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Inner London Education Authority (Poll)

Volume 131: debated on Wednesday 13 April 1988

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3.30 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the result of the London parents' poll and the future of the Inner London education authority."

As hon. Members will no doubt have heard, the parents of children in inner London schools undertook a poll to find out their opinions on the future of the Inner London education authority. Of a total of 265,596 ballot papers that were issued to parents—one on behalf of each child in an ILEA school—145,259 were returned. The parents were asked to state whether they were in favour of or against the transfer of education functions to inner London local authorities. Voting took place, and 8,004 voted in favour of a transfer, and 137,021 voted against a transfer. In other words, 94·3 per cent. of the votes were against the transfer, which represents an absolute majority of all those who were eligible to vote in the election, and 51·6 per cent. of parents of London children have said no to a transfer.

The matter is urgent and specific simply because, halfway through the Committee stage of the Education Reform Bill, in the most cavalier fashion possible, the Government introduced an amendment to destroy the Inner London education authority and impose massive cuts on education spending throughout inner London. The Government even refused to meet parent delegations, refused to support the idea of the parents' poll, and did nothing but smear parents' efforts to conduct the poll. I remind Conservative Members that the Electoral Reform Society counted the votes. There can be no dubiety about that. The Government forced the issue through the House in a most disgraceful manner. We must debate the matter because the parents of London children have said clearly, emphatically and simply that they wish to retain a unitary education system for inner London.

For the sake of the reputation of the House and of democracy in this country, it is now incumbent on the House to agree that it is necessary once more urgently to debate the future of the Inner London education authority so that the views of parents, who are anxious to protect their children's education, further and adult education and the principles of a free education service, can be properly debated and reflected upon in the House.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will be prepared to recognise the urgency and importance of the matter and will grant leave for a debate.

The hon. Member has asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the result of the London parents' poll and the future of the Inner London education authority."

I listened with careful attention to what the hon. Member said. I regret that I do not consider the matter that he has raised as being appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman and the House will have further opportunities to debate the matter.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course we entirely accept your decision, but as we have just heard the most powerful expression of parent power that has ever taken place in any Western democracy, is it not appropriate for the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science either to make a statement now or to inform the House that a statement will be forthcoming?

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The proposal to abolish the Inner London education authority was never put to the electorate. The Government have no mandate for it. They did not include the proposal in the Education Reform Bill when it was first put to the House; it was introduced only after the Bill had been published. As you, Sir, may recall, we asked that, in the circumstances, the Government at least postpone the debate on the part of the Bill that related to ILEA until the poll had been properly conducted by the Electoral Reform Society so that the parents of London might have an opportunity to express their view. In line with the Government's—

Order. This seems to me to be an argument of Government policy and not a question of order. Will the hon. Gentleman come to his point of order?

As you, Sir, frequently and rightly say, it is your duty as the Speaker to sustain the democratic reputation of the House. No Member of this House, elected in a general election as recently as June 1987, has a mandate to abolish the Inner London education authority. Hon. Members who support that proposition said that they wished—

Order. We have a Standing Order No. 20 debate this afternoon. The hon. Gentleman must raise a point of order that I can answer. It is not right that he should seek an opportunity to make a political point on a Bill which has already received its Third Reading in the House.

I acknowledge that the Bill has received its Third Reading in this House: but it never received a first reading at the general election. We want to know whether you, Mr. Speaker, have received any representations from the Government seeking to make a statement, to reconsider the part of the Bill dealing with ILEA or in any way to reflect the democratic decision of the parents of inner London.

I repeat that I have received no such application. As I said to the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) a few moments ago, I have no doubt that this will be the subject of debate when the Bill returns from another place.

Bill Presented

Foreign Nuclear, Chemical And Biological Bases (Prohibition)

Mr. Tony Benn, supported by Mr. Eric S. Heifer, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Ms. Dawn Primarolo, Mr. Dennis Skinner, Mr. Bob Clay, Mr. John Hughes, Mr. Harry Cohen, Mr. Bill Michie, Ms. Diane Abbott, Mr. Pat Wall and Mr. Dave Nellist, presented a Bill to prohibit by law the siting of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons under the ownership or control or joint control of foreign countries within the United Kingdom, the British Isles or British territorial waters or British airspace or bases; and for purposes connected therewith: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to he printed. [Bill 138.]

Statutory Instruments, &C

Ordered,

That the draft Meat and Livestock Commission Levy (Variation) Scheme (Confirmation) Order 1988, be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Alan Howarth.]