am not now the Leader of the House. The simple fact is that we would not have introduced a Bill such as this. I see nothing wrong in making a protest. I do not accept that this is a breach of practices and procedures in the strict sense. If we can exercise our right to vote and show our opposition, that is legitimate for an Opposition. I never complained about the other side doing that when my party was in Government, so I think we are doing the right thing. After all, I remember the ship-repair legislation.


I do not propose to detain your Lordships with a discussion of these constitutional arcana, although my judgment is with the remarks made on these matters by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. But I should like to give a personal explanation as to why, if the Committee is divided, I shall vote with the Government on this matter.

I believe that the comprehensive idea was a good one. I have been on intimate terms of friendship with some of the originators of that idea. I have opened two successful—I believe them to be successful—comprehensive schools and I do not go all the way with noble Lords who have urged that the cultivation of excellence is impossible in schools of mixed ability. I am one of the few Members of this Committee—at any rate to my general way of thinking—who went to a secondary school. When I was a young man I attended a secondary school in the now notorious suburb of Southall. As I cast my memory back, the class with which I went up to the sixth form was one of considerable mixed ability. I do not think that the abler members of the class suffered very much in consequence of that circumstance.

No, the reason why I shall go into the Lobby with the Government is that at this stage of our history I believe in variety and—if I may express myself as passionately as a colleague of mine on the other side of the Committee expressed himself—because I am revolted by the doctrinaire spirit with which ancient institutions with valuable traditions have been steam-rollered into premature uniformity in this respect. Let the wheat and the tares grow together, and we can have another think about this in 10 years' time. Although my sympathy lies entirely with those who are trying to make the comprehensive schools a success—and I know that some of them are a very considerable success—believe that the Bill is thoroughly justified.

The Earl of SWINTON

As my name was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, I think that I might be allowed to speak. At this stage I was not going to speak, but the noble Baroness made a great point of the fact that I came out as pro-comprehensive, and yet I support the Bill. I support the Bill because, with all respect, when the noble Lord, Lord Peart, rises and says that his side would not produce a Bill such as this, I would point out that he did produce such a Bill. That is why I support this Bill. The previous Government introduced a Bill to compel local authorities to go comprehensive.

Several noble Lords: No.

The Earl of SWINTON

They introduced a Bill to make local authorities go comprehensive. This Bill simply repeals that action. I would get up in front of anyone and say that in an ideal world I should like a comprehensive system of education, but it is not right to say to every local authority that every school must be compelled to go comprehensive. Surely they can judge for themselves what is right for their area. That is why, as an ardent supporter of comprehensive education—and I see the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, nodding—I have no twinge of conscience whatever about supporting the Bill. It is absolutely right, and I am delighted to support the Government.

Much has been made about what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill said. I draw your Lordships' attention to column 1337 of Hansard of 17th July, where the noble Lord said: My Lords, I am most grateful to you for bearing with me for so long. I would plead with the Government—not about this Bill; let it go through! It does not matter ". I hardly think that those are the words of someone who is violently opposed to the Bill.


May I just make a comment on what children have said to me. I believe in the comprehensive principle, but in several areas that I know children have said to me, " We want comprehensive schools. Why couldn't they have been introduced properly but slowly?" Children in certain areas are suffering because comprehensive schools, under the 1976 Act, had to be introduced and they have not been introduced properly. Children, as a result, have suffered, and know that they have suffered.


May I bring this Second Reading debate to an end. In my opinion it is quite wrong that we should have these very long speeches of a Second Reading kind at this stage. We all expressed ourselves very clearly two days ago. May I say again that what we object to is the danger that this Bill will reintroduce the 11-plus examination—selection by 11-plus—which we think is very bad indeed. That is why we are voting against it. None of us has any more to say.

5.31 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My noble friends Lord Eccles and Lord Swinton have indicated clearly that this Bill is not a Bill against comprehensive schools. We have been over this ground very firmly, and it would be quite wrong to have a further Second Reading debate on that, but I should like to make it clear from the Government Front Bench that we believe the Bill is one to restore freedom of choice to local authorities.

A great deal was made at Second Reading of a point with which I have great sympathy—that it would be better if on major matters of education we could have a consensus on what was the right thing to do. I would suggest that that consensus on education was broken by the 1976 Act, which compelled authorities to go comprehensive at a time when many authorities were going comprehensive voluntarily—and of course will still go comprehensive once this Bill becomes an Act and is on the statute book, because there is nothing to prevent that happening. We lost that consensus, and I think that this Bill will put it back. It is for that reason, because we are restoring the position to what it was and that had worked successfully for a number of years, that I ask the Committee not to accept that this clause should be taken out.

I should like to say in conclusion how much I agreed with the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I think it is setting a dangerous precedent to vote on this one-clause Bill to take out the major clause, which of course leaves almost nothing left. I cannot accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord

Wedderburn, that if this was wrong everybody would be putting in one-clause Bills. No Government would conduct itself in that particular way. I think that the House of Lords should think carefully on this matter. I hope very much that the noble Baroness, Lady David, will not press this amendment, but if she does I ask my noble friends not to vote with her but to support the Bill as it stands.

Baroness DAVID

It is not actually an amendment. We are talking about clause stand part. We shall oppose that.

5.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 120; Not-Contents, 57.

Abinger, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Moyne, L.
Aldenham, L. Gainford, L. Newall, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Glasgow, E. Northampton, M.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Glenkinglas, L. Northchurch, B.
Amory, V. Gowrie, E. Nugent of Huildford, L.
Ampthill, L. Greenway, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Auckland, L. Gridley, L. Pender, L.
Avon, E. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Penrhyn, L.
Barnby, L. Rankeillour, L.
Bellwin, L. Hanworth, V. Reay, L.
Belstead, L. Harding of Petherton, L. Robbins, L.
Bessborough, E. Hawke, L. Roberthall, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Henley, L. Rochdale, V.
Carrington, L. Hornsby-Smith, B. Romney, E.
Cathcart, E. Hunt of Fawley, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Chelwood, L. Hylton-Foster, B. St. Davids, V.
Clitheroe, L. James of Rusholme, L. Salisbury, M.
Cockfield, L. Kemsley, V. Sandford, L.
Colwyn, L. Killearn, L. Sandys, L. [Teller,]
Craigavon, V. Kilmany, L. Selkirk, E.
Croft, L. Kimberley, E. Sharples, B.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Linlithgow, M. Shuttleworth, L.
Daventry, V. Long, V. Skelmersdale, L.
de Clifford, L. Loudoun, C. Soames, L. (L. President.)
De Freyne, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Somers, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Luke, L. Strathclyde, L.
Derwent, L. Lyell, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Digby, L. MacAndrew, L.
Donegall, M. Mackay of Clashfern, L. Strathspey, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Swinton, E.
Ebbisham, L. Mancroft, L. Trefgarne, L.
Eccles, V. Mansfield, E. Trenchard, V.
Ellenborough, L. Margadale, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Marley, L. Vickers, B.
Elphinstone, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Elton, L. Merrivale, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Milverton, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Energlyn, L. Monck, V. Westbury, L.
Exeter, M. Morris, L. Wolverton, L.
Faithfull, B. Mottistone, L. Young, B.
Fortescue, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Ardwick, L. Henderson, L. Phillips, B.
Aylestone, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Bacon, B. Janner, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Balogh, L. Kaldor, L. Sainsbury, L.
Blease, L. Kirkhill, L. Shinwell, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Leatherland, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Brockway, L. Lee of Newton, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Leonard, L. Stone, L.
Collison, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Strabolgi, L.
Crook, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Strauss, L.
David, B. Longford, E. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Lovell-Davies, L. Underhill, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Melchett, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mishcon, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Murray of Gravesend, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Gaitskell, B. Oram, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Gardiner, L. Paget of Northampton, L. Whaddon, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Pargiter, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Hale, L. Parry, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Peart, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 1 agreed to accordingly.

5.42 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 8: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:—


. Those local education authorities to whom sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Education Act 1976 applied in whole or part prior to their repeal by this Act shall submit to the Secretary of State by 1st January 1980 proposals to ensure that, in future, allocation of resources to schools in their area does not discriminate against schools of one type, but ensures they can enjoy similar pupil teacher ratios and similar allowances for books, materials and resources.

The noble Baroness said: If this Bill is passed—and we can assume after the last Division that it will be—this will be an important new clause to have inserted. It aims to make sure that where there are grammar and secondary modern schools together, the secondary moderns have just as good resources as the grammar schools. Grammar Schools will inevitably have sixth forms, which means they will have a better pupil-teacher ratio and they will almost certainly have better libraries. I was always shocked by the inadequacy of the libraries in secondary modern schools, which often had to be housed in classrooms, too. We want there to be compensating factors in the secondary modern schools so that the children there are not materially at a disadvantage, and staffing, books and equipment are as good. Also, we want it to be obvious to parents and teachers that that is so.

Baroness YOUNG

If this amendment were accepted it would introduce a completely new element into the relationships between central and local government. Indeed, it would be an unprecedented interference by central government in the way in which local authorities allocate resources in their schools. Of course we all want to see that schools of all types get the best resources they can, but this is always left to the discretion of the local education authorities and I believe there is no reason at this stage for considering that we should in any way alter the balance of relationship between central and local government.

Furthermore, were the amendment to be carried, it would put a tremendous amount of further work and administration both on central and local government at a time when we all recognise that resources are scarce and that what resources there are should go into teaching and the fabric of the educational system. There are 104 local education authorities. They would all be submitting to the Secretary of State their proposals about the details of their allocations of resources and so on of one type or another throughout all their schools. That would involve the LEAs in a great deal of new work and of course it would also involve the Government in a lot of work in assimilating it.

Nor of course, having received the information, does the amendment in any way make clear what should happen to it. So far as I can see, the Secretary of State could read it and put it on one side, if he so chose, and do nothing more about it. But the important objection to it is not that. It is that it would completely change the important relationship between local and central government, it would be something without precedent, it is quite unnecessary to the principle of the Bill and for those reasons I cannot accept the amendment.


The noble Baroness, Lady Young, has given some reasons for questioning the exact form of the amendment, but surely what it is trying to do is absolutely fundamental in a situation as difficult as the one with which the Bill presents us. We shall have a case where a local authority has had, first of all, the gentlest but admittedly some compulsion to put in a scheme for reorganisation. That will then have been rescinded by this Bill, and one can imagine the kind of passions, irritations and excitements which will go on in an area of that kind between the two sides and which this will accentuate. What we are concerned with is that the one side which is winning the battle at the moment—which is not to go comprehensive but is to go back on the modest compulsion which was being imposed on them—should give unequal and irrational resources to the type of school it prefers against the type of school it does not prefer.

This is an absolutely serious point of a very important kind and I hope Baroness Young will not reject it out of hand because if she does, I should like to feel we shall pursue it. However, I should like to feel she will look at this matter. This is a perfectly serious case. We know perfectly well that today in an established grammar school the number of books available per head is higher in general than it is in an ordinary secondary education school. Are we getting a situation where, when the new grammar is split from the new secondary school, the new grammar school will get financial advantages as well as this enormous advantage of selection, which we have already said we think does so much harm to the other school? This is a very serious point indeed and I hope the noble Baroness will not just brush it aside. It is fundamental that if one is to go what we believe to be backwards one should do so in a most even-handed way.

Viscount SIMON

I sympathise very much with the intention of the new clause and probably the noble Baroness, Lady Young, sympathises with it also; that is, that where there are schools of different types, there should be an equitable distribution of resources. I understand the difficulty which the noble Baroness explained and I confess that I should prefer to see this result achieved in some other way. I was wondering—I admit that I am speaking without much preparation on this—whether this is a case where, if the Minister accepted the intention of the new clause, it could be dealt with by one of the famous circulars from the department, which could make the point to education authorities that this is an aim they must seek to achieve. I can quite see that the policing—that is perhaps the wrong word—or monitoring of the new clause would cause an immense amount of trouble. I do not know whether the suggestion would satisfy the noble Baroness, Lady David, but this seems the sort of case which might be met by a circular calling attention to the need to preserve a proper balance between the resources attached to the different types of school.

Baroness YOUNG

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, for introducing me to a new phrase. " Modest compulsion " is a phrase I must remember—I think I shall be able to work it in on a number of occasions. Of course, this is a serious matter about the allocation of resources, and I am sure that we can all quote from our own experience the difficulties of identifying exactly how costs fall between schools. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady David, who referred to the greatly increased expenses in a sixth form where there would be small teaching groups with one teacher and the costs would rise proportionately. We might just as well argue that it is much more expensive to teach A-level physics than A-level Greek because it is necessary to have a laboratory in one case but not in the other; or that it is much more expensive to have a well-equipped technical studies room in a secondary modern school than it would be to have merely a classroom for English in a grammar school. So quantifying the resources exactly is a very difficult exercise indeed. When I said that it would mean much more administration, that was in no sense a frivolous remark; rather, it was a very serious point regarding how to equate all the different matters involved.

Speaking from my own experience—and I would not wish this to be regarded as a generalisation—when I was in local government I was the chairman of the governors of a purpose-built secondary modern school, and that school certainly had a better library than did a comprehensive school that I visited a little while ago. That may have been fortuitous good luck, and certainly such situations do not always apply. All I am saying is that we cannot generalise and I would not generalise from that one case. Of course, there are cases where the library in one type of school is better than that in another. We must leave it to the good sense of the local education authority, because under the 1944 Act it has an obligation to provide for the age, aptitude, and ability of all the children in the school. I believe that the local education authority can be left to achieve the best that it can for the children in its locality.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, suggested that we might be able to achieve this aim not necessarily by accepting the amendment, but by the Department issuing a circular. One of the many self-denying ordinances which we as a Government have imposed upon ourselves is to try to issue far fewer circulars to local government, as I believe that everybody in local government has told us that they have had far too many in the past. To persuade one's colleagues that one should send out a circular, no matter what the subject, might not be as difficult as getting a Bill through Parliament, but it is no easy matter.

As I said originally, I believe the important point is that it has always been an established practice for local authorities to be responsible for the wise allocation of resources within their education budget as they believe it to be in the best interests of their people. The Bill is not concerned with resources in this sense at all. It is concerned simply with abolishing the element of compulsion to go comprehensive. Therefore, I feel that the amendment would be adding a new clause which would be outside the purposes of the Bill and which would fundamentally upset the relationships between central and local government.

Baroness DAVID

If the noble Baroness had said that she would take this matter back, consider doing something, and then let us know at Report stage, I would have withdrawn the amendment, but I am afraid that I cannot accept her response. We are asking for proposals to be made by a certain number of local authorities, not by any means all of them. We are not really asking the Secretary of State to do anything about them. We are asking that proposals should he made by local authorities so that information can be given to parents and people in the area to enable them to know in cases where there are secondary modern schools that they are getting a fair share; and if they are not, the parents, teachers and others can make a fuss. We want to ensure that that information is available, and we would hope that if the information has to be available, the allocation would be fair. If the noble Baroness is not prepared to take back the amendment and come forward with a suggestion at the Report Stage, we shall have to press it.


I should like to emphasise my belief in representative local government by saying that I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is entirely right on the question of what we must leave to local authorities. If the Opposition really are to press the amendment, I think that I will be voting with the Conservatives on an educational matter for the first time in the whole of my life.

Viscount SIMON

I should like to add one point to what I said earlier. I would have been happier if the noble Baroness had been prepared to withdraw the amendment, but I should be inclined to support her for this reason. I was a little concerned about what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said about it being the duty of the education authorities to distribute their resources in order to meet the needs of the aptitude and ability of the pupils. I accept, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, points out, that local education authorities are the authorities involved and that we should not interfere with them too much, but I am a little worried about authorities whose very ethos suggests that those in the secondary modern schools are of lesser aptitude and ability and therefore do not need so much education. This seems to me to be the dangerous aspect. I do not think that that would happen very often, but I should like to feel that there would be a prod to the effect that it must be remembered that everybody should get their fair share.

.56 p.m.

On Question, Whet her the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 62; Not-Contents, 111.

Amherst, E. Hatch of Lusby, L. Peart, L.
Ardwick, L. Henderson, L. Phillips, B.
Aylestone, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Bacon, B. Howie of Troon, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Balogh, L. Kaldor, L. Rochester, L.
Banks, L. Kirkhill, L. Seear, B.
Blease, L. Leatherland, L. Shinwell, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Lee of Newton, L. Simon, V.
Brockway, L. Leonard, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Burton of Coventry, B. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Stewart of Fulham, L.
Collison, L. Stone, L.
Crook, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Strabolgi, L.
David, B. Longford, E. Underhill, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Diamond, L. Melchett, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mishcon, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Murray of Gravesend, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Ogmore, L. Whaddon, L.
Gaitskell, B. Oram, L. Wigoder, L.
Gardiner, L. Paget of Northampton, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Pargiter, L.
Hale, L. Parry, L.
Abinger, L. Faithfull, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Fortescue, E. Newall, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Northampton, M.
Amory, V. Gainford, L. Northchurch, B.
Ampthill, L. Glasgow, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Auckland, L. Gowrie, E. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Avon, E. Gridley, L. Pender, L.
Barnby, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Penrhyn, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Rankeillour, L.
Bellwin, L. Hanworth, V. Reay, L.
Belstead, L. Hawke, L. Robbins, L.
Bessborough, E. Henley, L. Rochdale, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hornsby-Smith, B. Romney, E.
Camoys, L. Hunt, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Carr of Hadley, L. Hunt of Fawley, L. St. Davids, V.
Cathcart, E. Hylton-Foster, B. Salisbury, M.
Chelwood, L. James of Rusholme, L. Sandford, L.
Chitnis, L. Kemsley, V. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Clitheroe, L. Killearn, L. Selkirk, E.
Cockfield, L. Kimberley, E. Sharples, B.
Colwyn, L. Linlithgow, M. Shuttleworth, L.
Craigavon, V. Long, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Craigmyle, L. Loudoun, C. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Croft, L. Luke, L. Somers, L.
Daventry, V. Lyell, L. Strathclyde, L.
Davidson, V. Mackay, L. Strathspey, L.
de Clifford, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Swinfen, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mancroft, L. Swinton, E.
Digby L. Mansfield, E. Trefgarne, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Margadale, L. Trenchard, V.
Ebbisham, L. Marley, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Eccles, V. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Vickers, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Merrivale, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Elton, L. Milverton, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Monck, V. Westbury, L.
Energlyn, L. Morris, L. Wolverton, L.
Exeter, M. Mottistone, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.5 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 9: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:


Those local authorities to whom sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Education Act 1976 applied in whole or in part prior to their repeal by this Act shall submit to the Secretary of State by 1st January 1980 proposals for the continual review of pupils' standards of educational achievement to ensure that they can transfer easily from secondary modern schools to grammar schools, and that the transfer would not involve the parents in additional expense.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment aims to make it easier to rectify the inevitable mistakes that the 11-plus examnation will make. There should of course be consultation between neighbouring schools on the curriculum and syllabus, and I hope that that will go without saying. But it is vital that the schools should keep records of the children's progress and achievements, and should review their standards of achievement, so that when parents have the intention of asking for a transfer because they believe that their child did not do himself or herself justice in the exam, or because the child has made a sudden spurt forward, there is something to go to in order to check what the staff in charge of the various subjects think of the child's ability and aptitude in all areas, and something to show to the grammar school head so that he can judge whether the child can make the grade in his school.

I am very worried that parents, when transfer is agreed, should not be put to more expense than they would have had should the child have gone into the grammar school the previous year. I am thinking of uniform and travel. Items of uniform should be simplified and reasonable in price; and particularly important is transport. If a child moves from primary school to grammar school as a result of the 11-plus, transport is provided. If, after a year, a child moves to grammar school because the 11-plus predicted wrongly or the child has made excellent progress, it seems totally wrong that the parents should be asked to pay because it is the parents' choice that the move is made. I have just heard of such a case in Cumbria, and I was appalled. The sum involved was about £200. It may well be that counties will make cuts in money for transport as a result of the massive cuts which are demanded, but my case is different from that; and it seems to me a particularly mean way to discriminate. I think the Committee must be agreed on that, and I trust the amendment will be accepted. I beg to move.

Baroness BACON

Because of the way in which the Marshalled List has been drawn up, with three clauses put together and the names at the top, my name is added as supporting this new clause, but in fact I signed every one of the amendments except this one. I do not blame anybody—these things happen—but I want to explain why I did not sign this particular amendment. It is not because I disagree with my noble friend's intentions to try to make transfers more satisfactory, but because I believe there is no satisfactory method. I have never come across any satisfactory method of transferring children from secondary modern schools to grammar schools. In fact, I do not think there is one.

First, if you have several secondary modern schools there must be some standard as between the heads of those secondary modern schools, because one child might be considered excellent in one secondary modern school whereas a child of equal ability might not be so considered in another. But my experience has been that it has turned mostly on the whims or the choices of the heads of the grammar schools. They do not like children being transferred from secondary modern schools; they do not like it one little bit. They have only to say, " We have not got room for these children ", or, perhaps, that they are backward in French or some other language, and the child is not transferred. It may be that in some cases it is the local education authority which decides this, but I feel that it is the head teachers mainly—and it is not fair.

I can recall a case where several children in a mixed school were put forward to transfer to a separate boys' grammar school and a girls' grammar school. Six boys were selected and three girls. One of the girls was higher in every subject than any of the six boys. The boys' grammar school accepted all six boys; and all three of the girls were rejected. This is a case which I took up on behalf of the girl who was so brilliant and who was always top of the form. It was only after much pressure that the local authority transferred her. The reason that the headmistress of the girls' grammar school gave for not accepting the girl was that she had not taken French as a subject and would not be able to catch up. It was my great pleasure three years afterwards to go to this girl's grammar school to present prizes and to present this girl with the form prize for French in her year. I give this example only because I do not think that transfer at 13 or at any other age from a secondary modern school to a grammar school is a satisfactory way of dealing with the 11-plus examination. That was the reason why I did not put my name to this amendment; although I agree with my noble friends in trying to get a better situation than has existed.


I would be inclined to support this amendment. Unless I hear something convincing from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, against it, I shall do so. I have always been in favour of the ability to transfer from one type of school to another because it is of the greatest importance that every child in our kingdom should get the eduation suited to him or her. As everybody who has taught (as I have for many years) must know, some children are late developers. If it appears when they have gone to, say, a secondary modern school that they have turned out to be a great deal more talented than was originally thought, it is only right that they should be enabled to transfer. The noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, asked how they are to do it and who is to decide. I should have thought that that was simple. It should be a matter of mutual agreement between the teaching staff of the grammar school and of the secondary modern school and of the parents. Let the parents have a say in this. As to her statement that grammar schools do not like taking pupils from secondary modern schools, I am afraid that I do not know where she got evidence for such a statement. My own experience is to the contrary. I hope there will be no serious objection to this.

Baroness YOUNG

I am sure that we should all have sympathy with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady David, about the importance of consultation on the curriculum and the syllabus between different types of schools and the ability to make transfers easier. The point about consultation on the curriculum is important in the context of falling rolls. It is important in the present difficulties we have with so many schools at this time. As to the point that she makes about transfer, the fact is that were we to put into a Bill a requirement like this, we should be disturbing the balance between central and local government. The Secretary of State for Education and Science has never had a responsibility to inquire in detail and to be responsible in detail for transfer arrangements, whatever they may be, between schools. Therefore, it would be a quite new relationship between central and local government to write a provision of this kind into this Bill.

The noble Baroness made two points about any extra expense that would be involved. As she will know, the responsibility over school uniforms and for those who can, in certain circumstances, be assisted with payment for school uniforms is, again, the responsibility of local education authorities. The ways in which authorities use their powers to help those who cannot afford school uniform vary considerably, but the arrangements are at the authorities' discretion. Again, to draw up a national scheme would be something that would be quite new and not something which, at this stage on this particular Bill, we would feel to be the right thing to do.

On the point about school transport, which can be an extra expense, again the Education Act lays down rules about school transport and leaves to the local education authorities the arrangements they make for the provision of transport: except that local education authorities are required to provide or to pay for transport between a child's home and the school, where the school is the nearest suitable and is more distant than the so-called " walking distance " for secondary pupils. This distance is defined as three miles. Beyond this minimum duty, authorities have wide discretionary powers to give assistance to any child not entitled to free transport. Again, to legislate in a general way about transport beyond what is already laid down would, I think, be altering the balance between central and local governments. This amendment, like the previous one, would go fundamentally against the present relationship; and it is because it would go fundamentally against this important but rather delicate relationship between central and local government in education that I cannot accept this amendment, either.

6.17 p.m.


I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, made a very good speech in favour of this amendment even though she seemed to be disclaiming her signature. Not only did she point out one of the very bad cases which occur of difficulty in transferring, but also, in the reference she made about headmasters and headmistresses of grammar schools who do not want to accept pupils from secondary modern schools—and, although there may not be many, there are undoubtedly some—she pointed out something which needs psychologically to be broken down. One of the worst things that happen in the division of schools under the non-comprehensive system is this feeling of, " We of the grammar schools … " which in fact is not matched by a corresponding pride of, " We of the secondary modern … ". If only we could have found some way of making a parity of esteem, it would have been much better.

When I was in Hong Kong, it was said (with I do not know how much truth) that one of the reasons why very little racial conflict existed there was that the Chinese, the English and the Portuguese each heartily despised the other two. It is undoubtedly true that you can get better results if everyone has a pride in what they are themselves doing. You can break down this division between the two whereby one seems to be an élite and the other seems to be " the rest " by making certain it is a continuum and that there can be movement between the two. It makes for a better relationship between schools.

I have a suggestion to make to the noble Baroness, Lady David, which (I do not know) might be of help. I take the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, was making about again disturbing the relationship between the Secretary of State and the local authorities. This business of submitting proposals semes to me to be going over that edge again in a way which I do not think is very healthy. Would it not be acceptable, or more acceptable, if at a later stage of this Bill—and only this particular clause is involved—a clause was inserted declaring a general duty of local education authorities to behave in this way without setting up any machinery, without, I admit, putting any teeth in it, but just to put that down as a general duty? We know from our experience—and some of us may have forgotten in a period when there have been so many comprehensive schools about—how often it was almost impossible to move from one school to the other. It would be very useful to insert this general duty so people like the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, could put forward the point when they were putting on pressure and could point to the duty without necessarily erecting a central and local set-up like this with forms passing to and fro.


This afternoon and this debate has been an immense frustration at a number of levels. I have felt frustrated as a member of this Committee. I have heard Second Reading speeches made not once but three and four times by individual members of the Committee at what is the incorrect constitutional point to make them. It has been a frustration as a Welshman to have heard other people talking and not to have had time to talk myself. It has been a frustration as a teacher with 32 years' of service actually in the classroom at various levels, both teaching children and teaching teachers. It has been a frustration too as one who believes that it is essential to select bright children and to give them particular attention, so there need not have been any contradiction in the debate.

I am not going to fall into the trap of making a Second Reading speech, but the matter of grave urgency at the core of this debate is whether the teachers in the schools, and the parents of the children who are under their tuition, are satisfied that their children are getting the best education available. In this context, and germane to this particular amendment, I want to say that sympathy is not enough. The National Union of Teachers, for instance, cannot feed its membership and the concern of its membership on sympathy, nor can the delicate balance—I do not quote this ironically—between central Government and local government be maintained on sympathy, it can only be maintained on hard cash. When a Government whatever Government—cut the central allowance to be made for education and simultaneously make cuts all round the board that affect education, then one gets frustrated teachers and, in the end, disillusioned parents.

Report after report has pointed out over the past 40 years that the greatest single element in the education of any child is the attitude of the parents of that child to the school. I have declared my interest; I should be happier about sympathy, I should be happier still about empathy, if I believed the people whose parents had showed their concern by buying for them the best possible education that they could afford were equally with me in saying that this nation should buy—and must buy—the best possible education it can for all its children. That does not involve transferring them around; it involves seeing that the schools in which they are know that they have the confidence of the Government and the people who run this country.

Baroness YOUNG

I must reply to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, because we have not mentioned Wales at all. This Bill applies to Wales, though the particular authorities involved are not, so far as I know, in Wales but are in England. I should like to assure him that we believe that the education system for all our children is very important. We should not as a country be spending currently £8,000 million upon it if we did not believe that to be so.

Baroness DAVID

I have listened to what the noble Baroness has said and to the other speeches, particularly to what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has said about the possibility of introducing at the Report stage a general duty clause. I should like to have time to think about that and so at this moment I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.25 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 10: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

Proportion allocated to different types of secondary schools

. Those local authorities to whom sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Education Act 1976 applied in whole or in part, prior to their repeal by this Act, shall submit to the Secretary of State by 1st January 1980 proposals for the proportions in which children shall be allocated to secondary schools of different types over the next ten years.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment attempts to deal with the problem of falling rolls, which I raised at Second Reading. The Minister said that action would be taken in the Bill to be brought in in the autumn. That Bill will not be passed for a very considerable time, I guess; and the problem of falling rolls is immediate: it is with us now. We all realise the difficulty of closing schools; but we want some statement to be made by local authorities about the numbers going to the various schools, grammar and secondary modern, so that the grammar schools cannot poach from the rest to keep up their numbers and fill their schools, regardless of what happens to the wretched schools which are depleted and left with less and less children of even perhaps average ability, and reducing the stimulus that research has proved comes from a good academic mix.

I referred on Tuesday to Professor Rutter's research and also to the danger of reducing morale of the staff in schools which have been depleted. I anticipate comments from the Government that there were objections in the past to a fixed number each year going to direct grant schools, et cetera, as it was not the case that every year the numbers of children of a certain high IQ were the same. Of course, there are objections to fixed numbers. However, this amendment asks for proportions, which is not quite the same. The situation caused by falling rolls over the next decade is so serious that planned admission limits are essential for the better management and fairer management of education. I commend this amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

As the noble Baroness, Lady David, has said quite correctly, when we bring in our second Education Bill we shall be dealing with the very important problem which she has identified, that of falling rolls and the problem of keeping up the numbers of pupils adequately in a given number of the authorities' schools. I cannot say more at this stage of the detail of our proposals, but it will include giving powers to local authorities on admission limits. Clearly, one must maintain a balance between parental choice and the wise use of resources. It is, as the noble Baroness will appreciate, again another balance in the educational world that we need to maintain.

We are conscious of the point and the very real problems that falling rolls present, and the consequence of having schools that are over-subscribed and schools that are under-subscribed. This is a matter to which we shall be giving attention. I hope therefore that, with my assurance that in our second Education Bill we shall have an opportunity to debate this matter again at considerable length, the noble Baroness will have an opportunity to look at the proposals that we shall bring forward, and that she will recognise that this is not the best place to introduce an element which this new amendment introduces into this Bill because it is not germane to the central issue of this Bill. I hope that, with that assurance, she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness DAVID

Again, I do not feel entirely happy about the situation which is going to occur in these authorities which will be affected by this Bill. However, with the assurances from the noble Baroness, and I hope an assurance that a very close eye will be kept on what is happening, I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.