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Education Reform Bill

Volume 130: debated on Monday 28 March 1988

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4Th Allotted Day

As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Clause 135

Abolition Of Ilea

3.43 pm

I beg to move amendment No. 375, in page 127, line 26, leave out 'On 1st April 1990', and insert

`The Secretary of State shall secure a review of the Inner London Education Authority to be undertaken in pursuance of section 22(2) of the Local Government Act 1985, and on a date not less than two years after the conclusion of that review the Secretary of State may by affirmative order provide that'.

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 499, in clause 136, in page 127, line 32, at beginning insert—

'Subject to the provisions of subsections (3) and (4) below'.
No. 356, in page 127, line 32, after 'date', insert
'subject to subsections (3) and (4) below'.
No. 357, in page 127, line 38, at end add—
'(3) The Secretary of State may by Order, which shall be subject to affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, designate two or more inner London councils as a single education authority, to which references in this or other Acts shall apply as in subsection (1) above.'.
No. 358, in page 127, line 38, at end add—
'(4) The Secretary of State may make an Order, subject to affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, which—
  • (a) may designate any former function of the inner London Education Authority which shall be discharged by a body, other than an inner London council or an education authority established by virtue of subsection (3) above;
  • No. 500, in page 127, line 38, at end insert—
    '(3) Before the abolition date, the Secretary of State shall review development plans published in accordance with the provisions of section 138 of this Act and any other evidence or representations he considers approriate (including, in particular, reviews of matters relating to—
  • (a) special educational needs; and
  • (b) further and continuing education,
  • in the Inner London Education Area).
    (4) If it appears to the Secretary of State in the case of any one or more inner London councils that all or any of those councils could with advantage make joint arrangements for the discharge of all or any of the functions of a local education authority, he shall by order under Part II of Schedule 1 of the 1944 Act establish for the whole or any part of the Inner London Education area a joint committee for the purpose of exercising such functions as he may prescribe accordingly.'.
    No. 504, in clause 138, in page 129, line 3, at end insert
    '(5A) An Inner London council shall, in preparing a development plan under this section, ensure that there is adequate financial support for the effective running and management of each of the following—
  • (a) the teaching of mother-tongue or community languages,
  • (b) the teaching of English as a second language,
  • (c) holiday play schemes,
  • (d) supplementary schools,
  • (e) the Education Liaison Service, and
  • (f) access courses leading to higher and further education.'.
  • No. 501, in clause 143, in page 133, line 16, at end insert
    'provided that for the purposes of an order made under this section, when a school is designated by an order made under section 139 (so that an inner London council has a duty to maintain a school previously maintained by the LEA) the persons employed at that school shall be regarded as members of one class or description of employees'.

    The amendment raises the crucial issue of whether the abolition of ILEA should take place on 1 April 1990 with no serious study or review, or whether a review should take place first. Before I deal with that, I want to place on record my great regret that the Secretary of State is unwilling to reply to this debate. He is here, but he is putting up the Minister of State to reply—and I mean her no disrespect by saying that. It has been crystal clear throughout that this is a crucial matter that is central to the Government's and the Secretary of State's reputation and he should have had the guts to reply to the debate on it.

    The hon. Gentleman knows that Mr. Speaker has selected six groups of amendments for debate and I shall reply to at least two of them—provided that we get to them, which we should be able to do. I have every confidence that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to reply.

    If the hon. Gentleman wants my reply to the amendment, let me say that we are wholly opposed to it. It will only lead to delay, which is not good for the interests of the children of London. The greatest service he can do is to encourage the London Labour boroughs to start planning for taking over their children's education on 1 April 1990, which is what the Conservative boroughs and Tower Hamlets are doing.

    I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but it does not lie in his mouth to suggest that we can get on to debate the second and third groupings when he guillotined the Bill ruthlessly so that we are likely to be able to discuss only the first group, as he knew all along. He also well knows that we have the interests of the children of London at heart, which is why we are proposing a review first.

    There have been two major reviews of ILEA's work under this Administration — one in 1980 and one in 1984. The one in 1980 was prompted by the findings of a committee of which the Secretary of State, then a Back Bencher, was chairman. The then Secretary of State, Lord Carlisle, with the advice of Her Majesty's inspectors before him, came to the House on 4 February 1981 to announce the conclusion of the review in these terms:
    "the overriding factors are educational and financial. The weight of educational opinion, including the voluntary bodies and the churches, is that the problems of inner London call for a single authority of adequate size and with adequate resources to administer its schools as well as further and higher education, and the careers service; and that responsibility for the schools should not be separated from the rest of education. The Government share that view." —[Official Report, 4 February 1981; Vol. 998 c. 296.]
    A further review was conducted alongside the White Paper "Streamlining the Cities" in 1983–84.

    I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) here—

    Because I can address some of my remarks to him. His presence shows at least some token concern for the education of London's children; but the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is absent—

    In any case, his absence shows the cavalier manner in which he regards the future of inner London.

    The right hon. Member for Henley broke the 30-year Cabinet rule and told us that only five years ago — I hope that the Attorney-General has noted his indiscretion and that summonses under the Official Secrets Act will follow, under section 2 if not section 1 — he argued strongly within the Cabinet in 1983–84 in the run-up to the general election for the break-up of ILEA. Sad to relate, from his point of view, he failed in that, and the break-up was not included in the 1983 manifesto. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman went on arguing for the break-up of ILEA after 1983—but still failed.

    We had a number of arguments with Lord Joseph, but never doubted his concern about the education of our children. He said to the House:
    "Those whom we consulted, in particular those Members of the House and others with a close understanding of the needs of education in inner London, were overwhelmingly in favour of a directly elected authority. We have been persuaded by their arguments. The nature, the scale and importance of the education service in inner London, taken together, justify a directly elected authority in this special casc."—[Official Report, 5 April 1984; Vol. 57, c. 1124.]
    I understand that the consolation prize for the right hon. Member for Henley was that a power of review should be written into the Local Government Bill so that there could be a facility for abolishing ILEA by order, if the Government came to that conclusion, after about five years. If at any stage I have the chronology, the history or the facts wrong, I shall give way to the former Secretary of State so that he can give away some more official secrets.

    The power to abolish ILEA by order was overturned by the House of Lords in mid-1985 and the matter came back to this House. May God please preserve the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), the longest serving junior Minister in this Administration. So pleased have we been with his comments that we are forming a Bob Dunn preservation society, because every time he speaks he makes our case. He said:
    "The strongest objection to clause 21"—
    as it then was—
    "has been to the proposal that there should be a power for my right hon. Friend to reallocate the new ILEA's functions by order. We have been convinced by those arguments." —[Official Report, 8 July 1985; Vol. 82, c. 817.]
    It is interesting to look back at the history of that period to see what became of section 22 of the 1985 Act. Right from the start everyone in the Government accepted that before ILEA was broken up there had to be a review. That was written into the original legislation and was accepted by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I understand that it was also accepted by the right hon. Members for Henley and for Chingford and by the Prime Minister. Indeed, it was about the only matter on which those four right hon. Members agreed. All four of them knew that before there was any serious change to the structure of an organisation as complex and important as ILEA there had to be a review.

    There has been some reference to well-wishers who keep sending me plain sealed envelopes containing information about what goes on in the Government or in the Conservative party. I shall come to the latest brown envelope that I have received.

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science
    (Mr. Robert Jackson)

    The hon. Gentleman should not encourage public servants to break the law.

    The hon. Gentleman should be careful in his allegation.

    I have yet to receive a white envelope containing details of exactly what the Secretary of State said to "E(EP)", the Cabinet Sub-Committee that deals with all these matters, when he was faced with the efforts by the right hon. Members for Henley and for Chingford who were trying to railroad him into breaking up ILEA against his will. I understand, and I am certainly open to correction, that even at that stage the Secretary of State argued quite strongly against those two right hon. Gentlemen and said that there should be a review. I see that the Secretary of State is smiling like a Cheshire cat. If I am wrong, I shall give way so that the right hon. Gentleman can correct me and tell me exactly what other arguments he used against the two right hon. Gentlemen. We know, because we were able to observe it, that during the weeks when the Government were deciding whether to accept his advice or theirs he was walking around looking as black as thunder because he knew, and we knew, that he was being rolled over.

    There was an argument at the time, and it was that we should make a success of getting rid of the GLC and the metropolitan counties before dealing with ILEA. Now that we have made a triumphant success of getting rid of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, there seems to be an overwhelming case for saying that ILEA should go the same way.

    That was not the argument that convinced the Secretary of State or the right hon. Gentleman, the chairman of the Conservative party, because only nine months ago in the Conservative manifesto they put forward quite a different proposition. As I understand it, the right hon. Member for Henley was a party to the decision in 1983–84 that there had to be a review of ILEA before any decision was made about its abolition. If I am wrong about that, I shall give way again to the right hon. Member for Henley. Once again, the right hon. Gentleman is trying to hide behind jokes and trivialities to mask the fact that he and the Government have gone back on their word.

    In order to reinforce the point that the Secretary of State was rolled over, I can tell the House that I had never seen him as uncomfortable as when he made his statement to the House on 4 February. He was trying to explain that black was white, and that a manifesto commitment that he had written and the right hon. Member for Chingford had endorsed, to keep ILEA intact, with at most three boroughs and the City of London withdrawing, was the same as the manifesto commitment to destroy it altogether.

    Where in the Conservative party manifesto was there an undertaking that ILEA would be kept intact and only three boroughs would be allowed to withdraw? The trouble with the hon. Gentleman is that he cannot conceive that anybody's second thoughts would be better than his first. In his case, his third, fourth and fifth thoughts would be better than the one he is putting forward now.

    The Conservative party manifesto said:

    "In the area covered by the Inner London Education Authority, where entire borough councils wish to become independent of the LEA, they will Be able to submit proposals to the Secretary of State requesting permission to take over the provision of education within their boundaries."

    The hon. Gentleman said that there was an undertaking that ILEA would not be dismantled. There was a proposition, which has now been improved, that it should be dismantled. That is the fact.

    The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. First, he said that this was a second thought, suggesting a complete change of policy. Now he is saying that it was a manifesto commitment, and the new policy is an improvement. He knows that there is not a word in the manifesto about the abolition of ILEA. He also knows that only three Conservative boroughs and the City of London, and possibly Tower Hamlets—I see the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) shaking his head, and he knows the Liberals in Tower Hamlets better than I do. The right hon. Member for Chingford knew the reality at the time of the general election, and he knew it when he put forward the amendment in the form of an early-day motion. If he thought that the manifesto was the mechanism for breaking up ILEA, why did he bother to have second thoughts and try to force on the Secretary of State an about-turn of policy?

    To set the record straight, I should inform the hon. Gentleman that the view of Tower Hamlets council has always been that it opposes the abolition of ILEA. If ILEA were to be broken up, as was the original Tory proposal, it was considering what it should do. It never reached a conclusion because it never had time to do so, and it is opposed to the present proposal as much as any other borough in inner London that is not run by the Tories.

    Let me get back to the point. The hon. Gentleman claimed that there was an undertaking in the manifesto that what is being done in the Bill would not be done. He has to face the fact that no such undertaking was given. If he would come clean and not overstate his argument, he might do a lot better.

    It is nice to know that the right hon. Gentleman now presents himself as Mr. Clean. The right hon. Gentleman has claimed for himself many reputations, but being Mr. Clean is not one of them. The phrase I used was that a manifesto commitment that he had written would result in ILEA being kept intact. On the basis of what was written in the manifesto—and he knows the words as well as I do—that was an entirely reasonable inference to draw. Not more than three boroughs would have withdrawn. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his confirmation that these were indeed second thoughts, and a major change of policy.

    The fact that the Secretary of State was rolled over by the right hon. Members for Chingford and Henley is crystal clear from the information that I have been sent by well-wishers. There was first the report of Mr. Eric Bolton, the chief inspector, who wholly rebutted the claim that ILEA had not improved. That claim has been central to the argument for abolition without review. The Secretary of State knows that Mr. Bolton's minute, which was attached to the paper that no doubt went to "E(EP)"., in which the Secretary of State argued for the review of ILEA and not for its break-up, praised four out of seven ILEA services and said that two were around the average. It was critical about secondary schools, but went on to say:
    "Whatever its previous shortcomings, over the past two or three years there has been a marked move towards the improvement of quality, notably through an increase in inspection and in school improvement strategies, arising from the findings of inspection, as well as from the policies of the authority. In fact, there are clear signs that the findings of inspection are beginning to have an influence on the formulation of policy in the Inner London Education Authority."

    The hon. Gentleman says that ILEA has improved in recent years. Does he accept that, whatever improvements have taken place, it is still almost bottom of the league?

    4 pm

    I do not accept that. We have had many debates about the performance of ILEA. I can claim to have some knowledge of ILEA, both as a member and as a consumer. It is a good authority. Even the Secretary of State had to correct himself when he claimed that its results were bottom of the league. He had to admit that there were about 12 authorities below it. Given the socioeconomic background of the children, both the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State know that ILEA's results are about the same as those for Oxfordshire and better than those for the borough of Waltham Forest, when it was Conservative-controlled.

    I shall give way in a moment.

    The remarks of the chief inspector suggested that ILEA was improving and thus emphasise the Secretary of State's discomfort that the abolition of ILEA was forced upon him without a review. The Secretary of State and his political advisers have sought to brief Conservative Members about the fact that abolition could go ahead without review. I have no doubt that the series of questions and answers written at the Department of Education and Science and put out by Conservative central office to explain away those second thoughts—which, according to the Secretary of State, are first thoughts slightly changed—were written with the intention that no one should be convinced by them.

    That series of questions and answers is very defensive. Question one asks:
    "Doesn't the announcement that ILEA is to be abolished mean a complete change of policy?"
    The right hon. Member for Chingford says that the answer is yes and that it shows second thoughts. The Secretary of State says that that is not the case. That is another indication of division. How can the Government abolish ILEA if the matter was not put to the electorate in the 1987 manifesto?

    Question seven reflects the second thoughts in the minds of the drafters at Conservative central office and in the Department of Education and Science. Question seven asks:
    "Why abolish the ILEA without first having a review under section 22 of the Local Government Act 1985?"
    The answer states:
    "There have been a long series of such reviews, but these have not resulted in any noticeable improvement in the ILEA's educational or financial performance. There is no reason to believe that a new review would be any more successful in raising standards in the future. On the contrary, it would merely postpone a positive decision, leaving the current climate of uncertainty."
    I have dealt with the issue whether there has been an improvement. The Secretary of State was so angry about the leaking of Mr. Bolton's minute because it gave the game away and showed that there has been an improvement in ILEA's secondary school system and that four of the other seven services were among the best in the country. I asked the obvious question—whether it was correct that there had been a long series of reviews such as that anticipated by section 22 of the Local Government Act 1985. It took the Secretary of State 10 days to answer that simple question and I received the answer only this morning.

    The Secretary of State mentioned two internal Government reviews, both of which I have referred to and both of which concluded that ILEA should remain intact. He then mentioned five other reviews. Only one review, the one that he wrote himself in 1985, said that ILEA should go. He has changed his mind since then; Lord Carlisle changed it for him.

    I was referred finally to a document produced by the Centre for Policy Studies entitled "The Inner London Education Authority After the Abolition of the Greater London Council", published in 1983. Conservative Members, particularly those on the Right of the party, know about the Centre for Policy Studies because it provides them with the way, the truth and the light. My heart sank when I borrowed that from the Library and saw that it was written by John McIntosh, Fred Naylor and Laurence Norcross. However, this review, the last carried out by the Government, concludes:
    "Although we have considered the solutions put forward by Mr. Kenneth Baker and Sir Frank Marshall, we do believe there are some powerful arguments for retaining broadly the present administrative structure of the ILEA."
    The review goes on to recommend a directly elected authority and says that there should be direct elections. The authors of the report got their way because they persuaded Lord Joseph to go down that road.

    Finally, in case the Secretary of State says, "Oh well, that was in 1983", the report goes on to say:
    "The reform which we are advocating should be subject to review aften ten years."
    Even those three ideologues on the Right of the Tory party understood that the reforms had to take time before they could bear fruit.

    Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the important issues which ILEA has not faced — the constantly neglected need to go for higher expectations of its pupils, as many pupils fail to have high expectations, and its failure to relocate staff on the scale required?

    I am not so pessimistic as the hon. Gentleman about teachers in London and pupil expectations, but I accept that there is a problem, not just in London but in many inner city areas. There is a vicious circle regarding teachers' expectations of their lower-achieving pupils. That is not surprising, given that over the past eight years the economic prospects of children emerging from school with either low or no examination results have been very low. The blame for that lies not with us, but with the Government. The last way to raise standards in inner London is to put ILEA and the education of inner London children through the disruption which is bound to be faced over the next 18 months or two years, if the proposal to break up ILEA is approved by the House.

    I wish to bring the hon. Gentleman to the core of the point. He has been arguing about whether the manifesto should stand firm and boroughs should opt out, or whether ILEA should be abolished at a stroke. Presumably he accepts that the manifesto commitment was perfectly valid and received an overwhelming mandate. Would he prefer to see ILEA wither on the branch as boroughs opt out? Undoubtedly more than the three or four that made it clear that they would opt out would have done so. The Labour boroughs would have opted out and ILEA would have withered on the branch. The hon. Gentleman's colleague, Lady Blackstone, has advised against that and surely he does not want to see that. That is why the Government have taken those steps.

    I knew that I was right in hesitating to give way to the hon. Gentleman. As both my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) have said, Lady Blackstone did not say that. The hon. Gentleman knows that. Lady Blackstone and the Labour party believe that ILEA should not be broken up. We are not going to offer the hon. Gentleman and his party advice on the best method of executing an institution that we hold dear.

    The hon. Gentleman has given us an interesting review of the reviews. He has said nothing new today. Everything that he has said has been on the record and has been known for some time. One of the little ironies of his review of the reviews was that he quoted from a 1983 Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet and, as a result, managed to cast my right hon. Friends the Members for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) as being against Right-wing ideologues and pictured them, as they are correctly presented in public life, as the moderates in this matter.

    The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the review by the senior chief inspector reflected real concern about standards in secondary schools in ILEA. There has been no progress in improving value for money in ILEA. It is still the largest spending authority. Many other authorities are concerned that so much money is being spent. In the manifesto that the hon. Gentleman read out we clearly signalled a change of policy. My right hon. Friend Lord Joseph went for a unitary authority, but in our manifesto we signalled the end of that by allowing London boroughs to opt out. We are building upon that.

    The hon. Gentleman referred to my statement—[HON MEMBERS: "Come on."] Well, the hon. Gentleman wanted me to debate with him and I am happy to do so. He referred to my statement on 4 February and he said that it was unconvincing. What was unconvincing about the hour of that statement was that, the longer it went on, more and more Labour Members left the Chamber. By the end of the statement there were fewer Labour Members in the Chamber than there are even now. That shows the concern of the Labour party.

    I shall come in a moment to the unhappy news from the weekend polls.

    I forgot to answer the question posed by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey). It is well known that ILEA has had difficulties with the reallocation of teachers, but that problem has been dealt with, I accept with difficulty, but with great firmness by the current leadership of ILEA. It lies least of all in the mouth of the Secretary of State to complain about spending. It is he who has controlled its level of spending and manpower over the past five years. He endorsed that spending, yet he could have cut it at any stage. We have heard before the weasel-words about the change being signalled in the manifesto.lf an engine driver had been following that signal he would have crashed straight into the buffers. That is where the Secretary of State will end up.

    The most significant thing about the reply that I received from the Secretary of State this morning is that there has not been a review by the Government or by the Centre for Policy Studies, which stands behind the Government these days, in the past five years. In 1983 the decision was made to abolish the GLC, but to keep ILEA intact. That illustrates that the Secretary of State's claims are threadbare and how unconvinced he is about the case for the wanton break-up of ILEA.

    I believe that the Secretary of State is aware that the break-up of ILEA will damage not only London's children, but his reputation. The fact that it will damage his reputation is one of the few things about which he and the right hon. Members for Chingford and for Henley agree. I am distressed because the Secretary of State should take advice about his future political decisions from his true friends, from people such as myself. He may have forgotten that on 1 February, during the guillotine debate, I said:
    "So I was distressed to read in the papers at the weekend"—this was six weeks ago—
    "that the odds on the Secretary of State in the Conservative leadership stakes have lengthened slightly as a result of his performance. That is a matter that causes me considerable distress. As I have told him, our interest, apart from trying to defeat the Bill, is to ensure that he remains upright when the leadership contest takes place." —[Official Report, 1 February 1988; Vol. 126, c. 760.]
    That was before the Secretary of State was mugged by the two political hooligans.

    Before the hon. Gentleman seeks an opportunity to get away from the substance of the case and therefore reveals the paucity of his arguments, will he explain how this trivial diversion equates with the fact that two prominent members of his party are now trying to destroy his party's leadership?

    That is a diversion if ever there was one.

    What I am talking about is central to the issue because we all know that the reason why ILEA is now to be broken up has nothing to do with the future of London's children, but everything to do with the squalid argument between the Secretary of State and the right hon. Members for Chingford and for Henley about the future of the Tory party.

    4.15 pm

    Today is the 20th anniversary of the Secretary of State's election to this House—he won a by-election in Acton. Has he had a card from the right hon. Members for Chingford and Henley?

    The fact that I have not had a card is obviously due to the fact that my right hon. Friends could not remember that notable day. I am sure that I shall receive their congratulations later in the Smoking Room over a drink.

    The Secretary of State will need more than a drink. I have already said that, second only to defeating this Bill, I am concerned about the Secretary of State's future. Yesterday I opened my copy of The Observer, and saw something about a "Tory hero". I expected to see the name "Baker" at the top, but instead it said "Heseltine". It said that, according to an opinion poll, 17 per cent. of voters would prefer him to succeed the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister. The article went on to say:

    "Among Conservative voters, however, Mr. Tebbit is preferred as successor (22 per cent.) against Mr. Heseltines 16 per cent.".

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Has this anything to do with the matter that we are supposed to be discussing?

    I hope that both Front Benches will set a good example by speaking to the amendments before the House.

    It has everything to do with the debate because the changes before us have arisen as a result of the competition for the Tory leadership between the right hon. Members for Henley and for Mole Valley (M r. Baker).

    I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the right hon. Member for Henley, and, according to The Observer article, he has the support of 17 per cent. and the right hon. Member for Chingford has the support of 22 per cent. of Tory voters. It appears that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has the support of 8 per cent. and the Secretary of State for Energy 6 per cent. I asked myself, where is my hero, the Secretary of State for Education? The Secretary of State for Wales had 3 per cent. support and below him was my hero, the Secretary of State for Education, with 2 per cent.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am going to see my doctor after this because I am so distressed.

    The case for the review, as agreed in 1983—

    In this interlude of frivolity the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the popularity of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley and myself has gone up, remarkably, ever since we became associated with the abolition of ILEA. In those circumstances, knowing that the hon. Gentleman is extremely ambitious, I suggest that he joins in and does himself a bit of good.

    That is an interesting idea. Where does that leave Mr. Two Per Cent.? The Secretary of State keeps telling us that he agrees with the right hon. Member for Chingford, but his support has gone down to 2 per cent.

    I believe that there should be a review because, as Lord Joseph said, ILEA is unique, it has a small geographical area, and its services have developed without reference to borough boundaries. He also said that it was unique because of its immense good work in careers, adult education, further education and the London compact. All of those things will be put at risk because of the ad hoc, rapid changeover that will take place without review.

    If there was a review, however, it could take into account the views of teachers, head teachers and parents. The Secretary of State may dismiss the interests of teachers as though they do not matter. I believe that they matter greatly. The Secretary of State keeps telling us that the views of the head teachers are of crucial importance. In a survey conducted by Mass Observation, published today, nine out of 10 head teachers in inner London oppose the break-up of ILEA and believe that it will result in a lower rather than a higher standard of education.

    The next issue concerns parents. No man has made more of parents and their interests when it suited him than the Secretary of State. However, we have learnt that parents' interests are to be discarded whenever their conclusions differ from those of the Secretary of State.

    The Secretary of State made much of a by-election that took place in Wandsworth last November, just before the Education Reform Bill was presented. The issue then was not the break-up of ILEA, but the withdrawal of individual boroughs from ILEA. He suggested that that was a mandate for this policy. However, it was not a mandate for this policy because the policy did not even exist. The second thoughts had not been thought.

    It is fascinating to consider the election literature issued by the Conservative party at the time of that by-election. That literature states:
    "The facts about consultation are these. It is however for the people of Wandsworth to decide with particular reference to parental views."
    The Conservatives in central Government have an opportunity to implement what the Conservatives in Wandsworth have a mandate for, and that is to consult parents. At the moment a parents' ballot is being conducted across London. London parents have raised £80,000 to pay for the ballot. It is a testament to the feelings of parents of all shades of opinion and none that they have been able to devote voluntary energies and fund raising to get the ballot off the ground.

    I do not know what results will flow from the ballot. I only know how I voted in it as a London parent. However, I received some information today in the form of a letter from Conservative central office. That letter was sent by Mr. David Simpson to Members of Parliament and others for the use either of Conservative speakers or people dealing with the press. The letter reveals that Conservative central office believes that the ballot will result in an overwhelming victory for ILEA in the form of an overwhelming "No" vote. Central office is now trying to set up disgraceful and discreditable alibis to rubbish the ballot's result.

    No, I will not.

    No doubt the Secretary of State, who is burying himself in his papers, has seen this document. Indeed, the Minister of State must have seen it as well. I hope that they will wholly disown it. It states:
    "It is claimed that the poll will give a valid reflection of parents' views. In fact, the result is bound to be distorted for the following reasons:
    (a.) Schools have been flooded by propaganda hostile to the Education Reform Bill and this has been paid for by the ratepayers since it represents the official view of ILEA."
    It hardly lies in the mouth of the Secretary of State or members of the Conservative party to complain about flooding schools with propaganda when a head teacher cannot open his or her mail on any day of the week without finding another glossy pamphlet from the Secretary of State. Indeed, people visiting the Ideal Home exhibition to buy a new washing machine are bombarded by 24 video screens showing the Secretary of State trying to sell his wares.

    I hope that my hon. Friends will note these next comments very carefully. The document continues:
    "Where a child has two parents … ILEA is permitting only one vote. This obviously discriminates in favour of one-parent families."
    What a disgraceful notion. It also shows that Tory central office believes that the ballot is being run by ILEA. In fact, it is being run by the independent London Parents Action Group.

    No; sit down.

    The document continues:
    "It is claimed that the poll will be honest and above board since it is being conducted by the Electoral Reform Society. In fact, the method of organising the poll provides opportunity for ballot rigging on a considerable scale."
    That is a wholly disgraceful allegation for Conservative central office or Ministers to make against the Electoral Reform Society and the independent, apolitical, nonpolitical London Parents Action Group. I ask the Secretary of State now to disown the quite scandalous and scurrilous claims made by the Conservative central office that there will be ballot rigging in the ballot.

    The independent London Parents Action Group has raised £80,000 precisely to ensure that the ballot can be conducted with scrupulous rules by the Electoral Reform Society. If the Secretary of State is complaining about that, let him put up the money for the ballot in the same way that he is to put up money for ballots for grant-maintained schools. Come on, let us hear from the Secretary of State.

    The simple fact is that the Tories are scared of a ballot of parents in inner London because they know what the result is likely to be. They are afraid of the truth and they are afraid that the result is likely to be a resounding rejection of their policies.

    They are not just afraid of the truth; they are contemptuous of it. They know very well that if the ballot went ahead it would show a complete rejection of their proposals for the abolition of ILEA. We should never believe a word that the Government say when they talk about democracy. They are hypocrites and liars.

    My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government are not only contemptuous of us; they are contemptuous of the electors of London and of people like the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) who, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch, received a petition today from 20,000 parents from just three boroughs — Hackney, Islington and Wandsworth — which will be presented to the House. Indeed, many more thousands of signatures will be added to petitions. The Secretary of State preaches parent power and parent participation. However, the moment that they are inconvenient to his ambitions or the views of the real Secretaries of State—the terrible twins the right hon. Members for Henley and for Chingford — he ignores them.

    Does my hon. Friend realise that one of the objections that parents made this morning when they came to see the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) and myself was that the Secretary of State, unlike his predecessor Lord Joseph, had refused to see parent governors or the parents' consultative committee, and the Secretary of State's argument for not seeing them was that they might put forward views with which he disagreed?

    I agree with my hon. Friend. What he says leads me to another reason for a review of inner London's education before we abolish ILEA. The Secretary of State must be able to find out about London's education for himself. He has received the chief inspector's report which concludes fundamentally that there is no case for abolition.

    No.

    The most scandalous part of the Secretary of State's record is that, during the whole two years that he has been Secretary of State, he has visited just one school in the Inner London education authority, and that was a voluntary aided school. He has not visited any of the schools about which he is so critical. No wonder he is Mr. Two Per Cent. If there is a review, the Secretary of State can visit schools and learn about the realities of London's education.

    The present policy to break up ILEA in this way is a consequence not of concern for the future of London's 270,000 children, but of the crude internal politics of the Tory party. We are all aware of that, and the Secretary of State knows it as well. However, he should also be aware of his duty by law as the holder of his high office to promote the education of the people and to secure a varied and comprehensive service in every area. He fails in that duty unless for once he and the Government think before they act.

    The proposal of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to abolish ILEA has stirred my memories. I worked for the London county council education committee for three years and for ILEA for 20 years. I reckon to know ILEA better than almost anyone because I have worked for it from so many angles. I remain president of two organisations concerned with sporting aspects of schools throughout ILEA and beyond it. I regularly enter ILEA schools and meet teachers and head teachers, many of whom are my friends.

    The Inner London education authority has much in its favour, but there are substantial points against it. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who replied to my intervention, did not face up to ILEA's failure over many years to relocate teaching staff. For five or six years ILEA should have had a great deal more courage and relocated several thousand teaching staff from highly favoured schools with pupil-teacher ratios as low as 8 : 1 to other schools, notably Church schools, which have never been favoured by ILEA or its predecessor, where pupil-teacher ratios were much inferior to their county school counterparts.

    I remember with sadness and concern the vindictive attitude taken by ILEA to Church schools. That attitude goes back to the days of Mrs. Chaplin, who did much that was good for education in London. However, on one notable occasion she met the heads of Church schools, and one of them told me that she said "We are going to do you." That is what ILEA proceeded to do. It is to the eternal shame of the authority that it has not supported Church schools. Indeed, it has taken every opportunity available to it to favour county schools against Church schools. It has failed also to have a substantial religious education policy in its schools. Instead, it has opted for a broad syllabus that has lacked substance.

    4.30 pm

    I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's assertion that ILEA does not support Church schools. On the contrary, it is extremely supportive of Church schools of both denominations. If the hon. Gentleman doubts that, he should consult Church authorities.

    I think that the hon. Gentleman should meet Mrs. Chaplin, who formerly represented the area with which he is so familiar. If he does so, he will improve his political education.

    I have criticisms of ILEA but I have much to say in its favour. I believe that there is enough responsibility within the authority for it to do its duty and to accept the verdict of the House of Commons today. I am certain that the House will decide that the authority should be abolished—

    No, I shall not give way. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his own contribution to the debate.

    I hope that ILEA, with the London boroughs, will prepare for the future education of children in inner London. It is imperative that it talks to the boroughs about its powers and responsibilities for many schools, which will be devolved in about two years' time. If it fails to do so, that will be its most significant and serious failure for London's children. I charge it with the duty of entering into discussions with the boroughs.

    I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will take account of the valuable work that ILEA continues to perform in adult education. I hope also that the Government will consider preserving the adult education service as a cross-borough service, or will ensure at least that there is substantial inter-borough cooperation on adult education. Similarly, we shall need inter-borough co-operation on special needs education after the abolition of ILEA. Boroughs cannot act alone in providing that education. Throughout London there are units providing education for delicate children, children with partial hearing and maladjusted children, for example, and these responsibilities cannot easily be devolved to individual boroughs. If there is such devolution, it must be written into the Bill. It must be understood clearly that where a special school has accepted children from throughout ILEA, and sometimes outside it, it will be enabled so to continue.

    The success of ILEA in providing sports facilities for children has been significant and important. Children in inner-city areas need a window on the countryside, on some grass and plenty of physical activity. I hope that there will be co-operation across London in the provision of sports facilities. I am the president of the London Schoolboys' Hockey Association, which has affiliated to it schools throughout London. Playing fields are littered about London and it would not be easy properly to provide playing fields for individual boroughs.

    The hon. Gentleman is advancing some good arguments. Has he put them to the Secretary of State? If so, what was the right hon. Gentleman's response?

    I have advanced these arguments and I know that my right hon. Friend is considering them. I am putting them on the record because I consider them to be important.

    About 24 years ago I founded a scheme to enable children from special schools and ordinary schools to have lessons in horse-riding and stable management. The scheme has benefited many children enormously. Many an autistic child who has found difficulty in learning to speak or accepting the need to socialise, along with all the other difficulties that such children have, has become a new being while learning to ride on the back of a pony and learning how to care for it. It is to the great credit of the London county council, as it was, and ILEA that they chose to support the scheme. It would be a tragedy if that sort of scheme were to be lost with the disappearance of ILEA.

    I know many teachers who knew the hon. Gentleman when he was a member of the teaching profession, and I know that he was deeply respected. He knows as well as I do that music is one of the most important features of education. He knows also that ILEA is admired throughout the country for its attitude to music education. The life of any school is lacking if music is not a feature of it. ILEA has a lively musical life and in Pimlico, for example, there is a music centre and a lively youth orchestra. I ask the hon. Gentleman to seek an assurance from his right hon. and hon. Friends that that approach to music throughout the area for which ILEA is responsible will be continued by the boroughs by means of a joint approach.

    I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already given such assurances.

    I was dealing with sport, which is one of the three cross-borough activities that I wish to see continue after the abolition of ILEA. I have mentioned especially horse-riding for disabled and ordinary children. Every child can benefit from horse-riding and learning to care for horses. There have been CSE courses on riding and caring for horses and I understand that these will be developed as GCSE courses.

    It is necessary to consider the shortcomings of ILEA, which have ultimately undermined its successes. It has been wrong of ILEA not to have a high expectation of all children. It has failed seriously the children of single-parent families and many children of ethnic minority families. This is not because it has failed to show a heart or because it has chosen not to care for these children. In effect, ILEA has said, "This child is an orphan and we cannot expect too much of it. This child has a difficult background and this child has an ethnic minority background. We cannot expect too much of these children." I never knew my father. He died when I was one year old. That has been on of the sadnesses of my life. When I was a little boy I was told that I had to work twice as hard as everybody else because I did not have a father. I was not told that there was no need for me to do anything because I did not have a father and therefore society would look after me. Many children have been let down by ILEA's approach to children with difficulties. My right hon. Friend has picked that up, and he was right to do so.

    I am sorry to see the right hon. Members for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) walking out, because I feel that they should listen to my remarks. By not listening, they show their contempt for debate in the House. They seek support from Conservative Members, and walk out when a case for the retention of ILEA is to be made. That reflects their personalities.

    I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). He and I have a number of experiences in common, most of them relating to being professional teachers in the employ of either the London county council or ILEA. I must make that declaration of interest. For 14 years, my three children went to ILEA schools, and close relatives of mine are employed by ILEA. My children are benefitting or have benefited from ILEA further education grants. That is typical of many citizens of this country, and it is not the usual kind of financial interest declared by hon. Members.

    I agree with much of the spirit of what was said by the hon. Member for Ealing, North. His conclusions are in favour of the amendments selected—but probably not taken—in my name. I must, however, contest what he said about church schools. I have a circular from the London Diocesan Board for Schools at 30 Causton street, headed "The future of the ILEA," and dated 13 February 1988. The second paragraph states:
    "The reasons for keeping a unitary education authority far outweigh the reasons for abolishing it, as can be seen in this paper."
    There follow no fewer than 13 reasons why the unitary education authority should be retained.

    Of course, ILEA is not without fault. Councillors in the past may have said things with which the hon. Member for Ealing, North did not agree. I knew the lady to whom he referred, Mrs. Ena Chaplin. She contributed much to the education scene in London. I see that the hon. Gentleman is nodding. But the fact that I disagreed with some of ILEA's actions, both past and present, does not mean that the statutory and administrative structure of any unitary education authority in London should be destroyed, whether it is dominated by the Conservative or the Labour party. It does not mean that if an authority is falling short of expectations, we should do away with it. The right hon. Members for Chingford and for Henley, who walked out — the parliamentary cowards who are not listening to the debate—would have us, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State decide that, because it is felt that the goods are not being delivered, the factory should be destroyed. The obvious course is to adjust, rather than destroy, the factory.

    My amendments do not negate the destruction of the factory; they suggest that it should not be split into 32 different bits by statute. Amendment No. 356 reads :
    "Page 127, line 32 [Clause 1361], after 'date', insert 'subject to subsections (3) and (4) below'."
    Subsection (3) reads:
    "The Secretary of State may by Order, which shall be subject to affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, designate two or more inner London councils as a single education authority, to which references in this or other Acts shall apply as in subsection (1) above."
    Subsection (4) reads:
    "The Secretary of State may make an Order, subject to affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, which—
  • (a) may designate any former function of the Inner London Education Authority which shall be discharged by a body, other than an inner London council or an education authority established by virtue of subsection (3) above."
  • The amendments would give the Secretary of State an optional flexibility. The present rigidity in the Bill is that, irrespective of size and current provision, each London borough shall be an education authority under the Education Acts. We all know the difficulties inherent in that. The Secretary of State has said, "Ah, well, we shall set up some joint authorities under the 1944 Act." He said that when he introduced the measure on 4 February, and it was reiterated on 27 February, but it is not in the Bill. It is left to the Secretary of State, on a subsequent date, to do that if he wishes. If the right hon. Gentleman accepted my amendments, they would give him more room for manoeuvre, and much more flexibility to meet the needs of children and teachers in the classroom.

    4.45 pm

    The Secretary of State has made great play of the suggestion that it is the inability of teachers to deliver the goods that is causing him to introduce these clauses. It is the ability of an education authority to assist the teacher in the classroom that I wish to discuss today. Eighteen years ago, I stepped straight out of the classroom into the House and made my maiden speech as a classroom teacher, and that is how I make my speech now. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) laughs, but it is no laughing matter. Time has gone on. Things were difficult enough then; they must be much more difficult now.

    The object of education administration — and the duty of the House—is to give the teacher in the classroom the tools that a professional requires for the job. Without that, the needs of pupils cannot be met. I think that I carry the hon. Member for Ealing, North with me all the way—indeed, I should carry the whole House with me, and certainly the Secretary of State and Education Ministers — because that is the duty of the community to the schools.

    I wish to speak on three broad issues, and to wind up with two true stories to illustrate my themes. The first issue is special education, to which the hon. Member for Ealing, North has referred. The second is higher and further education, and the third is sports facilities. Curiously enough, all three were picked out by the hon. Member for Ealing, North. I did not know that he was going to do that.

    Special schools were referred to in the debate on 17 February by a number of hon. Members. They were referred to specifically by the Minister of State who, in winding up, said:
    "Every local education authority is under a duty to secure adequate provision for children with special educational needs. Every local education authority in the country meets that duty by co-operating with other authorities as the hon. Member for Greenwich said. Even the Inner London Education Authority does not and cannot provide every form of specialist provision for every form of handicap." —[Official Report, 17 February 1988; Vol. 127, c. 1071.]
    I see the Minister nodding. It is here; that is what she said.

    Of course, that is true. The point is that the larger the education authority, the more able it is to do that very thing. Conversely, the smaller the education authority—and, in small towns or counties, that is the optimum size —the more difficult it is. In London, for over 100 years we have built up a system of meeting pupils' needs on a unitary basis. There are no fewer than 8,300 statemented children in the ILEA area, of whom no fewer than 6,600 are in special schools. It is a 'very big affair.

    The whole of the specialist service for those children costs £50 million a year. Although there is overlap nowadays with statemented children in ordinary schools, the specialist service is almost an education authority in itself. But even that authority has its internal specialists — more than a dozen of them, each with its own particular responsibility: for example, impaired hearing units. There is only one boarding school, one specialist secondary school and two primary schools for the whole of London, and pupils are brought to them by transport. There are those with specific behavioural difficulties, and those who require special services because of various special difficulties, which I have not time to discuss. Nineteen specialities must be considered.

    There are but two specialist schools in Westminster while Kensington and Chelsea has none. Clearly, there must be some co-operative arrangement. We have no specific pledge, but my amendments would make it possible for the Secretary of State to designate the whole of the existing ILEA area as a special education authority. Obviously, that is common sense for special education and for further and higher education, to which the hon. Member for Ealing, North referred. ILEA's further and higher education facilities are' enormous. I do not know whether the right hon. Members for Chingford and for Henley know that every week 500,000 people use this further and higher education service, some full-time, some part-time during the day and some at evening classes. The service requires £250 million a year.

    Facilities have been built up on a London-wide basis. There are the specialist services for industry and commerce — the national bakery school, at the South Bank polytechnic, the London College of Furniture, the London Printing college, the Westminster Catering college, the London College of Fashion, and so on. There are also the specialist institutions — for example, the 13 building schools throughout London which deal with special city and guilds building crafts. I think of building in particular because that was my specialist provision as a secondary school teacher, but I could continue listing many of the facilities required in London.

    There are also the voluntary colleges — Morley college, which is always mentioned, the Central School of Speech and Drama, the Mary Ward centre, the Royal School of Needlework, the Cordwainers college and the Working Men's college, all of which fit together in a comprehensive service for Londoners. Why should it not be retained as a single, comprehensive service? It could be retained if the Secretary of State accepted my amendments.

    The hon. Gentleman is a former Member for the London borough of Ealing. Does he accept that boroughs in outer London are able to cooperate? Residents who live in one borough go to classes in another, which is reimbursed by their borough? As a former resident of the London borough of Ealing, I point out that I never heard the hon. Gentleman make a speech suggesting that the London borough of Ealing was incapable of running its education, so why say that the inner London boroughs are?

    I am not saying that they are incapable. It is a matter of whether they are better able to serve the needs of the teachers and pupils in the classroom and of the parents than some modification of the present system. The answer to the question is plainly historical development. Acton, which I had the honour to represent, was a part III authority which ran its own schools, but, as it was not big enough, it became part of Middlesex. The development of education, which is similar to an organic process, depends on commitment.

    The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) has a point. Ealing borough council ran a good course for librarians at the Ealing technical college, which is now a polytechnic. That course served not only the rest of London but the whole nation. It developed over time. The point is that the authority was not split up. The Ealing authority was put together from a number of education authorities and worked in its own community. I am speaking purely of the administrative development of the service.

    I endorse everything that the hon. Member for Ealing, North said about sports. The playing fields in Ealing serve London pupils. The Oxford-Cambridge boat race is next week, when those crews will row past the swell boathouses of London and Thames and of Putney. They will then pass the Barn Elms boathouse of the Inner London education authority, which was founded by the LCC. There is another boathouse at Clapton, which means that there are just two in London. When I coached at the Barn Elms boathouse, pupils came from all over London. There must be an organisation to keep that system going. The same is true of the riding places, the specialist schools and the groups who sail on the reservoirs. Provision cannot be made overnight. There is no reason why those facilities should not be kept as a unitary system.

    Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if those facilities were lost they would never exist again? They must not be lost.

    Yes. We can look at the unitary facilities in the rest of Britain and at the provision in terms of capital, maintenance and skilled staff. There are skilled administrative and coaching systems for sports. The Bill is an anti-sports measure.

    I challenge the hon. Gentleman to look at the record of the LCC and ILEA and their contribution to sport over the past 50 years and then to tell me that I am wrong.

    I urge my hon. Friend, who has rightly identified ILEA's excellent sports record, not to ignore the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) about ILEA's musical education record. On 17 February 1988, in a letter to The Times, most of the foremost composers and conductors, headed by Sir Michael Tippett, said:

    "The ILEA justly enjoys an international reputation for the quality of its musical education."
    The signatories went on to spell out the fact that good musical education requires, first, funds; secondly, the necessary scale of authority; and, thirdly, a unitary authority to give direction and drive. Will that not go as part of ILEA's abolition?

    My hon. Friend reinforces my case. I shall go further: for that reason alone, this is an anti-music Bill— —[Interruption.] Yes, it is an anti-music Bill for London and, as the Minister of State suggested in Committee, it casts doubts on musical education all over Britain, and I challenge the hon. Lady to deny that.

    Some Conservative Members seemed to snigger when my hon. Friend said that this was an anti-music Bill. Last night, at the Albury theatre, there were many music groups from ILEA, and they all thought that this was an anti-music Bill. Will Conservative Members snigger at that?

    I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Chingford, who is an expert sniggerer, is not present to hear this. If Conservative Members snigger, it illustrates their profound ignorance not only of education as a whole but of ILEA in particular.

    I shall conclude with a story which I shall call the Wandsworth incident. I had the privilege to teach in two schools in Wandsworth during my teaching career. My story concerns a specialist service for ILEA—the ILEA careers service—which gave specialist advice which I, as a tutor, could not give to many of my pupils, some of whom could not read and write and others of whom went on to university. I was personally responsible for seeing about 300 of them through school. The incident happened 30 years ago but is up to date because education is far more than regurgitation of facts and testing at particular ages. One cannot test people at particular ages and development, as the Bill tends to assume.

    I had a pupil, whom I shall call John Jones, who could not pass examinations. I doubt whether he would have done very well with the GCSE, but there was no doubt that he could not pass the CSE. He was a good lad, who worked hard and was obliging. The careers service did its best for him and asked what I could do. I said that I would write a letter, so I wrote to the effect:
    "This boy is not able to pass examinations easily and he may not achieve any success in public examinations. However, he has great common sense. He is reliable. He is practical. He is willing to learn, thoroughly honest, tidy and obliging. Any employer will be fortunate having this person in their employment."
    He came to me a few weeks later and said, "I shall be away tomorrow morning as I am going for an interview." The next day, after lunch he came back all smiles. I said, "What happened?" and he said, "I got the job, sir." I said, "What was it?" and he said "Office boy at Conservative central office."

    5 pm

    I rise to urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider his proposals for the future of ILEA. It gives me no satisfaction to express my opposition, and I am sorry to say that, if there is a vote, I may be in the Lobby voting against him.

    I hope that those who have expressed views in support of the many good things that ILEA does will join me in looking for review rather than abolition. It will be little consolation to me if I find myself the only Tory Member supporting socialists of one sort or another asking for these proposals to be looked at. I urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider them. As they stand, they are impracticable and unworkable in boroughs such as my own of Southwark.

    Southwark is unable to run its housing. That is demonstrated by its rent and rates debts of £30 million. It has no ability to run its social services. That is demonstrated by its scandalous control of the old folk's homes within the borough, one of which has been condemned outright and another three of which are under investigation. In those circumstances, it is utterly irresponsible to require Southwark to take on the education of children within the borough.

    I ask my right hon. Friend to look again at the situation and bear in mind many of the points that have been raised in the debate. London-wide services have been built up over 50 or 100 years to serve inner London. If we were to seek to recreate such services today, we could not bring them to their present standard of maturity. I refer particularly to what might be called special, social, sports and informal education. Special education assesses the needs of children who, for one reason or another, do not fit into the normal school system. Adult education makes provision for giving skills and training to those who might have missed out somewhere along the line. At the same time it provides a social education and social contact for those who might not have any immediate connection with their fellow human beings. In that sense it is part of a social service as well as an education service.

    We have mentioned, and we shall mention again, the routine, day-to-day adult education classes which bring great comfort, support and help to those who live nearby, and the centres of excellence such as Morley college, the City Literary Institute and others which could not be recreated today. I suggest that they could not survive if the proposals before us go through. It is necessary to find some way to hold them together.

    The youth service does so much in social education. ILEA makes a contribution of resources, either in terms of money or professional expertise working alongside and in partnership with the voluntary sector, to make sure that there is provision for those who might otherwise not feel happy or comfortable within the school system but respond to other forms of youth or community work. Only this morning, I had a letter from the chairman of the London Federation of Boys Clubs, who made a great case for the contribution that ILEA makes, financially and professionally, to that organisation in supporting the clubs throughout London. That is likely to disappear if ILEA is abolished.

    In addition, to be parochial, in my constituency, Dulwich art gallery, which is a private charitable institution, is a great education resource to school-children throughout London, as are the Horniman museum and the Geffrye museum. ILEA has provided an education officer to help in that museum, who has introduced a most innovative and excellent programme of education for children, getting children into arts galleries to see what is going on and making them feel that it is an exciting, vibrant and living experience. If ILEA were to go, that grant would go, that education officer would go, and the children of Southwark and of south-east London would be deprived.

    It is in those areas of education that fall outside the normal run of primary and secondary schooling that the greatest damage will be done. I know that my right hon. Friend wishes to cure some of the ailments that exist within ILEA, but I fear that his proposals are going for overkill. As a result, the ailments might be cured but the patient might expire at the same time.

    I believe that we are right to allow those boroughs that wish to opt out to do so. I have made that perfectly clear in all I have said. It was a matter of our manifesto. ILEA is not a perfect organisation. There are many misgivings about its secondary and primary school education. Those boroughs that have shown that they have the competence and confidence to take on education should be allowed to do so. Most of those boroughs have tested that in their own manifestos with their own electorate. It would be wrong to stand in their way and forbid them to opt out if they can do a better job than ILEA can do at the moment. Having said that, we cannot overlook the fact that boroughs such as Southwark do not have that confidence or competence and have made it quite clear that they are unwilling to take over education. In those circumstances, we would be throwing the children in those boroughs to the mercy of who knows what and who knows who.

    There is a case for retaining a London-wide residuary body to cover special educational needs, sports and music and such matters which transcend individual borough boundaries. There is need for reform, but it might be possible to reform ILEA to make it a more responsive organisation, strategically capable of planning for the needs of a sector and, at the same time, more alert to the real needs of that sector.

    The proposals are not practicable. A practical way to improve them, pragmatically, would be to look at what is left after those boroughs which have chosen to opt out have done so. I suggest that south London, Lambeth, Southwark, Greenwich and Lewisham together form a geographical unit making up a big enough body of schools and pupils to allow planning on a sector-strategic basis. I hesitate to say what that would be called. The South Inner London education authority — or SILEA — is not a happy acronym, but I am sure that another name could be found. There would be a case for allowing those boroughs which individually do not have adequate resources or expertise to work together as one group.

    This morning I was impressed by the deputation I received and the petition that was presented to me from three boroughs, amounting to some 20,000 signatures. 1 hear there are more to follow. I hope that other Conservative Members will be prepared to receive such petitions whether or not they initially support them. I put before the House a way in which we can reform ILEA and make this great reform Bill a reformation Bill and not a revolutionary Bill. ILEA requires an evolutionary review, not a revolution. I urge my right hon. Friend to consider again the proposal that he has put before the House.

    I am happy to follow the speech made by my parliamentary neighbour, the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden). We happen to be Members of Parliament for the only borough in London which is represented by all three large parties in the House. The constituency between the hon. Gentleman's and mine is represented by the Labour Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman). It is a telling commentary on the proposals in this part of the Bill that, despite our party differences, the three of us agree that in relation to ILEA the Government are moving in the wrong direction. I know that that view is shared not just by the three of us but across our borough, irrespective of political party. The Under-Secretary of State was a former Southwark councillor and I hope that he will pay particular attention to the views expressed by his parliamentary colleague and in the borough, which is also the London borough that he knows the best.

    I do not think that I have ever received as much post on a single issue as I have on this. I also have not received one letter arguing in support of the Government's case. There has been massive concern, in standard form letters, but in personal letters, some of them written with great difficulty by people who have only just learned to read and write, saying how concerned they are for education in London and how committed they are to the retention of the ILEA. I have now been to two meetings organised in response to the Government's proposals. The first was in Tower Hamlets and the second in Southwark. There was unanimity across the whole range of social opinion among teaching staff—we have heard today that nine out of 10 teachers are against the proposal—other staff employed by ILEA, parents, pupils the churches and the voluntary sector. Although, as the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) rightly pointed out, there are things one can criticise about ILEA, on balance the overwhelming opinion is that its continuing existence should be supported.

    During the debates on the abolition of the Greater London council it was important for those of us in London that the review clause about ILEA should be written in and that no hasty decision on ILEA should be made at any later stage. That is why my hon. Friends and I will support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and his hon. Friends which again argues the case for a review.

    The hon. Gentleman referred to the abolition of the GLC. When that was first proposed, was there not exactly the same concern among the public, the same public meetings, letters written and speeches made in the House? The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) numbered himself among those who predicted that the world in London would come to an end without the GLC. In fact, the GLC has sunk without trace. It was not mentioned to me once during the general election. Does he not think that the concern now may be totally unfounded and grossly exaggerated, as it was for the GLC?

    The hon. Gentleman has made a perfectly proper point. My view is that London and the government of it is worse for the abolition of the GLC. Although life goes on, as it inevitably does, there remains the question of the standard of life and the quality of provision. My argument is that the review provisions for ILEA were built in because there was concern, including concern among some Conservative Members, that ILEA needed to continue to exist. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) will know, ILEA, in one form or another, goes back over a century. It meets the pan-London needs that boroughs such as Southwark and others would not particularly be able to meet, strapped as they are for resources and the ability to cope with present responsibilities.

    5.15 pm

    I will not give way because I want to make a relatively brief speech so that other hon. Members can speak in this short debate.

    I want to try to persuade the Government that they should listen to the London Parents Action Group. It is not a party political body. It consists of concerned parents who are trying to persuade the Government by facts that their proposals are wrong and misguided. That is why today's debate is important. It shows a substantial degree of unity across the House.

    The amendment in this group which is in my name and not that of my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) refers specifically to some of the matters that have already generally been raised and demonstrates our especial concern that special education and further and continuing education should he the subject of the Government's particular consideration now. We believe that those matters, above all others, will show the folly of the present proposals. They will show the need for a provision that goes wider than single boroughs because many needs could not be met by single boroughs within London.

    There are two relative Acts that determine the criterion for educational review. In the Education Act 1944, there is provision for the Secretary of State to set up cross-authority provision if, otherwise, there would be no ability to
    "tend to diminish expense or to increase efficiency"
    or if such a provision
    "would otherwise he of public advantage."
    The same Act permits such provision on the basis of expediency. In the Local Government Act 1985 abolishing the GLC, cross-London educational provision was said to be something that the Secretary of State should consider and implement if it could be secured "with advantage". I believe that it would be to the advantage of education in London and it would be expedient and helpful in terms of expense and efficiency if there were a continuing cross-London authority. Also—the point has been well made — it is vital to preserve certain types of provision, which, once destroyed, could not be recreated. Such provision includes special education and further and continuing and adult education. Such provision should be secured at an early stage, whatever else is done.

    Many examples could be given—I do not intend to list all the examples that we could all give from personal and local experience — of the special needs that could not be met without a cross-London authority. There are many sorts of disability that have not been referred to because there are so many that it would be difficult to mention them all. For example, there are visually impaired, physically disabled and delicate children. There are ILEA schools in all inner London boroughs for children with severe, moderate or specific learning difficulties. There are schools for children with behavioural difficulties. There are boarding schools and day schools and schools for children with language impairment. There are schools for autistic children. There are six hospital special schools and all sorts of central services that could not be sustained, such as home tuition, special inspection, specialist careers officers for pupils with disabilities, senior youth work educational psychologists and so on. There is an enormous range of services that could not be provided by any single borough, let alone all of the boroughs. There are certain types of school of which there is only one in London. There is only one secondary school for the deaf and only one boarding school for the blind. Those schools cost a lot but are vital because children who attend them are entitled to the same education and opportunity in life as anybody else.

    Further and continuing adult education has been the subject of a massive campaign. The hon. Member for Dulwich and I were privileged last week to receive a deputation from the Southwark institute. Those people had done beautiful craft work. Some of them did not have a high intellect and had mental disability but they produced a wonderful piece of work as their protest. It was an appropriate physically creative protest against what is being done. The hon. Member for Dulwich has also mentioned Morley college, which Southwark shares with Lambeth. Other institutions such as the Working Men's college have been mentioned. They too are vital to providing an extensive range of education across London.

    There are thousands of people in London, a higher percentage than anywhere else in Britain, who avail themselves of adult education. A total of 15 per cent. of all adult education provided in England and Wales is provided by ILEA. One in seven Londoners over the age of 16 avails him or herself of adult education. It is particularly useful for helping with the education of those who are unemployed or disadvantaged. Many of those who use it pay no fees because they have had severe financial difficulties in the past and have lost educational opportunities. Those are exactly the sort of people we need to support and encourage.

    There is a plea going out to the Secretary of State and his colleagues from both sides of the House. In their blindness—I believe it is due to an incorrect view of issues such as expenditure and performance and so on in ILEA—they are in danger of destroying so much. Even if they want to preserve what are, at the moment, some of the component parts of ILEA, some other provisions will be destroyed. ILEA can be reformed, but one cannot fundamentally tamper with the whole without destroying many vital services.

    Let me finish on a personal note. Before I came to this place I was a youth worker in inner London for seven years, so I know of the vital need for that non-statutory service. That is one aspect of additional provision that I have not mentioned—nursery provision is another—that is threatened by the abolition proposals. There are many people with special needs for whom ILEA has set out to provide. I ask Ministers to think again, to consider the evidence—both of ILEA's record and of the opposition to abolition—to conduct a review and, in particular, to consider the needs of those who will be hit hardest if ILEA is abolished.

    Hon. Members on both sides of the House have advanced their arguments against abolition very moderately. Those arguments come down to two assertions. The first is that in some boroughs abysmal Labour administrations cause problems. The second is that some services require the resources of more than one borough.

    First, we should bear in mind that we are not starting from scratch, but are trying to build on the existing provision of services in boroughs such as Southwark. I am sure that if such boroughs need help, the Government will be the first to provide it. Secondly, the co-operation of boroughs in providing services is precisely what we should be discussing now. We should be moving on from the debate about whether ILEA should be disbanded to a debate on how it should be disbanded. It is right for hon. Members to express their worries and to convey the worries of parents and the problems of children with special needs and their families and to say, "Let us get together and sort these matters out." That should be the next stage, once the Bill is passed.

    The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) opened the debate with a somewhat frothy call for surveys, research and ballots. We know the facts by now, for goodness sake. We have been surveying ILEA for years and years—as have parents, politicians, the Department of Education and Science and Her Majesty's inspectors. We do not need a great new exercise. In particular, we do not need phoney ballots.

    Let me finish my point.

    Two ballots have been referred to today. The first was a ballot of a quarter of ILEA heads. It is rather hard on heads to be put on the spot in this way. When one talks privately to head teachers they tell one that, whereas many years ago they had the greatest respect for ILEA, they would not cross the road to save it now. They say, "We cannot say it publicly now, but come the day that ILEA is abolished, we shall not be sorry."

    The second ballot was supposed to be a ballot of parents, and the hon. Member for Blackburn said that he had cast his vote this morning. He may have cast his vote, but the House may be sure that his wife has not cast hers, because the ballot does not provide for both husband and wife to vote. It is an odd ballot that precludes individuals from voting. In most ballots in this country, we operate the one person, one vote principle. Furthermore, the parent with six children has six votes. If that does not distort the results, I do not know what does. If the hon. Member for Blackburn tots up the votes in the ballot, he will find that parents whose children have left. ILEA schools have had no vote and that parents whose children are to attend ILEA schools have had no vote. There is no vote for employers who take the product of the schools. Above all, there is no vote for parents who have opted out of the system and sent their children to schools outside ILEA or in the independent sector. In other words, there is no vote for those who have already voted with their feet.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way at last. He seems to me to be spitting in the wind. Perhaps he would care to consider that the Government refused to include in last year's Tory manifesto a proposal to abolish ILEA, that they refused to meet a delegation of parents to discuss the abolition of ILEA and that they refused to fund a ballot of parents of children at ILEA schools. Who is the hon. Gentleman to complain, therefore, that a confidential ballot of head teachers came out overwhelmingly in support of ILEA and that an independently counted and organised ballot is being undertaken? Is not the hon. Gentleman demonstrating contempt for the views of parents who wish to retain ILEA?

    No. I have already explained why the ballots are not genuine. The hon. Gentleman's point about the manifesto is more important, although I thought we had dealt with it at the beginning of the debate. In our manifesto, we pledged ourselves to abolishing ILEA, but abolition was to come piecemeal, after a given number of boroughs had opted out. Since then many people, myself included, have decided that that would be a rather messy way of going about things. We feel that it would be better to make a clean break and to move on from there.

    The hon. Gentleman says that he is concerned about the views of head teachers, and he is right to question the figures. May I invite him to go to the Grand Committee Room when he has finished his speech—I am sure that the House will excuse him—where he will find the head teachers gathered. If he does, he will hear the results of the opnion poll—which showed that only three out of the 232 heads surveyed supported abolition—confirmed with emotion and commitment by people who know what they are talking about because they are the people concerned.

    The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening. I said what I thought about that matter. I also said that I talked to head teachers—

    They told me that they look forward to the new system being introduced once the debate about abolition is over. I am happy to talk to head teachers at all times—

    I have been round head teachers of primary and secondary schools, further education colleges and special schools. They have all told me the same thing.

    I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman again.

    We need to take into account the large number of parents who have opted out of the system in division 10 in Wandsworth. Some 45 per cent. of parents have chosen to take their children away from mainstream ILEA schools. That is a damning percentage, and I seek to rectify that. I do not blame the parents, the teachers or the schools, but I want to improve matters. We must find a way of ensuring that more than a bare majority choose the local schools.

    The hon. Gentleman has referred to the number of parents who opt out. Does that not make the case, also made in the Conservatives' propaganda before the Southfields election, for consulting all parents in Wandsworth? Why does not the hon. Gentleman urge Wandsworth systematically to do that? Is it because parents came out in favour of ILEA in the opinion poll?

    They did not come out in favour. As I have just pointed out, many of them voted with their feet and moved their children elsewhere, and a bare quarter of parents were satisfied with secondary education, with which I wish to deal in particular.

    We know the sad facts about ILEA's results. We know the numbers of children who leave school with no examination passes and no qualifications. For the past few years, more than 22 per cent. of pupils leaving ILEA schools have left with no examination passes. That is more than twice the national average of 10 per cent. A breakdown of that figure shows that 22 per cent. of children of British origin, 15 per cent. of children of African origin, 13 per cent. of children of Caribbean origin and only 6 per cent. of children of Indian origin leave school without qualifications.

    One cannot argue that it has to do with deprivation or multicultural problems. It is the mainstream, traditional child—if I may use that term—who is suffering most under the system.

    Perhaps I may finish this point before giving way.

    The other side of the coin is the percentage of children who leave school with defined results—five O-levels or CSE grade 1 passes. A mere 16 per cent. of children leave ILEA schools with those results—as against a national average of 24 per cent.—and the figure for Wandsworth is only 9 per cent.

    Is not the hon. Gentleman ignoring my earlier point, to which I have received no reply? Whatever the results — good or bad — why does the hon. Gentleman believe that borough education, which is prospective and unknown, in Wandsworth and elsewhere, will do better? It is surely a matter of faith rather than an attempt to rectify existing difficulties.

    5.30 pm

    Of course it is a matter of faith—the hon. Gentleman is right —but it is faith based on the experience of the boroughs' ability to run things. It is based on the fact that the boroughs are much closer to the parents and that every councillor in every ward will have a say in education. Every parent will be able to go to his local councillor and there will be 60 voices in the council chamber talking about education, not two people going off to the dim and distant corridors of county hall. That faith is well justified.

    The hon. Gentleman is putting a great deal of faith in the local authorities' abilities, but surely it has been the Government's intention to remove powers from local authorities and consistently to criticise the way in which they carry out their duties. The Government have rate capped them so that it has become impossible for them to carry out those duties.

    That is not true. The purpose of the rest of the Bill—I hope that the hon. Lady is looking at the Bill as a whole—is to improve standards in schools and give parents, governors, heads, and so on, more say and control over resources so that they can raise standards. The Bill is a way of getting some of the burden of bureaucracy off the backs of schools in inner London so that the resources can be redirected to where teachers say they are needed—in the classroom, not at county hall.

    The figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy for 1986–87 show that teaching costs per secondary pupil in inner London are £1,133 compared with a national figure of £813—only 72 per cent. of the ILEA figure. Perhaps that is a reasonable difference. However, let us look at the figures for the backup costs. For support staff, the figure for inner London is £374 per pupil compared with £122 for the rest of the country, which is 33 per cent. of that for inner London. For supplies and services, the figure for inner London is £143 compared with £61 — 43 per cent. of inner London's costs. Under the heading "Miscellaneous", the figure is £93 in inner London compared with £38 elsewhere, which is 41 per cent. of the inner London figure.

    Let us compare inner London with another city, Birmingham, which is Labour-run. The miscellaneous item is not £93 per pupil but £19. Premises-related costs in Birmingham are not £194 but £66. Non-teaching costs are not £360 but £101. That is where the savings can be made. The resources can be transported and redirected to where we all want to see them: in the classroom, supporting the teachers — supporting the successors of Opposition Members who have been teachers. The figures show that we can do it.

    If that massive overspending resulted in good results, I should not begrudge it. Nobody would begrudge ILEA spending twice as much as the rest of the country if, by doing so, it brought the standards up to a par—no more than that. If standards were higher than average through ILEA spending twice as much, we should say that that was good, but ILEA has not done that. How much more money would ILEA have to spend to raise its standards to those of the rest of the country? Would it be twice as much again, twice as much on top of that, or twice as much on top of that? The Opposition must face that argument; they must face the costs. It is misdirected overspending, not just overspending in itself.

    ILEA itself says that the costs in secondary education
    "are an area where the discrepancies between ILEA and other similar LEAs are among the largest."
    That was a quotation from "Approaches to the Authority's Forward Financial Planning for 1988 to 1991."

    If ILEA is abolished, one of the crucial questions will be the financial problems created by the run-down of ILEA and the boroughs taking responsibility over the next few years. Does the hon. Gentleman envisage that each of the boroughs will have at least the same amount of money to spend as ILEA has now, or does he expect the boroughs to have less money?

    I shall expect the boroughs to talk to the Department of Education and Science when working out their priorities and needs. Then the Department can argue the case for resources with other Departments. We must look ahead. There is no reason why adequate resources should not be there to support education in inner London. No doubt boroughs that need more will receive more.

    Hon. Members have referred to the HMI report, which the hon. Member for Blackburn said was so good. He said that it stated that no change was needed. In some cases the HMI verdict highlights good quality. For example, it says:
    "overall the quality of ILEA's primary schools is similar to that found generally in the country. The range of good, average and poor is not exceptional."
    I agree with that. It bears out my belief that things go wrong at the secondary, not the primary, education stage for inner London pupils.

    On Friday night, I went to a primary school in my constituency, where we saw a show called "Rats", which is a version of the Pied Piper. I thought that it was a better performance than the National Theatre's version a year or. two ago. It was excellent. It was based on traditional learning. The children learnt lines—even some from Robert Browning. There was good music. The staff worked out of school hours and there were volunteers. Parents came in to help, and the performance was based on contacts and donations It was based on good traditional teaching. It had nothing whatever to do with ILEA and everything to do with a well-led school. A well-led school in that category, music and all, has nothing to fear from the change and everything to gain from the reputation that it has built up.

    The hon. Gentleman makes the valid point about whether ILEA's costs and standards are as satisfactory or as good as they could be. Does he not realise that if he, like me, says that primary education is normally good in ILEA, but secondary education leaves much to be desired, the best thing to do would be to carry out a review? A review would prove that, compared with other services such as the police, health and social services, education is relatively cheap in inner London. It would be best to review it in a steady and considered way and decide what is weak and needs to be reformed rather than to abolish much of what the hon. Gentleman says is good..

    The HMI has done a review, which is why we are moving on to take action now.

    Mr. Bolton says:
    "Secondary education in the ILEA is generally rather poor, though there are a few schools of high quality, mainly in the voluntary sector."
    We knew that. Of the 2,500 lessons seen by HMI, a mere 20 per cent. were judged to be good, only 40 per cent. were satisfactory and a further 40 per cent. were unsatisfactory or poor. Worse than that, of the three core subjects, the report declares mathematics to be variable and science not good, with fewer than half the lessons seen reaching acceptable standards and some being very poor indeed. On public examinations, the report says:
    "Some pupils do better than can reasonably be expected; but the fact remains that many others fail to achieve the high grade results of which they are capable."
    That is despite
    "the level of staffing and resources which are always generous and sometimes to excess."
    That is what we know from the officials. Much has been made of letters that people have received. I should like to quote from a letter from a teacher who took early retirement from ILEA, having worked for ILEA for 30 years. That person, who is not a Conservative and makes it clear that he has never voted Conservative in his life, says:
    "Conservatives now are talking more sense about education than the Labour party has done for many a long year, so I support Kenneth Baker's education Bill and the decision to axe ILEA."
    He goes on:
    "In my opinion the major factors in ILEA's decline are:
  • 1. the uncritical, wholesale adoption of teaching methods solely on politically ideological grounds rather than on educational grounds,
  • 2. the ease with which 'empires' were allowed to grow"
  • that is important—
  • "3. the enforcement of VI form reorganisation,
  • 4. an intolerance of criticism."
  • It is fascinating that the writer of the letter goes on to say:
    "The ILEA swallowed whole the claims of the self-styled `progressive education' lobby and made sure by one form of pressure or another that it became the new universal orthodoxy in spite of its unproven validity. As a historian, I find it highly ironic that so called left wingers so zealously espoused the educational theories advocated by Giovanni Gentile, Mussolini's first minister of education. Incidentally, Gentile's successor in that office was a man called Radice. Is this a coincidence?"
    I shall now proceed from that first-hand experience to more recent information in a newspaper in the past few days, in which we are told that the Leader of the Opposition has been supporting books by the Marxist organisation Liberation for use in London's schools. The right hon. Gentleman has endorsed those books, saying:
    "They should be part of the syllabus of every school."
    The book is edited by Left-wing activist and teacher, Chris Searle. In particular, he likes some poems, one of which is called "Racist People." In its third verse, it says:
    "Mrs. Thatcher don't give a shit,
    I think it's time she got hit."
    Of the poems, the Leader of the Opposition says:
    "They inspire us, they give us hope and life, they fire us. They give us that insight, that piercing view of our society that has been put in such a beautiful and proud way in this book."
    It gives other examples, including the unpleasant one of a play in which a gang of black youths go to Stoke Newington police station and are told by the police,
    "I don't want no lip from you, Sambo."
    That is the sort of book that the Leader of the Opposition considers worth while passing round ILEA schools. I am not entirely surprised that there is a challenge to his leadership. I hope that the hon. Member for Blackburn, who has fled to check his credentials and reading list, is not under threat from the list that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) is drawing up for his ticket.

    The hon. Gentleman is being grossly unfair to the work that Chris Searle has done over many years—writing poetry, reproducing the views of London children and bringing Caribbean culture into London schools, thereby allowing children the opportunity to express their views. The hon. Gentleman is deliberately misquoting and quoting out of context parts of poetry and comments about that poetry. I suggest that he should be a little more honest when he is condemning someone who has done much good work for the culture of London schools.

    Out of the mouths, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not expect any Labour Member to defend the booklet. I thought that the hon. Gentleman would say that it is all a mistake and that he did not support it. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that he supports that wonderful poetry and these wonderful books.

    It is, perhaps, guess who time. It might be guessed that the quotation,
    "I parted company with them when I began to question whether my duty was to the children or to some notion of being a militant trade unionist. They saw school as the factory and the children as the product,"
    comes from an officer of the Inner London Teachers' Association.

    I shall give a quotation from a national newspaper:
    "'Union action in inner London pre-dates and extends beyond' the industrial action of the main teacher unions. `Their motives are not for the good of children or the benefit of teachers but a fundamental reordering of society.'"
    That might not easily be noted as coming from The Guardian.

    I shall give a quotation from a well-known politician, who said:
    "What we have in the Inner London Teachers' Association is a group of warring sectarian Trots, trying to play a completely different agenda …. If the Inner London Education Authority has lost ground, it is largely due to the ILTA."
    Perhaps the hon. Member for Blackburn will recognise his words.

    I said earlier that there are problems that we should be tackling. There are matters, such as special needs, about which boroughs should be talking. This is the time to look for solutions to problems, because problems, concerns and anxieties there will undoubtedly be.

    Let nobody say for one minute that we are condemning the whole of the ILEA out of hand. I am the first to pay tribute to good parts of ILEA, and some parts of it are excellent. At the same time, we must recognise that too much needs radical review for it to be done by piecemeal reform.

    I ask that one sector be considered—the museums of London, the Horniman museum and the Geffrye museum in particular. When the GLC was abolished it was suggested that some museums should be attached to the British museum or to the Victoria and Albert museum. That suggestion was turned down, so they became part of ILEA for the time being. However, those museums have no tradition of being part of ILEA. A stream of letters has come in from people and international and national bodies in New York, Paris and Berlin which show that those museums are of international repute. They should be nationally funded. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make a brief response to that request.

    I shall give a quotation that sums up the Bill —certainly this part of it—from the National Union of Teachers' education officer, who said:
    "The Baker reforms could lead to higher standards and an improvement in the education service."
    I think that he is right.

    5.45 pm

    I rise to support the review proposed and to tell the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends—it should not be forgotten that they do not send their children to state schools—what effect their actions will have on education in Lewisham.

    Teachers and parents in schools, nursery schools and colleges in my constituency are deeply worried about the prospects for education if the Education Reform Bill and the Local Government Finance Bill become law. The Secretary of State has clearly shown himself to be uninterested in the views of the majority of parents, teachers and, indeed, head teachers, who have all expressed concern about the effects of the Bill on London's children. Surely if the right hon. Gentleman had any integrity left he would wait until the results of the parents' ballots are known and then listen to their views about the abolition of ILEA before he acted.

    According to Government plans, the abolition of ILEA will come into effect simultaneously with the imposition of the poll tax. At the same time, boroughs will be expected to bear the responsibility for running an education service while being denied the power to control their expenditure. Under the proposed new system of local government finance, the Government will control over 70 per cent. of local authority expenditure. Local authorities will be able to raise money only through the poll tax. In Lewisham, it is estimated that the poll tax will be about £1,350 for a two-adult household, which will be a massive burden on my constituents. Of course, the Government are hoping that such large poll tax bills will force local authorities to spend less money on services, including the new education service. We are entitled to ask what would be the effect on each inner London borough—I am referring particularly to Lewisham — if it could spend on education only at Government-set grant-related expenditure assessment levels.

    I can tell the House what that would mean — the decimation of the education service. Some 445 primary school teachers would be sacked, along with half the support staff. Over 400 secondary school teachers would have to go and—perhaps even more shamefully—almost half of the teachers of children who have special needs. That would have devastating consequences for children in my constituency, one quarter of whom are from one-parent families and one in five of whom have both parents unemployed. How will those children receive the education that they need and deserve if ILEA is abolished?

    Against that background of a deteriorating basic service I should like to refer briefly to three specific education services in my constituency that ILEA funds. The future of those services is directly threatened by the abolition of ILEA and by the Government-determined needs assessment.

    My constituency houses one of the largest colleges of further education in Europe—the South-East London technical college. There are 13,000 students attending courses at SELTC — courses which range from vocational to community and arts courses. The college runs a certificate of pre-vocational education course to advise and assist young people, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, about their choice of career. It also runs engineering, business and catering courses. As an equal opportunities college it attracts an even higher number of students from ethnic minority groups than ILEA does generally. Of the 13,000 student intake, about 5,000 are from the borough of Lewisham and the rest are from outside the borough. It would impose considerable administrative burdens on a single local authority if it had to run the college and recoup moneys from all the other authorities concerned.

    The college is already being forced to leave lecturing posts vacant and it is justifiably concerned that Lewisham borough council alone would not be able to provide the resources that it needs. I hope that the Secretary of State or the Minister will reassure the staff and students at the college, who have drawn up a petition for the Government, that the Government's proposals will match current funding levels, no matter what the arrangements for the future, and that the diversity of courses will be maintained. If the responsible Ministers cannot give that assurance they must agree with us that, for the sake of this college of real excellence, ILEA should be retained.

    I am also concerned about the future of community education, particularly child guidance. In my constituency there is a clinic that provides a vital service in an area of great need and much deprivation. The Forest Hill clinic deals not only with acute problems but has pioneered work with the under-fives, working with parents in the home to prevent the worst problems arising.

    The service is ILEA-funded and it is because, and only because, of that that it can work with the many professionals who make up I he multi-disciplinary teams that can help these children with problems that may have physical repercussions, such as diseases like anorexia, which have a psychological basis. The clinic has a specialist unit that is concerned with cases arising from child abuse which, as we all know, is tragically on the increase. I do not believe that there is any way in which a single London authority in inner London, faced with all the problems of inner London, would be able to provide a service such as that being provided across London now by the ILEA child guidance service. The service takes a multidisciplinary approach, training social workers in Lewisham and in neighbouring boroughs and in. Bromley and Croydon. The service is efficient and cost-effective and can remain so only if there is a single, unitary authority in inner London.

    I ask the Minister for reassurances, if it is possible to give them, that a single authority running such a service would be able to attract staff of the calibre of the present staff and support such a wide range of services with such a heavy case load.

    Finally, I want to refer briefly to the Horniman museum, which has already been mentioned in the debate. It provides a valuable education resource for schoolchildren and all my constituents. It has been a fundamental principle that it should be free and accessible, and the success of that belief is shown by the 229,000 visitors that it attracted last year. How would Lewisham be able to run that service alone? This year, Lewisham is rate capped, with the result that we have had to close two branch libraries, reduce the opening hours of others and curtail several leisure services. The council would not be able to support the running of what is, in effect, a national museum without a level of special funding that I do not believe the Government would make available to a single borough. That being so, the Government must agree with us that ILEA is necessary to preserve this valuable resource, and it should be retained for all the reasons that Opposition Members have advanced.

    I have nearly finished. There is no doubt that the abolition of ILEA and the imposition of an unpopular and unjust poll tax can only have appalling consequences for education in Lewisham, and I urge the House to support my hon. Friend's amendments.

    I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) and to give a threeout-of-three plug for the Horniman museum. My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) made the same point about it as the hon. Member for Deptford. That shows a good degree of cross-party support and I am sure that hon. Members of other parties would be willing, in the right circumstances, to signify their agreement that it would not be right to hand over the control and responsibility for the running of the museum in this way.

    The museum is not only a London-wide institution; it serves the whole south-east, and many teachers take their classes there. It has a world-class reputation for its anthropological exhibits, a world-famous collection of musical instruments and many other educational features. I hope my hon. Friend will be able to say how the Government propose to deal with the problem. The director of the museum, and all who have examined the issue, would like something along the lines of nationally appointed trustees and some degree of national funding. There does not seem to be any suitable alternative umbrella organisation.

    Unfortunately, I can agree no further than this with the hon. Member for Deptford. I do not think that pressure on resources need be of anything like the order that she has described. The reason why the poll tax is potentially so high in Lewisham is the profligacy of the council. It could easily reduce its spending and have a poll tax of well under £300 without touching education spending. If the hon. Lady is concerned that the Labour council will be unable to run education, there is a simple solution—to advise her constituents to vote Conservative in May 1990, because there is no question that we shall have a policy for, and be capable of putting into operation, a proper education service in the borough after that time.

    Conservative Members made two criticisms of ILEA. They are not comprehensive, all-embracing criticisms, but they consist of two fundamental themes to do with wasteful spending and low standards of achievement in ILEA schools. Opposition Members largely avoid those points when they attempt to support ILEA. Their alibis are, for example, that it is always more expensive to do things in inner London and that many children there are from socially deprived homes, but those alibis do not answer the central criticism, which is that ILEA is an expensive authority that does not deliver the goods.

    I made these points and gave countless examples of them on Report last week, during the ILEA debate a few weeks ago and on many other occasions and I do not want to reiterate them now, except for two, which arise from this debate. ILEA's music centre at Pimlico—there is also a branch in Tower Hamlets — has been hailed as an example of ILEA's service. It is true that it offers an excellent musical education and provides an opportunity for a few children in inner London to study music and develop their skills. No one wants that service to go, but I wonder whether hon. Members who support it know what it costs. It costs £1 million a year to run the service for the 470 children who attend it —more than £2,000 per child. It defies belief to suggest that it is impossible to organise music education for musically talented children in London for less than £2,000 per child per year. It is a scandal that it should cost so much. Of course, the service must continue, but anyone who suggests that that is what it needs to cost is out of touch with the world.

    Will the hon. Gentleman remind us of the lowest fees per child at an independent school in London?

    6 pm

    ILEA's cost per child at a secondary school are greater than half of the fees in the independent schools in London. I was speaking about music education which costs £2,000 per child per year in the Pimlico centre, and the children go there only on Saturday mornings. The centre operates for only 32 weeks of the year. That is a staggering unit cost. The hon. Gentleman cannot attempt to defend that by comparing those costs with costs in an independent school. I think that it costs ILEA £2,600 per child per year in a secondary school. It costs 80 per cent. of that just to give music education. That does not make sense.

    If the hon. Gentleman came to the House with evidence about the costs in Chetham's school in Manchester, which has special music provision, we could have a reasonable debate. He cites one example about a special provision that caters for many children who would otherwise be deprived of that type of education. ILEA does it very well and the hon. Gentleman's argument proves nothing. He must realise that.

    That is the most awful nonsense and the hon. Gentleman knows it. If the parents of those children were given £2,000 per year to spend on each child they could easily organise their own music education for considerably less. To suggest that it should cost almost as much to give music education on Saturday mornings as for the whole of a child's secondary education flies in the face of logic and reason. It is an example of ILEA providing a service which it is right to try to provide, but which it provides in an inefficient and profligate way. I am afraid that it is symptomatic of the way in which many of ILEA's other special services are provided.

    My other example deals with the education standards that are achieved as a result of this expenditure. There are countless such examples. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) made a point on which I was unable to intervene. He prayed in aid the Bolton report, and I understood him to say that the report said that ILEA was getting better, that its standards were rising and that for that reason the Secretary of State ought to have a review and not abolish ILEA. If its standards have been rising over the past few years, I hate to think what they were like before that. As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, a quarter of the children who leave ILEA schools achieve no GCEs or CSEs.

    I am in the middle of making a point in reply to one made by the Member for Blackburn to whom I should be happy to give way.

    Only 10 per cent. of children leaving ILEA schools get five or more GCEs or CSEs. A crippling indictment of ILEA is that of band I children, those who at the age of 11 are reckoned to be the most able quarter of children —I know that that is a rough estimate—only a third get five or more GCEs or CSEs. Of the band 2 children, the 50 per cent. average in the middle, only 6 per cent. achieve such results. That is what ILEA is achieving and I and most of my hon. Friends think that that is a serious indictment of the education standards of ILEA. If that is the result of an improvement, can the hon. Member for Blackburn tell us what ILEA's education achievements were like before the improvement took place? They must have been simply awful. The two central points of our argument that are never answered by the defenders of ILEA are that the standards that it achieves are low and that it spends an inordinate amount of money achieving them. Both of those faults can and should be remedied.

    I should like to make a special plea for the Geffrye museum in my constituency which serves children all over London. Thousands of children have benefited from visits to that museum, including me when I went there 25 years ago. Any arrangements made after abolition should preserve that museum as a free museum for the children of London.

    When speaking about abolition, the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) said that well-led schools have nothing to fear. Schools in inner London, especially those in the poorer areas and however well led, have everything to fear from abolition. My case comes back to a point made before in the House and I should like to make it again. It is about the arrangements for finance. However well led, schools that will have to be run with substantially less money than they had before abolition will have everything to fear in terms of standards and the prospects of the children.

    In my borough of Hackney, we stand to lose at least £60 million under the abolition arrangements. Currently, Hackney puts in £33 million to [LEA and takes out £93 million. I have asked and asked, but I have yet to receive a clear commitment from the Secretary of State that the people of Hackney will not be financially worse off as a result of abolition. I ask again for the last time if the Secretary of State will commit himself by saying that the people of Hackney will not be worse off as a result of the abolition of ILEA.

    What will the equalisation arrangement be? It is even worse than it looks, because not only will we be £60 million worse off in the first instance, but the imposition of the poll tax will widen the gap. After abolition, the poll tax in Hackney will be £744 per head. The people of Hackney want to hear from the Ministers some clear and concrete proposals about equalisation. We want to know where the money will come from to run our education. We are giving the Ministers a last chance to tell us that.

    How can Ministers and Conservative Members talk about their concern for education prospects for children in inner London and how can the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) wring his hands and express totally bogus concern for education standards when children in Hackney are faced with a drop of £60 million? That could mean cuts in staffing, books and buildings of 25 per cent. When ILEA goes, teachers will be faced with losses in career prospects and support services. Hackney will have special difficulty in attracting staff. The loss of money, support structures and career prospects will lead to enormous difficulties for the poorer boroughs in attracting staff. How can the Government seriously talk about an increase in standards for areas such as Hackney?

    No one has spoken about the effect of ILEA's abolition not just on poor children in London but on black children. One of the consequences of abolition is that the poorer boroughs will have far less to spend on education. As it happens, most of those poorer London boroughs are the centres for the black population. It is legitimate to raise the interests of black children in the debate because, as many Conservative Members may or may not know, 45 per cent., nearly half, of black schoolchildren are educated by ILEA. An attack on education in London is an attack on the education prospects of nearly half the black schoolchildren in Britain. I wonder whether the Secretary of State wants to go down in the history books as the man who built into education in London differentials in spending related to race that were commonly seen in schools in Atlanta and in New York before the campaign for civil rights. Does he really want to build in differentials in spending that closely parallel the distribution of black people in the capital? That will happen if ILEA is abolished without making proper arrangements for the equalisation of finance.

    Those are the two points that I wanted to make. I wanted to talk about the money and about whether the Secretary of State had seriously considered the effect of abolition on poor children and specifically black children. I have been lobbied by hundreds of parents in Hackney and have had hundreds of letters from parents as a result of the Secretary of State's proposals. They want to know where the money will come from, and they want a commitment that standards will not drop. I would like a statement from the Secretary of State that he has seriously considered the ramifications of his proposals.

    The fundamental question before the House is whether the continued existence of ILEA will lead to an improvement in education standards in inner London. The answer to that question is no, it will not, and the evidence for that is based on experience of ILEA. Another question is why it is not better to have education provision delivered at the most local level, that is, at the borough level. In outer London there are boroughs with two or three constituencies, and, regardless of size, they are able to deliver a satisfactory, if not good, education system.

    Also, the House must ask why an education authority which is supposed to gain tremendous advantages from economies of scale is the most profligate in the country. Another question is why Opposition Members constantly expect that if one is working class or lives in an inner city, one's academic performance will be lower.

    There are good educational, financial and political reasons for getting rid of ILEA, as I hope to show. In the words of The Economist earlier this year:
    "Labour-controlled ILEA has a reputation for administrative inefficiency, low standards and political interference in schools."
    The article goes on to talk about political tyranny and the existence of corruption and inefficiency, and says:
    "ILEA is better at political posturing than at running things."
    It talks of ILEA's "labyrinthine bureaucracy". No other local education authority has aroused such hostility, spent so much and achieved so little. We have not seen such a large drift into private education anywhere else. ILEA is blinded by dogma and divorced from the needs and wishes of ordinary people. Opposition Members must listen a little more closely to what people are telling us as politicians.

    ILEA seems to have worked—I say "have" because I am sure it will be a thing of the past—on two misguided assumptions. The first is that one has only to spend more money to get better academic results. The second is that one can insinuate insidious political dogma into school classrooms with impunity. Before Opposition Members ask for examples, I will give one, which is based on experience and which concerns me considerably.

    A little while ago, I visited Camden girls' school for a speaking engagement and the deputy head there told me about how ILEA had politically interfered with the good running of the school, and showed me evidence. It had subtly starved the school of resources just because it happened to be a former grammar school and it wanted to remain a single sex school.

    The hon. Gentleman has just made a serious allegation against ILEA. He owes it to the House either to withdraw it or substantiate what he means by talking about vindictive behaviour by ILEA — those were the words he intended to use—against individual schools. That is a most damning thing to say, and if the hon. Gentleman cannot substantiate it he should shut up.

    If the hon. Gentleman wants substantiation of it, I suggest that he goes to the school and speaks to the staff unofficially, and they will tell him the truth. At the school, while there was a shortage in certain basics, there was no shortage of irrelevant and wasteful anti-racist and anti-sexist propaganda, which I can assure the House goes straight into the bin.

    Let us look at the state of ILEA's education system, because if we are to discuss whether it should continue we should look at what it is doing. Let us start with staff morale, which we are constantly being told is bad because of the Government. I assure the House that, as chairman of the education committee in the London borough of Enfield, which is close to ILEA, I know that staff morale in ILEA was low eight or nine years ago, and morale has continued to sink since then. There was a growing number of applications for schools in Enfield. Despite all ILEA's money and its so-called training schemes, hundreds of ILEA's teachers were trying to get out of ILEA. Unfortunately, the quality of those teachers was not as high as one would have expected from the comments of Labour Members, despite the training schemes that ILEA undertakes.

    6.15 pm

    Geography is obviously not one of the hon. Gentleman's strongest subjects if he thinks Enfield is close to ILEA. If he thinks there is such a feeling among teachers, would he be prepared to support a referendum among teachers as well as among parents about the Government's abolition proposal?

    My constituency is large, and to travel 50 miles is no distance. With all due respect to the hon. Gentleman, the southern part of the London borough of Enfield is but a few miles from the boundary of ILEA.

    The quality of many of ILEA's teachers was not as good as it should have been, despite all the money and training schemes. One wonders precisely what was going on. Despite this so-called haven of harmonious happiness, 2,500 secondary pupils leave Lambeth for Wandsworth every day and morale in the teaching force is not good. One can only assume that that is because of the actions and inactions of ILEA.

    If the hon. Gentleman is attacking ILEA because about 2,000 pupils leave Lambeth every day for education in Wandsworth, which happens to be a better distribution of services, why does he think that the breaking up of ILEA will solve that problem?

    That is an easy question to answer because decisions will be made at local level and the authority in charge will not have money to waste on political propaganda. They will have to spend their resources on education and nothing else. That is why education will be better.

    ILEA will be remembered for its disgraceful quality of education. Its reputation has gone before it not only in London but throughout England. [Interruption.] It is all very well Opposition Members shouting and heckling, but ILEA is a disgrace. People regard it with horror. They constantly ask me, in many capacities, what goes on in ILEA and whether the authority has any chance of helping children to break out of their cycle of deprivation and inequality. They have no chance of doing that, which is why we must get rid of ILEA.

    Let us judge ILEA by its exam results. Peter Newsom, a former education officer of ILEA, said something about which I should remind Opposition Members, because they often forget the facts. He said that exam results are
    "below the national average",
    and that
    "a significant feature of them …is how stable they have been".
    So they are bad, and getting no better, despite all the extra money that is being spent. This terrible state of low morale in the teaching force and appalling exam results has been going on for a number of years. It has nothing to do with a lack of money and everything to do with political manipulation. I would be the first to vote in favour of extra spending if I thought there was a direct correlation between spending levels and exam results, but there is not.

    It is an insult, and typically Socialist, to assume that children who live in inner-city areas, who have a high incidence of living in one-parent families or having divorced parents, are bound to have poor exam results. As The Economist said, the fundamental problem with ILEA is that of low expectations, to which hon. Members have already referred. It is the tragedy of ILEA that political masters have expected so little from their pupils that they have achieved so little and are satisfied with so little. The 1980 HMI report talks about under-expectations of what pupils could achieve, but this is merely the logical extension of what the political masters expect.

    It is no good the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and other Opposition Members saying that, if one allows for this and that, ILEA's results are as good as those of Oxfordshire. It is an utter fraud to try and twist figures to suit what one wants when they do not deliver what they are supposed to deliver.

    It is like the Labour party saying that, if it had not been for its disastrous policies, it would have won the general election. There is a direct link between disastrous policies and socialism. They go hand in hand. One cannot fiddle the figures to get what one wants. It will not work. Unemployment is coming down. We are achieving success on all those fronts.

    Let us consider the academic and financial record of ILEA. It spends 50 per cent. more per secondary school pupil than the outer London boroughs do. Clearly that is not due to inner city problems because ILEA is still spending 75 per cent. more than Birmingham, which is at present Labour-controlled. One could argue that the running of schools in inner London needs a smaller unit to obtain comparable results, yet classes in ILEA are on average 20 per cent. smaller and the results still no better.

    Surely ILEA must have some advantages. The one advantage constantly vaunted is that it has economies of scale, but even that bears no relation to reality because its administrative costs are twice the national average and it has two and a half times as many bureaucrats as any other local education authority. Despite higher spending, smaller classes, more teachers and more support staff, academic results in ILEA are twice as bad as the national average.

    If we are serious about giving youngsters in inner London equality of opportunity, we must allow them to break out from the suffocation of ILEA, which has clearly been unable to raise standards. If we want competition and excellence, ILEA must be broken up. It has not even reached the level of mass mediocrity. Opposition Members must face the fact that it has failed and must be prepared to do something about it.

    I wish to ask the hon. Member for Blackburn two questions. He claims to be concerned about the possible disruptive effect of the abolition of ILEA. Should we assume, therefore, that his party will not be seeking to restore ILEA? In view of his comments extolling the virtues of ILEA, if it is not going to be restored, why not?

    Over the last few days I have listened with great interest to the debate on the Education Reform Bill and I have held my fire because I specifically wanted to speak in this part of the debate. I should like to put my comments into the context of my support for much of the rest of the Bill because I hope that, in that way, my criticism of this part will be taken more seriously.

    I support proposals for diagnostic testing, if it is properly done, to show the performance of a particular school and to show parents how their children are doing in relation to others. I do not support competitive testing where one child is shown to be bottom of the class, deemed to be a failure and gives up. Testing must be done with great care.

    I do not even oppose the controversial issue of opting out as a matter of principle, if it is implemented properly. I am sorry that the Government have not had the courage of their convictions in respect of opting out and have not allowed the proposals to go forward on the basis of a ballot and a simple majority of all those eligible to vote. On the present basis, after a vote of only three parents, if two vote to opt out and one does not, the proposal is accepted. That makes nonsense of the system. If the proposal is as good as the Government say, they should back it by allowing it to go through with a straightforward majority of parents eligible to vote, because it will work only if it has the commitment of the parents of the children in that school.

    If the national curriculum is implemented with sufficient flexibility and sensitivity, it will be a long overdue reform and will raise standards. Let us raise standards and expectations. Low expectations are a serious problem in our education system. Until we address that matter, everything else is irrelevant.

    What has been wrong with our education system for so long is performance at secondary school level, perhaps to a greater extent in ILEA than elsewhere in the country. The focal point of any reform should be in our secondary schools. The children are under-achieving, demotivated and playing truant. Demands are not being made of them and they are not even enjoying being at school.

    In last week's debate we spent considerable time considering what we should do to encourage more 16 to 19-year-olds to stay on at school. We discussed financial incentives for them to do so. However, we overlook what happens between the ages of 11 and 16. So many children do not want to stay on at school because their experience between the ages of 11 and 16 is so poor that, at best, they cannot see any point in staying on, and, at worst, they cannot wait to get out. We have to make experience between 11 and 16 stimulating, dynamic, exciting and rewarding so that children value their education and want to continue it. Whatever we do beyond that stage will have no bearing on whether more children take up that option, unless their early experience has been enriching.

    In view of my wholehearted commitment to and welcome of some parts of the Bill, I hope that my limited and constructive criticism of this part of the Bill will be received with an open mind. I see the proposals for the abolition of ILEA and the devolution of children's education in London to the boroughs as nothing less than madness. I speak from a heartfelt conviction, not just as an inner London Member of Parliament, but as a parent of children in the inner London state education system and as the mother of a boy who is not yet three and about whose future education I despair if the proposals are accepted.

    A hideous game of political football is being played with inner London children. ILEA's performance can be criticised and I have never been backward in saying what was wrong with it. Its administrative tier is heavy both in terms of expenditure and bureaucracy. Its performance at secondary school level leaves a great deal to be desired. The politicisation of children's education over the past 10 years is undesirable. However, the Secretary of State's proposals will do far more damage at one stroke than 10 years of Left-wing Labour administration has done. Let us preserve what is good in ILEA and reform what needs to be reformed.

    What is good and under threat? Nursery provision in ILEA leads the rest of the country. Many education authorities of the size of Greenwich or Lewisham have virtually no nursery provision. We do not want that situation to develop here. We are prepared to spend money on those things that matter and nursery education comes into that category. Special needs have been extensively discussed in this debate and ILEA ranks high among the authorities with regard to such provision. The careers service provided by ILEA is hardly matched anywhere else and its provision of further and adult education is among the best in the country, if not the world.

    6.30 pm

    There are a wealth of examples of good education practices that may go to the wall if ILEA is abolished and one of those is the City Literary Institute. It is the largest education institute in this country. It is physically located in three boroughs, so where will it go after abolition? It offers advanced as well as adult education. It does not just provide for the people of inner London. It provides a regional, national and international service. It has 25,000 people in its main institute and 15,000 in outlying colleges. Those figures do not include the 5,000 applicants who have been turned away and the countless others who have not bothered to apply because they know it is over-subscribed.

    The institute, apart from its specialities in humanities, languages, and creative and performing arts, also has special facilities for the deaf and mentally handicapped. It provides the only training for hearing therapists in Europe. It operates a scheme called "Fresh Horizons", which is pioneering access to advanced education for those youngsters who missed the boat at school. For many people that institute is a lifeline. It is entirely funded by ILEA. What will happen to it?

    What evidence have we been given to suggest that to transfer the education of our children from ILEA to the London boroughs will put matters right? How will the schools, in particular the secondary schools, improve when they are run by boroughs which have no experience of education, which are rate capped and which have notoriously under-performed in many other services?

    We have heard today that head teachers have not been at the forefront in the defence of ILEA in recent months, but they have criticised this measure. If the Secretary of State under-estimates their opinion he will be making a severe mistake.

    What should be done to reform ILEA? I will not provoke the House unduly by dwelling on the basic issue of proportional representation, but that would have eliminated extremism from ILEA at a stroke. If the Government will not reconsider the abolition of ILEA entirely they should seriously consider establishing a statutory, unitary body for those parts of education provision that come outside the statutory education age of five to 16. Such a body would cover not only nursery and tertiary education, but the colleges of further education, adult education, the careers service and special needs. Time and time again today it has been demonstrated that those services will suffer irreparable damage if some provision is not made for them.

    We must seriously consider the outcome of the measure. It is my contention that it will be calamitous. Conservative and Opposition Members who represent London seats will rue the day that the abolition of ILEA was allowed to go through. We need reform and acknowledged wrongs put right, but abolition is not the answer.

    rose

    On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to rise at this point when only seven inner London Members have been able to speak in this debate? I have not been called in this debate despite the fact that I am sponsored by a union that has 15,000 members who will be adversely affected by the break-up of ILEA. Is it not a disgrace that the debate should be guillotined to three hours, given this monstrous attack on education in inner London?

    The guillotine and today's proceedings are not in my hands. The debate is guillotined and if the Minister rises I feel duty bound to call her.

    We have had a serious debate and the amendment has been discussed well by my hon. Friends and Opposition Members.

    I was somewhat nonplussed by the opening speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). It was extremely long and it reminded me of the rather enjoyable times that I had in my childhood when I read stories about children at prep schools. I suspect that neither he nor I have had much experience of what happens in boys' prep schools, but I am fairly certain that the events that took place earlier this afternoon were rather reminiscent of the goings on at such schools when the boys get excited. I dare say that other hon. Ladies sometimes feel out of it, as I do, when they witness such extraordinary scenes in the House.

    The hon. Member for Blackburn spoke of the independent London Parents Action Group. He stressed that it was independent. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) also spoke about it. It is alleged that the ballot that that group has organised will ballot all ILEA parents—I assume that that is correct. So far my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, who is an ILEA parent, has not yet received a ballot paper. I understand that the hon. Member for Blackburn, also an ILEA parent, has received his. We shall wait to see whether those of our colleagues who are ILEA parents—there are some—receive their ballot papers.

    The hon. Member for Blackburn should remember that in the recent election the Labour party did worst in London.

    Is the Minister suggesting that some parents will not be given ballot papers deliberately? The Minister should be extremely careful because the ballot campaign is being efficiently and independently run. The votes will be counted by the Electoral Reform Society. She is making a most disgraceful slur on those people who are attempting to give parents a voice when her Government deny them that chance.

    The hon. Gentleman must be careful in what he says. I was extremely careful in what I said and I was merely seeking information. The distribution of the ballot papers is not in the hands of the Electoral Reform Society, which, of course, is an extremely reputable and highly honourable organisation. No one would say anything different.

    The Minister is making a disgraceful attack upon the independent London Parents Action Group. That group has independently and without any form of party allegiance raised £80,000 as a result of voluntary efforts. At my children's school parents of all political persuasions are supporting ILEA. I could also tell her what has been going on in the school attended by the children of the Minister for Overseas Development, but, in deference to his children, I shall not name it.

    I received my ballot paper only on Saturday and I dare say that as the Minister for Overseas Development often flies halfway around the world he has not opened his post from Saturday.

    The Minister is reading quite well the poisonous words_ that have been put out by Conservative central office, but I cannot believe that she will totally ignore the views of London parents if they show overwhelming opposition to the Government's intention.

    The hon. Gentleman makes many assumptions as to what I am or am not assuming. I have simply said that while my hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development was sitting beside me this afternoon he told me that he had not yet received his ballot paper. I am sure that he has had plenty of time in which to open his post. We shall watch with interest to see what happens.

    The hon. Member for Blackburn rehearsed many arguments which have been repeated frequently in Committee and on the Floor of the House. It is very important that I should stress two points as a general theme before I answer the points made on specific amendments.

    The first point was made very well by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), who referred to the extravagance of ILEA and the recognition that many of the reasons why ILEA has been so unsuccessful are due to the fact that it is a two-layered authority. One layer of bureaucracy imposes on the local level. Opposition Members must accept that the Government have made up their mind. The Inner London education authority will go and delay is therefore pointless.

    One of the most important tasks lies with Opposition Members who represent London constituencies. They must take the advice of ILEA's chief executive and start planning for the future. Some boroughs are already doing that. They include three Conservative boroughs, and I must tell the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey that Tower Hamlets takes its responsibilities equally seriously and has already entered into discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about plans for the future.

    If Opposition Members say that they care for children— and I am sure that they are genuine when they say that they care—it is very important for the children's education and the services that ILEA provides across the boroughs that they go to their constituencies and boroughs and urge them to come to my right hon. Friend with their plans.

    The Minister said that delay is pointless. Does she not believe that delay which secures better education is worthwhile, not pointless?

    The delay will be pointless. It would therefore be far better if all delay was put behind us and people got on with the job. They should produce development plans for the boroughs to deliver education sensibly and suitably by 1990.

    It may help if I set out briefly the timetable that we envisage leading up to April 1990. Shortly after Easter we hope to issue our draft guidance on the development plans that we are asking boroughs to produce. Throughout the remainder of the spring and early summer I would expect the inner London unit—which my right hon. Friend has set up in the Department of Education and Science—to engage in serious discussions with the boroughs in the light of that draft guidance.

    The full guidance will be issued formally immediately after Royal Assent and at that point we might expect that the boroughs would seek more detailed discussions as they prepare their plans. To allow sufficient time for local consideration of the plans, and for the necessary work leading to staff and property transfer orders that will be based on them, I envisage requiring those plans to be submitted not later than the end of February 1989. That is why I urge Opposition Members to take these measures very seriously.

    In the light of the development plans we will be able to consider jointly with the boroughs whether it is necessary to establish formal co-operative arrangements in respect of particular aspects of the education service. Many hon. Members have referred to those co-operative arrangements.

    I anticipate that the initial property and staff transfer orders will be laid in late summer next year, but that the process will continue until the abolition of ILEA. During that time the boroughs will work closely with ILEA to ensure that the transfer of functions takes place as smoothly as possible in April 1990.

    Is the Minister saying in effect that she will ignore the result of the ballot being organised by parents in a desperate attempt to hold on to some democratic rights to free choice?

    The hon. Lady will be aware that Parliament is the institution that makes alterations to the way in which local government is run. That is a constitutional matter. A ballot cannot affect Parliament's decision in this matter.

    6.45 pm

    I very much agree with my hon. Friend. This is a very important matter. After all, if we took notice entirely of what the parents say, we would have very much tougher legislation concerning homosexual teachers and the teaching of homosexuality in schools. That might not suit some Opposition Members.

    I understand my right hon. Friend's message and I am sure that he is entirely right in his supposition.

    The Government recognise that the preparatory work involved in becoming a local education authority will inevitably impose some additional financial burdens on the inner London boroughs. We therefore intend to provide specific grant aid in 1988–89 and 1989–90 which can be used by inner London councils for preparatory work such as the appointment of consultants, making preliminary appointments of administrative staff and establishing information systems.

    The sums available for distribution between the inner London councils will be up to £3 million in 1988–89 and up to £10 million in 1989–90. Grant will be paid at 100 per cent. and we shall want to ensure that the money is spent wisely and effectively. We shall announce after Easter the criteria against which the grant will be available.

    I am sure that the grant, which takes careful account of what boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster have been telling us about their start-up costs, will be generally welcomed and recognised as a mark of the Government's commitment to ensure the successful and orderly transfer of education responsibilities to the boroughs. We now look forward with this measure of our goodwill to close co-operation with the boroughs as they begin to set in place the arrangements to be supported by the grant.

    I am grateful to the Minister for her courtesy in giving way. I understood what the Minister said about start-up costs between now and 1990, should that be approved by Parliament and another place. When will the boroughs learn about the post-1990 arrangements? The arrangements post-1990 will critically depend on the issue of grant.

    That is exactly why we are asking the boroughs to have discussions with the Department. They can then iron out and discuss those points.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) made much the same points as the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North referred to special education. I share his view of the importance of special education in inner London. I guarantee that the guidance that we shall issue shortly after Easter will pay careful attention to that aspect. That is not to say that we believe that some form of unitary structure is necessary for special schools. That is not necessary in outer London or in any other major city. Co-operation between the local education authorities is necessary to ensure that children are properly placed in schools which will benefit them and that co-operation exists elsewhere. We cannot accept that there are such differences between inner London children and those in the rest of the country as to make it impossible for those co-operative arrangements to work. That process will not be hindered by any of our proposals.

    Any change in the pattern of special schools provision would require the approval of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He would withhold that approval unless he was certain that the interests of the children with special education needs would in no way be jeopardised. Recoupment between local education authorities for special education is at full cost. Taking into account the volume of the current provision, there is no prospect whatever of children finding it difficult to get into the right school wherever it is located. We will discuss with the boroughs the way in which to preserve the range of special education provision while allowing it to come under local management in the boroughs.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North also referred to sports facilities and I am aware of his great interest in that matter. With regard to the physical provision of sports facilities, all sites inside or outside inner London will pass to the boroughs. If there is no case for transferring a particular establishment to a borough, it will pass to the London residuary body. The Secretary of State can direct the most appropriate long-term home for the facility. Either way, the Bill empowers the Secretary of State to require boroughs to agree user rights with one another. There is no question of facilities being lost. Specific provision for the use of facilities will be the reponsibility of the boroughs, and I have no doubt that they will wish to maintain valuable classes, such as the horse-riding classes for autistic children to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North referred.

    The result of a time constraint is that the House has not reached an amendment tabled by some of my hon. Friends and myself that touches on facilities in outer London boroughs and in other boroughs further from London. These facilities must be kept for young sportsmen and clubs, perhaps by setting up a charity or partial charity. My hon. Friend the Minister has mentioned the London residuary body, but many of us are unhappy about facilities being transferred to the LRB and then being locked up, as it were, for many years. That is the position of a large facility in outer London at this moment.

    My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recognises that concern. I shall take my hon. Friend's point to heart.

    The hon. Member for Newham, South argued that, because some features of education are currently organised on a cross-London basis, they will be so organised in future. I reject that general thesis. Special education, further education, adult education and youth service are all facilities that are organised in outer London boroughs and by individual boroughs. It is certain that individual boroughs can organise effective services and be responsive to local needs. There is no reason to doubt the ability of inner London boroughs to do exactly the same.

    That may be the position in outer London boroughs, but does the Minister agree that fixed facilities, their geographical location, administrative arrangements and, above all, the experience and cooperation of the staff — this applies especially to specialist services in central London—require continuation on a unitary basis if they are to be satisfactory?

    I do not accept entirely what the hon. Gentleman said. However, we have an open mind about whether some services could be continued co-operatively between boroughs. That is one reason why it is essential that representatives of the boroughs come to the Department to tell us what they wish to provide for themselves and what they wish to provide through cooperative arrangements in future. Although services will be organised by individual boroughs, we have acknowledged that co-operation between the new inner London authorities is likely to be helpful for the provision of certain services. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be content with that.

    I have great respect for the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden). He is concerned that the boroughs are not capable of functioning effectively as education authorities. I hold no brief for the way in which certain boroughs have operated in recent years, but I think that my hon. Friend has overlooked two important considerations. The Bill provides for a national curriculum, open enrolment, local financial management and a system that will allow schools to be grant maintained. These provisions offer powerful safeguards against local mismanagement. I ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that for the first time many inner London parents will be able to choose the local education authority in which their children are educated. No local education authority in London, no authority anywhere else, will have a monopoly of provision. In these circumstances, no borough will be able to avoid doing its best to offer acceptable education.

    The second concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich is that some services will not be provided as effectively by individual boroughs as by ILEA. If he were to visit the metropolitan areas, he would find that boroughs provide effective and responsive local services, with sensible co-operation where necessary. The local education authority will be responsible, and at the end of the day it will be responsive, as a result of the ballot box, to the needs and requirements of those who vote. That is one of the most powerful reasons for wishing to devolve education responsibility to local authorities.

    The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) talked about further education and referred to colleges that receive many students from outside London. The funding and organisation of such colleges will be principally the responsibility of the maintaining local education authority. In drawing up development plans, we are requiring boroughs to consult other authorities in their area. In doing so, boroughs will have the opportunity to take acount of the views of their neighbours on the shape of further education provision, for example. They will be able to recoup the cost of provision under existing mandatory arrangements. I remind the hon. Lady that under the Bill colleges will be given much greater responsibility for running their own affairs. None of that will be affected or impaired by the fact that the maintaining local authority is a borough rather than ILEA.

    I shall not give way. I must complete my speech.

    The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) spoke about the grant-related assessment arrangements for 1990 and after, which are currently being reviewed. They will be discussed with the local authority associations later this year. The grant-related expenditure assessments for education for individual London boroughs will take account of their needs, including differing needs between boroughs. It is wrong to compare contributions and spending by ILEA in each borough with what might happen after 1 April 1990. The new system will mean that each borough will receive a needs grant that will make an allowance for individual needs and socio-economic factors. It will be the same assessment system that will apply to other inner-city areas throughout the country.

    Finally, I shall read a gentleman's letter to me. He wrote:
    "Dear Madam, I was given this piece of paper and the envelope in which it was posted at the Camden Institute of Adult Education, where I attend a music appreciation class. I was expected to write to an MP on the Education Committee to protest at the losing of ILEA and also at the cuts that, we are told, will come into effect. I am writing instead to say that it has taken too long to deal with the ILEA which is, to say the least, extravagant with taxpayers' money, and that I have every confidence that when you consider what is to come after the ILEA you will give due consideration to adult education classes."
    That letter was written by a pensioner, and I think that it provides a perfect conclusion to the debate.

    If ever there were a case for a review before making hasty decisions, it has been made this evening by the Minister of State. The hon. Lady has admitted that it is not possible to hand over the running of ILEA's services to individual boroughs, even if the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) wishes to see that happen. In the same way, it was not possible to break up the GLC and hand it over to individual boroughs. Even the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) has recognised that we shall find ourselves with a series of ad hoc arrangements in an attempt inadequately to replicate the services that are now provided by ILEA.

    The Minister said that it is for Parliament to decide. Of course it is. We all know what the constitution is, but that does not mean that Parliament has to ignore the clearly expressed wishes of parents. There has been a curious contradiction in the debate. Conservative Members have tried repeatedly to legitimise their views by waving before us letters from constituents or well-wishers. I include in that comment the letter that the Minister has recently quoted. Why do we not take that process a stage further in a scientific way? Why do the Government not approve of balloting parents so that we may ascertain whether it is true that the Minister's mailbag and that of the right hon. Member for Chingford are representative of what parents feel?

    If the arguments of Conservative Members were correct, there would be no support for ILEA and they would not have to worry about the result of the ballot to which my hon. Friends and I have referred. Instead, they are going to extraordinary lengths to denigrate the ballot. They know that parents, with their eyes wide open, support what ILEA is doing and the services that it provides.

    If there was any need for persuasion of the case for time to consider the approach, and for a review to be undertaken, that need would be met by the sheer vulgarity, as well as the ignorance, of the contributions from the right hon. Member for Chingford. London's children deserve better than an education policy devised and written by the right hon. Gentleman. That is why the House should support the amendment.

    It being Seven o'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the orders [1 and 17 February] and the resolution [23 March], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, That the amendment be made:—

    The House divided: Ayes 212, Noes 310.

    Division No. 233]

    [7 pm

    AYES

    Abbott, Ms DianeCaborn, Richard
    Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Callaghan, Jim
    Allen, GrahamCampbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterCampbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
    Armstrong, HilaryCampbell-Savours, D. N.
    Ashdown, PaddyCanavan, Dennis
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackCartwright, John
    Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
    Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Clay, Bob
    Barron, KevinClelland, David
    Battle, JohnClwyd, Mrs Ann
    Beckett, MargaretColeman, Donald
    Benn, Rt Hon TonyCook, Frank (Stockton N)
    Bennett, A. F. (D'nfn & R'dish)Cook, Robin (Livingston)
    Bermingham, GeraldCorbett, Robin
    Bidwell, SydneyCorbyn, Jeremy
    Blair, TonyCousins, Jim
    Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Cox, Tom
    Boyes, RolandCryer, Bob
    Bradley, KeithCummings, John
    Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Cunliffe, Lawrence
    Buchan, NormanDalyell, Tam
    Buckley, George J.Darling, Alistair

    Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Maclennan, Robert
    Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McNamara, Kevin
    Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)McTaggart, Bob
    Dewar, DonaldMcWilliam, John
    Dixon, DonMadden, Max
    Dobson, FrankMarek, Dr John
    Doran, FrankMarshall, David (Shettleston)
    Douglas, DickMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Duffy, A. E. P.Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
    Dunnachie, JimmyMaxton, John
    Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMeacher, Michael
    Eastham, KenMeale, Alan
    Evans, John (St Helens N)Michael, Alun
    Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
    Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
    Fatchett, DerekMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
    Faulds, AndrewMoonie, Dr Lewis
    Fearn, RonaldMorgan, Rhodri
    Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
    Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Mowlam, Marjorie
    Fisher, MarkMullin, Chris
    Flannery, MartinMurphy, Paul
    Flynn, PaulOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelO'Brien, William
    Foster, DerekO'Neill, Martin
    Foulkes, GeorgeOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
    Fraser, JohnOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
    Fyfe, MariaPatchett, Terry
    Galbraith, SamPendry, Tom
    Garrett, John (Norwich South)Pike, Peter L.
    Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
    George, BrucePrescott, John
    Godman, Dr Norman A.Primarolo, Dawn
    Golding, Mrs LlinQuin, Ms Joyce
    Gordon, MildredRadice, Giles
    Graham, ThomasRandall, Stuart
    Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Redmond, Martin
    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
    Grocott, BruceReid, Dr John
    Hardy, PeterRichardson, Jo
    Harman, Ms HarrietRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRobertson, George
    Healey, Rt Hon DenisRobinson, Geoffrey
    Heffer, Eric S.Rogers, Allan
    Henderson, DougRooker, Jeff
    Hinchliffe, DavidRowlands, Ted
    Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Ruddock, Joan
    Holland, StuartSalmond, Alex
    Home Robertson, JohnSedgemore, Brian
    Hood, JimmySheerman, Barry
    Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
    Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
    Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Short, Clare
    Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Skinner, Dennis
    Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
    Illsley, EricSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
    Ingram, AdamSnape, Peter
    Janner, GrevilleSoley, Clive
    John, BrynmorSpearing, Nigel
    Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Steinberg, Gerry
    Jones, leuan (Ynys Mon)Stott, Roger
    Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldStrang, Gavin
    Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilStraw, Jack
    Lambie, DavidTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Lamond, JamesTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
    Leadbitter, TedThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
    Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
    Litherland, RobertTurner, Dennis
    Livingstone, KenVaz, Keith
    Livsey, RichardWall, Pat
    Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Wallace, James
    Loyden, EddieWalley, Joan
    McAllion, JohnWarden, Gareth (Gower)
    McAvoy, ThomasWareing, Robert N.
    McCartney, IanWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
    Macdonald, Calum A.Wigley, Dafydd
    McFall, JohnWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
    McKelvey, WilliamWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
    McLeish, HenryWinnick, David

    Wise, Mrs Audrey
    Worthington, TonyTellers for the Ayes:
    Wray, JimmyMr. Frank Haynes and
    Young, David (Bolton SE)Mr. Allen McKay.

    NOES

    Adley, RobertDurant, Tony
    Aitken, JonathanEggar, Tim
    Alexander, RichardEmery, Sir Peter
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
    Allason, RupertFallon, Michael
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianFarr, Sir John
    Amess, DavidFavell, Tony
    Amos, AlanFenner, Dame Peggy
    Arbuthnot, JamesField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
    Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Forman, Nigel
    Atkins, RobertForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
    Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Forth, Eric
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Fox, Sir Marcus
    Baldry, TonyFranks, Cecil
    Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Freeman, Roger
    Batiste, SpencerFrench, Douglas
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFry, Peter
    Bellingham, HenryGale, Roger
    Bendall, VivianGardiner, George
    Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Gill, Christopher
    Bevan, David GilroyGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnGlyn, Dr Alan
    Blackburn, Dr John G.Goodlad, Alastair
    Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasGorman, Mrs Teresa
    Bottomley, PeterGorst, John
    Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGow, Ian
    Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Gower, Sir Raymond
    Bowis, JohnGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
    Brandon-Bravo, MartinGreenway, Harry (Baling N)
    Brazier, JulianGreenway, John (Ryedale)
    Bright, GrahamGregory, Conal
    Brittan, Rt Hon LeonGriffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
    Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
    Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Grist, Ian
    Browne, John (Winchester)Grylls, Michael
    Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
    Buck, Sir AntonyHamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
    Budgen, NicholasHampson, Dr Keith
    Burns, SimonHanley, Jeremy
    Butcher, JohnHannam, John
    Butler, ChrisHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
    Butterfill, JohnHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
    Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Harris, David
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Haselhurst, Alan
    Carrington, MatthewHawkins, Christopher
    Carttiss, MichaelHayes, Jerry
    Cash, WilliamHayward, Robert
    Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHeathcoat-Amory, David
    Channon, Rt Hon PaulHeddle, John
    Chapman, SydneyHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
    Chope, ChristopherHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
    Churchill, MrHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hill, James
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hind, Kenneth
    Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
    Colvin, MichaelHolt, Richard
    Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Hordern, Sir Peter
    Cope, JohnHoward, Michael
    Cormack, PatrickHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
    Couchman, JamesHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
    Critchley, JulianHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
    Curry, DavidHunt, David (Wirral W)
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
    Davis, David (Boothferry)Hunter, Andrew
    Day, StephenHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
    Devlin, TimIrvine, Michael
    Dickens, GeoffreyJack, Michael
    Dorrell, StephenJackson, Robert
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesJanman, Tim
    Dover, DenJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
    Dunn, BobJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

    Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Raffan, Keith
    Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRathbone, Tim
    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Redwood, John
    Kirkhope, TimothyRenton, Tim
    Knapman, RogerRiddick, Graham
    Knight, Greg (Derby North)Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
    Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
    Knowles, MichaelRifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
    Knox, DavidRoe, Mrs Marion
    Lamont, Rt Hon NormanRossi, Sir Hugh
    Latham, MichaelRost, Peter
    Lawrence, IvanRowe, Andrew
    Lee, John (Pendle)Rumbold, Mrs Angela
    Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Ryder, Richard
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSackville, Hon Tom
    Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Sainsbury, Hon Tim
    Lightbown, DavidSayeed, Jonathan
    Lilley, PeterScott, Nicholas
    Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Shaw, David (Dover)
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
    Lord, MichaelShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Luce, Rt Hon RichardShelton, William (Streatham)
    Lyell, Sir NicholasShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
    McCrindle, RobertShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Macfarlane, Sir NeilShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
    MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Shersby, Michael
    Maclean, DavidSkeet, Sir Trevor
    McLoughlin, PatrickSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
    McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Soames, Hon Nicholas
    Madel, DavidSpeed, Keith
    Major, Rt Hon JohnSpeller, Tony
    Malins, HumfreySpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
    Mans, KeithSquire, Robin
    Maples, JohnStanbrook, Ivor
    Marland, PaulStanley, Rt Hon John
    Marlow, TonySteen, Anthony
    Marshall, John (Hendon S)Stern, Michael
    Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
    Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
    Mates, MichaelStokes, John
    Maude, Hon FrancisStradling Thomas, Sir John
    Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickSumberg, David
    Mellor, DavidSummerson, Hugo
    Meyer, Sir AnthonyTapsell, Sir Peter
    Miller, HalTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    Mills, IainTaylor, John M (Solihull)
    Miscampbell, NormanTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
    Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Temple-Morris, Peter
    Moate, RogerThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Monro, Sir HectorThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Montgomery, Sir FergusThornton, Malcolm
    Moore, Rt Hon JohnTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Morris, M (N'hampton S)Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
    Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesTracey, Richard
    Morrison, Hon P (Chester)Tredinnick, David
    Moss, MalcolmTrippier, David
    Moynihan, Hon ColinTrotter, Neville
    Neale, GerrardTwinn, Dr Ian
    Nelson, AnthonyWaddington, Rt Hon David
    Neubert, MichaelWakeham, Rt Hon John
    Newton, Rt Hon TonyWaldegrave, Hon William
    Nicholls, PatrickWalden, George
    Nicholson, David (Taunton)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
    Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Waller, Gary
    Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyWalters, Dennis
    Oppenheim, PhillipWard, John
    Page, RichardWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
    Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilWatts, John
    Patnick, IrvineWells, Bowen
    Patten, Chris (Bath)Wheeler, John
    Patten, John (Oxford W)Whitney, Ray
    Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWiddecombe, Ann
    Pawsey, JamesWilkinson, John
    Porter, David (Waveney)Wilshire, David
    Portillo, MichaelWolfson, Mark
    Powell, William (Corby)Wood, Timothy
    Price, Sir DavidWoodcock, Mike

    Yeo, TimTellers for the Noes:
    Young, Sir George (Acton)Mr. Robert Boscawen and
    Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions on amendments moved by a member of the Government up to the end of clause 166.

    Clause 148

    Liability Of London Residuary Body For Redundancy And Compensation Payments

    Amendment made: No. 429, in page 136, line 46, after `made', insert 'on or'.— [Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

    Clause 163

    Education Assets Board

    Amendment made: No. 137, in page 147, line 16, leave out 'had'.— [Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

    Clause 166

    Wrongful Disposals

    Amendment made: No. 430. in page 150, line 12, after `local', insert 'education'.— [Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

    Clause 176

    Application Of Employment Law During Financial Delegation

    I beg to move amendment No. 386, in page 155, line 36, at end insert—

    `(3) Nothing in this section shall be construed as leading to any consequential diminution of rights for employees in respect of employment conditions already enshrined in existing statutes and local authority agreements.'
    Clause 167 gives this Secretary of State and any future incumbent of the office sweeping powers on employment law. They will enable the Secretary of State, at a stroke of his pen, to change the employment law for all those who work in teaching and non-teaching posts in those schools covered by local delegated financial management.

    These powers have been granted to the Secretary of State for Education and Science, not to the Secretary of State for Employment. I noticed when re-reading the Committee debate that the Minister of State said that there would be consultation with the Department of Employment. That is at least the minimum, but it is scandalous that the Secretary of State for Education arid Science should have this almost unfettered right to alter employment law rights for thousands of individuals.

    7.15 pm

    These powers, by the back door, through stealth, give the Government the ability to change rights which have been built up over more than a century. They give the Government rights to change the law on health and safety— —a law which has given individual employees statutory protection against certain health and safety hazards The Government have moved significantly against the drift of European labour law. That law tried to build up the tights of individual employees, but the Government have tried consistently and systematically to reduce those rights.

    The Bill will allow all these rights which have been built up over the past 20 years, starting with the conditions of employment legislation in the 1960s and continuing through the employment protection legislation, to be amended by the Secretary of State. All those important rights — the right to time off to carry out public functions, such as duties as a magistrate or as a local authority member and the right of women employees to have maternity leave — can be changed by the Government.

    There are also problems with procedures for recognition. Although this matter is not directly covered by clause 176, the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), worried many of us in Standing Committee when he referred to the possibility of the right of non-teaching members of staff to be represented by a trade union being taken away because of the process of local financial management. We would strongly object to that, because the democratic right to belong to and be represented by a trade union are crucial to a pluralistic society.

    The Government are taking powers to change our employment laws in an education rather than employment Bill. That is interesting, because it comes from a Government who repeatedly lecture the trade union movement that trade unions must abide by the law and by agreements. Much of the industrial relations framework in education has been based on current employment law and agreements. The Government seem willing to get rid of those agreements at a stroke. If they do that, they have no right to lecture trade unionists on the way in which they should stick by and honour agreements.

    What do we hear from Ministers in response to our fears? In reply to a debate in Committee, the Minister of State offered us three excuses, or reasons, for the Government's position. First, she said that we should not worry; that the measure applied only to schools covered by local financial management. But the schools to be covered will be all secondary schools and all primary schools with more than 200 children. A substantial proportion of education employees will be affected. It is no use saying that not many people will be affected by the clause. Many people will be affected. Furthermore, it is no excuse for the Minister to say, "We know that this is an outrage, but do not worry too much because it will not affect many people." If it were an outrage inflicted upon a minority, I suspect that we should be even more worried about it.

    Secondly, the Minister offered the simple explanation that the powers will be used only when the Secretary of State considers them to be necessary or expedient. That argument has been used by Ministers on many occasions. They say, "Trust this Secretary of State; he is a good man. He will use these powers in a way that is reasonable because he is a reasonable man." The Secretary of State seems to be having great difficulty in convincing the public that he is a reasonable man. Mr. Two Per Cent. seems to have more success with his own Back Benchers than he does with the general public. The weakness of that argument is clear. It fails simply because, if it is necessary and expedient and this Secretary of State will use the power reasonably, by inference it admits that another Secretary of State will not use the power reasonably. We condemn the power for that reason.

    Of course, we have little trust in the Secretary of State because he considered it necessary and expedient to take away from 400,000 teachers the right to bargain collectively with their employers. If he can do that at a stroke, he can take away other employment rights.

    Thirdly, there are the reassuring words of the Minister when she said that we should not worry about the clause and the Government's intentions. In Committee, the Minister replied to my intervention with the following words:
    "I can see no reason why there should be any consequential diminution of rights for employees as a result of the clause."—[Official Report, Standing Committee J, 25 February 1988; c. 1808.]
    If that is the Government's intention, we ask them simply to accept the amendment, because it is based on the Minister's words. If the Minister is true to her word, she will give us that reassurance tonight. If she asks us to withdraw the amendment simply because it is not technically correct, we shall do so; but if she does not accept the spirit of the amendment her words in Committee will have little value and worth and many thousands of teachers and non-teaching staff will be worried by the absolute powers in relation to their employment rights that the Secretary of State and Government are taking.

    This is a challenge to the Minister. Is she true to her word? Are the Government true to the Minister's word? If not, we are worried. If they are, we are delighted, and hope that she will accept the amendment.

    Clause 176 is possibly the most draconian clause in a draconian Bill. The Bill is bespattered with the words:

    "The Secretary of State shall by order"
    and it then mentions regulations. It is necessary to understand the precise wording of clause 176. The teachers' organisations and all the unions that are interested in their members who work in schools fear clause 176 more than almost anything else. It is lamentable that the guillotine allows us only until 7.45 pm to discuss this very important subject. I hope that there will be a vote on it, but I do not know what my hon. Friends have decided.

    We are hoping that there will be no vote, because we expect the Minister to stick to her words in Committee.

    My hon. Friend has more faith in the Minister than I have. I would want to vote on the amendment.

    Clause 176 states:
    "The Secretary of State may by order make such modifications in any enactment relating to employment".
    It then uses the following words which are used continually throughout the Bill:
    "as he considers necessary or expedient in consequence of the operation".
    As I was reading that for the umpteenth time in a monumental Bill, which is as big as five ordinary Bills, and which, no matter how long we discuss it, has been discussed insufficiently, and as we have only a few minutes to discuss this matter, I decided to turn casually to any two pages in the Bill. Those two pages and many others contain exactly those words.

    The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) is laughing like a Cheshire cat at this draconian piece of legislation which will undo negotiations that have existed for more than 100 years. It is appalling that Conservative Members are so docile that they go along with this catch-all clause which allows the Secretary of State to tamper with employment legislation, with teachers, school meals workers and anyone working in schools and "by order" to do anything that he wishes.

    Conservative Members do not understand that the words in the Bill are draconian. The Minister kept saying in Committee, "We hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw this because we accept the spirit of the amendment." It was said time and again that the Government accepted the spirit of the amendment. The spirit of the Bill, and the clause in particular, attacks everything that we hold dear in the education system.

    People have come here representing the vast majority of the people in ILEA, the head teachers, those who work in schools, parents and all the organisations of teachers and head teachers. They are all looking with care at clause 176. The amendment adds a subsection to that clause that will not be withdrawn. It provides:
    "Nothing in this section shall be construed as leading to any consequential diminution of rights for employees in respect of employment conditions already enshrined in existing statutes and local authority agreements."
    I have spoken before about the centralisation of powers by this elective dictatorship with a majority of more than 100, dizzy with success and with power concentrated in the hands of one particular Minister. Such a concentration as is proposed would need a Pentagon instead of the DES; it would need a building vaster than the DES. Conservative Members do not understand exactly what they are doing. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) referred to the fact that the negotiating rights of teachers were withdrawn. When any democratic right is enshrined in legislation, the Government pass a new piece of legislation, destroy the democratic right and say, "That is democracy, because we have a majority." That was one of the problems we faced when Lord Hailsham said that the Labour Government were an elective dictatorship, and when Lord Pym warned that it was dangerous for a Government to have such a large majority.

    Clause 176 is only a little clause but it is feared by the teachers' organisations, the unions and other people who work in the schools. It will deprive teachers of the rights they have now. Those rights will be concentrated in the hands of the Secretary of State, whom we do not trust to use them properly. Those powers would also be put in the hands of any subsequent Secretary of State. Therefore, I would love to think that our amendment No. 386 will be accepted by the Government.

    7.30 pm

    The hon. Member for Sheffield. Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) finished so suddenly that he caught me by surprise. During his speech he said that this clause was an affront, not just to the network of rights held by teachers now, which have been negotiated as part of their employment rights for the past 100 years, but, perhaps more importantly, was an affront to the democratic system in Britain. I say that because I believe that that is the main burden of the clause.

    We are concerned by the centralised power in the Bill. My concern with the Bill lies as much in the fact that it will damage our democratic system as with the fact that it will damage our education system. I do not believe that putting 183 powers in the hands of the Secretary of State, whether of this Government or any subsequent one, is good for our democratic system. This clause is, as the hon. Member for Hillsborough said, the most dangerous clause in the Bill without exception. As the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) said, it could be the instrument by which we take away the rights that teachers have to redundancy provision and could even attack the basis on which they receive their redundancy pay. It might attack their rights to trade union time off and time off for public duties and maternity leave as well as attacking other essential parts of their employment provision, which are part of the way in which we construct employment for teachers.

    Much more damaging is the fact that this clause enables the legislation democratically passed through the House to be obviated by the Secretary of State for the day at the stroke of a pen. When we pass legislation we do so for the whole nation. Yet we are allowing a single Secretary of State to say that it will not apply to teachers, probably a majority of teachers, in certain circumstances. How can the House give the Secretary of State for Education arid Science that power which, as far as I know, is not given to any other Secretary of State? How can Conservative Members, who subscribe to the process of democracy arid the processes of the House, simply allow circumstances in which the Secretary of State can, at a whim, say that what is passed in the House does not apply because he says so?

    The Minister may say that that must be done by order passed via the negative resolution procedure of the House. She knows, as I do, that that is a farce and a charade. At best, it would mean a debate in Committee, and we know that that would not be brought before the public's attention. We know perfectly well that there is no possibility of a Secretary of State, who wished to use those powers, being overturned by such a system. Therefore, that does not provide the safeguards we need.

    I believe that the clause makes a mockery of the process of Parliament. I do not understand how Conservative Members can allow a Secretary of State, of this Government or any subsequent Government, the power to override legislation that passes through the House in respect of employment for teachers. Conservative Members should have a care because in this clause, as in so much else, the power they now give to their own Secretary of State could fall into the hands of others arid could be the instrument by which a Labour Secretary of State or Democrat Secretary of State could do things that they would find inimical. I recall the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) in 1976 bringing forward legislation that enabled him to create workers' cooperatives. The Conservative party, which was then in opposition, asked from where he got the power to do that. He pointed sweetly to the Conservative Government's own Industry Act 1975. That is where he got the power from and that is what will happen with a subsequent Secretary of State who will hold the power to overrule legislation passed by the House.

    I do not believe that Conservative Members should so lightly place power in the hands of the Secretary of State, which is what will be done if the clause is passed. In so doing, I believe that they will damage the established rights of teachers, which have been put together over so many years, and will potentially damage the system of democracy and the power of the House. I hope that Conservative Members, some of them at least, will find the stomach and the will to vote against this, for that reason, if for no other.

    I have listened carefully to what has been said by Opposition Members. I must say that they are grossly exaggerating the scope of clause 176. The scope of the clause is restricted simply to the powers that the Secretary of State gives to schools in relation to financial delegation.

    Perhaps I should remind the House of the Government's approach to staffing in schools and colleges with financial delegation. Staffing costs will amount to about 80 per cent. or more of the budgets of those institutions. Therefore, when delegating powers to governing bodies we must make those powers meaningful, and that must include the management of staff. Therefore, the Bill provides for the governing bodies of institutions with financial delegation to select staff for appointment, to have control of discipline and grievance procedures and of suspension and, where necessary, to require the dismissal of a member of staff.

    Governing bodies will, of course, have at their disposal full professional advice from the chief education officer of the local authority and his staff and from the head teacher or college principal. We believe that that professional advice will be crucial, and we introduced several amendments and gave a range of assurances in Committee to make it entirely clear that the advice will be given and that the governing bodies will have to consider it. However, at the end of the day, if financial delegation is to mean anything, the governors will be responsible for taking decisions. Many of those decisions will be taken by the governing bodies of schools and colleges with financial delegation, even though the local education authority will remain the employer of staff, other than in aided schools. Therefore, it is appropriate that governors should be accountable for management decisions, and that is the essence of clause 176.

    Local education authority interests were rightly concerned that LEAs might be held to account for an unfair dismissal, for example, when they had had no control over whether the person was dismissed. They have been reassured when we have told them that the governing body will have to respond for its actions before an industrial tribunal, because of the operation of clause 176.

    There is a precedent for that distribution of responsibility in the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. Where an aided school dismisses a teacher whom it employs on the instruction of the LEA, it is the LEA and not the school governors which appears before an industrial tribunal, since it has taken the relevant decision.

    Such transfers of responsibility will equally be in the interests of the staff. For example, section 23 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 provides that an employee has the right not to have action short of dismissal taken against him for the purpose of preventing or deterring him from becoming a member of an independent trade union. In circumstances where the governing body manages the school, it must be right that the governors should not be able to take such action and should be held to account before an industrial tribunal if they were to do so. Similarly, under sections 27 to 29 employees have the right to time off work for trade union duties and activities and public duties, and there are similar responsibilities and duties that governing bodies will have to undertake in respect of matters such as maternity leave, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett).

    It was suggested in Committee that we might list the relevant changes to employment law in the Bill itself. As I said then, we do not yet have a fixed view of what will be appropriate in every case. Therefore, we believe that it is right to consult the local education authority interests and the trade unions representing both teaching and non-teaching staff before the Secretary of State makes an order.

    If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall finish my point, because it may help the House.

    I give a firm undertaking that, after Royal Assent, we will consult those interests on the content of an order under the clause and that we shall listen very carefully to the views that are put to us. The process will be entirely public and the order will not be made without full consultation.

    The Minister says that the Government have no final view on the implications of the clause and that the matter will now go out to consultation, which we welcome. How does she square her first comment with her remarks in Committee? I am sure that she was speaking for the Government when she said:

    "I can see no reason why there should be any consequential diminution of rights for employees as a result of the clause"—[Official Report, Standing Committee J, 25 February 1988; c. 1808.]
    Is she still saying that, or have the Government changed their position?

    I do not think that what I have just said undermines the importance that the Government attach to consultation or to ensuring that we take into account all the different interests and views put forward in reaching a conclusion about making an order under the clause. It is on that basis, which I believe to be absolutely right and very open, that we shall be proceeding.

    We can understand the process of consultation. Is the Minister now saying that the matter will go out to consultation with the Government's view clearly stated that there should be no consequential diminution of rights? Is that what the Minister is saying?

    I think that the hon. Gentleman's concern about the diminution of the rights of employees under the clause is somewhat misplaced. I do not see that we are doing anything different from what has been practised in the voluntary-aided and special agreement schools, in which the governing bodies have had considerable freedom in relation to the employment of staff. It seems to me that there are powerful constraints on any diminution of rights. There are powerful constraints on the governing bodies, in two forms. First, no governing body is likely to take action representing a diminution of employees' rights. The governing body will know perfectly well that it will be advised by its local education authority on exactly how to proceed. That will be a powerfull constraint. Similarly, local education authorities have discretion to say that the financial delegation schemes applying in their schools should be withdrawn from a school if they believe that the governing body of that school is not acting properly.

    I wonder whether I can tempt the Minister simply to answer the question. Do the Government have a view? If they do, it may be beneficial in the context of the consultation process. Is it still the Government's view that there should be no consequential diminution of rights? The Minister keeps saying that it will not happen, but we want to know whether the Government want it to happen or whether they will resist it. Is the Minister's answer to that question yes or no?

    I hope to make it clear that the clause is not about diminishing employees' rights, but about ensuring that power and responsibility for the governing bodies go hand in hand. The amendment is unnecessary, and it is also unacceptable because it could lead to disputes about what employees' rights are and what constitutes diminution of them. For example, some might be tempted to claim that it is a diminution of rights simply to have decisions made at school rather than at local education authority level. We do not accept that. We make no secret of the fact that many decisions will be taken at school level under financial delegation and that, therefore, employment rights should be seen to operate at school level. I hope that I have managed to reassure the House about the Government's intentions and that the Opposition will withdraw the amendment.

    Far from being reassured, we are even more worried. I offered hope to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), but I suspect that his experience in this matter was well founded. The Minister has again worried us with her reply. All that we needed the Minister to do was to reinforce the proposition that there would be no diminution in employees' rights. She would not give us that commitment. We can come to only one conclusion: that local financial management will he used as a vehicle by which employment rights for teaching and non-teaching staff will be reduced. On that basis, we shall push the amendment to the vote and hope that Conservative Members who have understood the argument will support us.

    It being a quarter to Eight o'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the orders [1 and 17 February] and the resolution [23 March], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, That the amendment be made:—

    The House divided: Ayes 207, Noes 300.

    Division No. 234]

    [7.45 pm

    AYES

    Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Boyes, Roland
    Allen, GrahamBradley, Keith
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterBrown, Gordon (D'mline E)
    Armstrong, HilaryBuchan, Norman
    Ashdown, PaddyBuckley, George J.
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackCaborn, Richard
    Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Callaghan, Jim
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
    Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
    Barron, KevinCampbell-Savours, D. N.
    Battle, JohnCanavan, Dennis
    Beckett, MargaretCartwright, John
    Benn, Rt Hon TonyClark, Dr David (S Shields)
    Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
    Bermingham, GeraldClay, Bob
    Bidwell, SydneyClelland, David
    Blair, TonyClwyd, Mrs Ann

    Coleman, DonaldLivsey, Richard
    Cook, Robin (Livingston)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
    Corbett, RobinLoyden, Eddie
    Corbyn, JeremyMcAllion, John
    Cousins, JimMcAvoy, Thomas
    Cox, TomMcCartney, Ian
    Cryer, BobMacdonald, Calum A.
    Cummings, JohnMcFall, John
    Cunliffe, LawrenceMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
    Dalyell, TamMcKelvey, William
    Darling, AlistairMcLeish, Henry
    Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)McNamara, Kevin
    Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McTaggart, Bob
    Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)McWilliam, John
    Dewar, DonaldMadden, Max
    Dixon, DonMarek, Dr John
    Dobson, FrankMarshall, David (Shettleston)
    Doran, FrankMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Douglas, DickMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
    Duffy, A. E. P.Maxton, John
    Dunnachie, JimmyMeale, Alan
    Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMichael, Alun
    Eastham, KenMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
    Evans, John (St Helens N)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
    Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
    Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Moonie, Dr Lewis
    Fatchett, DerekMorgan, Rhodri
    Faulds, AndrewMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
    Fearn, RonaldMowlam, Marjorie
    Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Mullin, Chris
    Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Murphy, Paul
    Fisher, MarkNellist, Dave
    Flannery, MartinOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Flynn, PaulO'Brien, William
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelO'Neill, Martin
    Foster, DerekOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
    Foulkes, GeorgeOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
    Fraser, JohnPatchett, Terry
    Fyfe, MariaPendry, Tom
    Galbraith, SamPike, Peter L.
    Garrett, John (Norwich South)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
    Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Prescott, John
    George, BrucePrimarolo, Dawn
    Godman, Dr Norman A.Quin, Ms Joyce
    Gordon, MildredRadice, Giles
    Graham, ThomasRandall, Stuart
    Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Redmond, Martin
    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
    Grocott, BruceReid, Dr John
    Hardy, PeterRichardson, Jo
    Harman, Ms HarrietRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRobertson, George
    Healey, Rt Hon DenisRobinson, Geoffrey
    Heffer, Eric S.Rogers, Allan
    Henderson, DougRooker, Jeff
    Hinchliffe, DavidRowlands, Ted
    Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Ruddock, Joan
    Holland, StuartSalmond, Alex
    Home Robertson, JohnSedgemore, Brian
    Hood, JimmySheerman, Barry
    Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
    Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
    Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Short, Clare
    Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Skinner, Dennis
    Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
    Illsley, EricSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
    Ingram, AdamSnape, Peter
    Janner, GrevilleSoley, Clive
    John, BrynmorSpearing, Nigel
    Johnston, Sir RussellSteinberg, Gerry
    Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Stott, Roger
    Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilStrang, Gavin
    Lambie, DavidStraw, Jack
    Lamond, JamesTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Leadbitter, TedTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
    Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
    Lewis, TerryThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
    Litherland, RobertTurner, Dennis
    Livingstone, KenVaz, Keith

    Wall, PatWise, Mrs Audrey
    Walley, JoanWorthington, Tony
    Wardell, Gareth (Gower)Wray, Jimmy
    Wareing, Robert N.Young, David (Bolton SE)
    Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
    Wigley, DafyddTellers for the Ayes:
    Williams, Rt Hon AlanMr. Frank Haynes and
    Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)Mr. Frank Cook.
    Winnick, David

    NOES

    Adley, RobertDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
    Aitken, JonathanDover, Den
    Alexander, RichardDunn, Bob
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDurant, Tony
    Allason, RupertEmery, Sir Peter
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
    Amess, DavidFallon, Michael
    Amos, AlanFarr, Sir John
    Arbuthnot, JamesFavell, Tony
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Fenner, Dame Peggy
    Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
    Atkins, RobertFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
    Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Forman, Nigel
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
    Baldry, TonyForth, Eric
    Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
    Batiste, SpencerFox, Sir Marcus
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFranks, Cecil
    Bellingham, HenryFreeman, Roger
    Bendall, VivianFrench, Douglas
    Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Fry, Peter
    Bevan, David GilroyGale, Roger
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnGardiner, George
    Blackburn, Dr John G.Garel-Jones, Tristan
    Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGill, Christopher
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Bottomley, PeterGlyn, Dr Alan
    Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGoodlad, Alastair
    Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
    Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Gorman, Mrs Teresa
    Bowis, JohnGorst, John
    Brandon-Bravo, MartinGow, Ian
    Brazier, JulianGower, Sir Raymond
    Bright, GrahamGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
    Brittan, Rt Hon LeonGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
    Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Greenway, John (Ryedale)
    Browne, John (Winchester)Gregory, Conal
    Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
    Buck, Sir AntonyGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
    Budgen, NicholasGrist, Ian
    Burns, SimonGrylls, Michael
    Butcher, JohnGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
    Butler, ChrisHamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
    Butterfill, JohnHampson, Dr Keith
    Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Hanley, Jeremy
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hannam, John
    Carrington, MatthewHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
    Carttiss, MichaelHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
    Cash, WilliamHarris, David
    Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHaselhurst, Alan
    Chapman, SydneyHawkins, Christopher
    Chope, ChristopherHayes, Jerry
    Churchill, MrHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hayward, Robert
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Heathcoat-Amory, David
    Colvin, MichaelHeddle, John
    Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
    Cope, JohnHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
    Cormack, PatrickHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Couchman, JamesHill, James
    Critchley, JulianHind, Kenneth
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
    Curry, DavidHolt, Richard
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Hordern, Sir Peter
    Davis, David (Boothferry)Howard, Michael
    Day, StephenHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
    Devlin, TimHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
    Dickens, GeoffreyHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
    Dorrell, StephenHunt, David (Wirral W)

    Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
    Hunter, AndrewPawsey, James
    Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasPorter, David (Waveney)
    Irvine, MichaelPortillo, Michael
    Irving, CharlesPowell, William (Corby)
    Jack, MichaelPrice, Sir David
    Jackson, RobertRaffan, Keith
    Janman, TimRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRathbone, Tim
    Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Redwood, John
    Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Riddick, Graham
    Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
    Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRidsdale, Sir Julian
    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
    Kirkhope, TimothyRoe, Mrs Marion
    Knapman, RogerRossi, Sir Hugh
    Knight, Greg (Derby North)Rost, Peter
    Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Rowe, Andrew
    Knowles, MichaelRumbold, Mrs Angela
    Knox, DavidRyder, Richard
    Lamont, Rt Hon NormanSackville, Hon Tom
    Lang, IanSainsbury, Hon Tim
    Latham, MichaelSayeed, Jonathan
    Lawrence, IvanScott, Nicholas
    Lee, John (Pendle)Shaw, David (Dover)
    Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
    Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Lightbown, DavidShelton, William (Streatham)
    Lilley, PeterShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
    Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
    Lord, MichaelShersby, Michael
    Luce, Rt Hon RichardSkeet, Sir Trevor
    Lyell, Sir NicholasSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
    McCrindle, RobertSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Macfarlane, Sir NeilSoames, Hon Nicholas
    MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Speed, Keith
    Maclean, DavidSpeller, Tony
    McLoughlin, PatrickSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
    McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Stanbrook, Ivor
    McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Steen, Anthony
    Madel, DavidStern, Michael
    Major, Rt Hon JohnStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
    Malins, HumfreyStewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
    Mans, KeithStokes, John
    Maples, JohnStradling Thomas, Sir John
    Marland, PaulSumberg, David
    Marlow, TonySummerson, Hugo
    Marshall, John (Hendon S)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
    Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Taylor, John M (Solihull)
    Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Maude, Hon FrancisTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
    Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickTemple-Morris, Peter
    Meyer, Sir AnthonyThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Miller, HalThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Mills, IainThornton, Malcolm
    Miscampbell, NormanTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
    Moate, RogerTracey, Richard
    Monro, Sir HectorTredinnick, David
    Montgomery, Sir FergusTrippier, David
    Moore, Rt Hon JohnTrotter, Neville
    Morris, M (N'hampton S)Twinn, Dr Ian
    Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesWaddington, Rt Hon David
    Morrison, Hon P (Chester)Waldegrave, Hon William
    Moss, MalcolmWalden, George
    Moynihan, Hon ColinWalker, Bill (T'side North)
    Neale, GerrardWaller, Gary
    Nelson, AnthonyWalters, Dennis
    Neubert, MichaelWard, John
    Newton, Rt Hon TonyWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
    Nicholls, PatrickWatts, John
    Nicholson, David (Taunton)Wells, Bowen
    Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Wheeler, John
    Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyWhitney, Ray
    Oppenheim, PhillipWiddecombe, Ann
    Page, RichardWilkinson, John
    Patnick, IrvineWilshire, David
    Patten, Chris (Bath)Wolfson, Mark
    Patten, John (Oxford W)Wood, Timothy

    Woodcock, MikeTellers for the Noes:
    Young, Sir George (Acton)Mr. Robert Boscawen and
    Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions on the remaining amendments moved by a member of the Government.

    Clause 180

    Orders And Regulations

    Amendments made: No. 238, in page 157, line 26, after '24(1)', insert

    '(Replacement and variation of schemes) (6);.'

    No. 239, in page 157, line 26, after 117(1) insert

    '(Replacement and variation of further and higher education funding schemes) (6)'.—[Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

    Clause 184

    Commencement

    Amendments made: No. 240, in page 160, line 14, at end insert—'section 99;'.

    No. 241, in page 160, line 15, at end insert—

    `sections 116 to 130 and 132;'.

    No. 431, in page 160, line 16, leave out

    '156 and 157; sections 163'

    and insert '135'.

    No. 118, in page 160, line 19, at end insert

    'sections (Grants related to aided or special agreement schools) and (Grants: miscellaneous);'.

    No. 244, in page 160, line 21, at end insert

    'section (stamp duty);.'

    No. 269, in page 160, line 21, at end insert

    'section (Superannuation for staff of Further Education Unit);'.

    No. 342, in page 160, line 24, leave out 'paragraph' and insert 'paragraphs 51 and'.

    No. 242, in page 160, line 27, at end insert—

    '(1A) Notwithstanding anything in section 99 of this Act, until the end of the year 1989 any education provided by an institution for which immediately before the passing of this Act there is in force an instrument of government made under section 1 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1968 (government and conduct of colleges of education and other institutions providing further education) shall for the purposes of—
  • (a) the Education Acts 1944 to 1988; and
  • (b) any other enactment referring to further education within the meaning of those Acts or of the 1944 Act; be treated as further education, and not as secondary education, within the meaning of that Act.'. —[Mr. Kenneth Baker.]
  • Schedule 10

    Minor And Consequential Amendments

    Amendment made: No. 344, in page 188, line 27, leave out from beginning to '(determination' and insert—

    '—
  • (1) Section 67 of the Act (determination of disputes and questions) shall be amended as follows.
  • (2) In subsection (3) (determination of question whether religious instruction is in accordance with trust deed), after the word "voluntary" there shall be inserted the words "or grant-maintained".
  • (3) In subsection (4)'. —[Mr. Kenneth Baker.]
  • Schedule 11

    Repeals

    Amendments made: No. 432, in page 203, line 18, at end insert—

    '1963 c. 33. The London Government Act 1963. Section 32(7).'

    No. 433, in page 207, leave out lines 36 and 37.

    No. 119, in page 207, line 45, at end insert—

    '1974 c. 7. The Local Government Act 1974. Section 8(2) and (3).'.[Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

    Order for Third Reading read.[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

    7.57 pm

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    The Education Reform Bill is a landmark in our education system. Future historians will see the Bill as the turning point, when the country moved forward from a long debate on education to a programme of action to improve the education system— action to improve the quality of education in our schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities; action to raise the standards achieved by pupils and students; action to extend freedom of choice and to enhance the position of parents. It is right, therefore, that the House has now debated the Bill for over 200 hours on the Floor and in Committee. That massive allocation of time marks the significance of the Government's proposals. When it comes back from the House of Lords, it is likely to be the most debated Bill since 1945—

    I feel as fresh as a daisy. Although I am now moving the Third Reading, I should be happy to move the Second Reading again, but that would give the hon. Gentleman too much of an opportunity.

    Since becoming Secretary of State in May 1986, I have visited many excellent schools and been very impressed by the work being done, often in difficult circumstances, by teachers in schools and colleges throughout the country. But too often they have been isolated examples of excellence. Too many of our pupils achieve less than they could and should and less than their counterparts in foreign countries. Nine out of 10 16-year-olds in West Germany get a hauptschule certificate covering German, maths, a foreign language and two other subjects. Fewer than four out of 10 English school leavers attain the equivalent qualification— the certificate of secondary education, grade 4 — in English, maths, a foreign language and one other subject.

    As a country, we have been letting too many of our children down. The brightest do not suffer—they can survive — but not all of them are fully stretched and challenged. Too many of the average and below-average are not stretched; they get bored and bunk off as quickly as they can. They do not return. Legislation alone cannot put this right. What it can do is create a framework which focuses the creativity of our professional teachers and taps into the energies and commitment of parents, employers and local communities.

    I want to inject into the education service a clear sense of purpose and direction. I know that the expertise, energy and enthusiasm are all there, and I want to release those forces. The central purpose of the Bill is to recreate the excitement and urgency and to channel the enthusiasm that has gradually ebbed away since the passing of R A Butler's great 1944 Education Act.

    The central reform in the Bill is the national curriculum. The 1944 Act does not give parents any clear idea of what they should expect their children to get out of 11 years of compulsory education. But that carefree attitude to content is now a thing of the past and the change has occurred over 10 years. There is a wide measure of agreement that the time has come to introduce a basic school curriculum. Religious education — first among equals—and English, maths and science will be at the centre. In addition, all pupils will study seven other foundation subjects. The Bill does not lay down the amount of time to be spent on those basic subjects. Schools will be able to offer other subjects.

    A great deal of contingency work is going ahead so that we can get moving on introducing the core curriculum subjects in primary schools in September 1989. Parents will also know that their children's achievements will be fairly assessed, in a way which helps teachers to get the best out of their pupils and gives parents clear information about what their children know and can do and how well they are progressing.

    There are two final but central points that I should like to make about the national curriculum.

    First, it will not be the Baker curriculum. I would find it constitutionally unacceptable for the holder of my office to impose his own national curriculum. The Bill builds in the essential checks and balances. Only after the most thorough statutory consultation, centring upon the National Curriculum Council and after the House has approved them, will the new arrangements be introduced into the schools.

    Secondly, the national curriculum now embodies a new religious settlement, which assures religious education of its central position in schools without detracting from the proper local arrangements for agreeing religious education syllabuses. I should like to pay tribute to the Church leaders — the Bishop of London for the Church of England, the Bishop of Leeds for the Roman Catholic Church and Mr. Brown of the Methodists— for their help in constructing this new settlement.

    Will the Secretary of State explain whether he has overcome the requirements of the Prime Minister as outlined in that letter?

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman will study the Black report, which we have debated endlessly. We welcome the broad framework of the report because it establishes a system of assessment and testing at seven, 11, 14 and 16—pencil and paper testing—and the reporting of the results of that assessment and testing so that parents can judge. What the Prime Minister and others are concerned about—I expressed concern about this matter in Committee—is that the system must not become so complex that it becomes burdensome and cannot be introduced. We must be aware of the costs of such a system. The document is now out for consultation and I am sure that all the many interested parties throughout the country will be commenting on it.

    With regard to financial delegation, the significance of this part of the Bill for the future of the education service has been highlighted by a shift in terminology. Increasingly, we hear about the local management of schools. I welcome that; it is better than financial delegation.

    The Bill pushes responsibility down the line—to the school, the headteachers and the governors. They will work to get best value out of the resources delegated to them.

    Since the Bill was published, the House has had the benefit of an excellent report from Coopers and Lybrand on this subject. That report gives the lie to the allegation that the Bill will sideline the local education authority. As the report says,
    "the role of the LEA will be fundamentally altered"
    but
    "we think"—
    that is Coopers and Lybrand—
    "that the proposals will produce considerable benefit in that they will enable LEAs to focus more attention on questions of major importance without being distracted by having to pay attention to points of detail."
    Exactly. Getting involved in decisions that are best taken by those on the spot is a distraction. What is more, it is an annoyance to heads and governors. They will now be able to get on with the job of managing the schools. The LEAs will be able to move out of detailed involvement into strategic management, and that must be right.

    Historians who read our debates on these two subjects in Committee will—I hope this is a comfort to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) — see the severe difficulty in which the Opposition found themselves. The Opposition recognise that our proposals for a national curriculum and local management of schools have been very broadly welcomed, within and beyond the education service. I was speaking to the Secondary Heads Association in Reading last Friday night, and it is clear that the secondary heads and primary heads are looking forward to the prospect of local management of schools. The Opposition, therefore, were reduced to sniping at matters of relative detail. They did not divide the Committee on the clauses in question. Could there be any clearer proof that the Bill points the way forward, that it is the Government's policies which form the agenda, and that it is our philosophy of education which commands the stage?

    The other key strand woven into the various chapters of the Education Reform Bill is freedom of choice. The provisions for more open enrolment will extend choice, opening the doors of good schools to more parents. The bizarre spectacle of empty desks at popular schools will become a thing of the past.

    The Bill will provide wider choice by introducing two new types of school. The city technology college will provide free education for parents who want to give their children a technologically biased education, in colleges with direct financial backing from industry and commerce. The first college will open this September in Solihull; the next in Nottingham in 1989 and more are in the pipeline. The CTC model will add to and enrich the variety of educational provision available in England and Wales.

    Grant-maintained schools push the principle of choice further. The Bill gives parents and governors a new opportunity. They will be able to take over the running of their schools, free of the local education authority.

    It was interesting that on more open enrolment, city technology colleges and grant-maintained schools, the Opposition divided the Committee. That was quite right, because here is the great divide between us. The Government are for choice, freedom, variety, diversity; pushing individual responsibility to its limits. The Opposition are for planning, allocation and decision-making on behalf of parents. We believe that parents know best and we want them to be able to apply that knowledge. Their right to opt out — it will be their choice; I emphasis that there will be no compulsion—will close the chapter of "take it or leave it" which has crept into local authority-provided schools in this country.

    The grant-maintained school means the introduction of competition—with no charge to the customer—into a publicly provided service. Competition for custom, for pupils, is the best self-regulating mechanism for higher standards all round. Those who foresee a divide opening up between successful and "sink" schools ignore the dynamic nature of competition. The LEAs will have to respond to competition and to parental pressure. That can only be good for all parents, whether they exercise their choice to opt out or to stay in.

    Parents, in so far as they have expressed their views through the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations and numerous polls, believe that this will not provide more choice but will put them in a position in which the fortunate will have chosen schools and the rest will be trapped.

    I have just answered that question; I do not believe that that is true. The Liberal party has had some difficulty in addressing this problem. It is in favour of choice, but not very much : in favour of freedom, but not very much. I can go on repeating that for ever. It encapsulates what passes for political philosophy in the mind of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). He must make up his own mind—

    I do not think the hon. Gentleman would like to hear me sing it. He and his party must decide whether they believe in trusting the individual. Traditionally, the Liberals always did. We shall see which line the hon. Gentleman will take when it comes to the leadership contest in his party.

    The percipient historian will also look at source material other than our Official Reports. Other primary material is revealing about the sea change under way. May I therefore recommend to future historians The Guardian of 23 March. There they will find the honest, forward-looking vision of the hon. Member for Blackburn. As we have two of the campaign managers for the other side of the Labour party here tonight—the hon. Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) — I wonder whether they will agree with what the hon. Member for Blackburn said in this important article — [Interruption.] I urge hon. Gentlemen to he calm; this is frightfully good stuff.

    "A nation of consumers enjoying relatively high living standards becomes literally much more choosy, much more interested in choice and variety."
    That is the Brian Gould version of socialism.

    "The aspirations of choice are now spreading from consumer goods to public service and rightly so."
    That is what we are providing — consumer choice through more open enrolment, CTCs and grant-maintained schools. We are witnessing a fundamental shift in attitudes and the knee-jerk opposition to those three things will look increasingly quaint with the years—

    The world has moved on; the hon. Member for Blackburn knows it and his problem is that many of his colleagues do not.

    I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his commentary on my article. Will he go on and quote the next part, in which I praised the idea of locally delivered, democratically decided local services, which he will destroy?

    On the contrary, there is a major role for local authorities as a result of our changes. They will have to decide the amount of money raised locally to provide the services. I praise the hon. Gentleman for his far-seeing vision. I am waiting for his hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, South and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch to rise and say that they agree with him right down the line, but they are both silent—

    As the Secretary of State invites an intervention, I can hardly resist. He seems mesmerised by leadership contests. Is that because his recent showing has rendered him out of the race in his contest and he will be campaign manager for someone else in the Tory party when it takes place?

    Such thoughts are absent from my mind. I rather enjoy fly-fishing and the fish rose. The hon. Gentleman said nothing about the issue, however; once again, he and his hon. Friend remain silent. The Gangway represents the great gulf between the hon. Member for Blackburn and his hon. Friends sitting below it. I see that the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) is sitting in the Gangway; he must be the floating voter, and we should like to know which way he will go.

    I turn now to the provisions for higher education. The Bill marks a new chapter for higher education. We have set an ambitious national target of one in five of 18 to 21-year-olds going into higher education by the turn of the century. The Bill provides the framework to achieve that.

    We are setting the polytechnics free of local authority control. Twenty-nine institutions with 181,000 students are responsible for more than half the growth in student numbers since 1979. All hon. Members will agree that that is a credit to the country. They are 21-years-old this year; they have come of age. I am sure that they, and the other major colleges, will prosper under the new Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council.

    The universities, too, will have a new funding council —the Universities Funding Council. I was pleased that the universities and the Government were able to work together to clarify the Bill to make quite clear the proper arms-length relationship between Government and the institutions of higher education. Working together, we have been able to make sure that the Bill reflects the Government's original and consistent objective: a most careful limit on the scope for Government involvement in the affairs of independent institutions.

    The freedom of the academy is secure. We shall continue to discuss with the universities their request — there is a paradox in this—that the same Government that they do not wish to interfere in their affairs should offer them some means of protecting the freedom of academics from other academics. I am sure that, with the same goodwill that marked our discussions on the first issue, we shall be able to find a way forward on this one, too.

    No Scot was allowed on the Committee —understandably. However, thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and a number of others, there was an hour's debate on Wednesday night on the problems of Scottish universities. Did the Secretary of State learn anything from that debate? I have no constituency interest, but Aberdeen and Dundee have a desperate problem. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any cause for hope?