HL Deb 15 April 1986 vol 473 cc620-57

House again in Committee on Clause 16.

Lord Harris of Greenwich had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 47:

Page 19, line 33, at end insert— ("( ) It shall be the duty of every local education authority to forbid the pursuit of partisan political activities in their primary schools as part of school life, whether in their schools or elsewhere.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has already been discussed and so I do not propose to move it.

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 19, line 33, at end insert— ("( ) It shall be the duty of every local education authority to forbid the teaching or discussion of any subject in any school in a manner likely to undermine commitment to parliamentary democracy or the rule of law in England and Wales.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is in the spirit of the draft guidelines discussed in the debate on the previous amendment that were circulated for comment by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on the teaching of politically-controversial issues. If I quote a few of the relevant words from those guidelines, the incompatibility will be apparent: It is part of the task of schools and colleges to promote the attitudes, knowledge and skills which are necessary for the preservation of our society's fundamental values, notably its commitment to our parliamentary democracy, the freedom of the individual within the law, and the equality of all citizens under the law". I believe that the majority of our citizens would agree with those words.

I wish that we did not have to consider the necessity for amendments such as this, but recent developments show that we would indeed be wise to enshrine that principle in law. I shall give just a few examples of why that is so. First, there is a growing number of teachers who hold political views that do not support democracy and the rule of law. I refer, for example, to members of the Socialist Workers Party whose credo, published in the Socialist Worker every week, is "Where we stand" and who proclaim an explicit commitment to, Revolution, not reform … the present system cannot be patched up or reformed … it has to be overthrown".

Also, the Socialist Workers Party in its youth paper proclaims that it is the party that, fights back at school, builds the National Union of School Students and CND". and works with young people, fighting with the police on the streets and down on the picket line". We know that there are significant numbers of teachers committed to such revolutionary politics. A recent report in The Times Educational Supplement revealed that the Inner London Teachers' Association with 13,500 members—which is just over one-half the capital's teachers—has been dominated by the Socialist Teachers' Alliance, which is a broad coalition that includesTrotskyists, communists and anarchists. The Socialist Workers Party is also active in that association.

As well, a recent report in the Daily Telegraph, on 11th April, describes one such classroom revolutionary, Mr. Shaun Doherty, and quotes him as saying: I belong to a revolutionary organisation, the Socialist Workers Party … obviously both inside and outside school I seek to raise political issues". Mr. Doherty is currently president of Islington's branch of the National Union of Teachers. His three brothers all teach in London comprehensives and, according to the report, two of them are Socialist Workers Party members and the other is a sympathiser.

A former teacher at the school in North London where Mr. Doherty now teaches remembers it as, the sort of place where the Left-wing in the staffroom affected almost everything being done in the school, controlling a lot of the curriculum reform and internal promotion". Anne Sofer, commenting on such developments, regrets the fact that these days, the far Left are committed to politics, not to teaching".

It is of course possible for teachers to maintain a strict demarcation line between their political allegiances and their classroom teaching. Indeed, such has been the tradition in Britain, and I believe that the great majority of teachers hope that they still maintain that tradition and adhere to that principle. However, there are many Marxist teachers who explicitly eschew that division and claim that any attempt at objective presentation of contentious political issues is a bourgeois con. It therefore behoves us as a nation to take seriously the possibility that classrooms will be used increasingly for political teaching that might undermine commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

It is also in that context that the growth of antipolice propaganda prepared for schools needs to be seen, together with its effect on children. Not so very long ago, a student teacher told me of a very disturbing incident. She was sent, as part of her teaching practice, to a comprehensive school in the East End of London. She was trying to take a class of 14 year-olds for geography when, suddenly, the children nearest to the window started leaning out and shouting virulent abuse and obscenities. Immediately, all the other pupils in the classroom rushed to join those at the window, and to join in with their hate-filled furore.

The student teacher went to the window to see what was causing that extraordinary and very virulent response. She saw two policemen walking by on their beat. She told me that the most frightening aspect of that incident was that the children's response was so instantaneous, and yet so orchestrated, that it was obviously standard practice. She therefore inferred that it must have been condoned by the staff who normally taught that class, because it seemed to be a kind of regular behaviour.

We must recognise of course that no police force is perfect, and that legitimate criticism is essential. However, the stirring up of hatred of the police on a generalised and indiscriminate basis is a major step towards undermining respect for the force, whose responsibility it is to maintain the rule of law. It is in that context that Amendment No. 48, and a later amendment on access of police to schools, needs to be seen. Those issues are so fundamental to our education system that we run a real risk of allowing a potentially very serious situation to develop, if we do not introduce an amendment such as that proposed to prohibit the use of schools for purposes calculated to undermine commitment to parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

In case any Members of the Committee should think that there is no evidence of any attempt to undermine democracy or the rule of law in any of our schools, perhaps I may point out that there has already been sent to the Secretary of State a copy of well-authenticated plans by Militant Tendency, which were not intended to be published but which have appeared in both The Times and the Daily Telegraph, to undermine authority in our schools: the authority of headmasters, teachers, and so on. One realises that that is but the first attempt and the start of an effort to undermine our democracy and the rule of law.

I shall not trouble the Committee, because it becomes boring, with repeating all the effusions of the extreme Left-wing, but I draw attention to the fact that, so far as students are concerned, we have said what should be done about governors' meetings, the head teacher, and the teaching staff. I mention the teaching staff because the advice there is: Infiltrate the staffroom. Hint at unfairness, awkwardness, lack of communication of Head, of some Governors, of LEA. Question morals. Always support grievance procedure, whatever the grievance". So it goes on. Then, as regards students, it states: Offer to pass 'grumbles' to Head, to teachers. Offer literature"— not what your Lordships would think of as literature, but clearly literature intended to undermine— especially to senior students, offer to put school in touch with … useful organisations". That means kindred organisations to Militant Tendency.

9 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I understand that he is quoting from The Times and that the quotations come from St. Helens in Lancashire. Is the noble Lord aware that exactly the same material was published in Avon four years ago? It was quite clearly exposed as being a hoax. It is in no way a genuine publication from Militant Tendency, for which I have a considerable dislike but which is certainly not as naive as the noble Lord thinks.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Before the noble Lord, Lord Renton, deals with that point, I am sure he will have noticed cuttings from the Daily Telegraph, which by happy chance I have in my hands, which read: Officially entitled 'Guidelines for Members of Governing Bodies of Secondary Schools' "— this is the Liverpool document— the document was presented at Labour-led Liverpool City Council's Education Committee meeting by Liberal Opposition spokesman, Mr. Mike Storey, who demanded a full investigation. But it was … thrown out without discussion". No suggestion was made that it was a fraudulent document. It was quite clearly genuine, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton, if he does not have it, might like to acknowledge that point.

Lord Renton

It is rarely in one's long parliamentary life that someone who does not belong to one's own party comes so totally to one's rescue. However, even if the noble Lord, Lord Harris, had not done so—and I am deeply grateful to him—I would have had to point out to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that I am not talking of a document issued four years ago and then claimed to be a hoax. I am talking of a document which has been clandestinely circulated this year. Thanks to the vigilance of certain journalists, as recently as 2nd April a full report appeared in the Daily Telegraph and as recently as 8th April a report appeared in The Times under the name of that very careful and greatly respected journalist, Mr. Bernard Levin. Therefore, I really cannot accept the diversion, by way of an interruption by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh from what I was trying to say. I hope that he will bear in mind what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Harris.

The truth is, as was said in the previous debate, that we are not legislating for the generality of people and not even the generality of people within the great Labour movement. We are legislating for the minority. When it comes to having to stop what ought not to occur in our civilised, or we hope civilised, society, we are always legislating against the minority. When we had the Theft Act we were not legislating against the whole community: we were legislating for their protection. We were legislating against a small minority of thieves.

What my noble friend Lady Cox and I, and others, are trying to do is to awaken the mind of the Government. It is not difficult to awaken the mind of Parliament because Parliament is a very alert body. We are trying to awaken the mind of the Government, especially the Department of Education and Science, to the fact that if we do not take positive and firm action things that have started to go wrong, or potentially could go wrong, will get worse.

It is only every few years that we have an Education Bill at all. This could be said to be the most important Education Bill since 1944.

Baroness David


Lord Renton

Yes, it could be indeed, although there have been others since then. What I suggest to your Lordships is this. The case made by my noble friend on the threat to democracy and the rule of law in our schools is one which has to be taken seriously. Of course, if my noble friend says that we have no evidence of this I have a two-fold answer. The first is that all this information has been sent to him already. The second answer is that even if he had not heard a word of it and even if the Department of Education had remained deaf and blind—as it sometimes appears to me to be—we should still alert the department because it is better to shut the stable door before the horse has bolted.

Viscount Mersey

before my noble friend Lord Renton sits down, may I make a point which is directly connected with what he said about Bernard Levin. My noble friend is absolutely right. What was so impressive about Levin was not so much the text as the conclusions he drew, which were eminently sensible. He mentioned his own union, the NUJ, where the tail of 3,000 was being wagged by the dog of about 50 people—but perhaps that is not the right way round although your Lordships will know what I mean. That, surely, is the nub.

The militant fringe may be a minute percentage of the whole and they may be atypical, but they are organised, powerful and dangerous. Levin goes on to say that, there is no reason to suppose that any area of the country is wholly immune to this kind of infiltration and corruption of the educational process. Perhaps all those involved in the process, and in particular parents, teachers and governors, should take a moment to ponder the implications of this extraordinarily detailed battle plan for the conquest and ruin of education. I have no hesitation in supporting this amendment. I find one other relevant quotation. It is from Burke, who said: When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle".

Lord Parry

I am grateful for that extensive quotation from an article that I have not read. I am grateful in particular for the emphasis at the end of it which describes our schools as a battleground, because that is what the schools have always been—a battleground for the minds of the young generation on behalf of the society which consented in their education. Our schools were created in order positively to discourage those who would defeat the constitution which had been so dearly won.

The reason why I oppose these amendments is because all the time they concentrate so much on the negative aspects. If we want to take a negative aspect then let us look at the battleground of the school rooms in which these people—even in this quotation made by the noble Lord—are getting undue emphasis put on their ideas.

At the present time the schools are divided and their teachers have been disillusioned. We accepted this in the debate which took place at Second Reading—and I am not here tonight to rehash a Second Reading speech. However, I ask the Committee to accept as essential that, having admitted, as we did earlier before supper, that there is a great deal of agreement in this Chamber that we should stand against those who threaten democracy, that democracy itself is a system which gives the dissenting voices the right to dissent, and if the system of which they are a part is at odds then they will be heard far more gravely.

If we were laying charges at Second Reading, I would have harsh words to say about the current incumbent Secretary of State; but I shall not use those harsh words because I want the Committee now to understand that the great majority of teachers dearly wish to see the schools settle down. I have heard the impassioned plea from a serving teacher, who said, "God, I do not want any more apparatus than a key for the inside of my classroom door to keep the meddlers out". This is the attitude of the true, trained professional. I am so much afraid that, in the emphasis which has been put time and again, for the best of reasons, by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Renton, the view might be gained in the classroom that no one is interested in the massive service of the majority of the teachers against the odds.

What if we were giving tonight in a debate on education as much careful thought and analysis to the degradation and deterioration in the position of the teacher in society, to the under-funding of the classrooms and the decay of the schools, as we are giving now to this minority of people who will be chortling in their dens tomorrow because yet again they will have been given further information and further support for the ideas that they canvass clandestinely?

Is it quite sufficient for us to say that we are on the side of the teachers who are committed to democracy—which is the great majority of them—who look forward to the day when we can bring our classrooms back to the place where they ought to be for the teaching of young minds and for leading them forward to an understanding?

Let me add one positive remark before I sit down. Who in a democracy gives a thought to the teaching of the foundation myth or the foundation belief of society, as we were cautioned by Plato that we should do? Who does? Yet any totalitatian state which is constructed on the whim of any dictator begins at once to teach and teach the myth that they have a better idea than the idea of democracy in our part of the world.

If I could I would—and I know I cannot, because this is the dilemma of this debate—but there is no way in which I can alter this amendment to read "the positive teaching of democracy" because it would be a negative amendment. The Commiteee can see the dilemma. If we are so closely in agreement, why hammer the negative?

Lord Renton

Perhaps I may just follow the noble Lord for a moment. He has just touched on what some people regard as a dilemma, but perhaps he will think back to the greatest law giver of all time, to Moses and to the Ten Commandments. Will he remember that the Ten Commandments could not have been drafted without five of them at least being expressed in negative form?

Lord Parry

Since I have been asked, there were at least two greater law givers: Hywel Dda who coded the Welsh legislation, and of course Jesus Christ who said, "My commandment, the ultimate positive, is that you love one another".

The Earl of Onslow

I thought for one moment that my noble friend Lord Renton was about to say that Moses could not have drafted the Ten Commandments without the assistance of a lawyer. But one thing I should like to take up from what the noble Lord, Lord Parry, has said is that the teaching profession was held in much higher esteem 20 to 25 years ago than it is now. I also suspect—in fact I know it to be true—that the spending power of teachers is now 82 per cent. of what it was in 1938 while that of agricultural workers is 262 per cent. There has been a fall in the status of teachers. If one has a fall in the status of teachers, one allows worms in the form of Mr. Doherty to enter into the woodwork. There is a quote which is not quite the same as that which the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, gave. It is along the lines that evil only prospers if good men do nothing about it. I am not sure who said it, and I have not had time to check it.

Lord Parry

"Only prospers if good men do nothing"

The Earl of Onslow

That is right. I am worried that the good men are in danger of doing nothing over this because that minority worm can do very serious damage.

We have no conception of how lucky we are to have the society in which we live. We live in an especially noble society. It is a kinder, more balanced society than almost anywhere else on earth, and we are rather smug about it. However, I want it to continue in that way and I want our children to be educated that our society, for all its faults, is better than most others. I want our children to be taught how to rectify their faults through the methods of discussion, argument, listening and compromise; in other words, the old English method of self-government. There has been nothing wrong with that for a very long time. If one has people such as friend, comrade—call him what you like—Doherty, what is he doing? That man is making sure that he educates the children to no jobs, and in hatred and bitterness. How can we get that out of the teaching profession, and out of the schools, without impinging on individual liberty?

I have great admiration for my noble friend Lady Cox. I consider that she thinks very clearly. That is not meant to sound nearly so patronising as I suddenly realise that it does. But I am also sure on this occasion that the wording is wrong. The idea is right and the noble Baroness is on to something very serious.

My favourite author is Edward Gibbon, and when he went up to Oxford he said of his then tutor: "Doctor So-and-so well remembered that he had a salary to receive, only forgot that he had duties to perform". I sincerely hope that we can rid our teaching system of those schoolteachers who well remember that they have prejudices to flatter and omit and forget that they have freedoms to succour.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I begin by saying that I am quite sure the wording of this Amendment—rather like those we were discussing before we adjourned—could be improved as the noble Earl has suggested. I agree very much with what the noble Lord said a few moments ago. Inevitably, a debate of this kind is, almost by definition, unbalanced because one is attempting to persuade the Government to change a Bill before the Committee. Inevitably, one talks in critical terms about undoubtedly a minority of the teaching profession. That is perfectly true. It would be absurd were we to imply that the majority of teachers behaved in the way about which we are complaining, because obviously they do not.

We have to recognise also that an increasing minority behave in this objectionable character, particularly in London, where the Inner London Teachers' Association is run by the hard Left, as we know, who have nothing but contempt for the principles of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. It is therefore right on such an occasion to relate to that problem when discussing an amendment of the kind proposed by the noble Baroness.

I was mildly surprised that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, implied that the articles referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, were forgeries, or fraudulent or bogus documents of some kind or another, produced in Avon (I think he said) four years ago. As I endeavoured to point out—thanks to the courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, in allowing me to do so—that was not the suggestion of Mr. Derek Hatton and his colleagues in Liverpool when this suggestion was made by the Liberal principal spokesman on Liverpool Education Committee, who read out the terms of this document which had been supplied to him by a local headmaster. I am referring now not to Mr. Levin's article but to the document distributed in Liverpool.

I propose to quote one or two passages, because I think that demonstrates that it is authentic. I shall come in a moment to the reason for authenticity. I quote one paragraph from the Daily Telegraph of 2nd April of this year: Militant sympathisers on Schools' Governing Boards are instructed to try to wear non-members down by increasing the numbers of meetings and picking 'awkward' times to hold them. They are urged to 'drag out' meetings with long speeches on unimportant matters", and so on.

Those of course are exactly the allegations made against Mr. Hatton by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. It demonstrates fairly conclusively that what we are talking about here is a genuine document and I repeat that Mr. Hatton and his colleagues have made no suggestion at all that that is in any way not so.

The document makes the following suggestions to sympathisers of the present majority party in Liverpool who are themselves school governors. It is a recipe for anarchy and chaos. It says:

  • Closely question statements made by the headmaster implying concealment of information;
  • Seek to isolate the headmaster from staff and governors;
  • Ring up and question headmaster on all matters and seek to change the way he prepares reports for Governors;
  • Suggest unrest among parents, teachers and students;
  • Prevent headmaster from presenting a line of argument;
  • Continually question fundamental educational practice;
  • Imply poor deal for those pupils below average;
  • Discover whether the head has been involved in litigation and mention it;
  • Praise the practice in the other schools preferably neighbouring ones and ignore good exam results (at yours);
  • Suggest the head's unwillingness to allow student participation in running the school;
  • Hint at financial advantage for head in retaining 6th form;".
And so on. That is just one illustration of the kind of problem which we are facing. It is a problem which almost certainly would have been inconceivable 10 years ago, as those of us who have been members of local authorities know perfectly well.

Of course there was always a perfectly respectable Left in British politics, and by that I mean the Left wing of the Labour Party. We are now talking about people not simply in Militant Tendency but on the extreme Left who have a deep contempt for the principles of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, and it is that which impels the noble Baroness and those of us on these Benches to say that this particular set of issues should be considered carefully at the time when this important Bill is going through the House.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

I cannot resist saying a brief word. Like the noble Lord, Lord Home, I find this series of amendments unduly negative. I do not like amendments which exclude and amendments which forbid. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said about Decalogue, he asked the Government for positive, firm action. I should like to change the wording of at least one of the amendments—indeed, the amendment before us at present—from a negative to a positive form—something which the noble Lord, Lord Parry, said he thought was beyond human capacity to do. I shall have a shot at it. I would make Amendment No. 48 read something along the following lines: It shall be the duty of every local education authority to promote"— that is something positive— the teaching or discussion of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in England and Wales". Who could object to that? Why should that not be a positive action and a duty on every local authority? I cannot believe that any quarter of the Committee could possibly object to such an exhortation, or more a duty, to promote. I should like to think—and it may be naïve of me to do so—that if that were a duty laid on every local education authority then the good currency would drive out the bad.

Lord Parry

I second that.

The Earl of Onslow

I should like to make one brief comment in reply. There is an objection to that suggestion. If you say, "You shall teach how good democracy is", you will end up by saying, "You shall teach French", or you will end up like the French Minister of Education who looked at his watch and said, "All Form 4B are now learning about Ravaillac". That is the beginning of the slope and that is why that route is not possible.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

There is a danger of repeating the debate which we had ostensibly about primary schools before the break, but as we know it was a debate which trespassed on the conduct of secondary schools. I intervene from this Dispatch Box again on the basis, which I profoundly believe, that we are opposed to political indoctrination in schools. But that does not mean that we accept the need for the kind of amendments proposed now, still less the kind of arguments that have been put forward. If ever there was a case of a Zinoviev letter being taken up by noble Lords, this was it.

It is beyond belief with something which is circulated by one political party at a council or an education committee meeting, taken up by the Daily Telegraph on 2nd April, taken up by The Times in the following week, and has all the aura of plausibility in that it refers to Militant Tendency, that noble Lords who bring that issue forward should not recognise that the text of that document has already been published four years ago, and therefore that the document is clearly not a document from Militant Tendency in Liverpool but is something which at least emanates from another part of the country at an earlier stage.

I assure the noble Baroness that this is the case. Therefore the onus of proof that this is a genuine document from Liverpool, or St. Helens, or wherever it may be, must be with those noble Lords who adduced it in argument, and the evidence must be to the contrary. It is unbelievable that noble Lords should continue to make these statements in the face of the facts.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I find the use of the word "unbelievable" perhaps slightly excessive in the light of the fact that this document was referred to in public at a meeting of Liverpool Education Committee, and not one Labour member of that committee made any suggestion of the kind that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is now making.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am not claiming that the Labour members of Liverpool Education Committee are in perfect awareness of the facts. What I am saying is that it is we on these Benches who are fighting Militant. We in the Labour Party are fighting Militant and we are winning, and it is no thanks to those who distort the issue and the arguments by falling for this blatant hoax.

We ought not to damage the validity and seriousness of the important issues that we are discussing this evening by this sort of misinformation. Of course, it is not deliberate misinformation; I would not ever dream of making that claim. But this is information which is devalued by the knowledge that the text which has been quoted so extensively is in fact four years old and comes from another place.

Lord Renton

In view of what the noble Lord is saying, can he answer two questions? Is he going to say that the document which has been quoted and has been published is out of character with Militant Tendency or within their character? Secondly, can he say whether, following publication in the Telegraph on 2nd April and The Times on, I think, 8th April, there was any suggestion then that this was a hoax?

Lord Parry

Will the noble Lord accept that inadvertently, and in his anxiety, he is making certain that for the past 10 minutes Militant Tendency have had a seat in this Committee?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I have no doubt that there are people in Militant Tendency who would like to behave very much in the way that the noble Lord has been reading out, and that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has been reading out. I want to make two points. I say this out of great detestation for Militant Tendency and great confidence that Militant Tendency will not be an important matter, and ought not, as my noble friend Lord Parry says, to be considered further in this Committee.

First, they may be stupid but they are not stupid enough to set it out in writing in quite this way. Secondly, they are not going to win. They are going to be defeated. As a number of noble Lords have said, these are negative amendments. They are amendments whose wording is in danger of being pored over by the courts, and could be pored over by the courts in the context of a government who wish to use them in a restrictive way rather than in a liberal way. That is the real danger in these amendments, and that is why the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and my noble friend Lord Parry are right in suggesting that we should be looking for positive ways of dealing with the issue.

Whether it can be found in legislation or whether it is better dealt with by the guidelines put forward by the Government I do not know. That is a matter still to be considered. What I am convinced about is that in over-reaction, if I may say so, to the would-be assaults on democracy of a tiny and declining minority, this Committee is in danger of distorting a Bill which would be far better phrased without these amendments.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Seear

I expect I shall be ruled out of order, but I have been listening to this criticism of negative amendments; a criticism with which I very much agree. I should point out that Amendment No. 49A in the name of my noble friend Lord Ritchie is trying to say what has been said in the negative amendments in a positive way. When we considered this in our party meeting we took the line that the proposed amendments were too negative, and so we took the negatives out and tried to make the amendment positive. It may not be as strong as some people want, but would it not save time if we considered Amendment No. 49A along with the others so that the Committee can have the opportunity to consider whether it might be preferable?

The Earl of Swinton

I start with the alleged Extreme Left Guide to Subversion of Governing Bodies alleged to be by Militant Tendency. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, or the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is right but if this goes on I am sure that every noble Lord will join me in deploring any attempt to subvert the proper function of governing bodies. The best way to deal with such malignedly inspired initiatives is to have vigorous governing bodies, composed of people with the best interests of the school at heart and free of domination by local education authority appointees. That is what the revisions in this Bill for governing bodies are designed to achieve.

Lord Parry

Will the noble Earl help me? I am a little confused because I thought we were talking here about the contents of the curriculum. There is no mention of anything in the three amendments suggested for discussion which would lead us to discuss governing bodies at this stage.

The Earl of Swinton

I did not raise the subject. I am simply replying to it as it has been mentioned on many sides of the Committee. I think perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Parry, is right and we should return to Amendment No. 48, which puts a duty on local education authorities to forbid teaching which would undermine commitment to parliamentary democracy or the rule of law. I am sure that no noble Lord would oppose the intention behind this amendment.

We all share a concern, as the debate this evening has shown, that classrooms should not be used for any form of subversion. However, I have to say that, like Amendment No. 47, this amendment does not overcome the problems related to definition, evidence and enforceability. Again, if it became law, the amendment would present difficulties for the courts which we should not impose upon them in defining what did or did not constitute an undermining of commitment to parliamentary democracy. As many noble Lords who have spoken in the debate will realise, and as I am sure a parliamentarian like my noble friend Lord Renton, if I may describe him as such, who knows a lot about drafting legislation will realise, this would be a very difficult task indeed. I must, therefore, ask my noble friend to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend Lady Cox replies to that, let me say that Parliament is always asking the courts to decide difficult and controversial questions. There is nothing new about that. The whole of our trades disputes legislation from 1906 to 1984 has involved the courts in deciding questions they would rather not decide; difficult questions, controversial questions, party political controversial questions. But the courts are there to fulfil the will of Parliament. What are the courts for? If Parliament considers that there is a mischief to be suppressed or a positive aim to be achieved it is for the courts to do what Parliament requires. I must say to my noble friend with all the friendliness and candour that I can command (if he thinks I can still command any) that that is not an argument which should be put forward on this occasion, nor, indeed, on many others.

Baroness Cox

Once again I should like to thank most sincerely all noble Lords who have responded so warmly to the spirit of this amendment and made such constructive contributions about the wording as it currently stands. Let me say one word about the so-called "wreckers' charter" which has been the subject of a certain amount of dispute. I suggest that it is not so much the genesis of that wreckers' charter which matters as the results of its being put into practice.

I have recently received a letter from a parent-governor of a governing body who described in great detail how the implementation, line by line, of such details as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, read out with great effect, was carried out at a meeting of a school governing body; and it was devastating in its results. So, whether or not its original genesis was the Militant Tendency, what matters is that there are politically motivated people who are prepared to put into effect the kind of recommendation in that wreckers' charter, and it is that which is very serious.

Returning to the amendment before us, let me say that I take sincerely the comments that were made, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Parry, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. Perhaps if we can find a formulation that is positive rather than negative that might be preferable, although it will be necessary to ensure that it meets the requirement of preventing the malpractices which the spirit of this amendment is intended to prevent.

With that, let me say that I am deeply disappointed with the response of my noble friend the Minister. I feel sad that there does not seem to be a willingness perhaps of the Government to help us in formulating an amendment which I think commands a lot of support in the Committee. But I am prepared to go away to reconsider the wording, taking account of the helpful comments that have been made. I hope to bring back an amendment which will command in its wording support from all parts of the Committee in the formulation as well as in the spirit. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, may I ask my noble friend on the Front Bench one question? Does he admit that there is a problem or not? If there is a problem, what is he going to do about it? If there is not a problem, we are all wasting our time.

The Earl of Swinton

I think there is a problem. In view of the fact that I have spent quite a lot of time telling the Committee what the Government are trying to do about it, perhaps it is the noble Earl who is wasting his time.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 19, line 33, at end insert— (" ( ) It shall be the duty of every local education authority to forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in any of their schools.")

The noble Lord said: This is the last of this group of amendments and it raises most important issues. I think that the issue on this occasion can be broadly described in this way. It is whether our system of public education should devote itself to giving each rising generation good academic training so that they become well qualified and worthy to play a part in life of which they and we can be proud; or whether, on the other hand, party politicians shall be free to pursue their own ends by bending the minds of children, as has been described by noble Lords on previous amendments, by foisting upon them their own ideology. That is the broad issue with which we are faced.

I can be brief, the Committee will be thankful to know, because of the various discussions that we have already had. But I should like to pursue a little further this question of whether we are justified in framing our amendments on this and on other occasions in negative rather than in positive form, because it is very important.

I remind your Lordships that the vast mass of legislation which Parliament has passed in order to—I use the old words of Sir Edward Coke in the early 17th century—"suppress a mischief" has been in negative form, just as half the Ten Commandments are. One cannot avoid it. And if it is the best, the most effective and the most enforceable way to do it—the way that the judges can most easily understand and interpret—let it be done in that best way.

I love to be positive and I am no great enthusiast for legislation; I think we have too much. But when we have a mischief which is acknowledged (and I think we have here, because there has been plenty of evidence of it tonight) we should not flinch on this occasion any more than we do on any other from expressing the legislation in the way that will work best. That, I suggest, will generally be the negative way.

It is lovely to be perfectionist, idealistic, trusting; but when we are dealing with a minority of ill-intentioned people it may not be the safest, and it may not even be the effective, way to proceed. I make no apology for the fact that this amendment, like others before it, has been expressed in negative form. Goodness me, "forbidden", is that a terrible word in our language? Is it not a word we use frequently to put things right? If we could say "Yes, thou shalt do" all the time, perhaps it would not be necessary to have much legislation. And we have to legislate in order to say "Thou shalt not do"; we do forbid.

I ask the Committee not to cast aside the intention of this amendment merely for what I think is the superficial reason—I say that with deep respect to the Committee—that it happens to be expressed in a negative form by using the word "forbid". We have heard it from both sides of the Committee: nobody wants the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in any school, except a few ill-intentioned people.

What, then, are we to do? Are we to refuse to do anything at all or are we to proceed in a simple, straightforward and, I would suggest, honest way? There is no harm about honesty in politics and in the legislation that this amendment proposes. We have had much interesting discussion and plain talk tonight. I hope I have said enough in moving this amendment to stimulate thoughts on both sides of the Committee and to enable the matter to be considered. If any noble Lord has a better way of achieving the object of preventing (if I may use another negative term) the promotion of partisan political views in teaching in schools, let him say what it is. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

I wonder whether I may intervene to put a point to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, as to how the matter should be handled. I have the permission of my Front Bench colleagues to intervene in this matter. I shall relate an experience in which I participated when I was employed as a national agent of the Labour Party. I attended a special meeting called by the Hansard Society with the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, a representative of the Liberal Party and myself from the Labour Party to draw up a charter to deal with the presentation of political matters in local authority schools.

The idea was not to ban political discussion but to ensure that it could be dealt with in a proper way on a programme drawn up by the education officer for the area. It was to be a balanced programme. We did not want to forbid the discussion of political matters but to ensure that it was carried on in a proper, balanced way with both sides of the case being presented. The students were to be allowed to discuss the matter freely in an impartial, balanced way.

Lord Renton

The amendment does not propose the banning of political discussion in schools.

Lord Underhill

The amendment forbids the promotion of partisan political views. One cannot put forward a political case on behalf of a political party unless one happens to be partisan. We drew up a charter. It was signed by the three elements attending that meeting. It was sent throughout the country by the Hansard Society as the way to deal with a balanced presentation of partisan views. That can only be done with a balanced programme which must involve and be drawn up by the local education officer. If people challenge me on that point, they can look through the records of the Hansard Society. They will find the meeting and the charter recorded. That is why Amendment No. 49A is a better way to handle this matter.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Beloff

I am very perplexed by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. He seems to want to do things in the most difficult way possible. On an earlier amendment, when I suggested a much simpler way of dealing with the matter—to have a curriculum of a kind which it would be difficult to abuse—he said that that was no good because I was a political innocent who did not realise how wicked men could be. I find that peculiar.

If the noble Lord had supported my amendment we should now be discussing matters in a different frame of mind. He says that we should not worry about the amendment being negative. It is not a negative amendment; it is a positive amendment. It imposes a duty upon local authorities. What puzzles me is what procedures are available should a local authority not act in accordance with the spirit of this amendment, supposing that it were accepted.

There has been confusion, if I may say so, in the minds of those who have supported the whole of this series of amendments. That applies rather less to Amendment No. 49A, with which I feel some sympathy. There has been confusion between two quite different things. The first relates to the actions of certain teachers outside the normal bounds of their professional conduct, which one hopes could and would be reproved and controlled by their ultimate employers. There is also the quite different problem of local education authorities which wish to look at these matters in their own way and promote things which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, would regard as reprehensible. There are local authorities which insist upon the spreading of peace studies in schools. That has nothing to do with the initiative of individual teachers. How is one to proceed? Are aggrieved parents to try to obtain an injunction—a mandamus in the old language—to compel a local authority of exercise its duty under the amendment?

It seems to me that by refusing to look seriously at the possibility of a national curriculum the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and his friends—I agree that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, supported me—have deserted the straight and most obvious route to the objective which most of us share. For that reason I hope that the serious discussion will be on Amendment No. 49A, which seems to me at least to hold out the hope of something upon which there could be general agreement.

The Earl of Onslow

Is not the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, suggesting that if the teachers or a group of teachers get it badly wrong in the Docherty worm syndrome, what we are asking is that the local authority should have the duty to make sure they do not? So the two sides of the coin are not divorced, they are very closely interwoven. That is an appalling mixture of metaphors, I quite concede, but they are inter-dependent, one upon the other.

If you have a reasonable local authority who takes what I think we would all accept as the old-fashioned liberal view of teaching, that it should be broad and what we would all like for our own children and what I would certainly want for my own children, that is all right. They can then check the worm syndrome. It is when you get the worm in the teaching profession and the worm in the local authority where there has to be some form of check. That, I think, is what my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, are trying to do.

I am in complete agreement, I have probably got the wording totally wrong, but I think there is a very serious problem and I do not, in all honesty, know how to deal with it.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

The question of Amendment No. 49A has been touched on several times. Would it make sense or am I out of order in suggesting that we should decide we are also discussing Amentment No. 49A at the same time as Amendment No. 49?

Lord Renton

I think it rather confuses the issue. We have some well thought out separate amendments; the noble Lord has proposed a positive method and I have proposed a negative method of dealing with the more limited aspects of the matter. If I may say so, I think we would achieve greater clarity of thought and it would lead to better results in the end if we kept the discussions slightly separate.

Lord Kilmarnock

With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, it has been agreed, I understand, through the usual channels, that Amendment No. 49A should be discussed with Amentments 47, 48, 49 and 52A. This has been circulated to all the party officers.

Lord Mottistone

We do not have that paper.

Baroness Cox

I am not aware that that had been agreed by all concerned in moving amendments. As one of the proposers of one of the amendments, I would have been a party to that agreement and I never gave my agreement to it.

Lord Kilmarnock

If she will forgive me, the name of the noble Baroness appears on the circulation list of the document I am looking at.

Baroness Cox

That is because I was notified, not consulted.

Lord Renton

Let there be no confusion. I hope I am not drawing unjustifiably on my experience from time to time in the chair when I say that the so-called grouping of amendments is done by one of our splendid officers of the House, using his own initiative, but with necessarily a limited political knowledge of what lies behind the amendments, but we are not bound by that so-called grouping.

Baroness Cox

May I just endorse what my noble friend Lord Renton has said? I took advice about whether I had to follow that suggested grouping and was advised that it was not necessary and unless we agreed at the beginning of the grouping that it should be dealt with on that group basis, they would be taken separately.

Lord Parry

Can we not agree now that the normal channels are fine when they are normal? But when they are blocked is it not better for the Chamber to get on with the business and should we not take it in the normal way?

Baroness Cox

May I take that cue and speak briefly in favour of Amendment No. 49? I should like very briefly to reinforce the arguments put forward by my noble friend Lord Renton for the necessity of an amendment on these lines by quoting a very small selection of examples which have not previously been mentioned in your Lordships' House.

I make no apology whatever for offering one or two more examples, because my noble friend the Minister seems to suggest that we do not have enough evidence to take this matter seriously from the point of view of considering legislation, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State also seems to think that he lacks evidence. I should like to offer one or two examples which illustrate the range of ways in which partisan—and I must emphasise that word—political views are being promulgated in our schools, in a way that is deemed by many people as educationally totally unacceptable. Very briefly, these are one or two examples within schools which are the hardest to come by due to understandable fear of victimisation.

Some time ago, it was reported that pupils at a school in Dover sung a "hymn" at morning assembly, which is meant to be for religious worship, to the merry tune of "Pop goes the weasel": Polaris subs, atomic bombs, Germ research in progress. That's the way the money goes. What price the homeless? I should like to ask whether this is what we mean by religious worship. Is it not a prime example of cheap political sloganising?

A pupil from Oxfordshire has written to a colleague claiming: For far too long, teachers have been exploiting the naivety of many, using their positions of influence by indoctrinating 14 to 17 year-olds. I have witnessed several incidents. A CND propaganda film was organised, supervised and advertised by two teachers and it was shown on premises in prime school time at … upper school. CND posters advertising the Bruce Kent meeting in Banbury were also shown on the dining room walls. My younger sister has also experienced something in a similar vein at nearby … comprehensive school. In the fourth and fifth years, current affairs become a compulsory lesson. In these lessons they have had a talk by a striking miner, a Labour Party political broadcaster … the above-mentioned, like the film, were unbalanced. No other material illustrating another perspective was given". I am sure that examples of this kind would violate the guidelines mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, but they suggest why we need to consider measures to prevent this excessively partisan promotion of political views.

Some teachers openly advocate using the classroom for partisan political teaching. One of the most famous proponents is the far Left teacher of English, Chris Searle, who is now multi-cultural adviser to Sheffield City Council and is applying, I understand from the press, for a headship at Abbeydale School. He has written prolifically. For example, his book Classrooms of Resistance advocates teaching revolutionary political activism. He is also stridently anti-American.

One other arena of great importance, illustrating the need for some kind of measure on these lines, is with reference to teaching materials, which often provide sources of political indoctrination and are often produced by local education authorities. As has been mentioned in previous debates, research into resources used for peace studies has demonstrated beyond doubt its general bias. Even The Times Educational Supplement has admitted that proponents of peace studies now have a case to answer.

Other kinds of indoctrinatory material have been produced for teaching "anti-racism". I criticised during an earlier debate a teaching pack on Auschwitz. Subsequently, after my criticism, it was claimed in ILEA's defence that the Board of Deputies, who had been consulted, were content with it. However, subsequently, the Jewish Chronicle has pointed out that Eric Moonman, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, has said that the claim by ILEA's chief education officer that the material had received that board's full approval was "inaccurate and misleading". Therefore, the criticisms which I levelled against that teaching pack, on what is surely one of the most sensitive issues that it is possible to imagine—the horrors of Auschwitz—still stand and are cause for grave concern.

It is evidence of this kind which indicates that it is urgent that we prohibit—I recognise that that is a negative word and I agree with my noble friend Lord Renton that we may have to think in negative terms on such a serious issue—the use of schools for the promulgation of partisan political views. We urgently need to prevent further developments.

This does not, of course, preclude legitimate political activities such as mock elections, the teaching of politics or balanced discussion of controversial political issues, especially by older pupils. Surely there can be no objection to enshrining in law the principle to which it seems to me the great majority of members of the Committee and certainly the great majority of parents in our country would subscribe; and to do so would help those parents in the spirit of this Bill by providing them with a clear source of action and of legal redress.

Recourse to a complaints procedure which leaves the ultimate action solely with the Secretary of State is not sufficient. Future holders of that office might not adhere to the commitment expressed in the guidelines on which my noble friend the Minister seems to place such great store. Therefore, on a matter of such fundamental importance it is essential that we take the opportunity of the passage of the Bill to enshrine in law the principle to which we and the vast majority of parents, and I believe the vast majority of teachers in this nation, are committed.

10 p.m.

Lord Parry

We can clearly see the dangerous ground on which we are standing and we can also see the straining of the relationship that has existed during the debate at times and the relationship where we share common anxieties. Sir Fred Clarke, writing some words which were a part of an analysis of British education and which were important to some of us at the time, said that the teacher standing in the place of the parent accepted some of the duties of the parent and that among those duties, since the parent obviously had the right to determine the direction in which society developed, the teacher, one supposed, had similar rights. So it has ensured in our education system that every teacher who is doing an adequate job of teaching is able also to bear some kind of parental influence on the development of the children. If you once threaten that, you begin to weaken the whole teaching system and to make the school system a far more ready prey for extreme governments if they come into power. It is the very ensuring of the teachers' professional commitment to the children that fundamentally supports the society in which we live.

I do not want to go into that at this late stage. There is a danger that each amendment becomes a restatement of a policy and that each answer becomes not an answer but a manifesto. We have the same basic problem. Can we find a formula which will enshrine the agreement of this Committee and not give a new focus to the people who want to see both this Chamber and all the other chambers of democracy defeated?

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

My understanding is that when the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, was summing up after the debate on Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 he said that he would take the matter away and think about it. I hope that when he does so he will not close his mind altogether to trying to find some form of legislation which will satisfy both sides of the Committee. I think that we are dealing with an emergency. That is why we ought to have legislation, and we ought to have it quickly. I am all for an inquiry, but inquiries take a long time and I am not sure that we can afford to wait a long time.

I should like to say that I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that the legislation has to be negative. We are dealing with only a very small matter but it is a very dangerous one. To me, it is like putting up a tripwire to stop a few—they are only a few, and I can see that—guilty people getting into the house and setting people up. Tripwires are negative. If you try to make it positive, it gets much more difficult to adjudicate on. We want something very simple and very limited in its effect. This amendment is not necessarily the best that can be devised but it is limited and would stop the worst abuses.

It is much more difficult to legislate for secondary schools than it is for primary ones. One can be more absolute in primary schools and say, "There will be none of this political activity". But one cannot possibly do that in secondary schools, where political activity is of the greatest importance. One must have political societies and one has mock elections, and there is nothing wrong with controversy for teenagers. I shall not go quite so far as one of my predecessors as provost at Eton, Lord Quickswood, who said he thought that the only proper occupation for a gentleman was controversy—and the more acrimonious the better. I may add that that statement was not agreed to by the headmaster, who lived next door to him.

What we want in all this is balance. I refer once more to Eton, where we try to get balance in our political society by having people to speak from all parts of the political spectrum. We have been fortunate in the past year in getting one or two who are somewhat to the left of centre such as Mr. Kenneth Livingstone and Mr. Eric Heller. However, they have been balanced by Mr. Nicholas Ridley, and we are looking for a little more balance from the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, when he comes in the summer.

It is very difficult to draft a Bill but there is no lack of evidence. I should like to say a little more about Mr. Christopher Searle, to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred. He is a self-confessed revolutionary. He is bitterly anti-American and he manages in some extraordinary way to make a very clear distinction between United States violence in support of reactionary governments, which he describes as bestial and wicked, and revolutionary violence, which he thinks is a godsend.

Mr. Searle is also a teacher of English, and says that he seeks to find the literature that will give to children the reality of the people of Salvador or of whichever particular territory concerns us. I do not think that that is much in the way of education. Think of the poor children: they will not have the pleasure of reading Jane Austen at all. That is the gentleman who, I understand from the Daily Mail, which is always correct in these matters, is currently being considered for the headmastership of Abbeydale Grange. He ought not to be a headmaster. We must do something to prevent that sort of thing happening. I am very glad to give my support to this amendment.

Lord Parry

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will allow me one question. Does he not admit that the real difference between his teaching of the pupils at Eton and my teaching of the pupils at the secondary school at Haverfordwest is most likely to be that his school and his pupils are secure in the society that they believe they can readily affect, whereas those that I taught might be more likely to be feeling the difficulties and divisions of society—and therefore be more affected by people who might canvass against that society?

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

I would not contest what the noble Lord says. We are very fortunate at Eton, and Etonians are very lucky people. However, it is just the same wherever one is—one must try to achieve a balance.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Will the noble Lord reflect upon the fact that the kind of political education that he has described at Eton, which involves having speakers from the Labour Party and from the Conservative Party as an adjunct to the teaching in his school, is precisely that which would be forbidden in local authority schools by the amendment that he is now supporting?

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

I entirely disagree.

Lord Renton

The effective word is "promotion".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not think that it is enough to disagree. The amendment says that the local education authority will, forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in any of their schools". If I understood the noble Lord correctly, he said that partisan political views were expressed at his school. It is not a significant difference to say that they are not part of teaching but an adjunct to the teaching. The fact is they were considered to be a valuable addition to the teaching at Eton and a valuable part of the activities of the school. It is exactly that kind of valuable partisan contribution (as the noble Lord said) which is forbidden by the amendment.

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

I think that the key word is "promotion". It is perfectly all right for people to express partisan views so long as they are balanced. What is wrong, and what this amendment seeks to prevent, is the promotion of views to the exclusion of others. I am not saying the amendment is well-worded, but that is the object of the exercise.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am delighted to learn that Eric Heffer and Ken Livingstone did not promote their partisan political views. In my experience it will be the first time in history that that has been the case.

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

But we had others to counter-balance it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I rest my case.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I move away from the important question of Eton to the Inner London Education Authority. A few moments ago the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred to Auschwitz, a publication to which I think she referred in the debate we had on the politicisation of education she introduced some weeks ago. At that stage I had not had the opportunity of reading this document, but thanks to my colleague, Mrs. Ann Sofer, a copy was obtained for me.

I think it is highly relevant to the issues we are talking about today, for one particular reason: we are not debating the activities of an extremist minority of school teachers, we are talking about a publication by a local education authority. I have the document in front of me. So that there is no misunderstanding, it states at the end of it that it is published by the ILEA Learning Resources Branch.

This document is made available in many schools in Inner London. It states: The materials currently available"— is the noble Lord seeking to say something? No? I am sorry; I thought the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was saying something. The document reads: The materials currently available from the ILEA Learning Resources Branch for teaching around the subject of the Holocaust are as follows. There then follow a whole series of examples. We then come to the document itself published by the ILEA. We have the heading: Links with today'". This relates to the appalling happenings at Auschwitz and other concentration camps where millions of people were murdered by the Nazis. The document states: Such discussions"— that is, on the subject of the Holocaust— could lead to more general ones, perhaps informed by an examination of contemporary events. What are the contemporary events? Here we have them: denial of human rights?" (Consider the Prevention of Terrorism Act …)". The Prevention of Terrorism Act? It is relating the Prevention of Terrorism Act to the murder of many millions of Jews in Germany and Poland during the Second World War. Other examples are: questionable police behaviour? … anti-immigration laws from the 1960s to the Nationality Act of 1982 … the GCHQ trade union membership issue. This sort of material, published at public expense by a local education authority, is being made available for teaching purposes in schools in inner London.

Following the opportunity that I had of reading this, I wrote to the Secretary of State. I sent copies to the noble Baroness and to Mrs. Sofer. I wrote to the Secretary of State on the 18th February. I regard Sir Keith Joseph as a courteous man, and in nothing of what I propose now to say do I wish to suggest that he is other than courteous in his personal dealings. It took him two months to reply. The letter I have says: I am sorry that it has not yet proved possible to send a full reply to your letter of 18 February about the teaching pack 'Auschwitz: Yesterday's Racism'. I take very seriously the concern expressed by you and other peers about the pack and have asked my officials to write to the ILEA about it. I shall send you a full reply as soon as our enquiries are complete". It is not exactly the most speedy response to what I regard as a quite outrageous example of misbehaviour by a local education authority.

10.15 p.m.

What I hope to hear from the noble Lord tonight is that there is a likelihood that we shall get some information from the Department of Education in the near future on this matter, because this is the background to the debates we have been having today. It is pointless for the department constantly to say, "Give us more examples", when we give them examples of this character and they are followed by almost total inaction on their part.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

May I remind the Committee of what I said earlier? There are 103 local education authorities in England and Wales and it is wrong for the noble Lord to quote just one education authority in the way in which he has. Is the noble Lord implying that all the 103 education authorities are being issued with propaganda of that sort? It is not so at all.

Lord Beloff

Perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord who has just spoken that though that is true, this particular local authority is responsible for a very large number of children; it is the largest local authority in the country. As a member of the Jewish faith, I should also like to point out to him that this local authority area includes a very large number of Jewish children whose families are deeply insulted by a publication of this kind.

The Earl of Swinton

Again I have to say that Amendment No. 49 does not solve the problems of definition, evidence and enforceability to which I have referred. "Partisan political views", like "partisan political activities", is an imprecise term and one whose interpretation by the courts would be seen by those who disagreed with it as itself politically partisan.

My noble friend Lord Renton, in a very good speech introducing the amendment, described it as simple and straightforward. I think the only way in which I can describe it as being simple and straightforward is in noting the different interpretations put upon it by the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh of Haringey and Lord Charteris, as to what would be allowed under the amendment were it to become law. I personally believe that the way forward is by the measures which the Government have already put forward. The proposals in this Bill to increase the influence of parents and to introduce more checks and balances into the control of the school curriculum are important.

If I can deal with the very unpleasant case of ILEA's Auschwitz teaching pack, I can readily understand the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and the revulsion expressed by my noble friend Lord Beloff about this "guide", the pack and materials, "Auschwitz: Yesterday's Racism". Some of the comparisons between Nazi Germany and contemporary Britain certainly seem quite obnoxious. Inquiries are currently being made of the local education authority about the use which is being made of these materials, and as soon as something comes out we shall of course inform the noble Lords who are interested in this subject.

I regret to say that my objections to this particular amendment are very similar to those on Amendments Nos. 47 and 48, and I must therefore ask my noble friend Lord Renton to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Renton

I propose to withdraw my amendment, but, quite frankly, not for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Swinton. He has again spoken of imprecise terms, and perhaps it is my fault that my amendment was not better understood. To me it is perfectly plain. We are not talking merely about the teaching of partisan political views; we are talking about the promotion of partisan political views.

I agreed with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said about this exercise, which he described under the aegis of the Hansard Society some years ago. But that was not dealing with the promotion of party political views. It was dealing with the balanced expression of them, which is an entirely different matter, and which, quite frankly, is not the subject of this amendment.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Beloff that we should have as complete a curriculum as possible. As he said, that will leave less time for the promotion of party political views by those so inclined. But I ask my noble friend, on reflection, between now and the Report stage to consider whether it would not be better to have his belt and our braces.

We were all impressed by, and enjoyed the interventions tonight of, the noble Lord, Lord Parry. I did not understand his last intervention about straining relationships, but I shall read his speech with great care and hope to understand it better. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. I regret that, although he has produced powerful evidence, as has my noble friend Lady Cox, we had no clear answer from the Government about how they intend to deal with—again I use the ancient word—the "mischiefs" which have been revealed.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Charteris, who spoke with the authority that he has. It has now become a matter of speaking with courage because we are always legislating in the negative, and my noble friend has had the courage to say that it is right on this occasion to legislate in the negative—to forbid the promotion, and "promotion" is the operative word, of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject; that is, not merely political subjects but of any subject in schools. That is what the amendment says.

I implore my noble friends on the Front Bench to give a lot of thought to this between now and the Report stage. Serious considerations have been advanced in all quarters of the Committee. We cannot leave matters as they are. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 49A:

Page 19, line 33, at end insert— (" ( ) It shall be the duty of every local education authority to ensure that in the teaching of any subject in any of their schools the presentation of political views shall be impartial and objective.")

The noble Lord said: I feel that after the discussion we have had on this subject there can be nothing further left to say. I feel like quoting George Bernard Shaw, who said "Gentlemen"—and ladies—"the subject is not exhausted but we are".

I shall say only a few words about my amendment. We are talking here about secondary schools. It is impossible to avoid political discussion in secondary schools. One cannot teach history, economics or political science without presenting political systems. It seems to me that there is a very important difference here between presenting and promoting. One has to present political systems and ideas. When does presenting become promoting? It is impossible to define such things. All politics are partisan in any case. It seems to me that such measures as were put foward in these last few amendments—and I am speaking particularly of the last one—and this applies to secondary schools, are unenforceable.

We are all agreed that Left or Right indoctrination of the young is deplorable. I reiterate that it happens only in a small minority of schools. The vast majority avoid this kind of thing, as do the vast majority of teachers, who, I assure the Committee, are honourable and avoid the discussion of politics in class like the plague. I have talked to teachers about it and they say "We do not touch it". They know perfectly well that some small child will go home and say "Mr So-and-so is a Communist, Mummy". The vast majority of teachers are terrified of that type of situation and, as the noble Lord, Lord Parry, said, they are very honourable about it.

To quote the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, it is entirely a question of how one avoids the type of situation that we have been discussing. The amendment that I am proposing is an attempt to put forward a method that should be the aim of every self-respecting teacher. It embodies the principle that all responsible teachers know that if one controversial view is expressed the opposing one should also be expressed. That is the principle that is accepted in the profession. It is not as though this is a new subject; it is the general code of the profession of schoolmastering that if you put forward one view you must put forward the opposing view. It is the counsel of perfection and difficult of achievement, but no one would deny that it is the right goal at which to aim and the right principle, if any, to find its way onto the statute book to check the politicisation which all of us fear takes place in a small number of our schools. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I like the amendment, and the Committee must be grateful for the moderate and rational way in which it has been moved. I was particularly interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, say that it is the professional objective of teachers to ensure that in dealing with political matters a balance is achieved and that if one political view is stated the alternative view should also be stated. My only doubt is about the wording and whether that objective is achieved by the noble Lord's amendment.

The amendment says: the presentation of political views shall be impartial and objective". To my mind, that does not quite say what the noble Lord was arguing: namely, that taken as a whole the presentation of political views shall be impartial and shall cover the spectrum and shall be objective. That is the criterion which is applied, for example, to television coverage of political issues, and I am sure that that is what the noble Lord wants. I hope that that is what his amendment actually implies and I hope, by the way, that Clause 17 permits the Bill to say that it shall be the duty of a local education authority to ensure this or that.

As I understand Clause 17(4)(b)(i), if the governing body disagrees with the local education authority then the governing body and the head teacher go their own way and the local education authority does not have the power to ensure what is in fact required by the amendment. I am sure that those are only technical matters which can be overcome by a suitable amendment. However, it seems to me that we have here for the first time in the past two or three hours a rational approach to the issue that we ought to have been discussing.

The Earl of Swinton

It would be very churlish of me not to look at this amendment in view of the fact that I have said that I shall look at the others, because it was no fault whatever of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, that the usual channels somewhere along the line became clogged. If we had been taking the amendments together I should have said that I would have a look at them all. Therefore, I shall certainly take this amendment away and look at it with the others. However, I must point out that again the words "impartial and objective" do not look very easy to put into law. Having said that, I shall certainly look at the amendment with the others.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I thank the noble Earl for his words. I would not pretend that the wording of the amendment is incapable of improvement. In fact, as soon as I had tabled it I thought of some improvements myself. Therefore, in view of the fact that the Minister has said that he will take it away and have a look at it, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.30 p.m.

Viscount Buckmaster moved Amendment No. 49B:

After Clause 16, insert the following new clause:

("Sex education.

.—(1) It shall be the duty of each local education authority, and of the head teacher and governing body of every school, to ensure that any teaching, books, materials or other teaching aids concerned with sex and human reproduction, whether given in specific sex education lessons or elsewhere in the curriculum, shall not advocate any illegal act or act of obscenity, and any such teaching shall comply with the religious and moral beliefs of the parents of children at the school and shall be given in the context of enduring family life.

(2) It shall be the right of every parent to be informed in advance of the content of any sex education to be given at the school, and notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) above it shall be the right of any parent to withdraw his child from any sex education to which that parent objects.").

The noble Viscount said: We now move from politics to the very difficult and delicate area of human relations. I should not be moving the amendment tonight with the leave of the Committee unless I felt that I had the support of millions of parents throughout the country who are gravely disturbed at the content of so much of the sex education in our schools and at the lack of statutory provision for them to withdraw their children from such education as they consider undesirable.

This amendment is supported mainly by Family and Youth Concern, the newly formed National Council for Christian Standards in Society, the Parliamentary Family and Child Protection Group, the Medical Education Trust, which has done a great deal of work on this difficult subject, much of it yet to be published, and by many other people. I feel, and perhaps some noble Lords will agree with me, that we can sense now the turn of the tide. More and more people—millions of people, I like to think—not only in this country but in Europe and elsewhere, are beginning to realise with ever increasing clarity the pitfalls of the permissive society.

The subject of human relations and sexual reproduction touches deep issues. It goes down to the very bedrock of our being. It was Sir Frederick Catherwood who said, and how true it is: The morality of the bedroom cannot he separated from the morality of the boardroom". What better place to teach the morality both of the bedroom and the boardroom than the schoolroom? But what do we find? Looking around in our schools today we find that in this sphere of moral relations, moral guidance, few would merit an alpha, not many a beta, and the vast majority, I fear, would rate gamma and even gamma minus.

At this stage I must try to answer three questions that will be in the minds of many of your Lordships, and they are crucial to my argument. First, what is the nature of this objectionable sex education? Secondly, what do parents think about it? Thirdly, is it really so very harmful? The literature I have received recently—and I have received masses and masses of it; I thought I had reached saturation point three or four days ago but it still comes in, and the letters come in—has come in the form of pamphlets, booklets and so on. This leads me to the view that a great deal of the sex education today, particularly in our maintained schools, is amoral, if not downright immoral, dealing, as it does, with human reproduction in the most provocative and explicit way, with no element of moral guidance.

Indeed, the theme running through most of this literature is that sexual activity among teenagers of whatever age is quite normal and natural, and also quite harmless, provided one takes appropriate precautions to avoid pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease. Only one of these pamphlets that I have looked at makes reference to the legal age of sexual intercourse, and in several cases sexually transmitted diseases are treated as something not all that harmful and easily cured.

What is particularly shocking—and I emphasise this—is that three of the most explicit and provocative booklets, Taught not Caught, Make it Happy and Learning to Live with Sex, are issued, or approved, by the Family Planning Association, and some of these and other similar publications are also approved by the Brook Advisory Clinics and the National Marriage Guidance Council. All these bodies receive substantial support from public funds. Some of the passages in these booklets are truly appalling.

At this late hour I shall not weary the Committee with extensive quotations, but I must quote from some of them. This is from Make it Happy: Incest is not particularly uncommon, especially among sisters and brothers, when it can be a loving sexual relationship". Another passage from the same booklet on bestiality is so revolting that I cannot bring myself to quote it in your Lordships' Committee, but basically it says that sexual acts with animals, other than intercourse, are not illegal.

In Taught not Caught there is a series of class projects for children of nine upwards in which various methods are used to persuade children that there are no rights or wrongs, that they must make up their own minds about who they have sex with and when, and that parents are oppressors to be circumvented. There is an almost obsessional theme running through the book to persuade young people to regard homosexual relationships as being in every way as acceptable as others.

Learning to Live with Sex contains the following passage on marriage: While this may be an ideal for individuals or society, many marriages do not work out quite like that. More people now are choosing to live together without formalising their vows because they may wish to separate later on, and some people are more tolerant of unfaithfulness or other close or sexual relationships outside marriage. I could quote many more passages, but obviously I shall not do so at this late hour.

But here are two quotations from letters, one from a schoolmaster and the other from a parent. The first is: As part of our relationships course, we had a speaker from the Health Authority to speak on contraception and abortion. We were very taken aback at the line she took, in effect: 'I am here to tell you how to enjoy yourselves without any unfortunate consequences"'. Secondly, from a parent describing a visit by doctors from a Brook clinic to a school in Bristol: It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this group of doctors were expecting, condoning and encouraging promiscuity". I am willing to concede that the Family Planning Association, the Brook clinics and the National Marriage Guidance Council have done useful work in some spheres, for example, with adults, but surely there can be little doubt that the type of sex education these bodies advocate, coupled with the widespread distribution of contraceptives, very often with the active support of the manufacturers, has led to increased sexual activitity among teenagers.

I now turn to the second question: what are parents' views on this problem? I have seen a wide range of letters on this, sent mainly to Family and Youth Concern. For the most part, those letters indicate parents' amazement at the explicit and amoral nature of the education given, the unco-operative nature of many of the schools' staff and, perhaps the most interesting aspect of all, the harmful effects of such teaching on young children, particularly the 9 to 11 year-olds.

Let me read one brief extract (and it will be the last) from one letter: My daughter aged 11 became very withdrawn after the sex education film—and for three years following would not have anything to do with outside activities if boys were involved. My son aged 12, a very placid, cheerful, unaggressive child, became vicious in the extreme—using his young sisters as punchballs, really frightening them".

It is interesting to note that the MORI poll conducted in January 1985 found that 54 per cent. of parents questioned considered schools had an important role to play in the sphere of moral guidance, but that most of those schools were not doing a good job.

Thirdly, and most important of all—this is the crux of my speech—what are the harmful effects of this education? First, it encourages early experimentation because modern teaching methods deal with projects where one has to make things, and surely if one experiments in the classroom the natural tendency is to experiment in the bedroom or elsewhere. It also encourages an irresponsible attitude towards sexual activity as something which one does as easily as turning on and off a tap. Some of this education, I fear, tends to foster the attitude of the aggressive male and the passive female. Fourthly, it has a very disturbing effect on young children.

There are two very important points here. It has been argued many times that if young people use contraceptives no harm will result from early sexual activity. How wrong that is! It is now becoming widely realised that children make poor candidates for the regular, daily administration of such contraceptives, particularly the Pill, and that the failure rate among children is very high. I need not discuss here the harmful effects of the Pill as time does not permit me and I am not a doctor, but it is important to say that the Pill causes 150 different hormone changes in a girl's body.

Another fallacy, perhaps the most dangerous of all, is that the wider availability of contraceptives reduces unwanted teenage pregnancies. In fact, in the decade between 1974 to 1984, the number of illegitimate births to girls under 20 has risen from 20,900 to 33,100—an increase of 58.8 per cent. Then there is a very important and very disturbing increase in sexually-transmitted diseases, now running at about 500,000 a year, more than half in the under-24 age group. In addition, there has been a spectacular increase in cases of cancer of the cervix in young people, and the latest evidence indicates that this is linked to the use of the Pill. This condition has risen in women under 24 from 15 per cent. of all cases treated by the NHS in 1972 to 27 per cent. in 1982.

But then, is it not also well known that there are these irresponsible sexual activities, the furtive fumblings in cars, and so on, with one ear cocked for the parents' return. How can that possibly be a good preparation for a stable marriage, bearing in mind that one marriage in three ends in divorce? And is it not also possible to link some of the appalling sexual crimes that are apparent nowadays, the increase in rapes, the attacks on children? Is there not perhaps some connection between these and this appalling sex education?

I hope that I have said enough to persuade the Committee that this amendment, or something like it, is necessary. I am quite prepared to admit that it may not be in the right form but the need for something like this seems to me to be absolutely overwhelming.

I have said particularly: It shall be the duty of … the head teacher and governing body of every school". Normally of course it should be "maintained schools". I realise that, and if the word "maintained" is inserted I should have no objection, but I want to try to make it as wide ranging as possible. You will see that this amendment refers to education lessons elsewhere in the curriculum. I say that because in the biology syllabus of the CSE and O-Level for this year, there is a section on the prevention of births—totally irrelevant and totally unnecessary. And, of course, I am emphasising in this amendment the importance of religious and moral beliefs of parents—difficult, perhaps, to take due account of; but not impossible—and enduring family life. And, thirdly, this amendment is extremely important because it gives every parent the right to withdraw his or her child from the education to which they object.

It seems, in conclusion, that we should get back to the basic meaning of education. I remember learning as a very small child the meaning of "education", which comes from the Latin word educere which means to "lead out". The Oxford Dictionary definition is, "to lead forth, to bring up a child so as to form habits, manners, mental and physical attitudes". Surely, this is the main object of education. It is not the stuffing of facts into the heads of children like the cramming of food into the gullet of a Strasbourg goose. And may I say, having spent nearly all my life in the developing world, that I have never come across any primitive society which does not impose stricter moral standards on their young people than ours.

This Bill surely comes at a fortunate time. It comes at a time (does it not?) when discipline and self- discipline are under increasing criticism, when any restraint on acts or word is considered totally unnecessary. It comes (does it not?) at a time when moral standards are flying away like straw in the wind and the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are rampant in the land. It is against this background that I beg leave to move this amendment.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

While speaking against this new clause, I should make clear that the Government endorse some of the thinking which underlies it. It is common ground that schools should approach sex education responsibly and sensitively, that teaching should be offered in a spirit which is supportive of family life, and that parents should be fully informed about the school's policies in this area of the curriculum.

The Government, for their part, made clear in last year's White paper Better Schools that sex education should take place "within a moral framework". In practice, this means that the physical aspects of sexual behaviour should not be emphasised unduly, or at the expense of developing pupils' appreciation of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life.

As to the need for schools to inform parents about what is to be taught in this area, existing legislation, in the form of regulations made under Section 8 of the Education Act 1980, covers the general point. Schools are already required to publish information about the manner and context in which education as respects sexual matters is given". In addition, there is within the framework of the Bill provision for self-regulation, in the form of the annual parents' meeting. It is precisely this forum that can exert pressure in relation to some of the publications to which the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, referred in moving his amendment.

In short, we have sympathy for the intentions behind the new clause. However, I must resist the insertion of the clause, both on the general ground that the Bill is intended to create a framework for agreeing curriculum, avoiding both specific exclusions and inclusions, and, in addition, because the amendment is not practical.

The first subsection is impractical since it appears to envisage that, in parallel, LEAs, heads and governing bodies will search through every school book and every teaching aid to see whether it advocates any illegal act or act of obscenity. Presumably no book or teaching aid, no television or radio broadcast and no outside lecturer could be used until they had been so vetted by all three parties. In addition, some new means would have to be found to ensure that no teacher, by word of mouth, strayed into this dangerous territory.

It would be almost impossible for schools to operate in such a manner. We must look to individual teachers to exercise good judgment in planning their teaching and selecting appropriate teaching materials. We should not take away that admittedly heavy responsibility from teachers. Only they can properly exercise it, subject to the regulations and to the pressure parents can exert at their annual meetings, or other meetings.

As to the idea that the teaching offered should comply with the religious and moral beliefs of parents, how are these to be obtained and recorded? How can a teacher with a class of, say, 25 or more children ensure that everything she or he teaches is in conformity with the views of up to twice that number of parents? I find it difficult to see how this subsection could be made to work.

Subsection (2) also presents problems. It is one thing to require schools to set out their policies on sex education (and, as I have indicated, this is the effect of existing legislation and procedures); it is quite another to make it obligatory to inform parents in advance about the content of each and every lesson. Schools would find this not only burdensome but also hard to achieve. Often, sexual matters will be raised spontaneously by pupils, and teachers need to respond there and then.

Subsection (2) also raises the question of a parental right to withdraw a pupil from any sex education to which the parent objects. Issues relating to sexual behaviour and mores may arise in all sorts of lessons—in biology, in health education, in personal and social education and in English, for example. A school could not possibly cope with a right of withdrawal in such circumstances. I therefore hope that the noble Viscount will withdraw the amendment on this occasion.

Viscount Buckmaster

I am deeply sorry to hear that reply from the Government Front Bench. I know that it will disturb a great many people throughout the country. I remind the noble Baroness that I understand it to be the Conservative Party's declared policy that it will work for improved family standards and for the development of the family as a unit. I am told that it is to be one of the principal planks of its next election manifesto.

I am prepared to admit that there are elements in the amendment which are unsatisfactory. I felt certain that the noble Baroness would object to the provision that required compliance with the parents' moral and religious views. I should have thought, with great respect, that that would not be all that difficult whether the parents were Moslems, Jews or Christians. There is a broad measure of understanding, surely, on matters of personal relations.

In view of the considerable feeling that there is about this matter in the country and in schools I hope that the Government will look carefully at the evidence that I have adduced. I say again that it is only the tip of the iceberg. I could have given a great deal more information. As it was, I fear that I spoke rather too lengthily.

If I had some indication that the Government have not entirely closed the door, I should be prepared to withdraw my amendment. I say once more that I feel strongly that this is serious and disturbing. I look forward to receiving a ray of hope from the noble Baroness. If I receive that I shall of course beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Baroness Hooper

I can only repeat that the Government do not believe that the door is closed on this topic. The Government are directing their efforts and intentions to perfecting the existing regulations and systems which we believe are adequate and which would not be assisted by an amendment in this form.

Viscount Buckmaster

I am glad to hear that the noble Baroness considers that the door is still ajar, but, with great respect, I do not consider the present regulations adequate. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Buckmaster moved Amendment No. 49C:

After Clause 16, insert the following new clause:

("Cultural and religious needs.

. It shall be the duty of each local education authority, and of the head teacher and governing body of every school, to make adequate provision, where appropriate, for the needs of all pupils in their schools, with due regard to their cultural and religious attachment.")

The noble Viscount said: I hope that I can move this amendment rather more briefly than the previous one. As the Committee will have discovered, it is basically about the ethnic minorities, although I purposely did not use the term.

I may be accused of hyperbole when I say that this amendment, like the other one, will probably have the support of millions of people in the country. There are now about 2.25 million to 2.5 million people in the ethnic minority in Britain. They represent about 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. of the total population. The largest communities are made up of Indians, West Indians and Pakistanis, followed by Arabs and people from the Far East—Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and so on. Those minorities are found mainly in Greater London, the Midlands, Yorkshire, Humberside and the North-West.

There is a very significant community in London, and one of the most fascinating statistics of all which I came across in my research for this amendment is that there are now 161 different languages spoken in our ILEA schools. Is that not a wonderful challenge? Of course, there are widespread variations in distribution. In the London borough of Brent, for example, the proportion of ethnic minorities is 33 per cent. Ealing and Haringey is 25 per cent., other boroughs are very much less; Richmond, for example, is only 2 per cent. In Bradford, I think there are some schools where 95 per cent. of the pupils are of the ethnic minority.

Of the religious minorities, by far the most numerous are the Moslems who now number roughly 1.7 million, and religion is tremendously important for them. There are over 1,000 mosques and prayer centres in Britain. I shall not weary the Committee with Islamic theology which I have mentioned before. But I think it is important to stress here that Muslims emphasise what I have called before the three Ds: discipline, decency and dignity. Their teaching on personal relations and particularly on sexual relations is therefore more powerful, more positive and more purposeful than our own. Indeed, that is reflected by the general behaviour of our British-based Moslems, as distinct from those who come from outside.

There are other important religious groups, the Hindus and Sikhs, but somewhat strangely I have had no response from them at all. So while this amendment deals adequately with their views, nevertheless it is the Moslems with whom I am principally concerned. This amendment seeks to make statutory provision for what many local education authorities are doing already. That is the point, there is nothing difficult, nothing radical about it.

There are many education authorities throughout the country which are making adequate provision for their ethnic and religious minorities. I am thinking particularly, for example, of the ILEA. They have devised a set of very useful regulations, and I can quote perhaps from one or two passages in them. These regulations cover the need for schools to make adequate provision for religious worship, and so on. With such subjects as swimming lessons, for example, it is offensive to Moslem parents to let their children take part in mixed swimming lessons, changing for physical education, for the showers, and so on. One has to consider Moslems' susceptibilities on that.

Also diet. Bradford have introduced specially slaughtered meat, so-called "Halal" meat in their schools, and in Birmingham there is a special Moslem consultative committee. So I think one can say that a great many local education authorities are making adequate provision for these ethnic minorities, but there is no statutory provision. It is surely reasonable that we should have this on the statute book, and in fact in London itself these provisions have not caused any difficulty at all. Headmasters have accepted them with good grace.

But there are still areas—and this is very important—where there is hostility to Moslems. May I just quote very briefly? I assure the Committee that this is the only quotation I shall make. This relates to 1960, before the guidelines were issued in 1981, and it relates to a London school. This is from a teacher who was about to take his senior children to the London mosque to celebrate their religious ceremony corresponding roughly to our Christmas. This is what he says: The children were all wearing nice clothes and looking forward to the trip to the mosque. Half-an-hour before the departure the head teacher came into my classroom where I was teaching and told me that I could not take the children with me to the mosque. When I asked the reason, he just replied to me that in a Christian country there was only one festival and that was Christmas. So he did not allow me to take the children to the mosque.

11 p.m.

It is against the attitude of teachers like that that this amendment will provide. An important point to make here is that in the view of many sociologists the unrest, the trouble-making, the crime that we find among many of these ethnic communities, particularly but not exclusively the West Indians, stems very largely from frustration and a feeling that their cultural identity and their religious needs are not being properly realised. I feel that this amendment, by making adequate statutory provision for these needs, should go some way towards reducing the frustration which leads to crime.

May I emphasise once more that there is nothing difficult, nothing radical about this? It provides a great deal of flexibility, as the Committee will see. It allows teachers to make such provision where appropriate—in many cases, it may not be appropriate—and the education authorities will not have to turn their schools upside down. For example, it should be very easy to let the Moslem children go and pray, to let the Greek Orthodox children attend their Christmas and Easter when these fall, as they do this year, during term time. We enjoy in this country a long-standing and widely respected reputation for tolerance towards the ethnic minorities, and surely the Government can demonstrate that that tolerance still applies by accepting this very simple, but at the same time most important, amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

We of course recognise the problem to which the noble Viscount has called our attention, and I can understand and sympathise with the intention behind this amendment. But I believe that it may have more far-reaching implications than the noble Viscount intends. I hope, by explaining relevant provisions elsewhere, to convince the noble Viscount that a further statutory requirement to this effect is an unnecessary addition to current arrangements.

Section 8 of the Education Act 1944 already places a general duty on local education authorities to secure the provision in their areas of sufficient schools in number, character and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities and aptitudes. The noble Viscount himself quoted examples of what is already being done by certain local education authorities.

If I understand the noble Viscount correctly, he intends by his reference to adequate provision in his amendment that this general duty on local education authorities should be extended to head teachers and to governing bodies. In my view, this is clearly impractical. The purpose of Clauses 16 and 17 of the Bill which is now before the Committee, as has already been discussed at some length, is to give statutory definitions to the responsibilities of local education authorities, head teachers and governors to enable them to make adequate provision in terms of curricular policy and delivery of the secular curriculum. In meeting those responsibilities, the Government would expect that the cultural preferences of parents—for example, the provision, where appropriate, of single sex schools—will be given due regard.

The provisions of Sections 6 and 7 of the Education Act 1980 relating to the right of parental choice of school give effect within the limits of what is practical and feasible to the general provision in Section 76 of the 1944 Act that pupils should be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.

The noble Viscount's amendment also refers to "cultural and religious attachment". I believe that the existing statutory provision for religious education makes adequate and sensible provision for the views and preferences of parents to be taken into account; and the Government have sought to encourage the revision of agreed syllabuses. About half of all authorities have revised their syllabuses in the past 10 years in a way that reflects a growing awareness of the multi-faith nature of their areas.

It would clearly be unrealistic, and would have considerable resource implications, to expect the education system to make provision in its programmes of religious education for the religious affiliation of each individual pupil where a very small minority of perhaps only one child in a particular school is involved. The existing statutory provisions respect the views of individual parents by allowing them to withdraw their children from the school to receive religious education elsewhere if the school does not adequately reflect their views.

The Government have no plans to propose changes in the provisions of the 1944 Act relating to religious education which have stood the test of time. I hope therefore that the noble Viscount will be persuaded to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Buckmaster

I thank the noble Baroness for that reply although I do not find it entirely satisfying. I am convinced, as I indicated earlier, that there are areas where due concern is not being shown to the various needs of these minorities. Nevertheless, I am prepared to admit that there is a fairly extensive statutory provision for the type of concern that I have in mind. Perhaps I can express the hope that this matter will be kept under review.

We have debates from time to time on the ethnic minorities—I initiated one myself—and the subject comes up occasionally. It is an important subject. I know there is resistance in many parts of the country—and indeed, let me face it, in some parts of the Committee—to making special provision for any of the needs of the minorities. Of that I am fully aware. I hope that the noble Baroness and her colleagues, particularly those in the Department of Education and in the Home Office, will bear in mind the point I made about frustration because I think it is a very good one. The performance of local education authorities appears to me to be variable. I cannot pretend to be omniscient. I have not travelled all over the country; I have been to London, the Midlands, Bradford and so on.

In conclusion, I ask the noble Baroness to give me some assurance that the situation of minorities and their needs and problems will be borne in mind by the Government. If I can get an assurance on that basis I shall be happy to withdraw my amendment.

Baroness Hooper

I think I can give that assurance to the noble Viscount that these matters will be kept under review. The Swann Report is evidence of the Government's involvement.

Viscount Buckmaster

I thank the noble Baroness for that reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Simon)

I am reminded that before the Committee discussed these last two amendments I failed to put the Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I may ask a question of those responsible for the management of the Bill. How long do they suggest we should sit until we adjourn? What stage in the Bill do the Government hope to reach tonight before we adjourn? I think it would be helpful to a number of us to know that.

The Earl of Swinton

I had understood originally that we were trying to get to Amendment No. 84A but I realise that there is little hope of doing that. I understand that we are to adjourn in approximately five minutes' time.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [County, controlled and maintained special schools]:

[Amendment No. 50 not moved.]

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 51: Page 20, line 5, after ("make") insert ("publish").

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak very briefly to this amendment. Its purpose is to ensure that the information indicated will be available on request to people having an interest in the school. An example of precedent for that kind of legal requirement is to be found in the Education Act 1980, which required all schools to make information on examination results available to parents on demand. That is important information in helping to choose a school that is most appropriate for children's interests, aptitudes and aspirations.

Sometimes, however, it was the case that schools failed to meet that obligation, and parents or others with a legitimate interest could subsequently claim their rights at law. It is similarly important that such a legal provision should be made in this amendment in regard to the important matter of school curricular. It is for that reason that I beg to move the amendment.

The Earl of Swinton

While speaking against this particular amendment, I must say that the intention behind it—the desire to ensure that parents and others are fully informed of the governors' statement of curricular aims—is one that I fully endorse. I hope, however, by explaining relevant provisions elsewhere in the Bill and in other legislation, to convince your Lordships' Committee that a further statutory requirement to that effect would be an unnecessary addition to current arrangements.

The present Bill contains provision, in Clauses 24 and 25, for governors to prepare and furnish parents with an annual report on their activities, which can be debated at an annual parents' meeting. I should be surprised if that report did not cover, in any year in which a statement of curricular aims was adopted or amended, an up-to-date record of those aims. If it did not, parents could request such a statement at the annual meeting. Indeed, they could certainly put in a request for the exam results, too.

In addition, local authorities are already charged under the Education Act 1980, as my noble friend has said, with publishing a range of information on individual schools. Regulations made by the Secretary of State set out in some detail what must be covered and include, particulars of the school curriculum". Again, I should be surprised if that did not include, when the present Bill is made law, the governors' statement of curricular aims.

In those circumstances, to add a statutory requirement for a third publication about each school would seem to be unnecessarily complicated and expensive. If in the event the expectations I have expressed are not fulfilled, and if there is any difficulty in parents and others gaining access to such information, then I am sure that the Secretary of State would be prepared to consider amending the regulations made under the Education Act 1980 to ensure that the statement of aims was made public.

Lord Renton

My noble friend has tried to persuade the Committee that it is all right for the parents simply to wait until the governors' annual report or the parents' annual meeting, or for the reports by the governing body and the head teachers—all of which are well ex post facto. What we want is for the parents to have up-to-date written statements published as they are made, and kept up-to-date. The situation that my noble friend the Minister has described is quite different from that which my noble friend Lady Cox is seeking to meet. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend the Minister will take this point away and look at it—it is quite different.

The Earl of Swinton

The parents will have a lot of powers that they do not have now, to insist and to have a resolution passed at their annual meeting. If they have to wait one year, say, for the first annual meeting then they can thereafter insist on having the reports published as they come out. I do not believe that there is any great problem. To ask for three publications about each school really would be very expensive and unnecessary.

Baroness Cox

I deeply regret to say that my noble friend has not met the point that I raised very briefly and upon which my noble friend Lord Renton expanded. At this time of night it is too late to explain the reasons why we cannot say that we are satisfied. We will not press the amendment at this hour but we shall study very carefully that which my noble friend the Minister has said. We may return with a revised form of the amendment at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton

We have perhaps gone far enough, although not as far as I should like to have gone—or, I am sure, some of your Lordships. I think we are beginning to feel the strain, so I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at sixteen minutes past eleven o'clock.