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Assisted Places

Volume 176: debated on Wednesday 18 July 1990

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11.44 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science
(Mr. Alan Howarth)

I beg to move,

That the draft Education (Assisted Places) (Amendment) Regulations 1990, which were laid before this House on 27th June, be approved.
I would like to describe briefly to the House the regulations governing the administration of the assisted places scheme. The draft regulations before us provide for certain small amendments to the Education (Assisted Places) Regulations 1989, which were consolidated last year.

The assisted places scheme was established for the purpose of widening the educational opportunities of able children from less well-off families. As the House knows, it provides their parents with assistance towards—[Interruption.]

Order. I hope that hon. Members who are not listening to the debate will move out of the Chamber as quickly as possible.

The APS provides parents with assistance towards the fees at certain independent schools. The assistance is on a sliding scale based on parental income and the principal changes embodied in the amending regulations are concerned with the annual revision of those scales.

Regulation 1 of the draft regulations deals with citation, commencement, application and interpretation. The regulations would come into force on 21 August 1990, subject to the approval of both Houses.

Regulation 2 of the draft regulations provides for grant-maintained schools within the meaning of the Education Reform Act 1988 to be included in the definition of "publicly maintained schools" referred to in regulation 19(2) of the principal regulations. That amendment is necessary because, under the principal regulations, participating schools must ensure that at least 60 per cent. of their assisted pupils attended state schools immediately before taking up their assisted place and for this purpose we must make the amendment to the regulations to include grant-maintained schools in the definition of state schools.

Regulation 3 of the draft regulations updates the 1989 regulations. Its effect is to discount reductions from total income allowed on payments for medical insurance made by parents aged 60 or over.

Regulation 4 sets out the income scale used for assessing parents' contributions towards fees. That has been uprated to take account of movements in the retail prices index. The threshold at or below which parents pay nothing towards fees is raised from £7,584 to £8,200.

The provisions and amendments I have just described are necessary technicalities and would ensure the continued smooth running of the assisted places scheme. Opposition Members consistently demonstrate hostility to the assisted places scheme. It may therefore be helpful to the House if I explain why we have this scheme, and why we, and a great many people in the country, value it very much. Our reasons are that we are interested in encouraging high standards in education, wherever they are to be found; and we want parents, particularly those on lower incomes, to be able to choose the education they think best for their children, regardless of income.

It is those very features of choice and independence that the Labour party apparently finds so offensive. Our best independent schools—many of them former grammar schools that were driven out of the maintained sector by the destructive dogma of the Labour party—see no inconsistency between independence and service to the community. The assisted places scheme, which the Conservative Government introduced in 1981, has enabled many of them to keep faith with their traditions and offer the prospect of an excellent academic education for children who are suited to it, regardless of their social or economic background. But schooling is not just about achieving good examination passes; schools in the APS take an admirable pride in preparing their pupils in every way to make a full and valuable contribution to society. All in all, they provide educational opportunities of a quality that should not be restricted only to those who can afford to pay for them.

Let me stress, to anticipate one of the favourite debating points of the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong), that I am not saying or implying that there are not maintained schools that provide excellent education—of course, there are many. But we want those first-rate schools in the independent sector to be accessible to pupils whose parents are unable to pay the fees.

These are not just abstract concepts—the assisted places scheme is about helping real, individual children. I should like to tell the House about some assisted place holders who have done exceptionally well, notwithstanding early disadvantages.

Do Opposition Members resent the success of the Bristol girl who gained four grade A passes at A-level and is now studying veterinary science at Cambridge? I am sure that her father, a window cleaner, is rightly proud and glad that the APS has given his daughter such a launch. And so is the bus driver from Blackburn whose son also achieved four grade A passes at A-level and is reading biochemistry at Oxford. Does the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) really intend to deny such opportunities to his own constituents? If an assisted place gave those parents the opportunity for their child to be educated according to their wishes, do he and his hon. Friends begrudge them that?

Then there are the twins from Wandsworth, who both gained three grade A passes and one grade B at A-level and have gone on to study mathematics at Oxford.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for cataloguing a few excellent examples. Will he draw to the attention of the House those Opposition Members who send their sons and daughters to schools on the assisted places scheme, as that would elucidate matters considerably?

Tempting though it is to respond to my hon. Friend's invitation, perhaps at this time of night I should refrain from such an indulgence. My hon. Friend makes an excellent point of general principle, and it is something that should bring blushes to Opposition Front-Bench Members. I have argued for the scheme in terms of parental choice, but I might also justify it in terms of pupil choice. I am assured by the headmaster of Wolverhampton grammar school, a very distinguished school in the assisted places scheme, that it is not uncommon for 11–year-olds to identify, of their own initiative, the grammar school as the school that they wish to attend. Mr. Patrick Hutton, the headmaster, told me of the case of one young boy from Wolverhampton who did just this. His parents had separated, and his mother was facing great difficulties. He went on to achieve 4 As at A-level and is now reading modern languages at Leeds. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) will at least be relieved to know that the young man turned down Cambridge because he thought it too middle class.

I could tell hon. Members of many more deserving cases—there are more than 27,000 of them throughout the country—but there are other important matters which I must briefly cover.

Opposition Members for ever complain of the cost of the assisted places scheme, but if they must insist on measuring the value of education exclusively in material terms, I am sure that the twins from Wandsworth whom I mentioned will repay to society many times over the investment in their assisted places. The truth of the matter is this: in 1988–89, the average cost to the taxpayer of each assisted pupil was £2,121. The average cost of a secondary school pupil in the maintained sector was £1,985, which is a difference of only £136. But in considering even this small difference we have to take account of the fact that sixth-form education is about 60 per cent. more expensive than education for 11 to 16–year-olds. Whether or not we can conclude that that makes the assisted places scheme cheaper per capita to the taxpayer than maintained secondary provision, there is no question but that it is an extremely close-run thing.

Why is it that the Secretary of State, in the past two months, has given me a figure of more than £2,400 for the average cost of a place on the assisted places scheme, and that that is the figure that the Independent Schools Information Service independently quotes?

If the hon. Gentlman had listened carefully to what I said he would have realised that I was referring to the year 1988–89. That should satisfy him.

Another spectre raised by Opposition Members is that the assisted places scheme creams off and impoverishes the maintained sector. Again, the case of Wolverhampton grammar school is instructive. On a basis of 18 comprehensive schools in Wolverhampton, and 171 assisted pupils at Wolverhampton grammar school, on average about two pupils a year have been diverted from each comprehensive. Two pupils a year is hardly robbing a school of a crucial intake. It is absurd to claim that the existence of the assisted places scheme is prejudicial to the academic standards of maintained schools.

What the APS scheme does, and this is its great strength, is to give a genuine extension of choice and opportunity. I need hardly say that all of the schools in the scheme have been carefully selected on the basis of their proven records of academic achievement. The same criteria are also applied to any new schools entering the scheme. The breadth and quality of the curricula they offer are in every case of high quality. And so are their records of success in public examinations.

Last summer 89 per cent. of A-level entries by APS pupils resulted in passes, and of these nearly 25 per cent. achieved grade As and nearly 23 per cent. achieved grade Bs. In addition, 87 per cent. of GCSE pupils in the scheme resulted in grades A to C.

Throughout the nine years of its existence the assisted places scheme has been a major success. Predictably, therefore, Opposition Members want to abolish it. I wish they could find the courage to acknowledge that, so far from removing a source of inequality and striking a blow against privilege, abolition of the APS would serve only to worsen social divisions of class and race and culture which the APS is working significantly to diminish. Without the APS, access to independent education, and to some of the finest schools in the country, would be open only to those who could afford to pay. So perhaps the hon. Member for Durham. North-West will explain later how she would further the cause of an egalitarian society by limiting choice to the affluent.

It is interesting to hear of the success of APS pupils in exams. That was one of the main reasons for introducing the scheme. Has any progress been made in broadening the IQ range of pupils accepted for the scheme; indeed, do the Government have any plans thus to broaden it?

It is for the schools to set their entrance exams and establish their own principles of selection. A number of schools are anxious to broaden the range of their social intake and are prepared to be flexible about their academic requirements. Schools in the scheme are well seized of my hon. Friend's point.

I wonder what Opposition Members would have to offer the children of this country if they were to abolish this excellent scheme. The difficulty of the hon. Member for Blackburn—one of his difficulties—is that he does not have an education policy. Moreover, he feels, very uncomfortably, the hot breath of the Socialist Education Association at the back of his neck. It does not make it any more pleasant for him that the hon. Member for Leeds, Central was rather a success at its conference. So the hon. Gentleman makes his pledges of abolition and destruction. Beyond that he offers nothing more than vague and completely unconvincing commitments to spend more money than we would on our other policies that they have said they will not reverse. I would put it to the hon. Member for Blackburn that the interests of children from poorer families are of rather more permanent importance than the hon. Gentleman's beleaguered career in the Labour party.

I have been impressed by hearing of the academic performance of some of these youngsters. It very much resembles the performance of youngsters in the good grammar schools of Northern Ireland. In view of the success of these distinguished youngsters, does the Minister have any plans to increase the number of places on the scheme?

Indeed. I am pleased to tell the House that we are committed to increasing the number of assisted places to 35,000 by the mid–1990s. We are strongly on course to meet that target—

I have been impressed by the Minister's enthusiasm on this subject. He referred at least three times to "the country" in his speech.

Now that he intends to extend the programme, will he extend it to the nation, rather than to what he considers to be the country?

I can well understand the right hon. Gentleman's eagerness that his constituents should benefit from the scheme, but that he must pursue with the Northern Ireland Office. I certainly note what he has said, however.

Our response to the success of the APS is as predictable as the Opposition's desire to abolish it. We are building on it so that parents in every part of the country will have access to the opportunities that it offers. Last year we added 52 new schools to the scheme. From this September, 17 more excellent schools in areas in which there was previously little provision under the scheme—including the north-east, the area from which the hon. Member for Durham, North-West comes—will open their doors for the first time to assisted place holders. A number of existing schools will be allocated increased quotas to enable them to meet the demand that they are experiencing for extra places.

The assisted places scheme is flourishing. It is working to the detriment of no one and to the great benefit of many. For all the reasons I have given, I commend the draft regulations to the House.

12 midnight

In opposing the draft regulations, I should like to congratulate the Minister on what I think is his first full speech from the Dispatch Box. It is good to hear him in full flow, and not just at Question Time.

In opposing the regulations last year, I outlined the research which demonstrated that the assisted places scheme has totally failed to meet the Government's objectives. I shall not go through that research in detail this year, although many of the contradictions were clear in the Minister's speech.

I shall not give way. It is not in the interests of anyone to conduct the debate as though it were taking place in a bar room. I certainly did not learn to do things that way at my state school.

The assisted places scheme has created needless divisions in society. To use the word "choice" in this context is a questionable use of the English language. Perhaps the Government need to go back and learn what some words mean.

The Government have been slow to learn. Everyone—even, in the past week, the Secretary of State—has conceded that we need, and this nation demands, an effective performance for all our children from the education system. People may have thought that education opportunities for all were a socialist aspiration—they never were, of course—but they cannot be that. Education is now a pressing necessity as we see the thwarting of not only the opportunities of individual children but the opportunities of our nation to cornpete effectively with our European neighbours. Despite that, the Government continue on a course which is unsuccessful but which gives the message, "We know what is good and we want 1 per cent. of the nation to benefit from it."

The scheme was meant for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the Minister outlined the history. I hope that he has read some of the research into the scheme. I hope that he has read "The State and Private Education: An Evaluation of the Assisted Places Scheme", which was published in the past year. An interesting review of the book in The Times Higher Educational Supplement was written by the Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who wrote the book?"] The book was written by Professors Tony Edwards, John Fitz and Geoff Whitty and it was funded by the Government through the Science and Engineering Research Council.

The review was written by the Minister who was responsible for guiding the Education Bill through the House in 1980. He said:
"Certainly ministers, including myself, have claimed in the annual debate on the scheme in Parliament that the sons and daughters of bus and lorry drivers, miners, butchers, recent immigrants and one-parent families, for example,"—
he missed window cleaners—
"have through the scheme received a first-class education they would not otherwise have attained and this has been to the good of the country and to the pupils.
The authors, however, put a new light on this. Only 10 per cent of assisted-place pupils have fathers who are manual workers and 50 per cent are employed in service industries."
Does 10 per cent. meet the Government's objective? The right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) then says:

"Even more significantly, 68 per cent of mothers and 51 per cent of fathers of such pupils attended either private or selective education."
The right hon. Gentleman also deals in the article with the issue raised by the Minister about what happens to the local comprehensive. He asks whether the scheme has damaged the academic standards of such schools. He reminds us, as did the Minister, that only 1 per cent. of pupils occupy assisted places, which are unevenly scattered. The right hon. Member also said:
"I suspect, however, that the aspirant assisted-place parents with their educational backgrounds would not have sent their children to inner-city sink comprehensives, but they would have been wise enough to shop around and get them into better comprehensives with higher academic achievements. Thus if there is any damage it must be to the better … comprehensive schools."
That is a former committed Minister recognising that the scheme has failed.

The scheme was also designed to provide choice and support effort in local communities. I have a letter relating to the trustees of the Harpur Trust in Bedford.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The convention of the House is that if an hon. Member intends to quote or refer to another hon. Member, that person be so advised. Has that convention been observed in this case?

I sent a note to the right hon. Member for Brent, North and he was also informed by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) when he was quoted at Question Time.

When the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) was informed about my hon. Friend's comments on his review and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), did he say that my hon. Friends in any way inaccurately reflected his view as a former Minister and headmaster?

I have not spoken to the right hon. Member for Brent, North and would not want to assume anything of the sort. I am quoting what he wrote for The Times Higher Educational Supplement. The scheme is frustrating voluntary and charitable effort. There is a voluntary scheme that supports poor people who want to get their children into Bedford school. The terms of the bursary for the assisted places scheme have been issued for this year. They say that a parent earning £39,500 per annum who has one child at Bedford school be helped with fees. Parents with two children can receive help when their income is £41,800. With three children the annual earnings figure is £47,300.

Today people are talking about supporting the family. Perhaps we have a new definition of the family in poverty. The people that I have mentioned are certainly well-paid window cleaners. To use the rationale of choice to try, unsuccessfully, to legitimise such a policy is nonsense. What choice is there for parents in Doncaster, Calderdale, or North Tyneside? The Government have said that too much is being spent on the children of such people, but they are prepared to pay an average of £500 more per child on the assisted places scheme. What choice is that? What choice is there for parents who are limited by what the Government are prepared to allow their local authorities to spend on their children? The scheme does not meet the Government's objectives as they were originally outlined—

I refer the hon. Lady to choice a little nearer to home. She may not be aware that children in her constituency can obtain assisted places at Yarm and Durham schools. Is she prepared to go back to her constituency and say that those children should not be allowed such places and instead should be sent to the local comprehensive school?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman's information is more up to date than mine. My information is that Durham county does not support any assisted places. However, the hon. Gentleman may be right. We intend to phase out the assisted places scheme, but we will not penalise any child who is already participating in it. We are determined that all children, whatever their backgrounds, will have the very best opportunity. It is not only in their interests to ensure that our commitment and investment in education meets that aspiration; it is in all our interests.

I shall complete my quotation of what the right hon. Member for Brent, North said in his review:
"One criticism of the assisted-places scheme not mentioned in this book is that it took up too much time and effort of the Conservative Party … the assisted-places scheme could have taken the party down a side alley. Is this now being repeated with the city technology colleges and grant-maintained schools or even local financial management? A careful reading of this book has caused me to have this very worrying thought."
I invite the Minister to read the book. The Opposition have learnt, even if the Government have not, that the scheme meets no one's educational objectives, not even the Government's. Perhaps they should learn some of the political lessons that the right hon. Member for Brent, North has learnt. I invite my hon. Friends to oppose the regulations and to ensure that we have a Government who will fight for every child.

12.12 am

The House should consider this important matter with due consideration, especially as some 4,000 places in England are available to brighter pupils with limited financial assistance. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot raise the sum that he is considering. The fact that 4,000 places in good independent schools are not taken up shows that a small advertising campaign would greatly assist those pupils to whom my hon. Friend so rightly referred.

I wish to concentrate my remarks on the north-east. It is clear that there has been a good take-up of places in Yorkshire—for example, Batley grammar, Bradford grammar, Bradford girls grammar, Harrogate college and schools of that ilk. We would all be proud to send our children to schools of such quality. I am proud that in or near to my constituency children have the opportunity to attend St. Peter's in York, England's oldest school, and Pocklington near York.

When my hon. Friend the Minister replies to the debate, I hope that he will advise us how we can ensure that all children in the north-east appreciate the possibilities of a brighter and wider education in the independent sector. The latest figures available show that 70 per cent. of places had been taken up in the north-east, but that leaves a yawning gap of opportunity which I hope will be filled at the earliest opportunity.

In 1988–89—the latest year for which figures are available—the average cost of a place was £2,591, but there are certain differences that should not act as a disincentive. The fact that 52 per cent. of pupils on assisted places secured either A or B grade A-levels compared with 45 per cent. across the sector is another reason pupils of good academic ability should have their names put forward.

I declare an interest as a governor of Yarm private school in my constituency, which operates the assisted places scheme. Does my hon. Friend agree that the scheme's real importance is that, like direct grant, it gives the talented child from whatever background the opportunity to maximise his lifetime opportunities? Is not it surprising that the scheme is opposed by Opposition Members when there are many among them who benefited from the direct grant scheme in the past? In only the last week we saw a marvellous example of how it can assist the very best to get to the top in society, because my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was himself a direct grant boy at Dulwich college.

Order. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that interventions should be brief.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making such a salient and relevant point. It would do right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House much credit if they acknowledged the benefits of education through the independent sector and the opportunities that many young people have been given by the assisted places scheme, rather than constantly denigrate it and argue that we should go for the lowest common denominator.

Opposition Members should accept the truth of that, and not deny the advantages of such an education to those who follow them.

This issue merits a full-scale debate. The Opposition are obviously rattled, knowing that they are on very slippery ground. I commend the regulations to the House, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will address in particular the difficulties of the north-east and the opportunities that are available there. I hope also that a leaflet can be produced explaining to parents the financial aspects of the scheme, because the calculations based on relevant earnings are difficult to understand and require the help of a local bursar.

12.18 am

You will note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have Ulster behind me. But the people in front of me—

Conservative Members are in high good humour tonight, but I hope that they will listen to my comments about the assisted places scheme.

The entire British education system is in urgent need of assistance. Last week, a group of Sheffield schools sent a delegation to Whitehall in the hope of seeing a Minister. They did not manage that, but I believe that they saw a civil servant instead. They came down to tell us that they were short of teachers, that their schools were crumbling and that there was a lack of morale among teachers.

The speed with which the so-called reforms are being pushed forward is having a parlous effect on schools. They cannot possibly keep pace with them. On top of all that is the assisted places scheme. The children of Conservative Members are being educated privately, whereas we are trying to cater for the needs of the vast majority of children. Money is short because the Government are deliberately keeping it short. They provide expensive education for their children and cheap education for ours. On top of that, the Government have the effrontery to say that we are being naughty when we attack what they are doing.

If we examine what the Government mean by choice in the case of the assisted places scheme, or anything else, we have to ask ourselves—since they have private education and have created the city technology colleges—what choice ordinary children have in the schools on which so little money is spent. The city technology colleges are to be paid for by industry. Their pupils are hand picked. Are assisted places available in those colleges for ordinary children? The assisted places scheme is a piece of gross effrontery. Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money are being siphoned off to provide private education for the children of Conservative supporters. It is done under the guise of helping poor children, but the Government know that that is a piece of gross effrontery.

I have in my hand the Government's document that deals with the scheme. It began in 1984–85 and £22 million was spent on it in the first year. In 1985–86 another £30 million was spent on it. In 1986–87, £38 million, in 1987–88, £46 million, in 1988–89, £51 million and in 1989–90, £59 million was spent on the scheme. Up to today, that has taken £246 million out of the state education system. In the next three years, £62 million will be taken out of it in the first year, £60 million in the second and £70 million in the third. That amounts to another £192 million. Taken together, £438 million has been taken away from state education. In addition, the city technology colleges have taken £52 million this year. During the next three years they will take £135 million. The grand total that is being taken away from state education is £635 million.

The Government ask us to support that proposal tonight. No Conservative Member has referred to those figures. The cost to the state education system is absolutely staggering, especially when one remembers all the difficulties that Her Majesty's inspectors of education have highlighted. That money would buy books and materials for all our children. The Government claim that they are providing choice for our children. However, they are pouring all that money into a private education system that caters for their children and they are shoring it up by that means. They do it under the guise of catering for our children.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the figures that he quoted, a large number of teachers who were trained at public expense and who are much needed in schools such as those in Tower Hamlets are being used to ensure that the classes of the privileged minority are kept small?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why Conservative Members are keeping so quiet. They know that in their report Her Majesty's inspectors point out that a third of our children get what they call a raw deal. They are taking money from the state system and giving it to the private system, which is already wealthy beyond measure. It is a bribe to Tory supporters and a handful of others. It is money taken from our children who are being starved of funds in the state system. They glory in it. It is all part of a merciless attack on the state system, which the Tories loathe and never use. It is the same with the national health service, which they also do not use and are starving of funds—[Interruption.] No amount of shouting at me will help. They know that I have a habit of telling them uncomfortable truths.

While this measure is being discussed late at night, the state system is under attack and, according to what the Tories have said recently, the comprehensive schools will be next. However, they have gone over the top. The people have seen it for the dogma that it is and they are extremely angry at the state of the education system and the fact that the Tories are siphoning off money. Those angry people will be coming to see all of us before long because there is not enough money to teach our children. Local management of schools is adding to the list of schools without teachers. That is the position in which we have been placed by the assisted places scheme, city technology colleges and the siphoning off of money that should go to our children.

12.26 am

Despite the lateness of the hour, the sort of ideological claptrap that we have just heard should not go unanswered. I am slightly surprised at the Labour party's depth of opposition. Basically, this is an egalitarian measure. It provides opportunities for people who would not otherwise be able to afford them to take advantage of a private education. For that reason it is scarcely surprising that it is popular. When it was introduced in 1981 only 7,000 people took advantage of it, but by this year the figure will have increased to 27,000 and just under one third of those will get their education entirely free. A large proportion of the others who take advantage of the scheme will pay relatively little for what would remain an unobtainable privilege if such a scheme did not exist.

I should have thought that it was a good sign that 294 private schools—there will be 16 more this year—were prepared to offer places to people who otherwise would be unable to afford them. I should have thought that that would make them less exclusive, widen the social spectrum of those able to go there and increase opportunities for people who otherwise would not have them.

Although the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) talked about cost, I believe that the basic reason for the Labour party's opposition to the assisted places scheme is purely ideological. In 1976 the Labour party signed the United Nations covenant on economic, social and cultural rights which says:
"The State Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by public authorities".
However, if we look behind that, we see that that is a human right upon which the Labour party frowns. It is a human right which it would prefer nobody to take up. It wants every child in the country to go to comprehensive schools in the state sector and to have little choice and no opportunity to go to private schools.

The Labour party is suspicious of choice, variety, high standards and selection. It opposes grammar schools. It opposed and effectively demolished the direct grant schools. It opposes grant-maintained schools which are popular with parents. It opposes CTCs despite the fact that the CTC in Solihull is seven times over-subscribed as it is so popular with parents. In Birmingham it opposed the concept of open enrolment within the state system. In other words, it believes that children should attend the school that the local authority thinks they should attend. It opposes the private sector because it wants to end charitable status and has the idiotic idea that by so doing it will help children who would otherwise be unable to attend private schools. In short, whether it is parental choice, selection on merit or high standards, its Pavlovian reaction makes Pavlov's dog look reasonably rational.

The Labour party tries to dress up its arguments as being rational. The first argument advanced by the hon. Member for Hillsborough was cost. He said that the £61 million a year that is being spent for 27,000 pupils on the assisted places scheme, at an average of £2,300 per pupil, would not be available for the private sector, but as a headmaster of a participating school said recently, that is a gross cost. The cost to the state of sending a pupil to a school in the maintained sector is not incurred if he attends a private school under the assisted places scheme.

As there is evidence that parents contribute to the cost of their children's education under the assisted places scheme, and as schools, especially boarding establishments, also contribute to the cost of children's education under the assisted education scheme, the most intelligent way of looking at it is that the scheme offers the state an opportunity to provide an education that would normally cost £4,000 or £5,000 for a net average cost of £2,200. That is a good deal for the taxpayer.

The other point which has not been mentioned so far but which is put forward by opponents of the scheme is that it draws bright children away from the state sector. The effect is far too diffuse to affect individual schools. No one has said to me, "Our school is being affected by children taking up the assisted places scheme." Although this idea seems antipathetic to the Labour party, I thought that schools were meant to be run for pupils rather than for schools.

Labour Members fall back on their ideas of egalitarianism—the lowest common denominator. Irrespective of the examples that the Minister gave tonight, of the academic quality of the results achieved by pupils on assisted places in private schools and of the fact that the scheme broadens the number of people who attend private schools and therefore the social spectrum, all that they can say is that if not everybody can attend them nobody should do so.

Exactly. If that is not the politics of envy, malice and means-spiritedness in the extreme, I do not know what is.

The scheme speaks for opportunity and high standards and it does not damage the stage system. As The Observer said in 1988—this is the most up-to-date article on the assisted places scheme, which shows how accepted it has become in the education establishment—

"The Assisted Places Scheme has confounded its critics by providing art opportunity for low income parents to opt for an academic education."
The scheme has made private education more accessible. I hope that the 7,000 places on it will be taken up and that it will be expanded in the future. I shall be delighted to support it in the Lobby tonight.

12.34 am

I would not describe the regulations as egalitarian. I would describe them as nauseating—like the contributions that have been made in this debate which have attacked and derided the quality of education in our state schools. Conservative Members have told us how wonderful private, fee-paying schools are and that that is where high academic standards are to be achieved. They tell us that we are mean-minded to say that the very few should not have access to those academic centres of excellence.

Speaking as a parent who has a child in the state education system, I want all children to have access to the highest quality of education as a right to prepare them with the tools to contribute to our society. Extraordinary points have been made in this debate. On the one hand, we were told that the scheme is helping to break down the inequalities in our education system. On the other hand, we were told that only a few have access to the scheme. The very presence of the scheme widens the inequalities and opportunities between those who attend the state sector and those who attend private fee-paying schools.

It is all about buying privilege for the few. I totally reject the establishment of an education system that operates, as some hon. Members have suggested, on the lowest common denominator. I would not want the lowest common denominator education for my son; I want the very best that the education system can offer him as his right to build his future.

The Government are two faced about education. Avon county council has been poll tax-capped and the Government tell us that Avon is overspending by £57 million a year. However, it costs £1,898 a year to educate a pupil in a comprehensive school in Avon. I looked at the many private fee-paying schools in Avon to get an idea of the system that we are being told is egalitarian in which privilege and rights are bought in our society.

I am interested in what the hon. Lady is saying about equality and egalitarianism. Does she recall the time when we had an enforced system of comprehensive schools in London? Where catchment areas were drawn by local authorities, the determinant of entry to a school was not ability or religious background; it was whether one's parents could afford to buy a house in the catchment area of one school as opposed to another. Tonight the Labour party might like to make it plain that given the opportunity Labour would require all schools to be organised along comprehensive lines, with 11 to 16 schools and tertiary colleges serving them. Nothing else would exist. Will the hon. Lady come clean on that point?

I had the privilege of attending an excellent comprehensive school in the constituency of the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames). It had excellent academic achievements. It was an excellent example of how well-resourced comprehensive education operates. It is a tragedy that, in several ways, the education system in which my son now finds himself is worse than the education system in which I was at his age. Schools are In worse condition, resources are declining, and insecurities are worse as a result of 10 years of this Government.

To quote at random, at Monkton Combe school, Bath, a day fee-paying school, annual fees are £5,625. At Clifton college, Bristol, a day fee-paying school, annual fees are £5,820. At Colston's school, Bristol, annual fees are £3,555 per year. That is much more than is being spent on my son's education. That is wrong. There should be no distinction. All bright children should have the right to go to schools that stretch their abilities. All children should have the right to go to properly resourced schools. On the Minister's own figures, the average cost of an assisted place is higher than the cost of educating a child in the state sector.

People talk about academic education, good exam passes, preparing pupils to take an active role in society, equal opportunities of quality, and the benefits of education. All our children have a right to access to all those things—not the odd one or two children who get through on the assisted places scheme. Let us make no mistake. The schemes are being expanded because there are not enough pupils to keep schools going because of the drop in the population, thereby taking children out of our state system.

Bright children will do well whether they are in private schools or state schools. It is appalling that the House should say that a tiny proportion of our children should have the right to additional resources, to the detriment of the rest of the children in this country. Avon county council has been poll tax-capped. The Government have told it to cut expenditure and have then given more money to state-assisted places. That is obscene.

The Government have been exposed for what they really are. They favour privilege for the few at the cost of the rest of us. If we are to have a lecture on egalitarianism, perhaps we should start with basics, not buying privilege.

12.42 am

I cannot possibly agree with or follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo), who would restrict entry to independent schools to those who earn £30,000 or £40,000 a year or more. That cannot be right, because the assisted places scheme has been successful. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) say that the scheme was a failure and was not working. Having taught young people on the assisted places scheme, I can say that it is a success for the vast majority of those young people. The Government should be proud of that scheme, along with the other ideas that they have brought forward to provide variety and choice in education.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) referred to the money that is going into the assisted places scheme. He said that that money is lost to the state system and to our young people. It is an insult to the 172 young people who are going through Norwich high school on the assisted places scheme. They would not like to be told that the money that is being spent on them is a waste. These arguments are total nonsense—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] As my hon. Friends are reminding me, the assisted places scheme is basically a good, successful scheme. After all, it is good not only for the boys and girls who attend schools that use the scheme, but, from my experience, I know that it is good for the schools themselves. They benefit in many ways from that intake of pupils.

I have not heard one argument from the Opposition to convince me that my personal experience of the scheme is mistaken in any way. I assure my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that they have the support of my hon. Friends and of the overwhelming majority of parents in this country. The Opposition's arguments are total nonsense and the sooner we recognise that, the better.

12.45 am

I have listened with some interest to the speeches of Conservative Members. Two appalling comments stood out which are, unfortunately, indicative of the attitudes behind the Government's creation of the assisted places scheme. One Conservative Member said that the scheme provided an academic education. The publicly run schools in my area of Cornwall have a high reputation and the teachers whom I visit would be most insulted if anybody suggested that they provided anything less than an academic education. There is no such distinction. It is wrong for any hon. Member to suggest that those who work in the state system are providing anything less than that which is provided in the private system. There may be more money in the private system and the ability to select more highly, but it is absolutely wrong to suggest that the teachers in the state system are not providing an academic education to the best of their abilities, that they are not doing the best for their pupils and that they are not tailoring the education to their needs.

Worse, however, was the earlier suggestion of another Conservative Member that, by arguing against the assisted places scheme, the Labour party was arguing for the lowest common denominator. No argument in favour of the state system and about whether resources should be used on assisted places suggests that the target is the lowest common denominator. Nor does anything that happens in the state system point to the lowest common denominator. All the teachers to whom I speak or with whom I work and visit in my part of the country—I know that this is true in other areas—are looking to the highest common denominator, to do the best for all their pupils and to tailor the education that they provide to the needs of their pupils. To suggest that the state system is about the lowest common denominator is redolent of insults about everything that takes place there. Such suggestions should not be made by any side of the debate.

If the public sector of education is the lowest common denominator, that is an indictment of the Government who have been responsible for administering and running it for the last 10 years.

That is absolutely right. That is precisely the point to which I was coming.

The attitudes that we have heard from Conservative Members and the system of the assisted places scheme itself are both elitist and defeatist. The system is elitist because it seems to suggest that we can give the best education only to a few for whom extra resources are provided, which are diverted into the private sector. Therefore, by definition, the scheme is limited in the opportunities that it can provide because it cannot provide those opportunities to the vast majority.

The system is defeatist because it also seems to suggest that—no matter what—public policy has to direct what resources there are to those whom Conservative Members believe are the best pupils and to the private sector because it is impossible—they believe—to provide that best education through the state sector. That defeatism is not right. I should not argue against what the Government are doing if I believed that it was right. I believe that it is possible to provide the best education for all pupils from all backgrounds in the state system.

So that we can see whether there is any connection between the philosophy of liberalism and the title of the hon. Gentleman's party, will he tell us whether he believes that there should be any assisted places scheme, direct-grant schools in the form of grant-maintained schools or any other form of education that is not in the hands of the state?

We need diversity and I have never argued otherwise. However, directing extra resources to, by definition, a limited number of pupils to send them into a system that most people will never be able to enjoy is not the best use of the limited resources available to the Department of Education and Science. That is why we are against the assisted places scheme.

The argument in favour of the assisted places scheme falls down in its own rationale. We are told that it is intended for pupils who are bright but would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend an independent school. Yet within the state system there is plenty of evidence that, if there is a group that does not do well, it is not the brightest pupils nor, indeed, the least bright. It is the middle range of pupils, if any, that suffers. The resources should be directed at them.

The argument in favour of the scheme is also based on the assumption that bright children will receive a better education in the independent system than in the state system. Several individual cases were referred to earlier. We were told that one child was the daughter of a bus driver and another was the son of a window cleaner. I have rarely heard anything so patronising in this Chamber. There is simply no evidence to suggest that those who come from a background where their parents work as window cleaners or bus drivers will necessarily fail in a state school. The implications behind those statements absolutely appal me. It is simply a fallacy.

The most important factor in whether such pupils fail is the support that they receive from their parents, the quality of the education offered by individual teachers, irrespective of the type of school in which the teacher works, and the motivation and ability of the pupils. We are all aware of many examples of pupils who go to schools which do not have a good reputation for achieving high academic results—often because the pupils who attend it do not have the support to which I referred—yet overcome their difficulties and do well.

Many people whom I know have achieved extraordinarily good results—grade A in all the exams that they have taken throughout their careers at schools in the state sector which have no special reputation for academic results but which, when a bright pupil comes along, can offer the necessary support.

The fundamental issue addressed by teachers and others in schools which I visit in my work as a constituency Member of Parliament is the overall size of the cake. They stress the need for more text books, more resources in schools, and more teachers to offer the greater flexibility and support for the individual pupil that the private sector can offer, precisely because it is more expensive. It is the withdrawal of those extra resources and their placement in the assisted places scheme and, therefore, in a private sector that is already over-resourced that is so appalling and makes the whole scheme wrong.

I do not believe that Conservative Members have said anything to justify the scheme. Rather they have justified the assumption that is built on prejudice. It reflects that prejudice and will continue to do so.

12.54 am

I want to recount my experience in education so that the House understands that I do not speak from what the Opposition might describe as a privileged background.

I went to a state comprehensive school and taught in the state sector for 10 years. I was a member of the Inner London education authority and, before I entered the House, I was an education officer for a local education authority. All my experience has been gained in the state education sector and, therefore, I speak with some knowledge about the state education system.

As I have listened to the debate I have been depressed by the total lack of thought that Opposition Members have given to the principles of education and freedom of choice. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor), a representative of the Liberal party, spoke about taking freedom of choice away from parents. That party has come a long way from the Liberal party of the 19th century which believed in choice and diversity. It believed in the rights of parents to exercise choice. The hon. Gentleman should consider the book on liberty written by John Stuart Mill which contained the famous statement that it would be a grave mistake on the part of the state if all or a large part of education was concentrated in its hands. We have come a long way since then.

It is important that our education system should offer as many different forms of teaching and opportunities as possible from which parents can choose. It is only through diversity and competition that educational standards increase. If the state and local education authorities had complete control of all schools, if no one was allowed to send their child to a school outside local education authority control and teachers had to work in local education authority schools, there would be no impetus to provide competition and increased standards. There would be no other benchmark by which to judge those schools. It is therefore important that we should have such diversity. There are extremely good schools in the state system, but they will not maintain their excellence if no one else is allowed to provide education outside the state system.

I deplore the attitude of the Labour party. Opposition Members have had the opportunity of grammar school and public school education. They have been able to exercise such choice, but now they are seeking to pull up the ladder behind them. They tell working-class, ordinary people that they may not have that same choice. Look at the direct grant grammar school boys on the Opposition Benches who want to ensure that no one else can exercise choice in education. It is vital that we do not pull up the ladder of opportunity. People must have choice in our education system.

It is a fallacy to pretend that, because everyone cannot enjoy freedom, no one should. That is like the old socialist argument that, because everyone cannot dine at the Ritz, no one should. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) spoke about withdrawing choice from education. Not everyone can own his own home, but does that mean that we should all live in council houses? Not everyone can afford a car, but does that mean that no one should own a car? That is the logic of the Opposition's argument.

The hon. Gentleman asks whether the fact that everyone cannot own his home means that no one should. It does not, but it means that no one should be homeless. Equally, if all children cannot have a privileged education, they should at least have a teacher. Privilege should not mean that some children are in smaller classes while others have no teacher.

I do not disagree with the hon. Lady, but that is not what the Labour party is advocating. It argues that no one should have choice outside the state education system. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West has not argued that because not everyone has equal opportunity, no one should have any opportunity—she believes that no one should have any choice.

It was interesting that when the hon. Member for Durham, North-West intervened in the speech of the hon.

Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) she implied that she believed in the direction of labour, and that teachers should not be allowed to teach in private schools because they had been taught and trained in the state sector.

It is interesting to finish on that point because it shows that Labour Members do not think through what they say. Their policies imply that they would have to create a police state in this country. If the Labour party took to its logical conclusion its policy that nobody should be educated or teach outside the state sector, it would have to create a police state to stop those schools moving to southern Ireland, France and other countries. It would have to introduce laws to stop parents sending their children abroad. If it wishes to do that it will have to set up an edifice of controls and regulations to prevent people from trying to get round the rules by taking their children abroad. Labour Members should think through what they are saying before they decide to take away choice, variety and diversity.

I believe in this small measure, which gives working-class people an opportunity to have a choice in their education, and I support what the Government are doing.

1.2 am

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall speak again.

The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) should not lecture other people when he does not follow his own lessons. No one is saying that people in this country cannot have a choice, and there is much choice within the state sector. We are saying that taxpayers' money should not be used to subsidise a division in education which means that the Government can say that they are content with buying for 1 per cent. what they consider to be the best. Even if they want to get away with that in terms of their ideology, this country cannot afford it. We must get the best for every child.

I invite the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) to look again at the research. I judge the scheme according to the criteria that the Government set out. It is against those criteria—

I shall not give way because I am responding to a point raised by the hon. Member for Norwich, North.

In response to the criteria set down by the Government, the scheme has failed. I am happy that the hon. Gentleman should have a look at that.

Certainly—now that I have answered the hon. Member for Norwich, North, I happily give way to the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn).

I thought for a moment that I was going to be ignored.

Will the hon. Lady confirm and place on record that I can go back to the people of Dartford and tell them tonight that the Labour party's policies would lead to the closure in Dartford of the grammar schools, the city technology college, the grant-maintained school, the organisation of all secondary schools along comprehensive lines with a range of schools for 11 to 16–year-olds being served by tertiary colleges, and the total elimination of the Church schools?

The hon. Gentleman has a vivid imagination. To save the time of the House, I will send him our policy review so that he can read it for himself. I want to be straight with the hon. Gentleman and if I were to answer him fully, I would take some time, which I do not have.

People are saying that the Government's policy is popular, but, in that case, why are 6,000 places—not 4,000, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) said—unfilled?

I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) and the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) for pointing out the effect of the measures on many places.

I shall finish, not with another quote from the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), although that is tempting, but with a quote from people in the independent sector who have assessed the effect of the assisted places scheme on that sector. They know that the main effect on that sector is to subsidise it. David Woodhead, director of the Independent Schools Information Service, has said that if the removal of the assisted places scheme were to go ahead
"there would be a lot of worried schools."
The bursar of St. Mary's college in Crosby said:
"Schools that have not made some form of provision to back up the assisted places scheme if it was withdrawn could be rather exposed."
Judith Sichy, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said that it was impossible to say quite how much schools would lose if charitable status was abolished, but it would be a "blow" and would lead to fee increases for parents. That is the fear of Conservative Members—that the independent school sector, or much of it, would collapse because it would lose the public subsidy.

Let us use that public subsidy to good effect for the children of our country who need such support, so that we can ensure that they are able to take the country forward to an effective economy and an effective future. If we do that for all our children, no one will need to argue for any assisted places.

1.7 am

I was grateful to the hon. Lady for the kind words that she spoke at the beginning of her speech, but then I was disappointed, because I had hoped that the Labour party, in the process of its policy review, would have given some fresh thought to this issue, which we have debated many times in the past. Yet it seems to ignore the realities before it.

For example, the hon. Lady disputed—

We were of two minds on what to do about the assisted places scheme until we read the review by the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson). It was his view that this experiment had been such a failure that led to our decision to phase the scheme out.

Again, I would have hoped that the Labour party would muster its own intellectual resources to think up an education policy, but it has not.

The hon. Lady ignored the fact that there is choice. In her own area there is a choice; in county Durham children may go to Barnard Castle school within the scheme, and with the extension of the scheme there will be a new opportunity for children to go to assisted places at King's School in north Tyneside, to which the hon. Lady also referred. The hon. Lady, like the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo), said that her purpose was to ensure that excellent education was available for all. We can all agree upon that.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South then spoilt it by making it clear that she believes, not in equality of opportunity but in equality of outcome. She developed a curious, and indeed interesting, theory, which might have its attractions, that an equal sum should be made available from public resources for all children. I am not sure whether she was beginning to argue for a voucher scheme and whether that is more evidence of the influence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) on the thinking of the Labour party. Really her idea was a travesty of my right hon. Friend's thinking. All hon. Members know that my right hon. Friend has always been a great champion of freedom and of choice.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) for the support that he expressed for the assisted places scheme. He raised some serious and practical points. He asked, as did the hon. Member for Durham, North-West, about the lack of complete take-up of assisted places in some schools. It is inevitable that there will be some schools where there are not applications for all the places, just as there are many other schools that are over-subscribed under the scheme. We have a system of negotiation to transfer the surplus quota of places from the under-subscribed schools to the fully subscribed schools, and we are working on a more flexible and quickly responsive scheme of pooling to enable us to deal with that problem.

My hon. Friend also raised the question of publicity. The principal responsibility for publicising the scheme rests with the schools. I pay tribute to the effort that so many of the schools in the scheme make to ensure that young people and their parents are aware of the available opportunities. That will be part of a much wider culture, because under the local management of schools, and with open enrolment, all schools will have to seek to make themselves attractive to the parents and children whom it is their responsibility to serve.

My hon. Friend the Member for York asked whether we provide leaflets: we certainly do. They explain how the scheme works and how families can benefit from it. I hope that more local education authorities will recognise their responsibility to make known the existence of scheme schools in their area. Equally, I look to primary heads to ensure that children who could appropriately go on to a school in the scheme know about it.

Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for York asked about the north-east. I am pleased to say that, as part of the extension of the scheme this September, no fewer than six new schools will be admitted to the scheme in the north-east, and there will be three additional places in the Yarn school of which my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) is a governor. He made a powerful speech in which he reminded us of the disappointing record of the last Labour Government, who destroyed the direct grant scheme. Their commitment to destroy this scheme is a dreary return to that kind of prejudice.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) spoke up doughtily for Sheffield, as he always does. He was right to do so, just as the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) rightly spoke up for Tower Hamlets. I recognise the educational difficulties that those local authorities and parents, children and teachers in their areas face. Of course we shall do what we can to help. I met a deputation led by the leader of the Sheffield LEA recently, and I have fully absorbed his concerns. Only this afternoon, I saw the director of education in Tower Hamlets, and I pay tribute to her remarkable efforts to improve the quality of the service in that area.

The hon. Member for Hillsborough became rather old-fashioned when he got to the bit about the assisted places scheme. The cost of the scheme in the financial year 1989–80 was less than half of 1 per cent. of total public expenditure on schools. The hon. Gentleman has got he issue out of proportion. Since we came to office we have increased real spending by more than 40 per cent. per child. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) mentioned expenditure on books and equipment. That, too, is up by 28 per cent.

I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) and for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) for the refreshing good sense they brought to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest recited a gloomy catalogue of the destructive pledges of the Labour party. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North spoke with legitimate pride of his experience of teaching in one of the great schools in the scheme—Manchester grammar—and about Norwich high school.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) brought to the debate the benefit of his authority as one who has great depth of experience of working in the maintained sector. He talked a great deal of good sense.

I must take issue with the hon. Member for Truro, who wrongly extracted from the remarks of Conservative Members the inference that there had been some disparagement of the maintained schools, merely because we believe that the APS widens choice and gives the parents of less well-off children the opportunity to send their offspring to some of the best schools in the country. There are many extremely good maintained schools. We must cherish excellence wherever it is found—and support it. I look forward to meeting a deputation from Cornwall next week and I shall do what I can to ensure that the teachers of Cornwall, to whom I pay tribute, have every opportunity to continue to serve their pupils.

I commend the draft regulations to the House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 215, Noes 89.

Division No. 307]

[1.14 am

AYES

Alexander, RichardBatiste, Spencer
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBellingham, Henry
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Amess, DavidBevan, David Gilroy
Amos, AlanBoscawen, Hon Robert
Arbuthnot, JamesBoswell, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Arnold, Sir ThomasBowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Ashby, DavidBowis, John
Aspinwall, JackBrandon-Bravo, Martin
Atkinson, DavidBrazier, Julian
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Bright, Graham
Baldry, TonyBrown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Buck, Sir Antony

Burns, SimonKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Burt, AlistairKnowles, Michael
Butterfill, JohnLang, Ian
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Lawrence, Ivan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Carrington, MatthewLightbown, David
Carttiss, MichaelLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Cash, WilliamLord, Michael
Chapman, SydneyLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Chope, ChristopherMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Maclean, David
Colvin, MichaelMcLoughlin, Patrick
Conway, DerekMcNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Mans, Keith
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Marland, Paul
Cran, JamesMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaMarshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Davis, David (Boothferry)Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Day, StephenMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Devlin, TimMellor, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMiller, Sir Hal
Dover, DenMills, Iain
Dunn, BobMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Durant, TonyMitchell, Sir David
Evennett, DavidMoate, Roger
Favell, TonyMorris, M (N'hampton S)
Fenner, Dame PeggyMorrison, Sir Charles
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Moss, Malcolm
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyMoynihan, Hon Colin
Fishburn, John DudleyNelson, Anthony
Fookes, Dame JanetNeubert, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Nicholls, Patrick
Franks, CecilNicholson, David (Taunton)
Freeman, RogerNorris, Steve
French, DouglasOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Gale, RogerPage, Richard
Gardiner, GeorgePaice, James
Garel-Jones, TristanPatnick, Irvine
Gill, ChristopherPatten, Rt Hon John
Goodhart, Sir PhilipPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesPawsey, James
Gorst, JohnPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Gow, IanPorter, David (Waveney)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Raffan, Keith
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Gregory, ConalRathbone, Tim
Ground, PatrickRedwood, John
Hague, WilliamRenton, Rt Hon Tim
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hanley, JeremyRoberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Roe, Mrs Marion
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Rowe, Andrew
Harris, DavidRumbold, Mrs Angela
Hayes, JerrySayeed, Jonathan
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyShaw, David (Dover)
Hayward, RobertShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hind, KennethShelton, Sir William
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Shersby, Michael
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Hunter, AndrewSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Irvine, MichaelStanbrook, Ivor
Jack, MichaelStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Jackson, RobertSteen, Anthony
Janman, TimStern, Michael
Jessel, TobyStevens, Lewis
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineSummerson, Hugo
Key, RobertTapsell, Sir Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Kirkhope, TimothyTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Knapman, RogerTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Temple-Morris, Peter

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Wells, Bowen
Thorne, NeilWheeler, Sir John
Thornton, MalcolmWhitney, Ray
Thurnham, PeterWiddecombe, Ann
Townend, John (Bridlington)Wilkinson, John
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)Wilshire, David
Tracey, RichardWinterton, Mrs Ann
Trotter, NevilleWinterton, Nicholas
Twinn, Dr IanWolfson, Mark
Viggers, PeterWood, Timothy
Walden, GeorgeYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Waller, Gary
Ward, John

Tellers for the Ayes:

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Mr. Alastair Goodlad and

Warren, Kenneth

Mr. Tom Sackville.

Watts, John

NOES

Anderson, DonaldLofthouse, Geoffrey
Armstrong, HilaryMcAllion, John
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)McAvoy, Thomas
Beggs, RoyMcFall, John
Beith, A. J.McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)McKelvey, William
Bradley, KeithMcWilliam, John
Buckley, George J.Mahon, Mrs Alice
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Carr, MichaelMeale, Alan
Clay, BobMichael, Alun
Clelland, DavidMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnMorgan, Rhodri
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Morley, Elliot
Corbyn, JeremyMullin, Chris
Cousins, JimMurphy, Paul
Cryer, BobNellist, Dave
Cunliffe, LawrencePatchett, Terry
Dalyell, TamPike, Peter L.
Darling, AlistairPrimarolo, Dawn
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Quin, Ms Joyce
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Redmond, Martin
Dewar, DonaldReid, Dr John
Dixon, DonRichardson, Jo
Dunnachie, JimmyRobertson, George
Eastham, KenRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Evans, John (St Helens N)Short, Clare
Fatchett, DerekSkinner, Dennis
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Flannery, MartinSmith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Foster, DerekSpearing, Nigel
Galloway, GeorgeSteinberg, Gerry
George, BruceStraw, Jack
Gordon, MildredTaylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Hardy, PeterTurner, Dennis
Heal, Mrs SylviaWalley, Joan
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Wareing, Robert N.
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Illsley, EricWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Kennedy, CharlesWorthington, Tony
Lamond, James
Leadbitter, Ted

Tellers for the Noes:

Lewis, Terry

Mr. Frank Haynes and

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Mrs. Llin Golding.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That the draft Education (Assisted Places) (Amendment) Regulations 1990, which were laid before this House on 27th June, be approved.