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Clause 23

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

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TRANSPORT: ENGLAND AND WALES

I beg to move amendment No. 139, in page 21, line 14, leave out clause 23.

With this, we may take the following amendments. No. 42, in page 21, line 41, after' charges', insert:

',not exceeding 25 pence per pupil per day'.
No. 43, in page 21, line 44, after 'applies' insert:
'provided that such charges do not exceed 20 per cent. of the total cost of their provision'.
No. 44, in page 22, line 4, at end insert:
'and shall remit that part of the charge which relates to any journey beyond 2 miles for a junior pupil and 3 miles for a secondary pupil'.
No. 45, in page 22, line 4, at end insert:
'and shall remit the whole of the charge for any junior pupil living more than 2 miles and any secondary pupil living more than 3 miles from the school which he attends'.
No. 132, in page 22, line 4, at end insert:
(c) where a charge is made on any such service for a child who attends a school which is within walking distance of his home or for any pupil attending a course or class provided in pursuance of a scheme of further education—
  • (i) the powers conferred by this subsection shall not be exercised by the authority without the written consent of the traffic commissioners in whose area that service, or any part of it, is operated and, in respect of any service or part of a service operated in Grater London, also of the London Transport Executive; and
  • (ii) the traffic commissioners concerned shall not give their written consent unless they are satisfied that there are no other transport facilities which meet the reasonable needs of the children or other pupils referred to in this paragraph.'.
  • No. 46, in page 22, line 4, at end insert—
    '(3) The Secretary of State may give directions to a local education authority to waive any school transport charges in respect of any child whose parents can show that their children had been given a guarantee of free school transport by the local education authority as part of plans for the closure, reorganisation or relocation of schools.'.
    No. 48, in page 22, line 4, at end insert—
    '(4) The Secretary of State may by order vary the sum of 25 pence mentioned in subsection 3(c) above, and any such order shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.
    Government amendment No. 134, in page 22, line 4, at end insert—
    '(4) In the case of pupils in attendance at schools, the charges made by a local education authority under subsection (3)(a) above for the provision of transport shall be at a uniform rate, that is to say, a rate not depending on the length of the journey or the school attended, except that there may be rates which differ according to the age of the pupil or according to whether the school is a primary or a secondary school.'.
    Sub-amendment (a), in line 3, after 'rate', insert:
    'which shall not exceed 50 pence per family per week'.
    Sub-amendment (b), in line 5, at end insert:
    'any such rate shall not exceed the maximum cost of direct travel to school by public transport within the appropriate statutory walking distance in that local education authority's area.'.
    No. 140, in page 22, leave out lines 12 to 15.

    No. 92, in page 22, leave out lines 16 and 17 and insert—
    '(b) the income of the parents does not exceed one and a half times the maximum amount at which family income supplement is payable to parents with the same number of dependents'.
    No. 49, in page 22, line 17, after' supplement,' insert:
    'or are in receipt of rent or rate rebate'.
    No. 127, in page 22, line 17, at end insert:
    'or an income which is less than 40per cent. above the level of either, as determined by the Secretary of State'.
    No. 50, in page 22, line 17, at end insert—
    'or—
    (c) the school is a voluntary school providing denominational education in accordance with parental choice.'.
    No. 51, in page 22, line 17, at end insert—
    'or—
    (c) the school provides instruction through the medium of the Welsh language or bilingual education which is not available at a school within walking distance.
    No. 133, in page 22, leave out lines 18 and 19 and insert—
    '(5A) In this section the expression "walking distance" has the same meaning as in section 39 of the said Act of 1944.'.
    No. 56, in page 24, line 10, clause 25, after 'charges' insert:
    "not exceeding 25 pence per pupil per day'.
    No. 86, in page 24, line 18 at end insert
    'and shall remit that part of the charge which relates to any journey beyond two miles for a primary and three miles for a secondary pupil'.
    No. 87, in page 24, line 18, at end insert
    'and shall remit the whole of the charge for any pupil living more than two miles from the school which he attends'.
    No. 137, in page 24, line 18, at end insert
    ';and
    (c) where a charge is made on any such service for a child who attends a school which is within walking distance of his home or for any pupil attending a course or class provided in pursuance of a scheme of further education—
  • (i) the powers conferred by this subsection shall not be exercised by the authority without the written consent of the traffic commissioners for the Scottish Traffic Area; and
  • (ii) the traffic commissioners shall not give their written consent unless they are satisfied that there are no other transport facilities which meet the reasonable needs of the children or other pupils referred to in this paragraph.'.
  • Government amendment No. 151, in page 24, line 18, at end insert
    '(4) In the case of pupils in attendance at schools, the charges made by an education authority under subsection (3)(a) above for the provision of transport shall be at a uniform rate, that is to say, a rate not depending on the length of the journey or the school attended, except that there may be rates which differ according to the age of the pupil or according to whether the school is a primary or a secondary school.'.
    Sub-amendment (a), in line 5, at end add
    'but such rates shall not exceed 50 pence per pupil per week and the charge shall not apply to more than two children in one family'.
    Sub-amendment (b), in line 5, at end add
    'and such rate shall not exceed the cost of the local charge for a two mile journey in respect of children up to the age of 14 years'.
    Sub-amendment (c), in line 31, after first 'rate' insert
    'which shall not exceed 50 pence per family per week'.
    Amendment No. 58, in page 24, line 18, at end insert—
    '(4) The Secretary of State may by order vary the sum of 25 pence mentioned in subsection 3(a) above, and any such order shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.
    No. 141, in page 24, leave out lines 26 to 29.

    No. 138, in page 24, leave out lines 32 to 34 and insert—
    '(6) In this section the expression "walking distance" has the same meaning as in section 42 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962.'.
    No. 59, in page 24, line 31, after supplement', insert:
    'or are in receipt of rent or rate rebate'.
    No. 60, in page 24, line 31, at end insert—
    '(c) the school is a voluntary school providing denominational education in accordance with parental choice.'.
    No. 69, in page 31, line 3, clause 34, after 15(6)', insert '23(4) and 25(4)',

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If time should permit, would it be possible to seek a separate Division on amendment No. 42?

    Hon. Members will be aware that the purpose of clause 23 is to allow local authorities to charge for transport to schools, whereas at the moment they have a statutory obligation to provide such transport free of charge. The purpose of my amendment is to remove the clause from the Bill and to leave the law as it stands, so that the free transport provision will remain as it now is.

    6.45 pm

    The reasons for my doing so are manifold, and they are based on the principle that to change the provision in the way that is suggested would be most ill-conceived and inequitable. I say that it would be ill-conceived because, first, it would put a charge on to people who have no way of avoiding that charge, as it is a charge upon them for fulfilling their statutory duty. They have a duty, which they cannot escape, to send their children to State schools. In many cases, with those who have to travel a long way to school, that duty is already a heavy burden in terms of convenience and of time.

    To add to that burden a further burden of finance would, in my view, be wrong. It is different from those circumstances in which people are having to pay higher charges for many things. Inevitably the economy forces that upon us, and in those cases a choice can be made. But somebody living in a rural village has no choice but to send his child to a school that is in many cases miles away. To put a charge upon that is to discriminate between those who live near a town or in a town and those who live out in the countryside.

    I object to a measure that is entirely divisive in our country, which we are trying to make into one.

    I have been listening to my hon. Friend's argument with great care. Is he advancing the proposition that the parent has a statutory duty to get his child to school and that it is wrong that he should be faced with a charge in order to fulfil that statutory duty? What about the position of the parent who is, say, 2¾ miles or 2⅞miles from a school who has a similar duty to get his child to school, and who receives no assistance of any kind?

    I do not, with respect to my hon. Friend, think that that is a very good point. I am not here to defend the idea that somebody living 2⅞ miles from a school should pay a transport charge or should not. I am saying that it is wrong to make the provision in much broader terms so that people have to pay when they are living far away from the school and have no choice in the matter.

    I consider it to be iniquitous that over the years we should have enticed people into not objecting to the abandonment of their own village schools on the ground that the leaders of the nation, in both major parties, said to them, in effect, "We are removing the village schools from you but we shall take your children to the nearest available State school." Now we are saying to them "We know that you have not got your village schools but we intend to impose a transport charge upon you."

    Many village schools would have been fought for with far greater vigour had it been known by the inhabitants of many villages and market towns that they would have to pay a charge to send their children to another school.

    For those reasons, I consider it to be an ill-conceived idea to make this imposition. It would lead also to the closure of many Roman Catholic schools. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] My hon. Friends say "Nonsense", but they can argue that with the Catholics who say so. Those who run these schools and send their children to them are best able to judge the consequences of having to pay a charge to get their children there. I say that it would lead to the closure of Catholic schools. I am not a Catholic, but I have the greatest sympathy with those who wish to see their children properly and fully educated in the school of their own choice.

    I look with some despair at some of our own schooling systems in which the whole concept of religion seems to be part of a humanist theory and has nothing to do with religion. The Bible is treated as a textbook on a par with the writings of Karl Marx. Some hon. Members may think that that is an excellent thing, but I do not. I therefore feel that it is quite wrong that Roman Catholics should find that they can no longer afford to send their children to a Catholic school of their choice, and will have to take them away and send them to a school which may in many cases not have any kind of religious instruction.

    The principal ground upon which I object to a charge being made is that poor families, living in rural areas and in villages, and working on the land—and very often in industries which are small and cannot afford to pay high wages—are the very people who will be hit the hardest by the measure.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware, in the context of his argument, that although the provision concerning Catholic schools, under the 1944 Act settlement, is being threatened by the Government's proposal in clause 23, the problem is not confined to rural areas? I can give him figures for the urban area of Newcastle upon Tyne, which is a very small city. They were provided to me by the education authorities. St. Mary's school in Newcastle has half of its pupils on free transport. Under the present proposals the proportion will be less than one-fifth.

    Order. As a large number of hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, I hope that hon. Members will be fair to other hon. Members and make brief interventions.

    I wish only to make the point, Mr. Speaker, that this is an urban as well as a rural problem. Indeed, in other schools in Newcastle the problem is worse than in the one that I have mentioned.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the point. It is true that the clause does not affect only people in rural areas. The whole idea of making a charge of this nature is widely discriminatory and divisive. I shall therefore ask hon. Members to support the amendment in due course.

    I consider that the proposal is inequitable as a concept and as a law because of the wide variations in local practice that will result from it. It will be possible to find people who are living within 100 or 200 yards of somebody in another area, and who will be paying a vast sum, whereas those in the other area are paying nothing. Where somebody lives out in the country and finds himself faced with a transport charge of £6 or £7 a week or more to send his child to the nearest State school, what does my right hon. and learned Friend suggest that such a person should do? The farm worker—

    With regard to my hon. Friend's last point about a payment of £6 or £7 a week per child, I ought to point out to him that the county that he and I both represent is proposing a sum of 20p a day.

    My right hon. and learned Friend is right, of course, but I did not say "per child". If I did, that is not what I meant; I meant to say £6 or £7 per family.

    Did my hon. Friend deduce from the intervention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State that he advocates a rate of 20p per day?

    I wish that my right hon. and learned Friend would do so. Perhaps he would like to indicate such an intention when he replies to the debate.

    I had hoped that my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) was about to remind me that the original plans of the Kent county council were to charge £3·50 a week for the first child and £2·50 a week for the next. Indeed, it may have been £3·50 for each child. That would produce the £7 per week per family which I mentioned earlier.

    There will be a wide inequity if two children are charged £7 a week to go to school in some areas, 20p per day each in areas such as Cheshire and nothing in counties such as Essex.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that there is already great disquiet in sonic areas that have different old-age pensioner bus pass schemes, and that the Government's proposals will duplicate that problem?

    They will indeed. There is widespread concern about the proposals.

    One of my objections to the clause is that there are no upper safeguards against the irresponsible use of the provisions by local authorities. Had the Government introduced an upper limit that would overcome the difficulty of poor families facing charges that they could not afford, I should be much more inclined to support the clause.

    What explanations are we given of the inequities and the injustice? How are we reassured that the consequences of this measure will be acceptable and fair? I regret that the only answer that I have received is that we must have blind faith that local authorities will act reasonably and properly and that we should pass to them all authority and power in this matter.

    Of course I have faith in my local authority—but not blind faith. The Kent county council was prepared to put in £3·50 as the charge for one child and I do not consider that to be a reasonable way of exercising the powers provided in the clause.

    My hon. Friend has twice mentioned that Kent had "put in" plans to charge £2·50 and £3·50 a week. Those were always proposals and the present plan, which has still to be put through, is for £1·50 and £2·50. It would be helpful if my hon. Friend would use the right figures.

    I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern, but my information was that Kent's original plan was for £3·50 per child per week.

    I have looked through the newspapers for reassurance that local authorities would exercise properly the untrammelled authority that the Government propose to give them. I have found some interesting examples of the sheer irresponsibility of local government spending.

    For example, the West Midlands county council proposes to spend £30,000 on a new members' bar. Hon. Members who were in the House when I presented my Private Member's Bill may expect me to show sympathy for that, and indeed I do, but that sympathy is tempered when I see that the county council has also budgeted £19,000 for a new lavatory for the chairman.

    The London borough of Brent has budgeted £38,000 for a new mayoral car, which has all the necessary appurtenances of a mayoral car including a cocktail bar and a colour television. Not satisfied with that, the council immediately spent a further £20,000 to make sure that the car was up to standard. I do not have a bottomless faith in the way in which local authorities spend their money.

    Let me give an example from another Labour authority, the London borough of Southwark. It planned to spend a puny £50 million to build a new council building, though, to be fair, it has now scrapped that plan.

    My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary made great play of the fact that we must show faith in local couucils. Of course we must, but we must also have a residual power to make sure that when our faith is not justified we can prevent abuses.

    The second argument against the removal of the clause is "Where else can we find the money that is to be saved?". My right hon. and learned Friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the sum that we are talking about is £20 million and that it is based on the assumption that many local authorities will charge. However, we have already discovered that many authorities will not charge and I doubt whether £20 million will be brought in—in this extraordinarily unfair way varying from one region to another—when we consider the net benefit gained to the State after deduction of the additional administrative expenses involved in the introduction of this tax.

    I do not believe that it will work. I do not often agree with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) but, as he said, £20 million will not make or break the Government—and it will be gained at great hardship. That is why I pull away from the Government's line.

    Some people have to live on the minimum agricultural wage of £58 per week and out of that they have to pay for rent, electricity and gas charges, living expenses and clothes. Those on small, isolated farms already face heavy transport charges. The imposition of an additional burden would be absolutely wrong.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that there is an economic price that the low-income family, in work in rural areas, can afford to pay, and, as far as the Secretary of State is concerned, there will be a political price that they will be prepared to pay?

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I agree with him. Further cuts could undoubtedly be made within the education system without attacking the transport provision. Of course local government will tell us that it has pared to the bone, but I do not accept that that is so.

    A CBI report on the efficiency of Cheshire county council was, in general, extremely favourable, but it made the grave criticism that the education service was overmanned. The main evidence offered for that statement was that for every 100 people who teach there are 75 providing ancillary services.

    I do not accept that that is the right ratio on which to run our education system. I had hoped that in the light of that report there would have been some self-examination by the county council to see whether changes were needed. Not a bit of it. The letter that the county council wrote when these points were raised was, if anything, self-congratulatory. It said:
    "If the facts of this bald statement"—
    that for every 100 teachers there are 75 ancillary staff—
    "are examined, it will be found that of the 75 in support'70 are actually working in and with the schools and colleges, that is they are at the 'sharp end' of the service, directly helping the teachers and working with students and pupils. They are either clerical, laboratory or workshop assistants or employees of the school meals service."
    There is no question of saying "Yes. We shall look at the ways in which our expenditure is made up." The council is not prepared to examine its own system. There is a self-satisfied acceptance that the criticism is wrong and that the council's expenditure is absolutely right.

    7 pm

    It is the duty of hon. Members to keep some control over local government expenditure, so that we have the right, as we have now, to examine closely the way in which expenditures are made up. I know of one primary school where there are fewer than 50 children and three full-time cooks. I do not accept that no other cuts can be made in our education service. That is true throughout our whole local government system.

    The first reason for my opposition to clause 23 is one of principle. I consider it to be wrong. It is wrong to put a statutory duty on somebody and then, years later, say "I shall charge you for it", when the authority has already taken many actions in the abolition of primary schools and of secondary schools that have been accepted on the basis that free transport is provided.

    It is wrong to impose a charge on people in the rural areas and the urban areas—Catholics in particular in urban areas—where the children have to travel distances because we say so and their families are already poor. Finally, and conclusively, the inequities that would exist, whether my figures for Kent, Essex and Cheshire are right or wrong, would be wide. There would be a big difference between one area and another in the ways in which the provision would have an effect.

    I would not oppose any proposal by my right hon. and learned Friend to charge for school transport, provided that the House imposed a limit, so that we were satisfied that the charge would not be such as to cause the hardship that I have tried to describe. That has not been done. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will consider it, perhaps for introduction in another place. Because that has not been done, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment.

    Speaking on behalf, not only of the Opposition but of many Conservative right hon. and hon. Members, I congratulate the hon. Member for Northwich—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nantwich".] I apologise to the hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad). I congratulate the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) on moving the amendment and speaking to it as he did.

    The amendment is exactly the same as an Opposition amendment that was moved in Committee, when we were able to have a short debate, though I am sure that that amendment was not the source of the hon. Gentleman's inspiration. The importance of the matter has been greatly heightened by the fact that we now have the hon. Gentleman moving the amendment, with the support of his hon. Friends the Members for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and Aldridge-Brown hills (Mr. Shepherd).

    If the Government take the advice of the hon. Member for Nantwich and his hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks), who gave similar advice with equal sagacity last night, they will save themselves a great deal of trouble. Much more important, they will prevent a great deal of difficulty for the people whom we in this House represent. Even now, some of that difficulty is unimaginable in terms of the extra impositions on the family budget and the other problems, educational as well as social and domestic, that the clause will cause.

    We are having a real debate, because there are votes to be gained. People will be listening to the arguments, and Conservative hon. Members will make up their own minds. There are votes to be gained not only here but elsewhere.

    Conservative hon. Members do not adopt a defensive attitude because they fear for their parliamentary lives if they support the amendment. They are moved by the view of the hon. Member for Nantwich that the proposition in clause 23 is ill-conceived, inequitable, discriminatory and divisive. The hon. Gentleman spoke as a true British Member of Parliament He did not want to see great disparities between different parts of the country growing. He recognised that it was the ultimate responsibility of this House and the Government to ensure that people's difficulties did not exceed certain levels of difficulty and that they should not be expected to bear impositions of more than a certain amount. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's attitude and the responsibility that he puts to the House are acknowledged by the Government.

    The Secretary of State insists that he is releasing local government from some of the obligations that it has had since 1944, but his proposal is almost universally deplored. There is opposition from the Standing Conference of Rural Community Councils at one end to the Council of Head Teachers at Voluntary Schools at the other, from the National Association of Health Authorities to the National Farmers Union, and coupled with them the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers. The opposition comes from bishops and bus conductors.

    Even in a Bill that has been as hotly contested as the one before us, which has drawn so much critical comment, it is difficult to find any other part that has so united so many disparate sections of the community—people of religious persuasion, people seeking to represent rural interests, people concerned about the future of education in our great cities, people with a professional interest, people with a parental interest, people with an interest that goes beyond the view expressed in education.

    The Government must recognise the breadth and the depth of the opposition to their proposal. There are good reasons for the breadth and depth of that opposition. The clause will mean a negation of choice, brought about by a Government supposed to espouse choice in education. It means reneging on promises solemnly given by local education authorities seeking to reorganise education provision in their areas since 1944. It will have an effect on parents who permitted their local schools to close, agreeing with the local education authority to send their children to particular schools on the basis that they were completely assured that no extra payment would be imposed on them as a consequence of accepting the local education authority's proposal.

    A further grave possibility, probably the saddest of all, is that the clause is a truant's licence. Most families will face the difficulties and do their best to ensure that their children have the money to go to school, regardless of the cost. They will be in contrast with that minority, regrettable as this fact of life may be, who will use the major financial burdens imposed on them to avoid their responsibility for getting their children to school. Any disincentive added to the disincentives that currently worry us, any addition to the level of truancy, which already concerns hon. Members on both sides of the House, must secure the unreserved hostility of us all.

    The breach of trust and the negation of choice are of particular consequence for those parents who wish to send their children to denominational schools. As I said in Committee, possibly unnecessarily, I have no religious convictions. But it is self-evident to anyone who has libertarian views that those who wish to have freedom to worship and freedom to secure the education of their children within the beliefs that they espouse should have that freedom. It is a time-honoured tradition, won at great cost to the people, throughout the history of this country, and cherished among those who have religious convictions and those who, like me, have none.

    The power that the Government offer in clause 23 imposes a burden and constitutes a significant threat to the effective fulfilment of that denominational choice.

    I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's argument is sincerely put. I was not a Member of the last Parliament. I am not certain about the hon. Gentleman's responsibilities. I do not think that he spoke on, or was responsible for, education in his party in the last Parliament. But he will, perhaps, recall that the previous Government took steps to impose upon local authorities such as Trafford, in part of my constituency, the obligation of comprehensive education, which struck at the root of the existence of Catholic schools—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, it did. Is it not mildly hypocritical for Opposition Members to advance the argument that the hon. Gentleman has done?

    The best answer is for the hon. Gentleman to visit the Catholic Educational Council and ask its views on comprehensive education. In those benighted areas, such as Bolton and one or two in the South-East that still retain 11-plus selection, the only parts of the seconlary sector that are comprehensive are those run as voluntary schools by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has an extremely good record of abolishing the inane system of selection at the age of 11. It was not the superimpositions of the 1976 Act that brought that about. It has been a continuing process, regardless of the Government and regardless of the proddings of legislation, for many years past, in the schools of the Catholic Church.

    Is it not true that, under a Labour Government, an 85 per cent. grant was given to denominational schools—a tremendous advance?

    My hon. Friend is correct. That was because we not only believe in liberty—as I am sure do hon. Members on the Government side—but we also believe in providing the means for fulfilling that liberty. That is why the assistance was made available. That is why we oppose clause 23 of this Bill.

    The hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) has hit the nub of the issue without realising it. The Roman Catholic authorities voluntarily negotiated with the local education authority in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne a comprehensive scheme. The local education authority pledged, as part of the new system, that free transport would be maintained for Roman Catholic schools. I have received a letter from the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in which he sets out his fears that even an authority such as Newcastle, with the best will in the world, may be forced to charge if the clause is carried.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I, too, have seen the letter from the bishop and, indeed, letters from one or two other bishops drawing my attention to the possibility of huge impositions being made if parents seek to fulfil their choice on a denominational basis. Because of the wide distribution of details from every diocese in the country of the consequences of making impositions of charges, not only on the family pocket but also on the possible viability of schools in the secondary sector, I shall not exhaust the House by making extensive reference to the effects of charges where no charge has previously been imposed.

    But the House should know that there are whole schools whose existence is threatened if pupils have to meet substantial charges for getting to school. There are some Catholic schools where 80 per cent., 90 per cent., and even 95 per cent. of pupils travelling on buses would have to pay substantial fares if they were to continue attending those schools after the date of which subsidies were withdrawn.

    7.15pm

    If the Secretary of State had followed the suggestion of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) and imposed a reasonable upper limit, the Opposition might have taken a different view of his amendment introducing the idea of a flat rate. In the absence of that, our only realistic course in defending the right of parents to get their children to denominational schools of their religious choice is to join the hon. Gentleman in pursuing this amendment to remove the clause in a Division.

    There is no reason why all the counties should not adopt a flat rate charge irrespective of distance. It is obvious to anyone meeting together that this should take place. A flat rate would in no sense be harmful to denominational schools or to village as opposed to town.

    I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that intervention. It makes my next point for me. Without the requirement of Government, the possibility of unanimity among all the local education authorities and a uniformity of provision among those authorities, let alone an equity of provision, is extremely remote. That is what unitary Government is for—to seek to lay down conditions and to set upper and lower limits. It is not a derogation of local democracy to do so. It is the fulfilment of responsibility of national government to do so. I only wish that the Secretary of State would listen to the advice that he is getting from his hon. Friends on these matters.

    The loss of trust is taken further by the fact that hundreds of thousands of parents whose children are currently in schools will now have to pay what I have called this new tax on parenthood. They had never expected to do so. The point has been made by hon. Members in interruptions and by the hon. Member for Nantwich that people accepted the idea of putting their children in particular schools on the absolute trust that they would never be required to pay to get those children to school.

    The least that the Minister could do is to say that, wherever people have accepted a change of school, or the closure of a school, on the basis of the acceptance of a free school transport pass, then, by law, the local education authority will be required not to impose a charge and the Government will compensate them. Otherwise a midstream, unheralded, major change in responsibilities is imposed on parents. That must be most unfair and totally unsupportable.

    The hon. Gentleman has highlighted a valid point with which I find myself in considerable sympathy. What information has he received from local authorities that have given such commitments that the commitments were open-ended in the sense that free school transport would be available for ever to children and children's children because of the closure of a village school? Or was an assurance given merely for the period during which the children already at that school would remain at school?

    I do not think that it helps anybody to put upon the matter the kind of legalistic interpretation sought by the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that if parents had been told that at some future date free transport was to be removed, or had been given a direct warning of that possibility, their attitudes to closure would have been dramatically different. I do not think that consideration of a debating point such as that introduced by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) will get us much further in this consideration.

    The attitude of the rural communities is probably best enunciated by the National Farmers Union in its circular of 24 January. With commendable brevity it says
    "The withdrawal of transport services and/or the imposition of charges will lead to parents in rural areas becoming disadvantaged in comparison to their urban counterparts in terms of the range of choices available to them and their children as regards schools, means of transport and the cost of transport."
    I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House have seen the circular and I am sure that they know that the NFU is giving a most direct and categoric warning that the consequences of this important change will be very serious for rural communities.

    The kind of costs that will be imposed on parents are now being discussed and presented by local education authorities all over the country. For instance, the removal of subsidies would cost parents in the city of Birmingham £50,000. That is a sum they never had to find before. In Coventry the sum is £70,000, in the city of Oxford £77,000, in Was all £89,000, and in Cardiff £50,000. That is the kind of transfer of wealth—to borrow a phrase from the Labour Party manifesto—that will take place. Instead of the whole community assuming responsibility for assisting parents with the cost of getting their children to school, the imposition will now be made direct upon the parents. That is what characterises the charge as a tax on parenthood.

    Devon county council is expecting to save £26,000. The figure for North Yorkshire is £400,000, for Northants £800,000 and for Northumberland £26,000, and the list goes on. That list indicates the money that will be taken from the pockets of the parents of these children.

    Subsidies are being stopped in Surrey, Hampshire, Cambridge shire, Wiltshire, Redbridge, Avon, Dorset and Doncaster. In Shropshire the charge is expected to be 20p a day or £40 a year per pupil. In Staffordshire it will be 25p a day except for families on supplementary benefit or family income supplement, or for children receiving special education. That amounts to £50 a year. In Hereford and Worcestershire the figure will be £15 per term per child up to a maximum of two—that is £45 a year for one child or £90 a year for two. In East Sussex the charge will be 35p a day for children at secondary and further education, up to a maximum of two, which is £1·75 a week or £70 a year.

    We then come to Kent. I am glad to see that the continual representations and advertisements about the position in Kent appear to be having a desirable effect. Whereas the county was previously planning to charge even more extortionate sums, it is now down to £1·50 a week for primary school children and £2·50 for children at secondary schools. If we could keep talking long enough on the Bill we might reduce the charges to a civilised level. However, it still amounts to £60 a year in respect of primary school children and £100 per year for a secondary school child. As Kent is not placing any poverty limit on these charges, the normal-sized family with two children, one in primary school and one in secondary school, will have to pay £160 a year, an outlay that it did not previously have to face.

    If that is not a disincentive, a broadening of the poverty trap, a tax on parenthood, a derogation of responsibility and a negation of choice I do not know what is. Yet the Secretary of State is prepared to sit in the Department and preside over this kind of occurrence.

    We have heard from him and from the Under-Secretary that it is a choice of transport of classrooms. If the choice were that stark, I am sure that the debate would go a great deal wider than it has gone. But if he wants evidence that his policy is not an alternative to cuts in the classroom, but a precursor to them, and that the most that can be claimed for his policy of cuts is that they absorb some of the initial impact of the classroom cuts, he has only to look at the report of the Educational Publishers Council produced yesterday, showing reductions of up to 25 or 30 per cent. in real terms in the amounts being spent by education authorities on books.

    So the right hon. and learned Gentleman's policy is not a serious alternative, certainly not to the extent of £20 million a year, which is the saving that he is expected to make under clause 23 if it remains in the Bill.

    The question arises of whether a vote for the amendment seeking to remove clause 23 is a vote of no confidence in local government. I say that it is not. It is a vote against the enormous dilemma, the tortuous position into which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is putting local government by his action. I said in Committee that there was no good democratic reason for local or any other form of government not being faced with difficulties and invidious choices. That is what democratic government exists for. But it is totally unsupportable for impositions to be made upon local authorities and then for the national Government to desert their responsibility for providing those authorities with the means of meeting those burdens. The authorities are being faced with a hopelessly invidious choice involving how they make the cuts and who shall suffer as a consequence of them. They are being given freedom without the means of exercising it, and new responsibilites without new powers. That cannot be supported.

    It is not good enough for Ministers to give the replies that they have given. I have two here, but there are many of them. The first is given in a letter to the Transport and General Workers Union—my union—which states that the Government expect that local education authorities
    "will make sensible use of their powers."
    The other is in a letter to my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson). It reads:
    "Accordingly, the legislation we have introduced will give LEAs discretion to charge for providing transport, but we have no reason to suppose that LEAs will not continue to give sympathetic consideration to families whose children attend Church schools."
    Of course there is no reason to suppose that. The LEAs will do their level best, but they will be £20 million worse off next year than they were last with the same or even greater responsibilities in some respects. They will certainly have the same responsibilities to meet the desire of parents to exercise their denominational choice. So the Government are taking a very insular attitude and are deserting their responsibilities.

    Let us consider the realities that face the local education authorities. They have enjoyed discretionary powers over many years in many spheres. They have exercised such powers over school uniform allowances, educational maintenance allowances for the 16-plus category, and on the statutory limits for assisting with free school transport. The disparity of treatment of pupils and parents from authority to authority makes us believe that in all these matters the Government should seek to give guidance and direction, and the means of fulfilling obligations. Rather than expanding the area of discretion without providing the means effectively to exercise that discretion on behalf of and to the advantage of the children in the care of those LEAs, the Government should be narrowing the degree of discretion.

    The clause will make it more difficult for the LEAs to reorganise education. It will make administration massively more expensive. It is invidious, insidious and entirely odious, and we shall be glad to support the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) in the Lobby later.

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) on introducing this amendment. I am a rural Roman Catholic and it is on the subject of the rural areas that I make my brief remarks. There is a distinct danger that people who live in the country are now being disadvantaged, whether the problem is one of assistant postmasters, rural bus services, or wages—

    7.30 pm

    No, not racing.

    We have a strange phenomenon in the country now. There is a mixture of classes in the villages as country people move out. There are rich whites and poor villagers and those features which were formerly the basis of village life are being pushed out. That fact is demonstrated by remarks by Ministers both of this Administration and of the Labour Administration to the effect that village halls were of no importance.

    Conditions in rural areas could deteriorate. There is the probable rise in the price of oil which would mean that something like 30 per cent. of rural transport over the next few years would vanish. That is why I support my hon. Friend's amendment.

    Roman Catholics and people of other denominations will face problems such as the distances children will have to travel to school. Roman Catholics in this country may be better off than Roman Catholics in the United States who must pay for the whole of their education but English Roman Catholics still put down 15 per cent. more than anyone else for their children's education.

    What is happening to our rural schools? The admirable education authority in Staffordshire is discussing the closure of 33 schools, many of them rural schools. If those schools are closed, it will mean not only that a pledge has been broken but that insult will have been added to injury for those people whose children have lost their school. They will have to pay to transport their children to another school.

    It has been said that we must strike a balance between economics and politics. I regard the two as combined. What is at stake here is a comparatively small sum of money in relation to the damage that will be done. I hope that when the Secretary of State replies he will deal with all the problems described by my hon. Friend who so bravely and properly tabled this amendment. I hope that he will win the confidence of the House which, I regret to say, he does not enjoy at the moment.

    I intend to stick to educational matters in my speech. There is no doubt that this clause is part of a Bill which sets back the educational clock. Writing in The Guardian yesterday, John Fairhall said:

    "there is still just time for…Conservative MPs to put country before party and save us from the worst effects of the Education Bill…concerned with money raising rather than an educational motivation."
    There is no doubt that any impoverishment of public services affects children. It particularly affects children from families least able to look after themselves. This clause will have that direct effect.

    The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hex-ham and Newcastle has written a considered letter to local Members indicating that between the Tweed and the Tees there are 50,000 secondary schoolchildren in Roman Catholic schools. Of that number 12,000 travel to school free on subsidised transport. He estimates that if the Bill is passed as drafted 10,000 children will have to pay to travel to school. The cost per pupil has been given as £1 a week by the Secretary of State who believes that that is a reasonable figure.

    The bishop reckons that on that estimate the cost to the Catholic community of his part of the Northern region will be £400,000 a year. That is money that families did not previously have to find.

    I spent most of my life in education trying to persuade parents that it was important for their children to stay on at school. We all have colleagues who had to leave school for economic reasons and this clause will be a deterrent to a boy or girl of 16 wishing to stay on at school. They are mature enough to know that the cost of school bus fares will be a terrible burden on the family finances. The incentive to leave school at the statutory age will be all the greater for them. That is another backward step.

    There is now ample evidence—and everyone in the education service agrees —that parental motivation, interest and involvement has a greater influence on the child than does the school. I have always said that the home is a more powerful influence than the school. I do not think it can be denied that there are families, certainly in my constituency, in Catholic communities where 80 per cent. of children travel to school by bus. If this Bill goes through, some of those families will not be able to afford even 20p a day for school bus fares. In The Guardian yesterday, John Fairhall wrote:
    "This Bill is sentencing such families to years of grinding poverty."
    The educational features of the Bill bother me even more than the financial aspects. We need to increase the numbers of people who wish to take the opportunity of full education and any deterrent to that aim must be closely examined by the House, since the Bill will be a deterrent to parents doing the best for their children. The expense for some of those parents will be so great that they will encourage their children to leave school at the earliest opportunity.

    I feel strongly that we think about education in too narrow terms. Education is far more than the achievement of O-levels and A-levels. Parents who choose an education in a denominational school for their children are saying that there are more important things in education. They are saying that other values are as important as academic attainment.

    The Bill will deny the legal right of parents to choose a school for their children. Parents may not be able to afford to send their children to a particular school because they live too far away from it. In the last nine months the divisions in society have increased. Society is more divided than it was a year ago. The Bill creates even greater divisions. I beg the Secretary of State to have second thoughts and to seek to withdraw the clause.

    So many hon. Members wish to address the House that it behoves us to be brief.

    I start with a proposition which I think will command the support of the House. Of all the provisions with which I, as an ordinary Back Bencher, have to deal, few are more unpopular than the present system of imposing a two-or three-mile limit for charging. Few issues cause deeper resentment. Although that has not been spelt out today, it has been in the debate generally. There is a reaching-back attitude that the present system is perfect and an essential part of the British way of life. That is a curious attitude of mind. I cannot believe that many hon. Members actually want the proposition which was so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor), which would permanently put us back in that position. At the end of his able speech, my hon. Friend made it explicitly clear that he was not against charging. He and the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) want an upper limit but in principle they are not against a charge across the board.

    Reluctantly I must be harsh. The House knows my personal commitment to a particular denominational form of schooling. I stand second to none in my total commitment to that. However, I have to say, reluctantly, that some of the arguments put to me from outside by my friends in the Roman Catholic Church have verged on the unscrupulous. I carefully exempt from that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey), who has been the Roman Catholic spokesman on this side of the House. He has fought his corner with courtesy, good humour and vigour—as he has the right to do—and with total fairness throughout.

    I am totally committed to Anglican schools and my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby is committed to Roman Catholic schools. We must remind ourselves that such schools receive 85 per cent. of their capital costs and the whole of their running costs. They have a special position which is totally different from that in the maintained sector. A real moral problem is involved. We should ask whether those figures are becoming so large that we are claiming from our friends in the State rights which morally we can no longer justify. It speaks volumes for the general approaches of the House and the nation that in their tolerance they are prepared to grant the denominations and the Jewish community that special position, in spite of the comparatively small amount of effort financially which they contribute.

    I place it on record that I resent the assertion by some that there is a deliberate act by my right hon. and learned Friend and other Ministers to undermine the 1944 settlement. No good has come from making such assertions. Of course, in Anglican schools at secondary level, as in Roman Catholic schools at secondary level, the catchment area tends to be wide. Of course, there are anxieties in country districts. I have deep roots in a country district and I think that I understand the problem, even though my constituency is no longer as agricultural as it once was.

    7.45 pm

    The fear is that some local authorities will positively discriminate against denominational schools and those attending them and against those who have to travel long distances. The costs of attending a denominational school can be high if one lives 15 miles or 20 miles away from it. It is almost unbelievable that there has been so little mention of another of the amendments in the group which we are discussing—that which provides that any charge should be across the board. That would remove the greater part of the legitimate and well-understood anxiety of those involved in denominational schools or who live in country districts.

    In an age of inflation I cannot believe that we can honestly say that a figure should be written into the Bill. If it is not written into the Bill it would have to be provided for by order. If it is provided for by order it can be changed by order, and we are back where we started. I am convinced that the Secretary of State's strategy is right. For too long expenditure has not been directed at what happens in the classroom. My right hon. and learned Friend's strategy is coupled with a trust in local authorities. I am prepared to go all the way with his strategy.

    Perhaps I misunderstood some of the comments by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Strubenzee) but I thought he said that the Catholic Church was unscrupulous. If I am right, I take him to task. Not only the Catholic Church, but the local authorities, the Church of England and all those organisations which are trying to provide a good education service are anxious about the proposition. It was most unfair to use the term unscrupulous.

    I give credit to the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) for his courage and sincerity. Many of us are concerned—not in a political sense—about the effect of the Bill on the education service.

    I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for the courtesy he showed to a deputation that I brought to London last week to discuss the matter with him. I am sure that an interpretation of our discussions has been passed to the Secretary of State.

    There is a general concern within local authorities and denominational schools about the impact that the imposition of clause 23 could have on the education service. We must recognise that in rural areas it will create a massive problem. I represent Leeds, which is a compact area, but we will face difficulties also.

    I am speaking as a former Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. One issue that has not arisen in the debate is that, because of the drop in the birth rate, within the next two or three years the school population will drop by about one-third. That will cause great problems for the local authorities and the denominational schools. Instead of children travelling from point A to point B, they will have to travel from point A to point C. We are discussing the present costs to parents, but in three years' time those costs will be increased considerably because they will have to pay for their children to travel to point C instead of to point B.

    The Secretary of State, his Ministers, and those who sit behind him, have to be reminded that on political platforms at local and national level their main argument has been the right of parental choice. If the Bill is passed in its present form the consequence will be that parental choice will no longer exist, except for the wealthiest section of the community. What about the remainder of the community?

    I declare my interest as a Catholic. Although I am speaking mainly on behalf of the Catholic community, I am speaking also on behalf of the Church of England. The Churches feel that they and the children who attend their schools will be adversely affected by the Bill. It would be impossible for me, my wife, or any other Catholic parent in the lower income group to send their children to the school of their denomination. That is vitally important to many people in this country. There is a large section of parents who are anxious that their children should be able to attend the schools of their choice.

    If the Bill passes unamended, it will create grave problems for those parents. I hope that the Government will reflect very seriously before pushing the Bill through unamended.

    I attended the debate this evening with an open mind. I have listened carefully to the contributions of all hon. Members. I look forward to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Minister, and would like clarification on a number of points when he replies. I wish to place on record my thanks to him and his colleagues for listening to the representations of right hon. and hon. Members on clause 23.

    I was interested in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), who pointed out the dilemmas faced by those with strong connections with the Roman Catholic Church and by Roman Catholic pupils. There are two ways of considering the argument. It could be argued that the position of Roman Catholics is a privileged one. It would be argued also that the Roman Catholic communities subsidise the places of their pupils to the tune of 15 per cent. per place.

    I have received interesting correspondence from a gentleman named Father Devaney, who lives in Coventry, South-West. In his letter, he told me that there are 219 children in his parish attending the Bishop Ullathorne school. He pointed out the difficulties that families will face if transport charges are introduced at £1 and upwards per head. He said:
    "it is often overlooked what the parish contributes to education; we give—4,800 each year to the general diocesan fund, £438 per capita levy of £2 per child for Ullathorne, and last year we spent £2,000 on painting the junior school of which we received an 85 per cent. grant".
    Roman Catholic and other denominational schools are our friends in the education system. They pay their way. I hope that the Minister will in his reply give some indication of his views on the contribution from denominational schools.

    I listened equally carefully to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) and found myself in agreement with much of what he said about the use of resources inside the education service.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for answering a written question on the matter. I am dismayed to find there is plenty of leverage inside the education service for finding cuts of at least £20 million, starting in 1980–81, in addition to those for which we have already asked.

    The figures given to me by my hon. Friend are that in 1978 there were 671,000 non-teaching and administrative staff employed in the service. They were distributed between 201,000 full-time non-teaching and administrative staff, and 470,000 part-time staff. If that is reduced to full-time equivalents, that gives a figure of about 550,000 non-teaching staff in England and Wales. There are 480,000 teachers in England and Wales. That is a ratio of more than 1 to 1.

    If we are to give guidance to local authorities—and the Lord knows that we are giving guidance to them, especially under the clause, on the manner in which charges can be made if they were to use discretion—surely we can say that it is about time that the gravy train in administration in the education departments of local authorities is at least slowed down.

    In Coventry we are facing a reduction of about 210 teachers. There is a disproportionate cut in the number of teachers in the coming year compared with the cut in non-teaching and support staff. I appreciate that we cannot control local authorities, and that we cannot dictate the policies that they must pursue. But we, as the Government, must say to local authorities "Here is guidance on how you cope with a reduction in the resources in the light of falling school rolls. You may cut your non-teaching staff and accelerate the natural wastage programme in line with falling school rolls."

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    I must refer to another response from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of

    State in reply to a parliamentary question on 4 February 1980 when he said:

    "The Government's plans as set out in Cmnd.7746, and reflected in the 1980–81 rate support grant settlement, allow for a 3·7 per cent.—or about 18,000—reduction in school teaching staff between 1978–79 and 1980–81…Non-teaching staff…are not separately identified in the annual statistics"—

    I find that incredible. He went on:

    "the Government's plans allow for expenditure per pupil on school's non-teaching costs—including ancillary staff—to be 2 per cent. higher in real terms".—[Official Report, 4th February 1980; Vol. 978, c. 82–3.]

    If we are interested in giving resources to the chalk face, in having a lean and keen education service and in maintaining the pupil-teacher ratio, I feel that the Government should start looking very hard at the management information that they are collecting and how they are using it and say to local authorities "We shall introduce something like a manpower service audit or a national manpower account which will have the power not to dictate, but to check on those local authorities which are efficient. "That, in turn, can turn the spotlight on local authorities and say "Given the same social make-up as city X, you are misusing your resources and your ratepayers are justified in being thoroughly jaundiced about the whole matter."

    I suspect that the DES collect statistics from local authorities in forms which are presentable to local councillors, and are tabulated in massive form, as my research assistant from Princeton university would tell me, and then forgets them. I should like a good cost accountant to be turned loose on our education service.

    As hon. Members may know, Coventry was bombed during the war. The centre was razed to the ground. This is relevant to the debate. It meant that schools and factories had to be built on the periphery of the city. Coventry's citizens had to commute outwards and their children also had to travel out to the edge of the city. Therefore, school transport costs are significant.

    The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) estimated the costs at £70,000. I fear that in trying to save £20 million in this way we are fudging the issue. If we are to honour our election commitment to freedom of choice and if we are to honour the speeches that many of us made about cutting overheads rather than simply attacking the public sector borrowing requirement by increasing incomes, I believe that there is salvation for us on this issue.

    I look forward to hearing my hon. Friend's comments. I still have an open mind on this matter.

    The hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) was right to suggest that, if we must look for savings in education, one of the last areas should be transport costs.

    I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) for the way in which he moved the amendment. It must have been difficult for him, because no one enjoys differing from his party. However, we have to do that from time to time to represent our constituents properly.

    I am sad to notice that there are no Scottish Conservative Back Benchers representing rural constituencies present in the Chamber. Indeed, not one has appended his name to the amendment. I hope, however, that they will in due course join us in the Lobbies and thereby represent and protect the interests of their constituents.

    The provisions of the Bill will have far-reaching effects on virtually every local education authority area which embraces, even in part, a rural area. The Secretary of State for Scotland—and presumably the Secretary of State for the. Environment—has jumped the gun on this issue. He has taken away from local authorities the money that he anticipates they will he able to save as a result of implementing the provisions of the Bill. He has taken away the money by a reduction in the rate support grant.

    The Secretary of State is right when he says that local authorities will have the freedom to do what they like. They will have freedom to clobber the people that they represent in either of two ways. The Secretary of State has issued them with two boots—a left boot and a right boot. I have one of each operating in my constituency. The left boot is in the Lothian region—a Labour-controlled authority—which has decided not to cut services. In order not to cut services, it has to put up the rates by up to 40 per cent. The Borders regional council at the other end of my constituency is not Labour controlled. It has decided to impose cuts. It has already declared that it intends to impose charges for school transport under these provisions.

    The hon. Member for Nantwich was right to say that it is important not to take these charges in isolation. We must also bear in mind local authorities which have in the past closed village schools and those which are doing so now.

    There are four village schools in my constituency which are at present under the axe: St. Abbs, Whit some, Millburn and Mertoun. If the regional council fulfills the policy on which it has embarked, we shall have only 11 primary schools in the whole tract of the former county of Berwick shire where there are now 25. If the closures go through, besides losing their schools, the people in these communities will have to pay for transport to the next nearest primary school. They will have insult added to injury in that respect.

    I should have declared two interests. First, I am the father of a baby boy who in due course, if the school is still open, will need transport to a village school. Secondly, I am a member of the National Farmers Union for Scotland. I am not a sponsored Member, unlike my hon. Friend, the Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan). However, it is worth pointing out some of the comments that the NFU has made to Scottish Members of Parliament. It is to its credit that it sought to represent all people in rural agricultural areas. It states that its basic cause for concern over clause 25 remains.

    The union was accused of exaggerating the potential problem of charges for transport of schoolchildren following the calculations in its previous letter. It states:
    "In the event, our worries have been shown to be perfectly justified. We understand that one English local authority (Kent county council) proposes to introduce from 1 April flat rate charges for school transport."
    We have already heard about this matter. I understand that the authority has now revised the rates downwards. However, I understand that in the current financial year the average cost of transport of pupils within the Highlands regional council area is £145 per head. Taking that into account, it is not diffi- cult to imagine that in due course families in rural areas could he paying up to £185 per head per year.

    I pay tribute to the National Farmers Union for Scotland for representing all people in rural areas and joining the representatives of farm workers on this occasion in this worthwhile campaign.

    Having studied the amendment, I have come to the conclusion that the hon. Member for Nantwich is right that the clause is not amendable. The truth is that no amendment can redeem this clause. The Government's fundamental objective is to make some families, particularly those in rural areas and those whose children attend denominational schools, pay for what has hitherto been provided free by the State.

    Finally, I should like to point out the basic dishonesty—it is not unfair to say that it is dishonesty—of the Secretary of State's amendment No. 151, which refers to flat rate charges being imposed. He knows well that the charges are not flat rate. They will apply only to children who need transport to school. By no means does that cover all children. He also knows that they will apply only in regions where a high proportion of children have to be transported—in other words, in rural areas and places where children are sent to denominational schools.

    It is dishonest to imply that a flat rate will mean equal charges for people within a given area. The clauses are designed to discriminate, as the hon. Member for Nantwich has pointed out, against a large proportion of families in this country. That includes virtually every family in my constituency. I sincerely hope that the House will reject the clause in due course.

    I should like to turn to another unsatisfactory aspect of the clause. Bus operators in this country are concerned that the protection under the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 is removed by the clause. We have already heard about the problems of rural England. A real problem for rural England is the decline of public transport. I do not wish to trespass into the area of a Committee that has been sitting upstairs this week, but, if the clause goes through as it stands, the law which protected many rural bus services will be rendered nugatory. There is a real danger that the present protection for many of these services, which is still recognised in the Transport Bill which is going through the House, will be removed.

    Therefore, I have put down certain amendments, which are conjoined with the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor), to draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to the real danger of a deterioration because bus services will not be protected. At the moment, a local authority can put on a service provided that it obtains the consent of the Traffic Commissioner. In my amendments I ask simply that the protection should continue.

    I should like to say one or two words in support of tonight's main debate. I admit that before Christmas I held roughly the same line as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. I am now willing to admit that I was wrong. I should like him to admit that he and the Government have made a mistake in pressing ahead as they have done. The reason why I reached my decision is that I felt, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser), that the issue had moved away from the simple one of school transport. It concerns the quality of life in rural England.

    The resistance in my constituency to the proposal has been one of the most remarkable upsurges in feeling that I have seen since I have been a member of this House. In one of my villages only eight children use the school bus but virtually everybody—old-age pensioners, farm workers and those with no connection with children using the school bus—has signed a petition. They regard the proposal as a direct threat to the continuing life of their community. We in the Conservative Party will ignore that feeling at our peril. Once we have alienated our bedrock support in those areas, we shall find it difficult to get it back. The people have gradually felt betrayed over the years. The last people that they expected to betray them were those in our party.

    Therefore, with great determination, I shall join my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich in voting for his amendment. I also advise my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that, should that vote fail, I am afraid that I cannot support the Government on Third Reading.

    The strong and courageous criticisms that have been made of the clause by Conservative Back Benchers come as no surprise for we tied on the issue in Committee on an amendment which attempted to bring about some change. That amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey). I venture to suggest that the Government would have been defeated on a subsequent amendment in Committee if it had not been said then that further consideration would be given to the matter and that a new amendment would be brought forward.

    8.15 pm

    However, the new amendment does little or nothing to allay the fears of those who were concerned on all sides of the Committee. It is true that the Government amendment provides that the rate for any one age group shall be uniform and flat but it places no limit on the rate. We have seen the enormous range of possibilities. Therefore, we must come back to the Government and say that this will not do. The most effective vehicle for doing that has been brought forward by the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor). In effect, he has dug a hole in the Bill and said that the Government cannot have the Bill as drafted and unamended.

    The effects of the provisions would be to discriminate severely against groups in our society that the Government should not discriminate against. Whatever the intentions of the Government, there is an inherent discrimination in charging those who, for the reasons that I am about to state, have to make use of school transport. Large numbers of people are able to get their children to school for nothing or at minimal cost because they live within a reasonable distance of the school. However, for certain groups of people that is not so.

    Many children in rural areas who live at considerable distances from schools—setting aside the question of school closures and reorganisations to which I shall return—particularly children of farm workers and so on and those in remote settlements, have no choice but to travel long distances to school. Incidentally, long distances apply to every aspect of their lives: whether it is entertainment for teenagers or shopping for housewives, their cost of living is more expensive than those of people living in towns because of the distances they have to travel. Therefore, in practice, they are discriminated against because they have to pay for school transport. Likewise, the proposal discriminates against those who send their children to denominational schools because they believe that to be important. The sense of indignation and shock in the Roman Catholic community is genuine. It is based on the practical fact that in most cases their children have to travel further than the statutory walking distances to school. They have been encouraged to build their schools on the basis of operating a wide catchment area for many years.

    Other groups are affected by the proposal. People in Wales have sought to make provision for education through the medium of the Welsh language. In such cases, local authorities have encouraged the schools to serve a wide catchment area. They, too, will be discriminated against because they will have to pay a price to get the children to the schools.

    Perhaps the keenest sense of grievance is felt by those put into those categories by education decision-making. The hon. Member for Nantwich pointed out that such people would have fought to the death for their village school if they had known that the price of its closure would be not merely to lose the benefits of a school in the community but to have to pay transport charges to attend a school miles away to which they never wanted to send their children. That will go on for generations. Even some people without children fight against village school closures because they have every intention of sending children to the school in subsequent years.

    Many people have been affected by the reorganisation of education. I do not refer simply to the secondary reorganisation of the last few years of comprehensive schools; I refer right back to 1944 and the creation of secondary schools as opposed to the old all-age school in each village. In times past, all the children attended the local school. The expansion of secondary education has taken them further away. People have been critical of that sort of development and they will be the most aggrieved of all at having to pay transport charges.

    The only people who will receive free school transport, if the local authorities behave as the Government wish, are a narrowly defined group—the statutory poor. I shall not deploy at length arguments that I have used on previous issues, but unless people receive family income supplement or supplementary benefit they will suffer under the provisions. That means that a farm worker who is earning enough to raise him just above the family income supplement level will suffer heavily. A person will be better off if he remains out of work, because if he gets a job he will have to pay heavy charges. If someone is asked to work overtime, he should refuse because it will not pay him to do so. If he works overtime he may have to pay school transport charges.

    In every way the Bill is a disincentive to anyone prepared to help himself, and who does not wish to rely on supplementary benefit, or the larger State benefit of family income supplement.

    The Government use two arguments against me. First, they argue that there is an anomaly in the present law. They say that the present law is unsatisfactory, because many people live just within the two-or three-mile limit and they have to pay quite heavy charges for school transport. However, there is nothing in the Bill to help those people. The Bill will merely provide for their discomfort to be shared. Equality of misery is a new Tory policy.

    I pay tribute to my local education authority in Cumberland. It has tried very hard to take up those who live just inside the two- and three-mile limits, by using its discretionary power. It has filled empty places on the school buses. It has tried to help those living on the outer limits. As a result of Government pressure such authorities are increasingly unable to continue such discretionary activities. The Bill does not help those people. Secondly, the Government argue that local authorities do not have to make these charges. In several debates Ministers have said that local authorities are reasonable and that they will not impose such harsh charges. However, with every other breath the Government tell local authorities to levy such charges. How else can the Government's savings be made, in the absence of alternative provisions? The Secretary of State has repeatedly said that authorities that do not make savings by imposing these charges will have to pay the price of cuts in the mainstream of education. Rural authorities and those in which, for historical reasons, many children travel long distances will have to lower their educational standards more than other authorities, if they do not impose the charges. There is no way out.

    The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) pointed out that the Government would have to pay a political price if they continued down this road. I can think of nothing more favourable to my party. In rural areas we are the main rivals of the Conservative Party. If the Bill is implemented in its harshest form, it can only favour us. However, I do not invite Conservative Members to implement the Bill. Unlike them, I am concerned about those on low wages, because they will suffer the most.

    Conservative Members have a last chance to join us and to use their power to ensure that the provisions do not remain in the Bill. I beg them to do so.

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich(Sir N. Bonsor) on the brevity of his speech. However, I do not go along with his argument. Conservative Members are always prepared to pay lip service to cutting public expenditure. I remind my colleagues that that was one of our main planks in the manifesto. We pay lip service to the generality of cutting public expenditure. However, when we get to particular instances we begin to argue.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich will no doubt find a number of supporters. The whole Opposition will support him to a man. However, I remind my hon. Friend that the Opposition to a man—or to a woman—are diametrically opposed to any cut in public expenditure.

    Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will contain himself for a minute. He may get excited about what I am about to say.

    One must look at the Government's strategy on the PSBR. I subscribe to that strategy. It is essential to get our PSBR down. Every hour of every day we spend just over £1 million more than we have earned. Someone must pay that back. My right hon. and learned Friend's amendment is reasonable, as regards our school transport. The Conservative Party has always been in favour of giving autonomy to local representatives. The Secretary of State has done that.

    Opposition Members may laugh when I mention democracy. They probably have a different understanding of that concept. I do not believe in the democracy of the Labour Party's NEC. However, local authorities should have the right to do as they wish with their money. The Government are merely stating that they can choose whether to charge. Local authorities and local health athuorities sometimes take up an emotive issue, such as that of closing a casualty ward or an old people's home. However, they never tackle administrative over manning. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) mentioned, because of present anomalies 85 per cent. of parents are already paying the transport costs of their children.

    If we cut public expenditure, we must make local authorities responsible for economising in their administrative staff and so on. However, if the Government of the day succumb to pressure because it is an emotive issue, local authorities will think that they need only kick up a fuss for the Government to give way. As a result, the PSBR will go up.

    There is much hypocritical talk about public expenditure and school transport. My hon. Friends know that Opposition Members are making a political issue out of that, and we should not fall into the trap. We must stick to our strategy. It was agreed in the manifesto. We should not give way simply because it is an emotive issue. We must put the responsibility on local authorities to economise in other sections of their education vote. If they do not, let the local Member of Parliament press them and let local voters see that they are not returned next time.

    I shall not congratulate the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir W.Clark) on his imitation of the captain of the Titanic.

    Many Conservative Members have put forcefully the essential case. It is a debate that will be decided, as it were, within the family on the Conservative Benches.

    We shall put our point of view, and endorse the statements of the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor). He spoke courageously, surrounded as he was by the heavy brigade from Cheshire, who were there to keep him in order—the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and his hon. Friends, who forcibly disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps they have not taken on board the single point that the hon. Gentleman was making—that the unfairness of the proposals is implicit in everything that the Government are saying and doing. I have great respect for the Secretary of State, and I see him shaking his head. The proposals discriminate against a particular section of parents. The reasons put forward for not opposing the clause entirely ignore that fact.

    It has been suggested that some people now have to pay for transport for a distance of less than three miles, and, because they are miserable, others should also be made miserable. The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) suggested that those of us who were putting that point of view had fallen for a sucker punch from the Roman Catholic church. I greatly resent that remark.

    8.30 pm

    I am not a Roman Catholic, and I disagree with Roman Catholic pressure groups on many issues, notably that which we have been discussing last week and this. Nevertheless, Roman Catholics have the same right as other parents to put arguments forward if they are unfairly discriminated against.

    My school took its pupils from a catchment area of 90 parishes in Derbyshire, consisting of small villages like the village that I live in—and I see village schools closing down all around me. The major Catholic school in my constituency in the city of Derby takes its pupils from a 20-mile radius. The cost and burden for those parents, at the estimate of £4 or £5 per week per child, will be very great. In common fairness, the House should follow the hon. Member for Nantwich and root clause 23 out of the Bill.

    I take it that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that the great majority of local authorities are under no obligation to provide transport for the Roman Catholic community? The Roman Catholic school is not necessarily the nearest appropriate school, which is the test under the Act. That being so, why should the hon. Gentleman expect a change of policy?

    In many cases, including my area, local authorities are providing that transport. Since the 1944 Act, it has come to be expected and welcomed by the Catholic community and by other parents who are able to send their children to the school of their choice, not necessarily the nearest school, as a result of these payments.

    The imposition of these charges will hurt precisely those parents who are least able to afford it. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock)'quoted from the Minister of State's letter. He could have continued the quotation:
    "We continue to attach great importance to parental preferences for the education of children, but this general principle has to be applied with due regard to what the public purse can afford."
    That was the point made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South. However, the private purse will now determine which children can go to the school of their choice and which cannot. That is what is wrong with the proposals and why they have been so savagely attacked from all sides. I hope that many Conservative Members will join us in the Lobby tonight.

    I appreciate that the intention of clause 23 is twofold. First, it is to assist the Government in the overriding need to reduce public spending. Secondly, it is to devolve power to local authorities.

    I am in general agreement with the Government's overall strategy. We were elected on the basic premise that we should reduce public spending and borrowing. It is fair to remember, however, that the saving envisaged under the clause is £20 million out of a total of £120 million, amounting to about 17 per cent. That is not a significant part of the education budget and it is an even smaller part of the national budget. The difficulties caused by effecting such a saving will be out of all proportion to the distress caused.

    The intention of amendments Nos. 42 and 92, and withdrawn amendment No. 91 is basically to protect the large family from the effects of clause 23. I make no apology for my defence of the larger family—very often the larger family is the poorer family. Large families are often derided, but there is nothing funny in having to feed and clothe several children and transport them to school everyday.

    Amendment No. 42 makes 25p the maximum figure, and quite clearly there will be the discretion for local authorities to charge less. Even assuming that 25p is accepted as a reasonable transport charge, it means that a family of three children will still have to pay an additional £3·75 a week over and above every current charge that family is experiencing. That is a new expense, and for the larger family it is an unacceptable and unreasonable expense. Therefore, I hope that focal authorities, when they read the report of this debate in Hansard, will take note of the views that have been expressed and interpret them in an appropriate and civilised manner.

    Perhaps my hon. Friend can help me on this point. I know that he believes in local democracy, because he has said so repeatedly. If that is the case, why is he not content to leave these issues to the local authorities, which surely will respond immediately to local pressure?

    Had my hon. Friend allowed me to develop my theme, he would have received a complete answer to his question.

    I have heard it said in this House and elsewhere that child benefit should be used to defray the cost of getting children to school. That is just not equitable. Child benefit was introduced long before this charge was thought of. If we should decide to use child benefit as a method of defraying transport costs, that benefit must be increased. Therefore, where is the point? There is none.

    Amendments Nos. 42 and 92 do nothing to damage the principle or the fabric of the Bill, but they build in a safeguard for the large rural family. I cannot believe that parents should be penalised simply because of their address and the fact that they live in the country. Once it may have been argued that those living in the country were compensated by lower rates, but successive adjustments to the rate support grant to the detriment of shire counties has altered the balance, and the difference, if any, is now much smaller.

    In supporting the amendments, I do not seek to denigrate local authorities. I have been involved in local government as a councillor for 23 years and I am well aware of the virtues of local authorities. I am convinced that, should we give these new powers to local authorities, they will not suddenly go berserk and seek to impose highly expensive transport charges on parents. But there are exceptions to every rule and already those exceptions are becoming apparent. We have heard a lot about the exceptions in this debate this evening. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) produced a comprehensive list of them. Other Members have referred to several counties which are being grossly unfair and discriminatory.

    Another argument that has been used to justify clause 23 is the need to remove the anomalies that are inherent in the present system—particularly the two-mile and three-mile limits. It has been said that the limits are disliked by parents. For example, in the same street there may be one child who travels free while there is another who pays. I accept that that is an anomaly. But in my 23 years as a councillor I have found that very few people have complained. That does not mean that they do not dislike it—of course they do—but they accept it because it has existed for so many years.

    I believe that the basic premise on the question of anomalies is wrong. The effect of clause 23 will create, not reduce, anomalies. The county of Warwickshire is proposing a rate of 20p per day per child. Solihull, which until the county was reorganised, was in Warwickshire, is proposing 10p per day. Children in Birmingham, adjacent to Warwickshire, will receive free transport. Oxford shire, which also adjoins Warwickshire, is giving no help to denominational pupils. Leicestershire is deferring any charges for 12 months. In a small geographical area there are five different schemes. If the decision on transport charges is left to the discretion of local authorities, it will result in a great unevenness of transport provisions. We are not reducing the number of anomalies. We are building them into the system. For local authorities, ideas will differ enormously. I do not doubt that individual Members of Parliament will receive representations from constituents. They will protest that in one local authority area transport is free but in another a certain price will be fixed. In the removal of one anomaly we create another. Hon. Members with far greater experience than I have will be aware of the furore which has been created by old-age pensioners protesting about the anomalies in concessionary fares. We have all received demands that a national charge should be levied to remove the anomalies from the system.

    The protest by the elderly will be as nothing compared to the protests that we shall receive from parents. Parents have a statutory duty to get their children to school. For them, that journey is not a pleasure. It is a positive and absolute duty.

    The Minister is clearly anxious to allow local authorities to use discretion. The inference is that we should trust the local authorities because they are supposed to be responsible to the electorate, as are hon. Members. Yet the Minister is careful to undermine that very point. He has put at least one safeguard into the Bill: children and parents in receipt of family income supplements will travel free. We already distrust local authorities to that extent.

    I turn now to the question of denominational schools, particularly Catholic schools. I declare an interest. I am a Catholic. Now I have heard two clear and very conflicting views expressed: first, that the Catholic bishops are not really concerned; secondly, that the fuss that is being created about clause 23 is a Catholic fuss and is merely an example of Catholics maintaining their traditional reputation for awkwardness.

    I quote from a letter from the Bishop of Portsmouth, who is also the chairman of the Catholic Education Council. He writes:
    "Our Catholic school system in many local authority areas is dependent upon the provision of transport to school. Very many of our schools have been sited, built or reorganised on the understanding or agreement that there would be free transport. The bishops of England and Wales are very concerned indeed about the whole question. I am writing on their behalf as well as for the Catholic Education Council to ask for all the help and support you can give us at the Report stage of the Education Bill which could have grave consequences for Catholic education."
    There is nothing ambiguous in that statement. It is a clear cry to this House to defend the principle of denominational education.

    I should like to emphasise my ecumical reputation to be impartial and to quote this time from the Anglican Bishop of Coventry. He says:
    "The dual system in this country is a unique partnership in education between Church and State and this clause puts it into jeopardy. If the Government's proposal to allow greater discretion to local education authorities on school transport results in the withdrawal of subsidies then the aided schools could be very hard hit indeed, particularly in rural areas. This may well mean in many cases the withdrawal of a freedom of parental choice for a voluntary school, which would not only appear to deny the Government's declared intention to widen parental choice, but also deny the opportunity of Church school education which the dual system makes possible. In not a few cases it would mean the closure of schools."

    8.45 pm

    Is the hon. Gentleman, having quoted statements from an Anglican bishop and a Catholic bishop, aware that this simply emphasises the fact that when the agreement was made with Lord Butler, just before the 1944 Act, it was not simply about the dual system and about voluntary schools? The free transport element was an integral part of that agreement made with Lord Butler between the two great Churches in this country and the State system.

    I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I should like later, with the permission of the House, to touch gently on something that Lord Butler said.

    I turn now to my second point concerning the argument that the whole of the fuss is a Catholic fuss. I believe that it would be a grievous error to identify the uproar so far caused by clause 23 as a purely denominational uproar. It would be an even greater mistake for this House to assume that it is a Catholic uproar. It is true that denominational schools are greatly concerned about the effects of the clause, but all the denominational schools are involved, as I have sought to prove from the two letters from which I have quoted.

    The reason why perhaps the Catholic Church has been the most vocal is simply that it has the most denominational schools and has the largest school population likely to be affected by the clause. It is therefore entirely reasonable that we should have heard the Catholic voice being expressed very loud and clear.

    Catholics rightly maintain that denominational schools have larger catchment areas than most. No one can argue with that. It is also worth while recalling that Catholic parents, as has been said elsewhere in the debate, find 15 per cent. of the cost of those denominational schools. In round figures, that is about £6 million a year.

    The current Catholic school population is about 800,000 children. That is the number attending Catholic aided schools. That is a fairly sizeable minority. Interestingly, the last complete transport survey taken was in 1972. It showed that 21·5 per cent. of all secondary pupils travelled over 3 miles, but that figure rose to 40 per cent. for denominational schools. Again I emphasise the date—1972. Would any hon. Member argue with me that the number of such children has increased enormously since that date?

    The Catholic contribution to education is a sizeable one, and that is over and above the contribution that is currently made by Catholics as individual tax and rate payers. I am well aware—and here I come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee)—that it is not the intention of the Government, and certainly not the intention of my right hon. and learned Friend or of the Bill, to discriminate against denominational schools. But again I put it to the House that the impact of clause 23, in charging for transport, must be to push families to the nearest school, irrespective of conscience or religious belief. That is not the intention but it will be the effect.

    Government amendment No. 134 provides for a flat rate charge and that any charges made must be uniform, but it does not make it mandatory for local authorities to provide transport in the first place. While I welcome the cart in the amendment, it is a pity that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has not put a horse between the shafts.

    I was hoping that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) had power to talk out the clause. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) referred to Conservative Members campaigning on the theme of cutting public expenditure, but complaining when they got down to detail. It would have been more honest of them if they had campaigned on the detail and told the people what would result from the election of a Conservative Government. Conservative Members have an opportunity tonight to put that right.

    It was significant that the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), in one of the rare speeches in defence of the Government, talked about the Church as a corporate body, while other hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) and for Rugby have talked about a group of people whose standard of living would be cut if the clause went through.

    We all have experiences of the anomalies of the three-mile system. We all know about children going to the same bus stop and some getting free transport while others have to pay, but local authorities have always had the power to use their discretion to get rid of those anomalies. It is a criticism of some authorities that they have not used that discretion. We have a minimum standard plus local authority discretion.

    If the Government were simply trying to get rid of the anomalies we would have some sympathy for them, but that is not the purpose of the clause. Its object is to cut Government and local authority expenditure on school transport. Almost every clause in the Bill, with the significant exception of the provisions on public and private schools, is intended to cut public expenditure. I once called a previous Conservative Government's Education (Milk) Act mean, messy and miserable. That description applies equally to this Bill and a number of others going through the House at the moment.

    What will happen if a local authority uses the powers that the Bill is supposed to provide and maintains expenditure on school transport or even increases it, because of the growth of population? It will have the Secretary of State for the Environment breathing down its neck. He will be looking at not only the rate poundage, but at the speeches of councillors.

    The Government intend to save money and to transfer it to someone else. They are not saying that the expenditure should stop or that children should not go to school on buses. Who will pay? It will be large families, mainly on lower incomes and above FIS and supplementary benefit level. They will be asked to make too much of a sacrifice for the Government's policies.

    Those families did not get the income tax cuts that others received. They have had to bear the burden of big increases in mortgages, and the child benefit has been frozen. Families with children at school are having to make unduly large sacrifices.

    The problem with school transport is mainly in the countryside, but my constituency falls within two metropolitan areas—Manchester and Tameside—and the Catholic schools in Tame side, which have gone comprehensive, have free transport provided for 25 per cent. of pupils. It is not just a rural problem, though the rural areas will suffer, just as they will suffer from other Government policies.

    Therefore, the existing system, under which local authorities have duties and powers, is much better, despite its anomalies. I urge the Secretary of State to accept the view of the vast majority of his hon. Friends who have spoken, and to get rid of the clause.

    I have given the Secretary of State an undertaking that I shall sit clown at 9 o'clock. I want to use this brief opportunity to put on record the Scottish position. I take it that the Secretary of State will give an undertaking that the decision of the House on the amendment to delete clause 23, whatever the decision be, will apply equally to clause 25, relating to Scotland.

    The issue that we are debating split the Committee right down the middle. Although the amendments to delete the clauses were not selected, the Committee divided after the clause stand part debate, and the result was 11–11, with the Chairman giving his casting vote in favour of the Government. Rural communities in Scotland, just as in England, must be preserved. If the provisions of clause 25, which are similar to those of clause 23, are enacted, the rural communities will undoubtedly be seriously affected.

    I congratulate the hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) on moving the amendment. I wish that some Scottish Tory Back Benchers had the same courage as the English Tory Back Benchers have shown in tabling the amendments. Not one Scottish Tory has had the courage to table an amendment to clause 25, despite the fact that it will drastically affect every Scottish constituency represented by a Tory.

    I must join issue with the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). I do not believe that the Catholic Church or the Catholic education authorities would distort the argument in the way that he suggested. In Scotland there is the problem of the Catholic schools, the effect on children travelling to their denominational schools if clause 25 is allowed to remain in the Bill.

    If the Government honestly believe that clauses 23 and 25, the transport clauses, will have no effect on children's ability to attend school, why are they relaxing the provision on acceptable excuses for nonattendance? There is a clear indication that that is being done. I am led to think that the Government accept that if the clauses remain in the Bill more children will be absent from school. There may be some other explanation for what they are doing, but I strongly suspect that it is because the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows the effect that the transport clauses will have, particularly on rural children.

    The Secretary of State, with his eloquence, will no doubt seek to persuade his hon. Friends not to vote for the amendment. My guidance is to the contrary. I advise hon. Members not to accept an undertaking that the Government will seek to do something in another place. The Bill and the amendments are before this House. We have an opportunity to impose our will.

    Although I have agreed to give the Secretary of State half an hour for his speech, I really need give him only two minutes, because it would be sensible for him to say gracefully "We have got it wrong" and agree to withdraw these clauses. Then we could move on to the next amendment.

    9 pm

    I should like first to deal with the two points raised by the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grange mouth (Mr. Ewing). I am grateful to him for sitting down when he did. If there is a vote, it will be on the first of the amendments, applying only to England and Wales. The result of that vote would clearly have ramifications for Scotland.

    I accept the hon. Gentleman's point that it would not be possible in this House to have a vote on the Scottish amendment. But the Government would have to take into account the result of the first vote in deciding their attitude to Scotland. I have not got the answer to the second point that the hon. Gentleman made. It is a technical point. I will make sure that he receives the answer.

    Anyone who has listened to this debate, running to over two-and-a-half hours, will have been impressed by the sincerity and the seriousness of the speeches that have been delivered on both sides of the issue. I have listened with interest and concern not only to the speeches made from the Government Benches but also to the contributions of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and his right hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong). These are important amendments and this is an important clause.

    This is a matter, as many of my hon. Friends have indicated, of substantial political sensitivity. The reason for that sensitivity is that this part of the Bill implements the decision of the Government to allow local authorities to charge for school transport. This means, in many cases, that local authorities will be allowed to impose charges when, at the moment, people are receiving a free service. I accept that the imposition of a charge where the service has been free is a matter of sensitivity and of concern.

    I hope to show the House, particularly my right hon. and hon. Friends, that the proposal to provide freedom for local authorities to charge for transport, with the one limitation covered by the amendment, in my name, imposing a flat-rate basis of charge for children of the same age and the same area, to ensure that there can be no possibility of discrimination against any particular type of school and no discrimination over the different distances children have to travel, are not ill-conceived and inequitable, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) described them, but are necessary, just and fair.

    I understood that my right hon. and learned Friend's original amendment on this subject made a uniform charge right across the board, irrespective of the age of the child, the school the child attended, or the distance travelled. I was concerned when I subsequently read that the amendment now differentiates between schools. If there has been a change, I should like to know the reason.

    There was a sensible reason. Many of the authorities intending to charge have specifically proposed lower charges for primary schools than for secondary schools. To allow for that, I drafted the amendment in the way it appears. So far as the other amendments we are debating—

    Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves that narrow point, which is of great interest to many of us on the Government Benches, will he say something about our concern that four out of five children in rural areas need public transport to get to school whereas in the cities the proportion is only one in five? As a result the country-dwelling children will be worst hit.

    Of course I accept that if charges are imposed where there were none before, the people who inevitably will be affected are those who were not paying before. Of course, I realise that children in rural areas tend to go greater distances to school than children in the towns. But my amendment is an attempt to ensure that in any charging policy the local authorities pursue they shall operate on a basis that does not discriminate against any type of school and is not related to distance. I believe that in that amendment I go substantially towards meeting many of the fears that have been expressed.

    All of the amendments that we are debating tonight attempt in different ways to restrict local education authorities' discretion as to the level of those charges. The amendments in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) and the hon. Member for Bedwellty, seek to impose a figure. The hon. Member for Bedwellty is also seeking to relate the charge to the cost of public transport. The Liberal amendment is designed to limit the provision to certain groups of people. Other amendments attempt to raise the basic limit.

    I hope that I can persuade the House that all these amendments should be resisted, since they seek to impose shackles on the discretion of local authorities to decide ways in which to make their economies.

    Since the whole issue is the correctness or otherwise of the clause I must tell my hon. Friends that the clear reason for it is to enable local education authorities to make savings in public expenditure in this area. We have told the local education authorities that for the year 1980–81 we are looking for a cut of 5 per cent. in proposed expenditure. I do not think that I have to persuade my right hon. and hon. Friends that cuts in public expenditure are essential. I do not think that any of them would doubt, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) has said, that we have as a country been living beyond our means. Public expenditure has been increasing at a time when there has been no increase in wealth. The result is well known. It is over-high taxation and a lack of adequate resources in the private sector.

    Faced with that and a request to local authorities to make savings, the Association of County Councils specifically said that if savings of this kind were to be made the authorities should have the freedom in this area and that of school meals. The reason is simple. It is that by today the cost of the subsidy on transport has already risen to £125 million a year. If we are to make savings of the kind I have described it is only reasonable that local authorities should have the opportunity of choosing in which area they wish to make them. It is consistent with the Government's philosophy of giving local authorities the maximum freedom to decide their own policies in accordance with their local circumstances.

    Since local authorities are having to make difficult decisions about where they make savings in other forms of expenditure on education, it is right that if they wish to make them on transport rather than on nursery schools, adult education or something of that kind, they should be free to do so. We have to widen the area of expenditure out of which these savings can be made. I must, therefore, ask my hon. Friends to trust the local education authorities to act responsibly and to decide where the savings should be made.

    My right hon. and learned Friend has ruled out charges for nursery education. Many people welcome that and many people do not. However, if it is right to impose on local authorities a policy for the sale of council houses, surely it is equally right to say that they shall not charge more than a certain sum for transport.

    We debated that issue yesterday. I have many points to answer and I should like to be allowed to proceed. It was said that only £20 million was involved. That does not appear to be a large saving in the context of a total budget of £8 billion a year for education. But if we start knocking away at different parts of the edifice the whole structure crumbles. If we say that on every individual piece of education expenditure we can save only a small amount we have to look for savings elsewhere. I listened with care to what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South-West (Mr. Butcher) said about non-teaching staff. The numbers of non-teaching staff have fallen by 10,000 in the last five years. In the same five years the cost of education administration fell by £40 million, or 10 per cent. I do not believe that there are any easy answers when looking for the savings that are required.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman should remember that the financial and explanatory memorandum states that the so-called savings on school transport would amount to £22 million. That is less than half of what the Secretary of State proposes to spend on the assisted places scheme. If he is intent on cutting public expenditure, will he scrap completely the assisted places scheme?

    The hon. Member knows that that is not true.

    I was saying that there are no easy answers in making savings of this kind. I repeat that if local authorities do not make savings in this area savings have to come from elsewhere in their budget. I am desperately anxious to ensure that we can preserve the level of expenditure in the classroom consistent with our election manifesto pledges on education.

    I take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). The present situation is illogical. There is no obligation on an authority to provide transport up to the walking distance but beyond that distance to provide it free. No account is taken of the circumstances of the person who on the one side of the dividing line pays the full price, and subsidises the person on the other side of the line who pays less.

    This problem has caused great concern to Governments for many years. In some communities one side of the village pays for transport and the other side does not. However, overall only 10 per cent. of people get free transport and only 20 per cent. get free transport to secondary schools. The hon. Member for Bedwellty quoted suggested charges in the region of £1 to £2 a week. I accept them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser), referred to a charge of 25p a day for children in Staffordshire. I remind him that the equivalent journey of just under three miles by public transport would cost them 43p a day in Staffordshire.

    Kent originally proposed a charge of 35p and withdrew it. That was because many people in that county were already paying that amount. Essex charges between 12p and 36p a day, East Sussex charges 34p, Wiltshire 28p, Hampshire 30p and Dorset 25p. I earnestly beg my hon. Friends to remember that many people, irrespective of their financial positions, pay similar sums and out of their other pockets they subsidise free transport for others.

    9.15 pm

    Is the Secretary of State making a threat or a promise? Is he saying that, because some people have to meet those costs, everybody should? Who will be advantaged by that? A manageable system for school meals payments is now changed because of the feeling that the full cost should be met. Is that not likely to happen to transport so that it becomes totally prohibitive?

    When we are trying to reduce public expenditure, and knowing that people are already paying certain sums, it is not unreasonable for local authorities to consider introducing a modest charge for transport.

    I turn to the question of Roman Catholics. I listened with interest to what was said. The availability of an appropriate school that is nearer than the Catholic school to which a pupil already goes means that much of the present provision is not statutory but discretionary. I fear that if local authorities do not have the opportunity to recoup some of the money which is being spent on free transport they may decide to withdraw the service. That is a greater threat to the Catholic schools than asking for a modest charge to be made. For example, Oxford shire proposes to do that under the present law.

    We are not against denominational schools. I fully recognise their importance but the principle is that those attending denominational schools should be treated in a similar way to others. That is why I propose a flat rate, non-discriminatory charge.

    I shall explain briefly why I am not able to accept any of the amendments. I have explained why I cannot accept that the clause should be deleted. I urge my hon. Friends who wish a figure to be inserted in the Bill to remember that any one figure would not take account of local circumstances. The cost of transport varies enormously in different parts of the country because of various subsidies. A maximum charge would not lead to fairness. Many people in the same area would still have to pay different sums.

    The county in which my right hon. and learned Friend lives is charging 23p a day. Kent proposed to charge 35p a day, or £2·50 a week. Would my right hon. and learned Friend be satisfied if his local authority charged the same as Kent?

    It is inevitable that different figures would be charged in different parts of the country, taking account of local circumstances. I pose the question to hon. Members on both sides of the House: who is best to decide what that charge should be—we in central Government or the local councillors who are sensitive to the local view and are themselves elected representatives? I hope that none of the amendments will be accepted.

    Although I do not wish to see on the face of the Bill any of the amendments that have been proposed, nevertheless the Government and the House should express a view as to what should be general good practice. It should not be allowed, in any way, to discriminate between types of schools or distance.

    Local authorities, in using their powers, should take account of the total effect of their proposals on family budgets. They should take account especially of the size of a family. Many counties are limiting their proposals in that way. They should consider the effect of their proposals on poorer families.

    I have much sympathy with the second amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby, and with some of the views expressed by the hon. Member for Bedwellty. I hope that local authorities, when considering their schemes, will take into account the problems of the poverty trap, and the possibility of adopting an income scale test of entitlement, as previously existed in the schools meals service and which was a reasonable and fair practice.

    Having considered carefully all the proposals that have been made by local authorities—although some have not made their final decision—I feel that the sort of sums that they are proposing are reasonable and fair in the economic position that we face. Their proposals in limiting the number of children and the types of sums that they have in mind are reasonable. We ought to trust the local education authorities to make the savings in the way that they wish.

    I say to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) that I am getting somewhat sick of the irresponsibility of the Liberals on this matter. They claim to be a party that believes in local Government, yet they do nothing but attack the responsibility of local councillors.

    During the debate on education expenditure last week, they complained about the savings that might be made by closing schools. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed called for more money to be spent on nursery school provision. This afternoon, he complained about the savings to be made in the school meals service. This evening, he complained about any savings that might be made in the transport service. Next week, he will be going around the country complaining about the rises in the rates and the taxes—

    —that he, by his votes, his speeches and his unwillingness to accept that savings in expenditure have to be made, will have been largely responsible for bringing about. Any bandwagon is good enough for the hon. Gentleman, provided he feels that it has a vote in it somewhere.

    The Secretary of State is forgetting that I went into the Lobby with him to vote for the increase to 35p for school meals only a fortnight ago. Is he now saying that if all local authorities took his advice and did not impose the charges that we have criticised, they would be able to make the savings that he has referred to in the memorandum to the Bill?

    In making the savings for which we are looking we have assumed that the savings for the year 1980–81 can be £20 million, which is about 25 per cent. of the expenditure on transport now. I have clearly said, and I repeat, there can be no going back on the savings. Therefore, if local authorities choose not to use their powers here, the savings have to be made elsewhere.

    Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman is always berating us about our alleged lack of confidence in local education authorities compared with his alleged great confidence in them, why has he found it necessary to table an amendment laying down that flat-rate fares have to be charged?

    I tabled it because I was requested by many people to do so. I tabled the amendment to meet fears which I believe to be groundless. Other than one Socialist council—Mid Glamorgan—no one was proposing discriminatory charges. However, as that fear existed, I decided to make the amendment.

    I understood my right hon. and learned Friend to say that he had examined the many schemes which have so far been submitted and that he thought them reasonable. Is he not therefore saying that the Kent proposal, which for secondary school children is currently £2·50 a week, is reasonable? If so, is not that an open invitation to every education authority in the country to put up rates to that kind of level at some future date?

    The vast majority of proposals that I have seen appear to be reasonable. It is for local councillors to justify the figures to their own local electorates. It is not for us to impose them.

    I have made it clear that savings in education have to be made. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South said, if we do not make savings in public expenditure, if we go on living beyond

    Division No. 180]

    AYES

    [9.30 pm

    Abse, LeoBrown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)Davies, Ifor (Gower)
    Adams, AllenBuchan, NormanDavis, Clinton (Hackney Central)
    Allaun, FrankCallaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)
    Alton, DavidCallaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Deakins, Eric
    Anderson, DonaldCampbell, IanDean, Joseph (Leeds West)
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterCampbell-Savours, DaleDempsey, James
    Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestCanavan, DennisDewar, Donald
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackCant, R. B.Dixon, Donald
    Ashton, JoeCarmichael, NeilDobson, Frank
    Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Carter-Jones, LewisDormand, Jack
    Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Cartwright, JohnDouglas, Dick
    Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Douglas-Mann, Bruce
    Belth, A. J.Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Dubs, Alfred
    Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodConcannon, Rt Hon J. D.Duffy, A. E. P.
    Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Conlan, BernardDunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
    Bevan, David GilroyCook, Robin F.Dunnett, Jack
    Bidwell, SydneyCormack, PatrickDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasCowans, HarryEadle, Alex
    Booth, Rt Hon AlbertCraigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)Eastham, Ken
    Boothroyd, Miss BettyCrowther, J. S.Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)
    Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Cryer, BobEllis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)
    Bradley, TomCunliffe, LawrenceEllis, Tom (Wrexham)
    Bray, Dr JeremyCunningham, George (Islington S)English, Michael
    Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Dalyell, TamEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)
    Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Davidson, ArthurEvans, John (Newton)
    Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Ewing, Harry

    our means to the extent that we have done, we shall continue with higher interest rates and mortgages. Those who are being asked to make some contribution towards the expense of getting their children to school must consider in their minds the alternative ways in which the money may otherwise be spent.

    We have given authorities the widest freedom to choose where and in what way they believe it is right to make the savings for which we are asking. As I have said on many occasions from this Dispatch Box, it is far better to protect the classroom than to continue with increasing subsidies in all other areas. Yet I believe that would be the corollory of what some of my hon. Friends have been advocating tonight.

    I heard what was said in this debate, and some of my hon. Friends made similar remarks in the previous debate. I believe that when considering what is a reasonable charge to make, taking account of local transport and the effect on the family, the local councillor is more sensitive and better able to understand and react to the views of people on the savings that we are seeking in this area.

    For those reasons, I ask the House to reject the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member of Nantwich.

    Question put, That the amendment be made:—

    The House divided: Ayes 279, Noes 302.

    Farr, JohnLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
    Field, FrankLitherland, RobertRodgers, Rt Hon William
    Filch, AlanLofthouse, GeoffreyRooker, J. W.
    Fitt, GerardLyon, Alexander (York)Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
    Fiannery, MartinLyons, Edward (Bradford West)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
    Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonRoss, Wm. (Londonderry)
    Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)McCartney, HughRowlands, Ted
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMcCusker, H.Ryman, John
    Forrester, JohnMcDonald, Dr OonaghSandelson, Neville
    Foster, DerekMcElhone, FrankSever, John
    Foulkes, GeorgeMcKay, Allen (Penistone)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
    Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford a St)McKelvey, WilliamShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
    Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorShore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
    Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMaclennan, RobertShort, Mrs Renée
    Freud, ClementMcMahon, AndrewSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
    Fry, PeterMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
    Garrett, John (Norwich S)Magee, BryanSilverman, Julius
    Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Marks, KennethSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
    George, BruceMarlow, TonySmith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
    Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnMarshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Snape, Peter
    Ginsburg, DavidMarshal), Dr Edmund (Goole)Soley, Clive
    Golding, JohnMarshall, Jim (Leicester South)Spearing, Nigel
    Gourlay, HarryMartin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)Spriggs, Leslie
    Graham, TedMason, Rt Hon RoyStallard, A. W.
    Grant, George (Morpeth)Maxton, JohnSteel, Rt Hon David
    Grant, John (Islington C)Maynard, Miss JoanStewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
    Grimond, Rt Hon J.Meacher, MichaelStoddart, David
    Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fite)Mellish, Rt Hon RobertStott, Roger
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterMikardo, IanStrang, Gavin
    Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithMillan, Rt Hon BruceStraw, Jack
    Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyMiller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
    Haynes, FrankMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
    Healey, Rt Hon DenisMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
    Heffer, Eric S.Moate, RogerThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
    Hicks, RobertMolyneaux, JamesThomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
    Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
    Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
    Home Robertson, JohnMorris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Tilley, John
    Homewood, WilliamMorton, GeorgeTinn, James
    Hooley, FrankMoyle, Rt Hon RolandTorney, Tom
    Hooson, TomMulley, Rt Hon FrederickUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
    Horam, JohnNewens, StanleyVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
    Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
    Howells, GeraintOgden, EricWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
    Huckfield, LesO'Halloran, MichaelWalker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
    Hudson Davies, Gwilym EdnyfedO'Neill, MartinWeetch, Ken
    Hughes, Mark (Durham)Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWellbeloved, James
    Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWelsh, Michael
    Hughes, Roy (Newport)Palmer, ArthurWhite, Frank B. (Bury & Radcliffe)
    Janner, Hon GrevillePark, GeorgeWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
    Jay, Rt Hon DouglasParker, JohnWhitehead, Phillip
    John, BrynmorParry, RobertWhitlock, William
    Johnson, James (Hull West)Pavitt, LaurieWigley, Dafydd
    Johnston, Russell (Iverness)Pawsey, JamesWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
    Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)Pendry, TomWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
    Jones, Barry (East Flint)Penhaligon, DavidWilliams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
    Jones, Dan (Burnley)Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)
    Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
    Kerr, RussellPrescott, JohnWilson, William (Coventry SE)
    Kilroy-Silk, RobertPrice, Christopher (Lewisham West)Winnick, David
    Kinnock, NeilRace, RegWoodall, Alec
    Knox, DavidRadice, GilesWrigglesworth, Ian
    Lambie, DavidRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)Wright, Sheila
    Lamborn, HarryRichardson, JoYoung, David (Bolton East)
    Lamond, JamesRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Leadbitter, TedRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Leighton, RonaldRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Mr. Donald Coleman and Mr. James Hamilton.
    Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Robertson, George
    Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)

    NOES

    Adley, RobertBell, Sir RonaldBraine, Sir Bernard
    Aitken, JonathanBendall, VivianBright, Graham
    Alexander, RichardBenyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Brinton, Tim
    Alison, MichaelBenyon, W. (Buckingham)Brittan, Leon
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianBest, KeithBrocklebank-Fowler, Christopher
    Ancram, MichaelBiffen, Rt Hon JohnBrooke, Hon Peter
    Arnold, TomBiggs-Davi8on, JohnBrotherton, Michael
    Aspinwall, JackBlackburn, JohnBrown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Blaker, PeterBrowne, John (Winchester)
    Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Body, RichardBruce-Gardyne, John
    Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Boscawen, Hon RobertBryan, Sir Paul
    Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick
    Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Bowden, AndrewBuck, Antony
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBoyson, Dr RhodesBudgen, Nick

    Bulmer, EsmondHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Pattie, Geoffrey
    Burden, F. A.Holland, Philip (Carlton)Percival, Sir Ian
    Butcher, JohnHordern, PeterPeyton, Rt Hon John
    Butler, Hon AdamHowe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPink, R. Bonner
    Cadbury, JocelynHowell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)Pollock, Alexander
    Carlisle, John (Luton West)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Porter, George
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoin)Hunt, David (Wirral)Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
    Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Price, David (Eastleigh)
    Chalker, Mrs LyndaHurd, Hon DouglasPrior, Rt Hon James
    Channon, PaulIrvine, Charles (Cheltenham)Proctor, K. Harvey
    Chapman, SydneyJenkin, Rt Hon PatrickPym, Rt Hon Francis
    Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Johnson Smith, GeoffreyRalson, Timothy
    Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRathbone, Tim
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
    Cockeram, EricKaberry Sir DonaldRees-Davies, W. R.
    Colvin, MichaelKimball, MarcusRenton, Tim
    Cope, JohnKing, Rt Hon TomRhodes James, Robert
    Corrie, JohnKitson, Sir TimothyRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Costain, A. P.Knight, Mrs JillRidley, Hon Nicholas
    Cranborne, ViscountLamont, NormanRidsdale, Julian
    Critchley, JulianLang, IanRifkind, Malcolm
    Crouch, DavidLangford-Holt, Sir JohnRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
    Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Latham, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
    Dickens, GeoffreyLawrence, IvanRossi, Hugh
    Dorrell, StephenLawson, NigelRost, Peter
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLee, JohnRoyle, Sir Anthony
    Dover, DenshoreLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSainsbury, Hon Timothy
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLester, Jim (Beeston)St. John Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Scott, Nicholas
    Durant, TonyLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
    Dykes, HughLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shelton, William (Streatham)
    Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLoveridge, JohnShersby, Michael
    Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Luce, RichardSilvester, Fred
    Eggar, TimothyLyell, NicholasSims, Roger
    Elliott Sir WilliamMcCrindle, RobertSkeet, T. H. H.
    Emery, PeterMacfarlane, NeilSmith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
    Eyre, ReginaldMacGregor, JohnSpeed, Keith
    Fairbairn, NicholasMacKay, John (Argyll)Speller, Tony
    Fairgrieve RussellMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Spence, John
    Faith Mrs SheilaMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
    Fell, AnthonyMcQuarrie, AlbertSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
    Fenner, Mrs PeggyMadel, DavidSproat, Iain
    Finsberg, GeoffreyMajor. JohnSquire, Robin
    Fisher, Sir NigelMarland, PaulStainton, Keith
    Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Stanbrook, Ivor
    Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMarten, Neil (Banbury)Stanley, John
    Fookes, Miss JanetMates, MichaelSteen, Anthony
    Forman, NigelMather, CarolStevens, Martin
    Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMaude, Rt Hon AngusStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Fox, MarcusMawby, RayStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
    Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Mawhinney, Dr BrianStokes, John
    Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStradllng Thomas, J.
    Gardiner George (Reigate)Mayhew, PatrickTapsell, peter
    Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)Mellor, DavidTaylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
    Garel-Jones, TristanMeyer, Sir AnthonyTebbit, Norman
    Gllmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Temple-Morris, peter
    Glyn, Dr AlanMills, Iain (Meriden)Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
    Goodhart, PhilipMills, Peter (West Devon)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
    Goodlad, AlastairMiscampbeil, NormanThompson, Donald
    Gorst, JohnMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Thome, Neil (Ilford South)
    Gow, IanMonro, HectorThornton, Malcolm
    Gower, Sir RaymondMoore, JohnTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Morgan, GeraintTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
    Gray, HamishMorris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Trippier, David
    Greenway, HarryMorrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Trotter, Neville
    Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)van Straubenzee, W. R.
    Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Mudd, DavidVaughan, Dr Gerard
    Grist, IanMurphy, ChristopherViggers, Peter
    Grylls, MichaelMyles, DavidWaddlngton, David
    Gummer, John SelwynNeale, GerardWakeham, John
    Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Needham, RichardWaldegrave, Hon William
    Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Nelson, AnthonyWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
    Hampson, Dr KeithNeubert, MichaelWalkef-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
    Hannam, JohnNewton, TonyWaller, Gary
    Haselhurst, AlanNormanton, TomWalters, Dennis
    Hastings. StephenNott, Rt Hon JohnWard, John
    Havers Rt Hon Sir MichaelOnslow, CranleyWarren, Kenneth
    Hawksley, WarrenOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs SallyWatson, John
    Hsyhoe, BarneyOsborn, JohnWells, John (Maidstone)
    Heath, Rt Hon EdwardPage, John (Harrow, West)Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
    Heddle, JohnPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)Wheeler, John
    Henderson, BarryParkinson, CecilWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
    Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelParris, MatthewWhitney, Raymond
    Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Patten, Christopher (Bath)Wickenden, Keith
    Hill, JamesPatten, John (Oxford)Wiggin, Jerry

    Wilkinson, JohnYoung, Sir George (Acton)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Winterton, NicholasYounger, Rt Hon GeorgeMr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Anthony Berry.
    Wolfson Mark

    Question accordingly negatived.

    Order. I am now required to put the Questions on the three remaining Government amendments up to clause 25, Nos. 134, 151 and 61. Does any hon. Gentleman wish to seek a Division on any of these amendments?