Orders of the Day — Education

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24 November 1975.

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Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral 12:00, 24 November 1975

I wish to inform the House that I have selected for today's debate the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition. It is printed at the bottom of page 170 of the Order Paper.

With regard to tomorrow's debate on economic affairs, I intend to make possible an experiment in accordance with the recommendation made by the Select Committee on Procedure in paragraph 12 of its Second Report of last Session. I propose, therefore, that tomorrow the House shall discuss together, first, the amendment in the name of the right hon. Lady printed at the top of page 172, and secondly, the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) printed on page 169, relating to proposals for the docks.

4.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Address, at end add But, while welcoming the proposals on education to give a priority within available resources to children with special needs and to the vocational training of young people aged 16 to 19, humbly regret the inclusion att a time of major difficulties for the education service of a costly and damaging Bill to compel local education authorities to put forward plans for schools reorganisation of which they may fundamentally disapprove so undermining their independence, as guaranteed by the 1944 settlement, ignoring local and parental wishes and lowering educational standards by destroying schools of proven worth. Education policy must always, to a large extent, be a matter of priorities because the education service, like the National Health Service, is one which literally demands limitless resources. The whole budget could be spent on either and still not satisfy the need. Therefore, a right and sensible order of priorities is vital in this sphere. It is even more important at a time of financial stringency and shortage. The Government have cut heavily the amount of money for education which was envisaged in the Conservatives' Expenditure White Paper of December 1973. For 1975–76 the sum has been reduced by £227 million; for 1977–78 the sum has been reduced by no less than £373 million.

Next year, as we know from the Secretary of State for the Environment, there will be no growth. That must mean a heavy cut-back in projects already undertaken by local education authorities. The 4 per cent. growth rate envisaged by the right hon. Gentleman has come down to a nil growth rate. The universities have been cut heavily, by 10 per cent. in real terms. We can imagine the attack that would have been launched upon any Conservative Government who had indulged in a programme that made such slashing reductions.

While we have not pressed the Government to reduce educational expenditure—nor, indeed, to increase it—we have made clear that we are opposed to indiscriminate spending elsewhere on nationalisation and on food and housing subsidies. Any portion of that money could have been invested in the education service with positive results. What we have demanded is that the Government should get their priorities right. The unfortunate fact, as shown by the Gracious Speech, is that the priorities are basically wrong.

Let me, however, indicate some areas of policy in which we support the Government. We are glad to see that the Bill for public lending right is announced yet again in the Gracious Speech. It was announced in the previous Gracious Speech and then disappeared without trace, almost as absent as the Under-Secretary responsible for the arts, who is not there this afternoon. Perhaps I may be forgiven for saying that, had it not been for that unfortunate General Election in February last year, an equivalent measure would have been on the statute book 12 months ago.

There are two other areas of policy, in the educational sphere, on which we can support the Government. We welcome the priority, within available resources, to be given to children with special needs. In our own election manifesto we gave special prominence to the need to help handicapped children. That, indeed, has long been a concern of Conservative education policy. We welcome the fact that the Warnock Committee on special education, which was set up by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, is at work, and we await its conclusions with great interest.

We welcome, too, the setting up of the centre for information and advice on educational disadvantage under the leadership of Sir Alec Clegg, and we look forward to hearing from the Secretary of State this afternoon what progress is being made in this sphere.

However, so far as possible, those with special needs should be educated in ordinary schools. It is not a service but a disservice to handicapped children to deprive them of the specialised help which in many cases only a special school can give. The provision of the 132,000 places in special schools in England and Wales satisfies a genuine and urgent need, and that need will continue. We have learned only today that there are 5,000 autistic children without school places and that 54 local education authorities make no special facilities available for these children.

I should like to pay tribute this afternoon to those who teach in these schools and give such dedicated service. They are the part of the teaching profession from whom one hears the least complaint and the least demand although their task is the most difficult. Perhaps we should also pay tribute to the work of the independent schools, as there are no fewer than 79 special schools provided in the independent sector and 19 by voluntary bodies for handicapped children.

If we are to tackle this problem successfully, it is essential that there should be early discovery and identification of the handicapped child. That is why, among other reasons, it is so unfortunate that the nursery school programme which was planned and launched by my right hon. Friend should have been so reduced by the present Government. One must identify handicap at the early stages.

May I commend also to the Secretary of State the need to help handicap in the latter stages of the educational process, and particularly the needs of handicapped students. Hereward College is, I think, the only college catering for their needs. It is an expensive investment, but I hope that the Secretary of State will continue the policy of his predecessors in supporting that college.

I hope also that the right hon. Gentleman will involve parents as much as possible at all stages of the education of handicapped children. They should be consulted before classification takes place of a particular category of handicap. They should be allowed to make their views known. They should be able to appeal. I would hope also that among the priorities he intends to give in this sphere will be the development of preschool visits, which already take place with handicapped children who are deaf, so that early identification can be made.

The Opposition do not believe that it is right to use the educational system as a means of promoting particular theories of social equality, but we believe that there should be an equality of opportunity. One of the ways we can move towards providing an equality of opportunity for these children is by seeing that their special needs are catered for within the education service.

The other point on which we are able to commend the Government's intentions is in the passage in the Gracious Speech which refers to special help for further education for the 16- to 19-year-olds. This is extremely important because of the increase in the numbers of such young people which is likely to take place in this group within the next few years.

Good intentions are all right, but we know that the way to hell is paved with them. We hope to hear from the Secretary of State this afternoon some concrete proposals to translate those intentions into fact. We look to the Secretary of State to outline the Government's plans to review the organisation and disposition of further education provision in our schools and colleges. How will he ensure that resources, and teachers especially, are effectively deployed? What proposals has he to make day release more effective? [Interruption.] The Opposition do not favour further compulsion. But what other steps does the Secretary of State propose to take that fall short of further compulsion?

The problems of school leavers are acute at present. We are most concerned about the number of unemployed, estimated by some at well over 100,000. Perhaps the Secretary of State will be able to give the House the up-to-date figures of unemployed school leavers. In August of this year I made a speech at Swinton in which I put forward a number of proposals to help school leavers: first, that we should encourage young people to stay on at school; and, secondly, that schemes of apprenticeship and vocational training should be integrated with class attendance. Will the Secretary of State advise the House of the Government's view on that? We believe that the last two years of the school curriculum should be revised so that they are more closely related to job opportunities.

In a survey published in 1972 the National Youth Employment Council showed that 70 per cent. of unemployed young people had only achieved a level below Grade 3 of the CSE. A large number of unemployed school leavers are both unqualified and untrained. The Opposition would like to know what the Government intend to do about that.

I hope that the Government will also encourage use of the Work Experience Act 1973, which was introduced by my right hon. Friend. I should like to recommend to him an extension of the Trident Trust Scheme, which has been extremely successful in this sphere where it has been used. Unfortunately, only about eight local education authorities use it.

As I asked on 15th August—this is the answer to the hon. Gentleman who interrupted to ask what I would do, and I repeat it now—could not the Manpower Services Commission have its efforts extended to school leavers and not confined to those between 24 and 55 years of age, as is the Government's intention at present? I think it is right to appeal to teachers, in further education especially, to make a particular effort in this regard. Teachers have had a fair deal under the Houghton pay recommendations, and we welcome that. But there is a less publicised recommendation in that report which says that teachers should accept an obligation to use their professional power and expertise in community service.

Finally, I hope that the Government will concentrate on improving career guidance in schools. If better advice is given earlier on, children will benefit immeasurably, and that advice should include adequate guidance on further education projects.

It is on those and similar constructive and important matters that the Government should be concentrating. Unfortunately, as the Gracious Speech shows, they are much more intent on displaying yet again their King Charles's head of imposing comprehensive schools everywhere in the country rather than on making the laborious and patient, but infinitely more rewarding, effort that is needed to improve education and increase the opportunities for the children who are leaving all our schools.

Photo of Mr Ivor Clemitson Mr Ivor Clemitson , Luton East

In referring to the number of school leavers who have not yet found employment the hon. Gentleman mentioned a figure of over 100,000. Will he explain that number, because the latest official figure is just over 60,000? There is a considerable difference between those two figures.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

Those were estimated figures, and that was precisely why I asked for the latest figures from the Secretary of State. He is the only person able to give final and accurate figures on the matter. I understood from some estimates that the number of unemployed school leavers was well in excess of 100,000. I shall be delighted to hear that that is not so, but even if the figure is 60,000, that is far too high, and vigorous action needs to be taken to reduce it.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

Not so very long ago the hon. Gentleman was giving support—perhaps half-hearted support—to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) when he was demanding a lowering of the school leaving age. That was largely for unqualified children. Where does the hon. Gentleman stand on that issue now?

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

On the issue of the school leaving age, I stand where I have always stood. The position where I stood, and stand, is not one of giving half-hearted support to the positions of the Liberal spokesman an education. One would need to be a gymnast to do that.

We have always said that we support the principle of raising the school leaving age but that it should be made more flexible in practice. We have advocated, as I have done today, the integration of systems of apprenticeship into the general system of education. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has allowed me to clarify my own position and differentiate it from the position at present occupied by the Liberal spokesman.

Although it is clear that the Government's first priority in education is the damaging one of imposing comprehensive schools everywhere, it is equally reprehensible on economic grounds. The Government have tried persuasion. They have tried threats. They have tried bullying. All have failed. They are now driven to the last resort of legal compulsion. It is a major disservice to the cause of education that the future of children should be sacrificed for ideological and political reasons. In producting this measure the Government are putting on an irrelevant but hypnotic sideshow that will prevent the real questions about education from being intelligently, rationally and dispassionately discussed.

The questions that concern parents and educators are not the compulsory imposition of reorganisation but questions that concern, for example, standards: Why is there such dissatisfaction when we are spending more than ever before on education? Why is there such dissatisfaction with our schools? Why has the bright promise of a decade ago not been fulfilled? Another subject they want to discuss is discipline and conduct in the schools. They are deeply concerned about the increase in violence in the schools. Why is it growing, and what can be done to halt that process? Educationists want to know about resources. At a time of scarce resources, they want to discuss a reasonable and sensible allocation of those resources.

Teachers are not concerned about the reorganisation of schools, as a poll in The Times Educational Supplement showed. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has not read it. More than 70 per cent. of teachers support the continuance of the grammar schools, but they are concerned about the continuance of their jobs. They are much more concerned about employment than reorganisation. School leavers are not concerned about the type of school that they are leaving. They are concerned whether they will join a dole queue.

On all those vital matters there is not a single word in the entire Gracious Speech. The Government are concentrating the debate upon the wrong issue with regard to comprehensive schools. They are concentrating the debate on the compulsory issue, whereas the issues that should be discussed are what sort of service these schools should be giving and what can be done to improve them.

The Opposition's attitude on comprehensive schools is perfectly plain. We are not against comprehensive schools. But we are against the mindless imposition of these schools everywhere without regard to financial resources, educational considerations, parental wishes and local rights and conditions. We are against the imposition of such schools at the cost of destroying other types of school of proven worth.

Instead of initiating a party dog-fight on this issue, the Secretary of State should be setting an example by looking dispassionately at the problems raised within the comprehensive schools and putting forward means of improving them. Certainly we should be more than willing to conduct a temperate debate upon those lines if only the right hon. Gentleman would allow it to take place. But, as the Gracious Speech shows, he has preferred confrontation to dialogue and a bruising political battle to a patient and time-consuming inquest into the means of improving these schools. This has brought down upon him the condemnation not of the Daily Telegraph—although it will not surprise him that he has had that—but of The Guardian and The Times Educational Supplement, two of the journals that have, for so long, been in the van of the comprehensive crusade.

The questions that the Secretary of State should have sought to answer before embarking on this intolerant policy are basic and fundamental, and are of this order, if I may give him some examples. First, what is the right size for a comprehensive school? We do not know. There is confusion about this throughout the educational world. The pendulum has swung from saying that it was necessary to have large schools, of 2,000-plus, to the present ILEA position, which maintains that one can have a true comprehensive school, with a three-form entry, of no more than 500 children. Surely that question should be answered before extending the system compulsorily further.

Again, what is the effect of mixed-ability teaching? I suspect that the truth of the matter is that mixed-ability teaching works well with a highly dedicated and highly skilled teacher, but probably not otherwise. There is another question connected with this issue which the Secretary of State should have answered before pursuing this compulsory policy. What is the place of streaming and setting within comprehensive schools? Such evidence as there is that I have been able to study suggests that setting and streaming benefit the abler child, but do not hold back the less able child.

These questions are crucial, and it is irresponsible of the right hon. Gentleman to embark on this new phase of policy while they remain unanswered. That is why the Opposition have asked consistently for an inquiry into the secondary education system within the framework of which these questions and others can be answered, and we have counselled that there should be a moratorium on further reorganisation until the questions are reasonably definitely answered. It is elementary prudence and common sense to answer those questions before embarking on a compulsory extension of the comprehensive policy.

My third education point is that seeking to enforce comprehensive schools everywhere, without financial resources to do it, will have only one certain result. It will bring the idea of the comprehensive school into disrepute. If the comprehensive school is to establish itself, it must secure that position on its own intrinsic merit and achievement. It will not achieve that by force of law.

The seven authorities which have declined to go comprehensive, and the additional 30 or more which can give no firm date to the Secretary of State for a comprehensive system, will not have their minds changed by legislation, nor will they have the conditions which have brought them to those conclusions changed by a statute. They will not have their minds changed by the £25 million which the Secretary of State has allocated for comprehensive reorganisation being taken away from the much more vitally needed improvement programmes for the secondary schools and from the nursery school programme.

As the Leader of the House said when he had responsibility for education, nothing like the sum needed is available. He described the sum needed as "astronomical". Does the Secretary of State intend to embark upon a wake of his own, even though his colleague, the Secretary of State for the Environment, has announced that the party is over? Does the Secretary of State intend to waste money on this policy which nobody in the education world wants? It is a political ploy of the Labour Party. It is not wanted by either teachers or pupils.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

To illustrate the situation, the bids for the £25 million—£23 million for England are over-subscribed by about three times, and the number of local authorities making the bids comprise 85 per cent., including a very large number of Conservative authorities.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

The Secretary of State does not seem to realise that he is confirming what I am saying. It is precisely my point that the sum made available is totally inadequate. Of course, people are asking for greater bids than the amount that he has made available. I am making the point that it is a waste of resources. But the right hon. Gentleman is not, even with that waste, giving enough finance to make the policy effective.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

No. I have given way four times, and I think that is fair.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

No, because he did not give anything—

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I have dealt with the educational issues which are involved in the policy of the compulsory comprehensivisation of schools. But there is a constitutional question of even greater importance. This policy is destroying the balance so carefully maintained in the educational settlement of 1944 between the Secretary of State and the local education authorities, on the one hand, and the voluntary schools and the parents, on the other.

The English educational system has never been a monolithic structure. It has never been the sort of Benthamite model which the Secretary of State for Energy might have dreamed up in a moment of nightmare. It has been a blending and a balance of different elements and powers and of different rights and duties which have grown up over many hundreds of years. In this spectrum there are two powers, not one. It is a dyarchy. It has never been a monarchy. The rights and duties are shared between the Secretary of State and the local education authorities.

It is true that the first Section 1 of the 1944 Act places responsibility for promoting a national policy for education on the Secretary of State, but that is immediately balanced by other provisions about the rights and prerogatives of local education authorities and of parents. Section 8 places the responsibility to see that schools are available firmly upon the local education authorities. The rights and duties of parents are enshrined in Sections 36 and 76. It is an intrinsic part of the balance that was struck that local education authorities should retain the right to put forward proposals for reorganisation, just as the Secretary of State has a veto when those proposals are put forward, if he considers that they are not in the general educational interest.

It is now being proposed to deprive local education authorities of their essential powers in this respect. That will be resisted by local education authorities which have introduced comprehensive schools as strongly as by those which have not.

We do not know the form of the legislation which is proposed. All we have is the indication given by the Secretary of State in a Press notice issued on 17th September while Parliament was in recess. In matters of constitutional importance of this kind, we might have expected that announcement to be made to this House and not to journalists.

The Press notice gives cause for grave concern and alarm. First, we conclude that the Secretary of State will take powers to force education authorities to reorganise on comprehensive lines. Will the Secretary of State tell us exactly what he proposes? We are told by the Press notice that any plan for reorganisation put forward by the Secretary of State is likely to contain powers to modify the proposals put forward by the local education authorities. No Secretary of State has had those sweeping powers before. Will the Secretary of State tell us exactly what he proposes?

A further fundamental change adumbrated in the Press notice is to make the power which local education authorities have had, to take up places at independent schools, subject to the consent of the Minister. That breaches another fundamental provision of the 1944 settlement. Under Section 8 of the 1944 Act and under Section 6 of the 1953 Act, the powers and duties of local education authorities are not to provide schools but to see that schools are available. Because it has been couched in that way, they have been able to make considerable savings on capital expenditure.

The final question I put to the Secretary of State is: what about the voluntary schools? Again I cite the Press notice. Pressure will be brought upon them to reorganise on comprehensive lines. But what exactly does the Secretary of State intend? Are the rights of the voluntary schools to initiate reorganisation plans also to be taken away? If that is so, the Secretary of State is playing with fire because he is undermining, not only the 1944 secular settlement, but the 1944 religious settlement as well.

The Opposition's case against the Government rests upon both educational and constitutional arguments. We believe that this policy is wrong educationally because it puts the obsessions of the Secretary of State and his colleagues about universal comprehensive schools above the needs of restoring and advancing educational standards. It would lead to the destruction of schools which are centres of academic excellence and which, therefore, benefit not only their own pupils but the whole of the maintained system It would confine parental choice to choice of a neighbourhood comprehensive school, and, by destroying the variety of schools, it would prevent any standard of comparison by which the performance of comprehensive schools could be evaluated Constitutionally it is dangerous and undesirable, because it would upset the balance so skilfully and effectively created by Lord Butler in the 1944 Act, and it would take a giant step towards the establishment of a State-centred system of education wide open in the future to another Secretary of State, perhaps more malign or more energetic than the present occupant of the position, who would be able to manipulate the system for political purposes.

We shall oppose the Bill within the House by every parliamentary means. We shall oppose the Bill in the country and we shall seek to mobilise public and educational opinion against it throughout the nation so that it will become clear, even to the right hon. Gentleman, that his proposals are rejected by the overwhelming majority of those who care about the future of our schools and about the future of those who are educated in them.

4.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I thought that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) was a reformed character when he began his speech, because, if I may quote his description, I thought that for the first time he was going to approach this matter of education from a dispassionate and objective point of view.

I appreciate and agree with the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks about the importance of giving priority within available resources to children with special needs, and I endorse very strongly what he said about the devoted work of the teachers of such children. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has already visited a great number of schools for children with special needs, including Hereward College which the hon. Member mentioned, and we are only too conscious of the lack of provision in this area and the need, within available resources, to do what we can to assist.

I appreciate, too, and agree with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the importance, both for demographic reasons, because their numbers are increasing, and because I feel this is a group that has been neglected, of making additional provision for the 16- to 19-year-old group.

As to the controversy about the number of unemployed school leavers, the number at the last date for which figures were available was 65,000. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, strictly speaking, this matter is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. Indeed, this has been and will have to be a matter for close co-operation between the Department of Employment, the three Education Departments and, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, the Manpower Services Commission and its Training Services Agency. We want to increase the opportunities for about 300,000 boys and girls who enter employment each year and who receive little or no further education and training. The absence of such opportunities limits their own satisfaction in the service they can give to the community. In short, it is a waste of human resources.

I do not think that it is simply a quantitative problem. As well as further provision of places and courses, we need new departures and concepts, new curricula and, above all, the closest co-operation between educational and training interests. That is what the Government have been engaged upon for some time; I hope that a statement on this matter will be made shortly and that we shall be able to have consultations with all those involved, including education and training interests, employers and trade unions. What we particularly want is to do more work on curricular, research and to get some pilot schemes of a practical kind as soon as we can.

In addition, I accept the desirability of closer connection between the last years at school and the further education colleges and so on, and I am glad that many schools and authorities are pursuing it. My powers of enforcement, however, are not only very limited, but—I shall touch on this question when dealing with the subject of interference with local authorities—to do half of what the hon. Gentleman suggested would mean making greater breaches in the so-called balance of power between local education authorities—their powers, responsibilities and discretion—on the one hand and central direction on the other hand.

I should, however, like first to make an observation about the point which the hon. Gentleman made about the difficulties of the economic situation and the inevitable consequences which these will have for the expectations of educational growth and advance in the next few years. I have made it clear that I accept that there must be reductions in planned public expenditure. We cannot continue to borrow at the level at which we have had to borrow. This means that there will have to be reductions, and I accept that education cannot be exempted from them. At the same time, I have made it clear that it is my concern and determination to see that education bears only its fair share having regard to all the pressures which exist.

It is said that the Conservatives have not made demands for increased educational expenditure. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman could have been awake, although he has been present on most days at Question Time. Question after Question from the Opposition would involve additional educational expenditure. The hon. Gentleman in a recent speech suggested that the parental contribution to university grants should be abolished. That would mean an increase in expenditure of some £90 million.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I think that he read a report in The Times which was not strictly accurate. Unfortunately he did not continue his researches in The Times, for otherwise, on the Saturday of that week, he would have found a letter from myself making it plain that there was no pledge on my part that the next Conservative Government would abolish the parental contribution but that I considered it as a long-term aim which would be desirable. That is a very different matter.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I am further grateful to the hon. Gentleman because I have fortified myself with a copy of the Conservative Central Office News Service Press handout, in which the hon. Gentleman says: The National Union of Students is now putting the abolition of the parental contribution to student support as its first aim in improving the grant system. I welcome this development which is fully in accord with Conservative policy. In our election manifesto in October we made it plain that reduction and eventually abolition of the parental contribution was a major aim of Conservative policy. It is perfectly true that the hon. Gentleman, having got enormous publicity by a Press handout on the radio, television and in many newspapers, put a letter in The Times. If one wants to make a public statement with the minimum publicity, the correspondence columns of The Times are perhaps the best place for it, other than perhaps making a statement in this House.

The hon. Gentleman said, referring to the pledge which I would have thought could be fairly inferred from that statement: In fact this is not the case and I would like to make the situation clear. As soon as circumstances permit, a Conservative Government would review students' grants, as we have done in the past. In that review we would give priority to the reduction of the parental contribution. If there are any weasel words around, I think that the hon. Gentleman is a master of them. When he referred to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), he said that he was not a gymnast. However, I would give him credit for verbal gymnastics in this matter.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

May I assist the right hon. Gentleman further to make a perfectly simple distinction between what is a long-term aim of policy and what was reported in The Times as a pledge which bound the next Conservative Government? That is a perfectly intelligible distinction to anyone except, apparently, the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Being a little uncharitable, I thought that, in a speech to students in which he identified himself completely with the objectives of the National Union of Students, the hon. Gentleman was seeking popularity. I think that he would do anything to obtain votes. Otherwise how, in a reference to the direct grant schools, could he have greeted my appointment with the simple offer that if I would not go through with the decisions that had already been taken about the abolition of direct grant schools, he would not create additional direct grant schools on assuming power? If that is not politicking, I do not know what is. Either the hon. Gentleman thinks that direct grant schools are proper things to support or he does not. He cannot make that kind of political off-the-cuff observation if he is serious about education. That is the hon. Gentleman's real problem; he does not understand very much about the current education system or what it was like in 1944.

I welcome what has been said about the 16- to 19-year-olds and their special needs. I come to the central point of argument—whether it is right for a Government to ask the House to pass legislation requiring local authorities to submit plans, and to seek power to require them to carry out those plans, for a particular form of secondary education. The so-called balance to which the hon. Gentleman referred is delicate, and the constitutional point, as he put it, is a proper one to raise.

It has always been the case that a number of issues—the statutory school age, school leaving dates and so on—are matters for central Government decision and for parliamentary legislation. Other issues, including many which the hon. Gentleman, today and on other occasions, has thought fit to say should be my concern, have always been reserved in the 1944 Act to local authorities.

Let us make clear the situation regarding curricula. Curricula are expressly reserved to local authorities by Section 23 of the 1944 Act. I was particularly interested in the Press notice of the hon. Gentleman's speech to the Conservative Party conference. Since he was very rude about me in my absence, I am sure he will not mind if I am rude about him in his presence. He suggested on that occasion that I should be—this is an interesting description—an "indivisible" export to the United States. I understand that his hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) is raising funds for me to go to the Soviet Union. I am most grateful for their concern about these matters but I assure them that, although I should be happy to visit both those countries, I do not intend to emigrate.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I have not got to the point yet. It may worry the hon. Gentleman that he is not sufficiently well known, because the Conservative Party handout describes him as the hon. Member for Guildford. It quotes the hon. Gentleman as saying: I declare today as the cornerstone of our policies for restoring equality in our schools that we will reintroduce national standards of literacy and numeracy to be followed in all our schools. It is rather spoilt because literacy is spelt with a double "t". I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman's knowledge of these matters is derived from the Conservative Central Office and whether his object in life is to put that right.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I presume that the right hon. Gentleman has now reached the point. I am grateful to him for the exegesis which he is conferring upon my every utterance. I am flattered. But I am in no way responsible for the orthography of the Press handout.

I did not refer to the right hon. Gentleman as an indivisible export if he went to the United States; I said he would be an "invisible" export if he went to the United States. I was not being rude about the right hon. Gentleman. I was merely having a little fun at his expense, and I do not mind if he does the same about me. However, will he now get on to the main point of this debate?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety. So far as the word "indivisible" is concerned, I was going, as one must, by the official party handout.

I understand the concern of the Conservative Party about literacy. The hon. Gentleman has rightly said that we should get down to the main point, which is an important one. Most of the things about which he talks would be interfering with the proper activities of the local authorities in a way that I am not contemplating and in no way would I contemplate. To lay down exactly the curriculum in schools would certainly be an innovation as far as teachers are concerned.

Most of the things about which the hon. Gentleman was talking—until he got to what he called the constitutional issue—were affronts to the constitutional doctrine that he was trying to establish. There is a balance. Certain things have been reserved to the central Government and others to the local authorities.

Section 1(1) of the Education Act 1944, which, according to the amendment, I am supposed to be against, says that it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area. I do not believe that what we are proposing—namely, that there should be secondary education in this country, organised on comprehensive lines—is any different in principle from what Lord Butler, ably assisted by the late Chuter Ede, achieved in the 1944 Act introduced by the Coalition Government, which divided the all-age schools into proper primary and secondary schools and abolished fees in the public sector. Effectively there was no secondary education at all before 1944. In their way these innovations were as revolutionary as those which we are proposing in the organisation of comprehensive schools.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

What is also true historically is that a large part of the Labour Party at the time was against that tripartite system and favoured multilateral or comprehensive systems. However, the Labour Government after 1945 let the local authorities do as they wished and let them have tripartite, bipartite or anything else. They let it evolve. Now there is a major change, and the Government are not letting local authorities evolve things but are telling them what to do.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I still maintain that it it within the spirit of the 1944 Act. But I accept that by asking local authorities to organise on comprehensive lines we are, in fact, requiring them to carry out a national policy.

Why do we have a Bill? The hon. Gentleman himself has been nagging us for a Bill since January. He rightly said that the Government's policy on comprehensive education lacked statutory force. It does. That is why we are seeking, as he suggested, to remedy this by bringing in a Bill. As for the hon. Gentleman's statement about legislation or government by Press conference, the reason for the Press statement—this is surely right—was that I wanted to consult the local authority associations before forming a view about the kind of legislation needed. As it was a matter of wide concern, it seemed to me right that, instead of issuing just a circular or statement to the authorities, my proposals should be made available to a wider public.

Photo of Mr William Clark Mr William Clark , Croydon South

Previously the Minister said that he was "asking" local authorities. Surely he should be more honest. He is now "telling" local authorities what sort of education they should provide.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The whole of this controversy bears on whether I should have legal powers to do that. We shall be discussing that matter when we have the Bill. At present the authorities have been asked because, as has been rightly pointed out, there are no legal powers to require them to submit plans. This shows the pointlessness of the Opposition's current posture, that they want to debate a Bill which they have not yet seen and, in the nature of things, could not have seen because the Gracious Speech is still before the House.

I want the House clearly to understand that the Government are determined to abolish the selection process at 11, 12 or 13. We do not accept that kind of selection or selective schools as right, and as far as we can, we want the matter dealt with urgently. I recognise that shortage of resources in some areas is holding up reorganisation, but the issue is clouded by talk about our destroying schools of proven worth every time there is a schools reorganisation.

I cannot accept the proposition that a good grammar school or good secondary modern school is destroyed when reorganised. That would mean censuring the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, who presided in her time over the "destruction" of many such schools. We certainly do not accept that reorganisation destroys a school; on the contrary, we believe that it contributes towards a more sensible, less divisive and educationally sounder system.

I regret that one has to resort to legislation to achieve what one would have much preferred to achieve by agreement. As I said, we have a parallel in the 1944 Act. If the hon. Member would take the trouble to read the Act and its commentary, he would see that our proposals are far from creating a constitutional innovation, and the Opposition are talking nonsense about local authority independence being completely destroyed by them.

What we are proposing is simply that, for an area to be truly comprehensive, all the schools in it need to be comprehensive. We cannot have a selective system in which everyone wins a prize. The idea of comprehensive schools alongside grammar schools and direct grant schools is not feasible.

While I do not accept that academic excellence as measured by examination results is something that one should worry about unduly, it happens that some research has been done by a Mr. Sharrock, the Headmaster of the King Edward VII School in Sheffield, derived from lists published in The Times of first-class honours gained in universities other than Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester, and some Imperial College, London, results that did not give the schools. All the rest of the universities, hon. Members may recall, were published in The Times. Three of the top schools were Sheffield comprehensive schools. One of them—the King Edward VII—was first and Manchester Grammar School was down the list.

Incidentally, in the King Edward VII school this year—and since the school went fully comprehensive in 1969 all the pupils this year came in on a mixed-ability basis—a third of the sixth form got five or more GCE O-level passes. Almost two-thirds—I think 62 per cent.—got one or more GCE passes, and practically every child in that school went away with a GCE or a CSE pass.

I do not myself, having a first-class honours degree, attach so much importance to this as a particular standard of excellence. There are people around who do. I want to make it clear that I do not regard it as the be-all and end-all of excellence or academic endeavour that one should get a first-class honours degree or A grades in A and O levels of the GCE. A lot of people attach importance to this, but I merely make the point that there is no evidence one way or the other to show that there is any loss as a result of the introduction of comprehensive schools into the system.

One matter, however, is absolutely certain. Any suggestion that the educational system may be one cause of our current economic difficulties cannot be put down to comprehensive schools, because hardly anyone of 21 or over could have been educated entirely in such a comprehensive system.

I want to make clear what we propose to submit to the House in the Bill. First, the Bill will not result in increased public expenditure, nor shall we use it, or want to use it, to push through botched-up schemes of reorganisation. I do not intend to seek powers to force authorities to spend sums of money which they would not be spending in any case, apart from the special provision that we are able to make in the 1976–77 programme to assist comprehensive reorganisation. That in any event would be required for secondary schools and would, quite properly, be best used in this way.

Secondly, the initiative for proposing a particular pattern of reorganisation would rest where it is now, at the local level. Just as now, I should have to approve, or otherwise, proposals submitted to me, with or without minor modifications. This idea of doing so with or without minor modifications is nothing new; it is part of the current procedures under Section 13. It is usual, for example, for a scheme to be approved, say, on a five form entry instead of a six form entry, or the other way round. There has always been a certain amount of agreement—if the authority agrees, of course.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

Surely the Secretary of State would agree that it is not within the power of the Secretary of State to make a modification in a Section 13 proposal of a nature that itself would require a Section 13 proposal from the authority. That is a most important limitation on his power. Is it proposed in the Bill to take that power, or is it not? We have only that Press notice to go on.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The hon. Gentleman should not blame me because we do not have the Bill before us. He should have been more patient and waited. I was explaining that this question of minor modifications was the Section 13 procedure. I shall not be seeking powers to make major modifications. Obviously, I shall have powers to reject the plans of the local authority if they are not satisfactory, and require it to submit others. Then I shall take into account in the new plans the points that seem proper for me to make. I would not completely change them, however, and say that this is what a local authority must do in its area.

The hon. Member also criticised our intention to control the take-up of places at independent schools by local education authorities. I know that some hon. Members may protest about this, but this is going back to the 1944 Act. I am seeking the powers that the Minister had in this regard in 1944 and in 1953, which were caused to lapse by the Conservative administration in 1959. I accept that in certain cases, particularly with regard to boarding schools, it may clearly be right for some authorities to send their children to independent schools at public expense. I would want some control over this, however, so that they would have to obtain authority for it. Clearly, authority will not be given if there are adequate means of educating the children in their own schools. In a sense, it is a form of public expenditure control. There is nothing new about this.

What we are seeking to do is extremely reasonable. It may well be criticised as being too slow, because I cannot abolish selection at a legislative stroke. On the other hand, I shall follow the line that Lord Butler took in respect of the detailed provisions and the powers that he adopted in 1944. I shall not tolerate authorities dragging their feet.

To sum up, there appear to be four counts in the Opposition's indictment of Government policy. First, it is said that the legislation will be costly and damaging. Second, it is claimed that it will undermine the independence of local education authorities. Third, the Opposition say that it ignores local and parental wishes, and, fourth, that it will lower educational standards and destroy schools of proven worth.

What are the facts? In the organisation of schools, a major change like this calls for extra resources, which I am making available. It also calls for skilful use of existing resources, patience and intelligent planning if disruption is to be avoided. Most local education authorities—I gladly pay tribute to their achievements in these respects—have shown that they are equal to both demands.

The House should understand that the latest figures show that we have 60-odd per cent. of our children in comprehensive schools. This year, with the new comprehensive reorganisation schemes coming into effect this term, we shall have well over 65 per cent. of our children in comprehensive schools. This is not, as it were, starting from scratch.

As regards the position of local education authorities, the 1944 Act developed the relationship with the Government—originally established in 1902—by making it clear that it was the Minister who determined national policy and the local authorities which executed it. In certain respects, the Act spelt out the power of the Minister to direct national policy.

The Act did not do so in relation to secondary school organisation because the need had not then arisen. Now that it has, it is right—and, in my view, a natural evolution of what the 1944 legislation achieved—to extend the Secretary of State's powers in this respect. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should seek to make so much play with local and parental wishes. In all this, it is clear that over the country as a whole the great majority of parents have utterly rejected the divisive system of selection that imposes a sense of failure on the majority of our children.

Like the great majority of professional educationists, parents are putting their weight behind the comprehensive system and ask only that it should be given a chance to work, because for every child that went to a grammar school—depending on the area—at least five went to a secondary modern school. That type of selection in many cases gave no opportunity of further education.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

Will the Secretary of State recognise that the question of secondary education was a major feature in the by-election in June, and that my presence here belies his words?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I think that when the hon. Gentleman has been here a little longer he will realise that, whether it is a by-election or a national election, it is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the result. In fact, there is a lot to be said for the doctrine of a restrospective mandate. I think that it was the present Government who were blamed for the previous Government's policies, if one wants it put in a sentence, but I must not allow myself to be diverted into such an attractive theme.

No one on this side of the House holds any brief for lowering educational standards or destroying good schools. We only ask secondary schools to adapt to the new situation, and by so doing tackle new tasks. They will need all the dedication of professional skill that they have previously shown. By applying these talents within the comprehensive system they can, for the first time within our generation, make a living reality of the aim of secondary education for all, which was one of the great aspirations embodied in the 1944 Act.

It is in that spirit that I ask the House to reject the amendment. I should have preferred to deal with this by agreement rather than by legislation. I still hope that the proposed legislation will in due course be found to have marked the end of controversy and that, with the law amended to reflect the overwhelming weight of educational opinion, we can apply ourselves to developing a system of comprehensive secondary schools which, along with other features of our educational system, such as primary schools and universities, will command the respect and admiration of educationists all over the world and enable our schools to make an even bigger contribution to our future economic viability as a nation. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to reject the amendment.

5.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my saying that after hearing his speech quite a lot of right hon. and hon. Members will agree that the acquisition of a first-class honours degree is not the be-all and end-all of excellence, as he described it.

At the end of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, the right hon. Gentleman listed some of the criteria which he thought my hon. Friends were using as the grounds for their case against what he is proposing. The more he read them out, the more accurate they seemed to be as grounds on which the House should accept the amendment.

I shall devote my remarks to local and parental wishes—something which the right hon. Gentleman glossed over quickly. The Secretary of State bases his case, as I understand it, on a system of comprehensive education which he is compelling all local authorities to adopt. To use his words, the system will be "less divisive and educationally sounder" The Secretary of State did not explain or amplify those remarks. He assumed that they were self-evident remarks, which he expected the House to accept, but I think the House should know why the Government consider that the adoption of their proposals will be educationally sounder and less divisive.

I hope that the House will forgive me if I spend a moment or two in dealing with my constituency case, because there the threat of the Government's proposals are symptomatic of something that is far wider. The whole question of the organisation of secondary education in Southend is being reviewed by Essex County Council. I know that sometimes the Secretary of State lists the council among the local authorities whose policies he finds unsatisfactory from his point of view. I understand from the council that approximately 97 per cent. of children of secondary school age in the old council area are already in comprehensive schools. It seems to me, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman is asking for rather a lot.

The old Southend County Borough system was one in which there were a number of grammar schools. After the reorganisation of local government, the Essex Education Authority became the education authority for Southend. The two policies were different. At present, Essex is reviewing the organisation of secondary education in Southend. I should have thought that what the authority is doing would commend itself to the Government and to the House. Instead of imposing its solution upon the people of Southend regardless of whether they like it or not, the authority is actually asking them what they want.

A referendum is now taking place among parents of children of school age in Southend, asking them what system of secondary education they would like to see in the future. The people are being offered three choices—first, whether they would like all the secondary schools to be organised to form a system of comprehensive schools for all pupils aged 11 to 18; secondly, whether to keep two of the existing grammar schools as selective schools but to organise the remaining secondary schools as comprehensive schools; and, thirdly, whether to keep broadly to the existing system of secondary organisation.

What the Government have done is to say, in effect, that, regardless of how the people of Southend vote, the Government will impose the solution that they think best, even if it is against the local wishes of the people concerned. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the right hon. Gentleman's argument on educational grounds, I ask him to admit that what he is proposing to impose on a local community, which may have strong views and which may wish to retain its grammar schools, is fundamentally antidemocratic. Surely the basis of the 1944 Act, and the system of secondary education we have had since that time, is the idea of a partnership between the Secretary of State, local education authorities and the parents themselves.

Here we have a situation in which a local education authority is actually going out to invite the views of the parents, the teachers, the Roman Catholic authorities, the area advisory committees, the governing bodies of all the schools concerned and the teachers' professional associations. It is holding a series of public meetings. Yet, at the end of the day, in view of what the Secretary of State proposes, is it not, in fact, a charade? Whatever may be the result of these consultations, is not the Secretary of State proposing to impose what he thinks best? Is not that exactly what local government should not be about?

We hear a great deal about devolution of power from Westminster to the Scots or the Welsh. We are told that some people wish to see regional assemblies for the English. But here is a practical example of a locally-elected education authority asking the people in its area exactly what form of education they would like. Am I take it, from what the Secretary of State said, that, whatever may be the answer of the people of Southend, they will not have their way if that choice happens to conflict with what he prefers?

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that in all local areas we should have a referendum on the type of education that people locally wish to have? Would the hon. Gentleman have had such a referendum, for instance, about the 1944 Education Act, on the question whether tripartite education was desired by people in various areas? Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I am not suggesting that at all. I understand that the necessity for the Bill is that the Secretary of State wishes to impose a system of education which all local education authorities, with the exception, I think, of seven, are following in any case. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to impose that system on the remaining seven authorities. Surely it must be an important part of the decision whether or not to support the Bill to know whether the people in those areas actually support what the Secretary of State is doing.

I well remember Government Ministers being much opposed to the Government taking over any part of the housing responsibilities of local authorities. I remember their screams of protest. Perhaps local housing authorities should not have any of their powers taken away. That is an arguable proposition. But it is a bit rough that in the same breath, when it suited the Government, the Secretary of State said that, on the other hand, their important education responsibilities concerning the organisation of secondary education should be taken away from them by the Government.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Does not the hon. Gentleman think it a bit rough that, having imposed that Housing Act, he should now complain that we are seeking, in a much less dramatic way, to interfere with local authorities?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I would go into the arguments about the Housing Act if I were in order, but I suspect that I should be out of order. I remember well that the related question of comprehensive education, or secondary reorganisation, was much to the fore in those debates. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to refresh his memory by reading some of those debates and seeing what was said at the time about that issue.

I am not opposed, in principle, to comprehensive education. If the people of Southend want comprehensive education, so be it. It has worked very satisfactorily in other parts of Essex and elsewhere in the country. But I am strongly opposed—as, I know, is my hon. Friend—to its imposition against the democratic wishes of the people of the locality concerned, that somehow they should be overriden, going back to the old days of the gentleman in Whitehall knowing best. That is what the right hon. Gentleman's proposals are seeking to do.

I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman has made any case whatsoever to show that the acceptance of his proposals will result in an education system which would be educationally sounder or less divisive, as he says. He proposes to ride roughshod over the wishes of local education authorities and parents in the areas concerned. On those grounds I, for one, shall be extremely happy to vote for the amendment.

5.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) say how well the comprehensive system was working in Essex and that grammar schools which are supposed to have been destroyed are now working thoroughly well as comprehensive schools. I am not sure how the authority will deal with the referendum. I assume that if 25 per cent. of the people want grammar schools and 75 per cent. want comprehensive schools, there will be 25 per cent. grammar schools—but I question whether the same children will be in them.

As a glutton for punishment, I listened the other day to the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) answering telephone calls on a radio phone-in programme. He admitted that a number of his party had different views on educa tion. He described himself as "extreme centre". That was an odd description—a most inaccurate one. Probably "extreme self-centred" would be more appropriate. He reminded us of the American senator, of whom the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) spoke at the beginning of this debate, who said that he had some friends who thought one thing and some friends who thought another, and that he agreed with his friends.

We have not yet had a clear view from the hon. Gentleman of where the Conservative Party stands and where he stands on the question of comprehensive education. He has been round the country fighting the introduction of comprehensive education, even in local authorities which were sold on the idea—Conservative local authorities, too, as he knew from the reception he received from Conservative local education authority members.

When I asked whether the Leader of the Opposition agreed or disagreed with 11-plus selection, she had no opinion on it. That remains the policy of the Conservative Party. In 1974, before the October election, the hon. Member for Chelmsford talked about extending direct grant schools and in each area—even where there are no direct grant schools now—putting 5 per cent. of the children into those schools, on a selective basis. I wonder whether that is still his view.

Without the hon. Gentleman, I believe that there would have been no need for the Bill mentioned in the Gracious Speech. Because of his activities in the country, it is almost certain that it will be needed. He ought to say whether he accepts the principle of the extension of comprehensive education, as the former leader of the Opposition did, or whether he will continue to fight against any further extension of it.

The Bill to be introduced in accordance with the Gracious Speech will deal with matters which have not been touched on since the 1944 Act. Having read some of the debates on the 1944 Bill, I find it amazing that that Act is now regarded as sacrosanct. In that Act Parliament told local authorities what they must do. It did not ask them. The local authorities did not say that this was interfering with their rights. There were local authorities who for 20 years had procrastinated on the reorganisation of schools into primary and secondary schools. There were all-age schools 20 years after the Hadow Report. The Government—a Coalition Government told local authorities that they must reorganise on the basis of a break at 11. They did that in the Bill that they were then passing, giving the Secretary of State control and direction of our education affairs.

Another phrase in that Act says that children should be educated according to their age, aptitude and ability. Perhaps we ought to consider that phrase again when we examine the Bill, as there are some grammar schools in which the bright pupil with an aptitude for drama, music and craft is not being educated. The Act is being broken every day in that respect.

Grammar schools are not being abolished.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

They are not being abolished. They are being changed. They are being asked to cater for children of all abilities, and some of them are afraid of the job—understandably, as they have had a very narrow field in the past. When they are asked to go comprehensive, it is surprising what additional facilites they want. One might have thought that the education of bright children according to their age, aptitude and ability had been going on, but it had not.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

If the hon. Gentleman's nature were fundamentally changed, does he think that he, as the sitting Member, would not be effectively abolished?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

I am not asking the Secretary of State to make me a "Six Million Dollar Man". I do not agree that changing the function of a school in this way destroys the school. The staff and the equipment are still there and they are being asked to educate children, which is their job. I shall support the Bill, even though I am tempted to say that we should let these seven authorities stew in their own juice and try to get staff for their secondary modern schools. I think that the Secretary of State would be failing in his duty if he did not now bring in a Bill, as the 1944 Bill was brought in, to bring reactionary local authorities up to date.

Far from concentrating debate on the wrong issues, as the hon. Gentleman claimed in his speech, we have tried to do the opposite. The education debates which the Opposition have introduced over the past 18 months have invariably been about a very small minority of people, about the direct grant schools and the public schools, and not about the main issues of education—and there are many problems affecting education at the moment.

To mention just one or two, there are the problems caused by a declining school population in certain areas. This is true of city centres. Large cities have always faced this problem, and the country as a whole will face it. There are those who shout that we are not training enough teachers, but Governments will have to recognise that a drop in the birth rate every year for 10 consecutive years must make some difference. Nevertheless, I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the extreme difficulties faced by those areas in which, because of the falling birth rate, slum clearance, and so on, the schools are losing pupils.

Maintaining a teacher quota is not enough. In cases where children are leaving school throughout the year because of clearance—schools may be losing 15 pupils in a year—deducting the number of teachers exactly according to the number of children can make matters extremely difficult. In some city centres, schools may have to be abolished because there are not enough children for the schools to be staffed. It gives those areas an opportunity for nursery education development and for further education, especially for those non-academic children who leave school at 16 and who, at present, do not get it.

Another problem facing us is that of examinations. In the past, the 11-plus examination produced some astonishing results. The passes later on, at the age of 16, have often borne no resemblance to what happened at 11 years of age. But the Schools Council's report, just issued, on the reliability of examinations at 16-plus, has as great an implication.

The report states that the figure for reliability in O-level examinations is 0·88. That means that the true score of anyone given a mark of 50 could be anywhere between 39 and 61—anywhere between a good pass and a fail. About 25 per cent. of pupils are getting the wrong grade. I believe that with those implications we should look closely at our examination system and the importance we attach to it.

There has been a great furore about education cuts, but real education cuts come with Conservative government—at local level as well as at national level.

I entered this House in 1967—the same year as the Conservatives gained control over the Manchester City Council. They cut the education bill by 2½ per cent. for that year, in the middle of the year, which meant savage reductions in certain spheres of education. Even though we cannot get the Opposition here to say what they mean by "cuts in public expenditure"—whether or not they really want cuts in education—the Tory finance spokesman in local authorities knows very well what he means by it. If the Secretary of State intends to use his powers of control and direction, we need to look closely at those authorities that do not fulfil their teacher quota during the next few months.

The danger of education cutting is that some local authorities will go far beyond what the Government are asking for—nil growth. I believe that the present Government got their priorities right when they accepted the Houghton Report on teachers' pay. All the rises which have resulted have meant a greater stability—especially, again, in the inner areas—in the staffing of schools, and I understand that the number of changes of staff this year is far fewer.

Education cannot be isolated from the general economy of the nation. The money must come from rates and taxes, mostly paid by people with around average incomes. We must recognise that education is an important investment for the future—possibly more important than some industrial investments. Those of us who campaign for the extension of education must accept that to do it means a diversion from other areas of public spending, or a further diversion from private to public spending.

5.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate and Banstead

The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) began his remarks by asking whether the Opposition supported the extension of comprehensive education or intended to continue to fight against it. The answer is that of course we shall support what local parents and electors want. That was one principle on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) decided Section 13 applications when they were put before her as Secretary of State.

A great number of parents will endorse the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), when he pointed to the amazing sense of priority shown by the statement of legislative intention contained in the Queen's Speech. Parents today have a great many anxieties about education and what is happening in schools. There are legitimate anxieties over the effect of the Government's spending cuts, particularly when compared with other areas of Government spending. There is anxiety over the preservation of academic standards. There is anxiety in many areas about the patterns of violence and disruption in our schools. There is anxiety over the lack of choice and, indeed, influence which parents have in many areas. Last, but not least, there is great anxiety over what is happening in further and higher education.

We can detect no comparable anxiety among parents in those areas where schools of high academic worth continue on the basis of some form of selection. The hon. Member for Gorton denigrates selection systems, but some very flexible systems have been developed by many local authorities. If anxiety to that degree existed in areas where some form of selection is still practised, we would have seen the effect long ago, with the rejection of those local authority members who have had the temerity to stand up to the Secretary of State's requirements of them.

In riding roughshod over the democratically expressed wishes of people in many parts of the country about their children's schooling, the Government are setting out on a very dangerous road. There will be consequences that many, even the Government's own supporters, do not fully realise. It is a fact that the universal imposition of the comprehensive principle has, in a great many areas, led to what are recognised and identified as neighbourhood comprehensives. That is fine and splendid if the neighbourhood is a good one, or, indeed, if it is of a mixed social character. However, the result in poorer areas is, more often than not, to create educational ghettos. In those circumstances there is no longer any chance for the brighter pupil to break out from his environment and to lift himself up through a selective school system offering an academically biased education. In future he will be totally imprisoned by that environment.

Are members of the Labour Party too blind to see that the effects of their policy in many of our cities will be to restore, indeed, buttress, the system of education according to wealth? We already know that a good school in a particular catchment area can make several thousands of pounds difference to property values in that area. The more wealthy parents seeking to move to a city look for that area which provides the best neighbourhood comprehensive, and buy their way into that area. That is already happening in several of our cities.

Inevitably, the question will be raised as to how to narrow this difference—how to prevent some schools from getting a larger share of the more able pupils and others being overcome by the character of their strictly defined catchment areas.

This is similar to the problem faced in the United States of America when they sought to enforce the principle of racial integration in their schools, even in areas of unmixed racial composition. The American solution was bussing. I warn hon. Members that in embarking on this policy of overriding locally expressed wishes about patterns of education, in support of some notion of imposed equality from the top, the Government are taking the first step along a road which could easily lead to the bussing of pupils in Britain.

All the arguments presented to justify the imposition of universal comprehensive education can, and, indeed, will, be used to justify the enforced drafting of pupils from one area of a city to another. Indeed, all the political pressures which lead to one, could easily lead to the support of the other.

In that connection I point to the experience within the Inner London Education Authority area. In 1972, ILEA embarked on a policy of seeking to ensure that all schools in the less popular areas got an equal share of the top ability pupils. Allocations were made by boards of ILEA officials, drafting pupils from one area to another in order to make up the desired quotas. The result was that by the autumn term of 1972 no fewer than 569 children in the ILEA area were being kept away from the schools to which they had been allocated against the express wishes of their parents.

If 569 pupils were kept away from school by parents who felt so strongly about it, how many hundreds more must have been attending their enforced schools under protest? The outcry over that policy was such that ILEA relented and reverted to a more humane system of allocation, although still with many defects. But the basic dilemma was unresolved.

By eliminating variety from our system the Government are discriminating against many poorer but able pupils. I ask the Under-Secretary, when she concludes the debate, to say whether, in principle, she favours neighbourhood comprehensive schools. By embarking on the course of enforcing particular patterns of schooling on particular areas, regardless of the parents' wishes, as expressed through their elected authorities, the Secretary of State is taking a dangerous step. If only those who support him would open their eyes and recognise the direction in which they are heading we should not hear any more of this legislation that we are promised this Session.

5.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

It will come as no great surprise to the House that the Liberal Party supports steady progress towards a non-selective system of secondary education. We have been consistent in that view since 1952. And the local authorities have had 10 years in which, voluntarily, to introduce comprehensive education. All, with the exception of Kingston-upon-Thames, have some comprehensive schools, and we think it right that the Secretary of State should now seek to have the power rather than the opportunity of persuasion to implement his policies.

There has been much discussion in the debate about the right of the Secretary of State to impose his will over that of local education authorities. If one looks at yesterday's Sunday Times, in which there was a rundown showing how individual local authorities intend to bring in these cuts, it seems absolutely right that the Secretary of State should retain these powers. Buckinghamshire, for instance, has come up with the splendid money-saving idea to have shorter summer holidays and longer Christmas holidays, the concept presumably being that Buckinghamshire kids would have a three-week summer holiday, so that no parent, unless he was very lucky, would be able to take a holiday with his children. And the Christmas holidays, in order to save heating and lighting in schools, would be of perhaps seven or eight weeks, which might well save money for the schools but would ruin the parents of the schoolchildren.

It is absolutely right that, if local education authorities intend to bring in that sort of legislation, the Secretary of State should retain the right to say "This is how it will be done." Perhaps how what is to be done will be implemented can be left to the local education authorities.

What we deplore most, as ever, is the two-party conflict, which does so little for the children. The Tory Party, which has frequently and steadily promised the reintroduction of direct grant schools, must realise what will happen in these establishments if the Conservatives win the next election. A direct grant school may have in the top two forms children who were selected and in the next three forms an all-ability intake which came in during the period of office of the Labour Government, and the youngest pupils will then be selected once more. The damage that that does to a child at school, and to the teachers trying to cope with a yo-yo situation of selection—all-ability, and selection again—is considerable. It does nothing for children. The one certainty is that the Tory education plans manifest a criminal neglect of today's children, whatever those plans may do for them in generations to come.

As for the Government, they must stop thinking that it is enough to indulge in ideological, heart-warming promises, because what is needed are greater resources to enable local education authorities to bring about the reality. One simply cannot go on advising cuts in education expenditure and the setting up of expensive watchdog committees to save money, and then force authorities to reorganise against the wishes of a substantial number of ratepayers.

The point made by the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) was a valid one, although taken to absurdity it becomes rather less valid. If every local authority had referenda, there could be hanging in one constituency and not in another. I need hardly go on. What would interest me very much would be to know whether the Southend referendum used the single transferable vote, which at least would give a lead to the country. Perhaps it is being done, and the hon. Member was unable to tell me.

The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) rightly said what a disaster bussing would be in this country. Is he unaware that many of his political friends are in favour of a voucher system, and that the great danger of a voucher system is the enormous extension of bussing that would be involved? There are other dangers in the voucher system, particularly that of being unable to plan ahead.

There was a letter recently in one of the Sunday newspapers in which the correspondent said how impossibly difficult a voucher system would be if more people wanted to send their children to a school which was already full. What on earth would be the difference between the system now, which may not be good, and the system then?

Photo of Mr Peter Fry Mr Peter Fry , Wellingborough

Surely the difference would be that under the voucher system the bussing would be voluntary. Under a scheme of comprehensive schools and bussing, it would be compulsory. I should have thought that as a Liberal the hon. Member would be in favour of voluntary bussing rather than compulsory bussing.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

That is a valid point. I personally feel that any bussing is objectionable. It is usually not the child but the parent who chooses the school. To commit a child to undertaking a long bus ride because a parent has picked a particular school would be wrong. But I admit that the hon. Gentleman's point is valid and one which I shall bear in mind when I next talk about bussing.

I should like to deal now with the question of teachers, which has not been talked about much so far. In a very good article, Nicholas Bagnall began by saying: There is plainly something wrong with the procedures which decide whether a teacher is fit to continue in his post. Till lately it had generally been assumed that there was a kind of teacher's freehold which could be terminated only if he was morally turpitudinous—light fingered with the cash or heavy-handed with the more attractive pupils—or was a lunatic. It is true that the reasons for which a teacher may now be dismissed have absolutely nothing to do with his competence as a teacher. This ought to be looked into much more carefully.

Mr. Bagnall goes on to make a plea for the revival of the unsuccessful 1971 Bill which was introduced by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) and in which he suggested that head teachers should have a seven-year tenure of office. I am sorry that that Bill was unsuccessful. Had it been successful, I would have wished for it to have been extended to include assistant teachers.

Anyone who knows about teaching realises how difficult it is for members of the teaching profession to undergo the transition from selective schools to all ability schools. But teaching was never meant to be—or said to be—an easy profession. I am sorry in many ways that so many teacher training schools are being closed, particularly those that afford in-service training. I visited one of those—St. Michael's in Salisbury—last weekend which resented not only being threatened with closure but the astonishingly ill-mannered and high-handed way in which it was done. It was suddenly informed, without any advance information by telephone, that it would not have a 1976 intake.

I spoke in Salisbury to some teachers in a comprehensive school and asked them about the difficulties which some of them who had come from selective educational establishments had encountered. I was particularly impressed by one when I asked him what it had been like going from a public school to a comprehensive school. He told me that at the public school he taught French; now he was at a comprehensive school he was teaching children. The most important aspect of teaching today is that a teacher is geared not so much to a subject as to the class that he teaches. His teaching is programmed to the individuals in his class. I am sorry that educational cuts have done nothing to help the teacher-pupil ratio.

I entirely disagree with the amendment, and we on these Benches will continue to support the Government.

5.53 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

I thought that today's debate would probably centre round the proposals about comprehensive education, and so far I have not been disappointed. I wish to raise two matters. One is referred to in the Gracious Speech, in the section on education, where the Government's pledge is that: Within available resources, they will give priority to children with special needs". I want to speak about 1½ million children with special needs, namely, the 3 to 4-year-olds who ought to be having nursery education.

When, the other day the Secretary of State said that in these difficult times the Government had to give priority to children of statutory school age, I was concerned. There is a clear need for much more discussion in the House, among those who are concerned, such as local education authorities and others, about what our priorities in education should be. This subject has enormous support from the teaching profession and from parents, but clearly it does not have the right priority in the Cabinet, in the Government or in the Department.

Unless we are watchful and keen to improve the resources to be made available, we shall find that we are presiding over the complete disintegration of what nursery education we have. Already the spectre of closed nursery schools is haunting us in many parts of the country. For generations we have been depriving ourselves of the basic foundation for a good State system of education.

One of the organisations of which I have the honour to be president used to be known as the Nursery Schools Association. It is now known as the British Association for Early Childhood Education—I always have to think twice before I get that complicated title out. The organisation was founded about 53 years ago, so it has been campaigning for over half a century for nursery education to be part of the State system.

What is the position now? We have 1½ million children who ought to be having some nursery education and we have about 95,000 nursery school places in England and Wales. Very clearly, we have not made much progress.

I give credit where it is due to the Labour Government after the 1964 General Election. Under the urban aid programme, they started a modest programme of nursery education in the most socially-deprived areas. That is fine, but we have not anywhere met that need. I give credit to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, who, when she was Secretary of State for Education, in her White Paper of 1972 for the first time earmarked an allocation of resources for the expansion of nursery education.

I give credit, too, to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, who, after the 1974 General Election, was able to provide another £4 million for nursery education to help towards the inflated costs of building and inflation generally.

The position now is that we find ourselves with a Labour Party that is basically more committed to the principle of nursery education than are the Government, and, as I reminded my hon. Friend in the House the other day, we fought the last two elections on an expansion of nursery education and the provision of some nursery education for the 3 to 5-year-olds whose parents wanted it.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

Will not the hon. Lady admit that, while the Minister for Overseas Development gave £4 million towards nursery education, unless a grant is made for on-going costs it is pretty pointless to give a local authority which has no money capital sums towards nursery education?

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

I intended to deal with that in a moment. I would just say that there is recognition of the nursery school revenue costs—current costs—in the rate support grant given to each authority, but I agree in part with the hon. Gentleman that we need to take a new look at the whole question of capital and current costs.

The position is that in many parts of the country there are reports of cut-backs by local education authorities which are most disturbing. On 27th October, in reply to a Written Question, the Secretary of State gave me the following information, and I think that this ought to be placed before the House today so that hon. Members concerned can take up the question with their own authorities which are refusing the allocations of resources that have been made to them by the Secretary of State on the basis of the priority list and the projects that those authorities submitted to the Department.

This is a very serious matter. Avon, Bromley, Croydon, Cumbria, Ealing, Hampshire, the Isles of Stilly, Northumberland, Redbridge, Salop, Trafford and Wiltshire have relinquished the whole of their nursery education building allocation for 1975–76. These authorities will not be building any new nursery classes at all. Bolton, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Coventry, Derbyshire, Havering, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Suffolk and West Sussex have relinquished part of the allocation.

Of those authorities which have relinquished all the allocation, some are in areas where there is a considerable degree of deprivation. I am sure that no one would deny that Redbridge and Trafford have problems. Wiltshire, which is largely a rural area, also has problems. Its nursery education record is bad. Somerset was offered £415,000 but has taken up only £15,000 of it. Coventry was offered £250,000 but has taken up only £70,000. Coventry's problems are acute. It is disappointing because Coventry local education authority decided to join the experiment of building nursery centres combining nursery schools and day nurseries. Here is a hopeful development for the future which will not only fulfil the education and care needs of the young child but also meet the needs of the families, where both parents work, and especially the needs of one-parent families, where the single parent, bringing up young children alone, wants to work. That is a serious situation.

For 1976–77 four authorities—Cumbria, Leicestershire, Redbridge and Wiltshire —stated that they will take up none of their allocation. Derbyshire has refused part of its allocation. Clearly there is a job for the involved Members of Parliament to do. The refusal of the allocation by some local education authorities has made it possible for some authorities to have a second bite at the cherry, and good luck to them. My own authority is one of them. The Inner London Education Authority has asked for another £300,000 with which to build more nursery schools and classes. I hope that ILEA receives that money. But that means that the spread of nursery education is still uneven. This perpetuates the uneven spread and the inequality, and we should be concerned about it.

Recently the Minister said: Perhaps my hon. Friend could use her considerable talents to persuade those education authorities that have not taken up their allocations for nursery education in the last year to do so, and to take up their allocations in future years."—[Official Report, 11th November 1975; Vol. 899, c. 1114.] I am doing my best. Through the organisations with which I am involved, I am encouraging parents to be tough with their local education authorities which refuse their allocations.

With respect, however, what is the Department doing to see that the money goes to those areas that have asked for it and should receive it? I think that we need new legislation about this matter. The Department of State for Education and Science should be responsible for all children between the ages of three and five and should provide nursery education on a part-time basis at least for them. There should be a properly planned programme with a properly costed target which the Government would aim to reach on a phased and planned basis.

I refer to the point made by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). Where a capital allocation is made, the local education authority should be required to use it for the purpose. Greater resources should be made available to enable those authorities to do just that, and greater resources should be made available, through the rate support grant or otherwise, to meet revenue costs.

What is happening about the pre-school advisory councils? Have they been set up? If so, where? Have they been consulted about the Government's programme and the nursery education target? Is the Department doing anything to produce plans to help local authorities to build nursery schools and classes at a much more reasonable cost? I am sure that much more could be done, but the Department seems to be laggard in all those respects.

There is another area, which is not a statutory requirement of a local authority, just as nursery education is not a statutory requirement. I refer to the support given to the arts by the local education authorities and by the Government. At a recent Press conference to launch the annual report of the Arts Council, the Chairman of the Arts Council said that to meet inflation and to enable the Council to do next year what it did this year, although with enormous difficulty, the Arts Council would need another £15 million, bringing the total to £50 million. Unless that amount is made available, many companies which now receive help from the Arts Council will close, and many more actors, musicians and artistes will swell the number of unemployed.

This is an area in which it has always been difficult to find employment. People working in the arts have always battled for jobs. Work is only offered to the small percentage who are always able to command work and high salaries. It appears that local education authorities must be persuaded and cajoled to support theatres, concerts and orchestras in their areas. Therefore, unless the Government are willing to come forward with more support, the survival of many theatres will be at stake.

Lord Gibson pointed out that the present grant to the Arts Council is less than The value added tax yield on gramophone records. If the Government are making a considerable amount of money out of people's expenditure on records, they can afford to be a little more generous to the arts. The non-subsidised theatre is in dire difficulties too. It does not receive support from the Arts Council. It must pay VAT, which is a burden. It would cost the Chancellor very little to grant relief from VAT to theatres. I hope that he will do so in his next Budget.

It is said that the cuts in expenditure affect what is only a minority interest. Here again local authorities and the Government have a responsibility to build up new audiences and make it a majority interest. We are doing little about that. I hope that the Minister will be able to help.

The Gracious Speech says: Proposals will be placed before you to provide a Public Lending Right for authors. According to my interpretation of the language used and the placing of items in the Gracious Speech, my guess is that that legislation will not be introduced in this Session of Parliament. It was promised. Why will it not be forthcoming?

There is another matter of immediate concern. What will happen to the Old Vic Theatre? The National Theatre Company is moving to its new theatre in March, if the move goes according to the umpteenth delayed plan. All those concerned an anxious that the Old Vic should remain as a drama theatre and should not be turned into a bingo hall or similar establishment. Many theatres supported by the Arts Council are interested in taking over the Old Vic. Touring companies which have no base in London are anxious to take it over. However, they need an additional grant to meet the costs of running the theatre. The Arts Council said that it could not find any extra money for those companies which it now supports. Here is a crisis. I hope that the Minister will give us help and guidance on this.

6.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Merioneth

I am glad to speak after the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) as I wish to emphasise the point she raised about the non-take-up of allocations for nursery education.

In Wales nursery education is provided not only through the medium of English; there is also an expanding movement by the local authorities and the voluntary sector to provide it through the medium of Welsh. The Welsh Language Council presented a report on this issue to the Secretary of State for Wales. Many of us are concerned that the recommendations of that report have been overtaken by the severe cuts in public expenditure, especially in education. Any hopes that we in the mudiad ysfolion meithrin, or pre-school play group movement, may have of seeing an equalisation of resources and opportunities in the nursery sector in Wales as a result of that report have been severely dashed.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East took the argument out of the earlier debate which centred on the question of compulsory comprehensivisation. My constituents do not consider that to be an issue, and that is also their view of the pay beds dispute which was debated at great length last week. There are only 60 pay beds in the whole of the National Health Service in Wales. When we have full self-government, there will be even fewer pay beds and an even smaller private sector not only in the National Health Service but in other sectors.

However, reverting to the question of compulsory comprehensivisation in secondary education in Wales, it is true to say that 90 per cent. of Welsh pupils already attend comprehensive schools. When progress is made in the few enclaves of Dyfed and some parts of Gwent which are still delaying comprehensivisation, there will be a complete comprehensive education system in the Welsh secondary schools. In my own constituency a sale is taking place in the building of a direct grant school which closed this year. That school closed primarily because the parents of children in Wales, and especially in my area, preferred the local comprehensive schools which have developed in the past 10 years as opposed to the direct grant school. We shall certainly warmly support any legislation which is brought forward in this direction and we look forward to being able to share with the rest of the United Kingdom the type of radical education system which we have in Wales.

We also look forward to the development of bilingual comprehensive education in Wales. It is important to stress in debates of this kind that not only must there be equality of opportunity as between class and income, but there must be equality of cultural and linguistic opportunity. The rights of parents who wish to have Welsh as the main medium of education for their children must be granted. This is happening already in the more progressive education authorities in Wales.

Moreover, there has been recent support for this view from other areas. For example, the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) clearly called for the expansion of education in the Welsh language in Gwent. We look for support for local authorities such as Gwynedd County Council, which has to bear the additional burden imposed by having a bilingual education policy and by trying to cater for the rights of Welsh and English speakers in Gwynedd. We look for support from the Welsh Office when we come to argue about the resources to be devoted to secondary education in Wales.

Photo of Mr Gwynfor Evans Mr Gwynfor Evans , Carmarthen

I should like to point out that there is a great need for financial support from the Government for providing bilingual secondary education in Dyfed. The one thing which is holding the Dyfed authority back is lack of resources. I hope that the Government will respond.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Merioneth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that most helpful interruption.

I note that the Gracious Speech refers to special emphasis being given to the vocational preparation for young people aged 16 to 19. I now turn to the need for rationalisation of qualifications. The Business Education Council has entered discussions with the CNAA in connection with the need to rationalise as between the Higher Diploma and the Diploma of Higher Education. It is confusing and wasteful to have too many educational qualifications of similar standing. Over the years there has been a great deal of confusion surrounding the standard of the HND. In some cases it has been accepted as an entrance requirement to an MA or MSc course, but other universities will recognise the HND only as providing exemption from the first year of a three-year degree course. Similarly, in some universities the Dip.HE is deemed as equivalent to the first two years of an honours degree course but in others it gives exemption for only one year.

It is regrettable that the Leader of the Opposition, when she was Secretary of State, sought to introduce the Diploma of Higher Education without first establishing clearly its relationship with the TEC and BEC higher diplomas. I hope that the present Secretary of State, when considering the position of these diplomas, will give priority to stating quite clearly the relationship between the courses. I understand that the Business Education Council has requested a joint meeting with the CNAA, the TEC Council and the Department to discuss this very issue. I should like the Minister to tell us what progress has been made in those discussions.

We are anxious to see the development of a flexible system of higher education, especially in Wales. We have discussed this matter with the Department on previous occasions. If responsibility for further and higher education was transferred to the Welsh Assembly—we shall find out on Thursday whether this will be so—we could have an integrated system of higher education in Wales. There is only one university in Wales. It is currently in the process of validating Dip.HE schemes in a number of new institutes of higher education, and only the courses at Glamorgan Polytechnic are validated by the CNAA.

It should therefore be possible to establish a system of diplomas at colleges throughout Wales suitable for TEC, BEC and Dip.HE standards, which would enable such holders to work at degree course level. That would mean that it would be possible for a student to transfer to a degree course right through the system. I hope that when considering the rationalisation of qualifications the Secretary of State will be able to ensure that these proposals are implemented.

We could go further in our attempt to rationalise higher education. When the Labour Party is in opposition it is well known for its radical ideas. In 1973 the Opposition's Green Paper on higher education referred to the need to set up higher education commissions to oversee expenditure in higher education, including the university sector. I should like to know whether the present Government have any intention of reading that Green Paper and bringing forward some proposals, because those put forward in the Green Paper would be an effective method—in the light of the current position of public expenditure on higher education—of reallocating resources between the various sectors—the public and university sectors. Moreover, they would also ensure joint use of resources, especially in centres such as Bangor where there are a number of education institutions and the resources should be shared.

We are looking forward to a clear statement from the Secretary of State to the effect that the college of education in Bangor will be allowed to continue to develop as an institution providing higher education in the public sector through the medium of Welsh and providing a core of teacher training diversifying into other forms of higher education training. We look forward with great optimism to a statement from the Secretary of State on this matter in the near future. We hope that his state-men will provide us with more hope than was provided in the recent letter from his Department to Gwynedd County Council.

I turn to the reference in the Gracious Speech to provisions for "children with special needs." I hope that that reference also includes special needs within further education. I apologise to the House for not being present when the Gracious Speech was delivered, but last Wednesday I had the privilege of chairing an important conference of the North Wales Society for Mentally Handicapped Children. That conference centred on the need to expand further education provisions for the mentally handicapped. It appeared to me that there is a lack of co-operation between the personal social services departments of local authorities and their adult training centres in the further education sector. It may be appropriate for the Department now to issue a further circular advising local authorities how they could ensure that further education colleges can provide effective courses of this kind.

There is only one further educational issue to which I should like to refer briefly, because I observe, Mr Deputy Speaker, your gentle admonition. I am concerned about the proposals for school transport which the Department is considering and tossing out to local authorities, because they represent the introduction of yet another means-tested benefit There will be a general charge, but there will also be an exemption. We know that throughout the services provided by local authorities for which there are charges the rate of take-up of exemption is extremely low. The Department is introducing yet another charge which will have an exemption system. I hope that the Department will look at these proposals again and ensure that, if free school transport is abolished, the take-up of any exemption is higher than it is at present.

I shall not detain the House on other aspects of the Gracious Speech but I should like to make one more comment. That Speech, which I compared carefully over the weekend with the Labour Party's manifestos of last year, represents the small print of those manifestos being implemented, because the big print has been left out or totally forgotten.

I should like to make our position clear on the basic question of the priority given to the Welsh Assembly by making one quotation: For 50 years Wales has argued about devolution. The time for arguing is coming to an end; Wales expects action. Those are the words not of my hon. Friends or myself but of the Secretary of State for Wales in the Western Mail on 15th April last year.

On the basic economic and social issues as a whole, there is no programme in the Gracious Speech. Whereas we support individual pieces of legislation, we shall oppose the Gracious Speech tomorrow night, not for the reasons of the Conservative Party, because it goes too far, but because it does not go far enough. In doing that we shall be expressing the views not only of our supporters but of the majority of the supporters of the Labour Party.

6.22 p.m.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I regret having missed the first five minutes of the Secretary of State's speech this afternoon. That was due to the fact that flights from Scotland were unavoidably cancelled.

I should like to refer to the statement in the Gracious Speech that My Government will seek to consolidate the improvements they have made to the statutory school system. I very much fear that the Government will be unable to follow through the consequences of their own policy in Scotland.

I shall take the example of one Scottish school which represents a test case for all grant-aided schools in Scotland—the Mary Erskine School in my constituency. That school has an excellent record. At present the Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh, which owns the school, has voluntarily offered to sell it to the Lothian Regional Council for the price put upon it by the district valuer—namely, £2,750,000.The Labour chairman of the education committee has asked for an increase in the capital investment allocation to the Lothian Regional Council to make this purchase. He asked for a decision by 4th November as a matter of urgency. So far no decision has been made.

We appreciate that, at a time when public expenditure is being cut to the bone, the money may not be available. If, however, the Government intend to tell us that the Mary Erskine School must be bought by the regional council for nearly £3 million and that money must come from the existing allocation for educational provision already made for Edinburgh, it will cause intense resentment in many parts of the city, because it will mean that Edinburgh's education system, which has many projects scheduled for development, will be set back by many years.

If the Government refuse the money for the purchase and it does not go ahead, the Merchant Company will in due course be compelled to put up the fees and there will be yet another exodus of children from its schools into the already overloaded comprehensive schools. As it is, one grant-aided school in Edinburgh—John Watson's School—has already been compelled to close and the children have had to be accommodated at other schools in Edinburgh.

I beg the Government to remember that irreparable damage can be done to children's future careers by forcing parents to withdraw them from school at a crucial time in their education. Since it is families with modest means who will suffer, as the richer families will be able to pay the increased fees, I implore the Government to look at and to think again about this policy.

The Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot on the one hand say that they want to encourage grant-aided schools in Britain to come into the State system and on the other hand flatly refuse to give the money which would make that policy possible. The Government have already created a massive upheaval in Edinburgh's education system, and my constituents fear that they have embarked on a policy of educational vandalism.

There is a way out for the Government. If they are determined not to increase the grant, which we would like them to do, and flatly refuse to provide funds, they could at least ensure that local authorities sponsor some of the places in grant-aided schools, the method of selection to be determined after consultation.

What is inexcusable is for the Government to delay or refuse to make any decision. The outcome is appalling uncertainty which is disturbing for the teachers, unsettling for the pupils and unfair for the parents. Indeed, the Government's handling of the Mary Erskine School represents an appalling advertisement for all grant-aided schools in Scotland which may be thinking of opting for the State system. I request the Government to announce without further delay the fate which awaits the Mary Erskine School so that the parents will at least be able to plan ahead for their children's future.

6.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Guy Barnett Mr Guy Barnett , Greenwich

My knowledge of the problems of the education systems of Scotland and Wales is rather limited. However, even if it were extensive, I have the feeling that the hon. Members for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) would not welcome my views on what they have said. Therefore, I am sure they will excuse me if I do not follow up their remarks.

The hon. Member for Merioneth made some interesting remarks about higher education. I know of his competence in that sphere. I wish that I shared it and was able to comment on it. But I should like to welcome, as he did, that lately in the debate we have turned away from the argument which seems to have gone on between the Labour and Conservative Parties during the whole of my adult life.

It seems a pity that, when we have the opportunity of debating the Government's education policy for the coming year as outlined in the Queen's Speech, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) should devote a large part of his speech to this one piece of legislation upon which he has spoken previously on many occasions and that the Secretary of State should spend so long replying to arguments which, after all, have been put repeatedly over a long period. Those arguments may be refined as more evidence comes our way, as other hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short), pointed out, but there are immediate problems in our education system with which the House ought to be grappling today. It is those problems with which I want to deal.

Before turning to those problems, I should like to make one general comment regarding the whole argument about comprehensive education. The argument is simple. We are operating in a period when ceilings are being placed upon educational expenditure so that there is not sufficient money to do all that we want to accomplish. The hon. Member for Chelmsford made the point that we could spend yet more money on education but that the money is not available. I am concerned to ensure that our resources, in terms of buildings and, more particularly, teachers, are used in the most economic and effective way possible.

The Inner London Education Authority is the authority which I know best. One way of ensuring that teachers at sixth-form level are used in the most economic way is to move towards a comprehensive system as quickly as possible. In comprehensive schools and, indeed, some grammar schools in my constituency and elsewhere in Inner London, there are sixth form classes which are too small. I should have thought that this problem could be lessened by moving towards comprehensive education. I mention that matter only in passing, because it is relevant to my main argument.

The Government, for reasons which we all know, are asking local authorities to limit rigidly and not to allow any increase in expenditure on the various services which they run, particularly education. But the House needs to be constantly reminded of the difficulties which face any large organisation when it is suddenly asked to alter its general level of expenditure either upwards or downwards. This is particularly true of a service such as education, which is dependent to a large degree on highly trained and skilled manpower.

Not so many years ago we were quickly expanding our education system, but we came across difficulties because we lacked the buildings and staff to make that expansion possible. Now we suddenly want to put a brake on that expansion. This creates all kinds of problems in our education system and can lead local education authorities to make decisions or to take actions which can have serious consequences, because those decisions can be taken only over a period of time.

I give one example which affects the Inner London Education Authority. It has already been said that the resignation rate among ILEA teachers has dropped dramatically. The resignation rate in primary schools last summer was 36 per cent. below what it was a year previously. In secondary schools it was 41 per cent. below what it had been the previous year. This was a totally unexpected change.

The Inner London Education Authority had no reason to expect that sudden change in the number of teachers whose services it would not have in the following year, and, therefore, it had to base its recruitment policy on the assumption that resignations would be roughly at the same rate as they were the previous year. This immediately created problems because, apart from anything else, the Inner London Education Authority is one of the authorities with a declining school population.

Circular 10/75, issued by the Department of Education and Science, says: Those authorities with a falling population"— that relates to the school population— should reduce their teaching staffs proportionately. We can imagine the kind of problem that this created in London, especially if we bear in mind that London has, perfectly reasonably, given an undertaking and guarantee to about 200 Bachelor of Education students that they will have jobs with the Authority in the summer of 1976.

It is already the case that ILEA is 250 teachers "over the top". This illustrates the difficulties with which it is faced. It is probably right for ILEA to be over by that amount, although I do not know whether it is legal. However, it demonstrates clearly that it is quite impossible for the best education authorities suddenly to alter their dispositions in the light of a sudden demand which springs from considerations which are not educational but are concerned with the running of the economy.

The consequence is that in the colleges of education, where students are being trained in their third and sometimes fourth year, there is practically no expectation of any jobs whatever within ILEA in 1976. What are those students to do? Again, there is a good deal of concern and upset among education lecturers in the colleges. How long will their jobs last?

I want to emphasise that we have locked up in this country, and local authorities have within their responsibility an enormous quantity of educational capital. I refer to the college of education lecturers with their experience and training, teachers, some with experience and some who will be newly trained, and a large number of individuals who are highly skilled and trained at public expense.

We cannot suddenly put on the brakes in the education system. We have to think a good deal more carefully and imaginatively about what we are trying to do. For instance, what proposals can be put to local education authorities about what to do with redundant college of education lecturers? There are possibilities in that direction. Over the years, at enormous public expense, the Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations has done a vast amount of curriculum development work. Would it not be a good idea, as much of this work has not yet found its way into schools, for a number of college of education lecturers to visit schools and promote these ideas and the results of the research that has been done by the Schools Council? That is only one suggestion.

I ask that we use a little more imagination and sense in trying to plan the levelling-off of education expenditure and try to ensure that the capital that we have—and it is capital that we are talking about—is not wasted.

Not so many years ago my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment was positively screaming for married women who had reared their families to undertake training and so be available to fill the gaps in the education service. A number of married women responded. Some in my constituency trained at the Rachel McMillan College of Education. Those women are not merely trained but, as mature women who have brought up children, are eminently suited for educational work.

A statement issued by the Leader of the Inner London Education Authority—I do not blame him for it—states that some part-time teachers would not be employed or would have less work. This has been forced on him by Government policy. As taxpayers and ratepayers, we have spent enormous sums of money to make it possible for those married women to be trained and made available to the education service. Now, apparently, we propose to make little or no use of them. These very teachers are immobile and need to have jobs relatively close to their homes because they still have family responsibilities. I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that in his dealings with local education authorities he is as sensitive as possible to their demands and special problems, and thereby ensure that as a country we do not waste this capital.

The Government's White Paper "The Attack on Inflation", which heralded the Government's economic policies, states that the Government are trying to cure inflation to make money available for investment. I am referring to investment that we have made over the years. I want to see that investment used to the best possible effect in the teaching of our children so that those who come on to the labour market have a basic education standard, with skills that will make the labour force of the future better trained and more capable than it has been in the past.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) referred to the bottom end of the educational ladder. She was concerned about the nursery schools. However, I am concerned about the "rising fives", particularly in urban areas. I dare say that my right hon. Friend is aware that the Association of Metropolitan Authorities is deeply concerned about this and believes that the provision for "rising fives" in urban areas should be maintained. I should like to know the position on that.

I have referred to the problem which faces ILEA of the number of teachers who may find themselves unemployed next summer. My right hon. Friend may not know, and perhaps I should declare an interest, that since I last spoke on educational subjects in this House I have become consultant to the National Union of Teachers. I am proud to have been given that office because I have been a member of that trade union for over 20 years. The National Union of Teachers is naturally deeply concerned, not merely because it represents its members but because of the enormous capital that is likely to go to waste if a considerable number of teachers find themselves without a job next summer. I am told that the figure at that time could be anything between 5,000 and 7,000 teachers.

I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, so far as he can as Minister in dealing with local education authorities and as a Minister in dealing with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to demonstrate a need for sensitivity in this matter and a recognition of the fact that it is well night impossible for schools or local education authorities to make sudden changes in the light of economic circumstances and that these things can be done only over a period of time.

6.40 p.m.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I should like to confine my remarks to the proposed introduction of the Bill to end selection in secondary education, and I want to make two political points. One of them was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). That is that this is again increasing the power of collective central Government at the very time when we are having this great argument about devolution. I believe that the demand for devolution has arisen not because there is too much government from London but because there is too much government from anywhere, and that people can be over-governed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is a disagreement—a vested interest in it, we presume. However, a Government continuing to increase power centrally and taking more power away from the fringes and the periphery will only increase the problems that exist. It is playing into the hands of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford).

The second political point is that in any society that is going to make progress there must be experimentation. One should not get to the point of stagnation—although there is the sweet smell of decay in this country at present. There are experiments taking place, from which improvements come, whereas the idea now is that all the schools must be the same, as if people have discovered the alchemist's secret and the Holy Grail and as if the millennium were here and there is to be no change.

I remind Labour Members, including the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short), that if there had been an insistence upon a total bipartite system without the experimentation for comprehensive schools, there would have been no experiment. The beginnings of the comprehensive school, in Anglesey, the Isle of Man, London and Coventry, simply came because there was freedom for experimentation. That is now being stopped, as if this were the end of the line. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Labour Members have not agreed with my political reasons, obviously.

I turn to the educational reasons. All one can say at the beginning is that a comprehensive school is simply another form of secondary school education which in the long run will be proved either better or worse than, or the same as, the preceding schools'. It is only on this criterion, and not on party dogma, that it should be assessed. Undoubtedly, in the Isle of Man and Anglesey, where the comprehensive was first tried, it appeared to be a success. I am not convinced that it is a success in our cities, despite the figures that have been given by the Secretary of State. I should like to have a private discussion with him about those figures. I could quote others from a year ago from Sheffield. Mention was made of the number of first-class honours degrees from Sheffield schools. I believe that it was six years ago that Sheffield went comprehensive, so unless the Sheffield authorities educate their children in two or three years to go to university at the age of 13 or 14, this has nothing to do with comprehensive education.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

It has this to do with it. It means that those who got first-class degrees this summer did their sixth form work in a school organised as a comprehensive school. Some of the criticism of comprehensive schools, including the hon. Gentleman's, is exactly to the point that the schools do not cater properly for talented children in the sixth form.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I shall be interested in the number of degrees won in the next five years. One could have a continuous argument about this. I hope that the Secretary of State is right. I am not convinced that he will be proved right. The figures of other authorities should be published, and there should be a survey on which the decision is made. The Labour Party is following justification by faith and not by works. There must be an assessment of what is happening. The results from the ILEA should be published, and we should see what is happening in other parts of the world.

I am told that the Secretary of State has recently visited Poland, so perhaps I do not have to raise a sum of money to send him to Eastern Europe to see selective schools, and there are some excellent selective schools in Russia. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman visited an excellent school in Poland. I hope that we shall hear later of the advantages of reverting to selection as they are considered by the parents there on retreating from the comprehensive system. We have to examine and assess and to make our judgment. This is being done by the Labour Party not because of educational ideas but because of the intention—and I do not accuse the party of ill motives—to act as guardians of the people, and so the Government are moving towards becoming the tyrants of the people by centralised power. They are doing something similar in medicine, by the ending of pay beds and eventually by ending private medicine, and similarly ending private schools.

What happens next? Labour Members who may read the Daily Telegraph will have seen that the edition of this morning was certainly worth reading, as was The Times of last Wednsday. John Izbicki wrote in the Daily Telegraph today, Let them have Socialist cake. But this is yellow cake forced down our throats. We are being given no choice if we move to a completely State system. The British United Provident Association has made arrangements for a hospital possibly to be built in Malta. However, the Government will stop the money going out. The sequence of events is obvious. The domino theory is there.

Perhaps Labour Members would like a totalitarian society, but my hon. Friends do not like the idea. We like the continuance of a free society. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when the Roman Catholic Church was persecuted, priests had to be moved secretly during the night and put into priest holes. We may reach the point within 20 years of having doctor holes and tutor holes. They will not be in council flats in London. They will be in remote areas in which tutors and doctors move at night in fear of State persecution. I have no doubt that this could happen.

It is just the same with the centralised collapse of the Post Office. Dear old ladies will not get their post this Christmas because of the mail monopoly. And there is to be a similar closing of railways and public services. Why should we not have pirate bus services? Unless we do we shall cut off some places so that they become like medieval villages.

Perhaps I may ask the Secretary of State—[Interruption.]—without the assistance of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), what the total abolition of selection in secondary education means. Does it mean that pupils all go to the same school, or, as some of his Labour friends in London want, no selection within a school in any way? Some are saying that unless every child can learn Latin, no one should learn it, and the same goes for physics and so on. Some are saying that there should be no choice with languages and that everyone should do the same thing. Perhaps we shall have mixed-ability football teams, and all pupils playing for the assembly in turn, humming a tune one day and then burping it the next day. Does it mean that we are allowed to have selection by choice and temperament inside the schools?

Finally, it is interesting to see how Labour Members now rally to central Government against local discretion, when one considers how different it was when we had the Clay Cross martyrs. Then a Bill went through Parliament—I am not suggesting that Sutton and Kingston-upon-Thames should disobey the new education legislation if it becomes law—and Labour Members defended the right of local authorities to disobey that law and they made martyrs. If there is any consistency in politics, and honesty if not political chastity, those who defended that then will similarly rally to the defence of freely and locally elected authorities to run the schools that they want. If not, double standards and hypocrisy come further into politics.

6.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arnold Shaw Mr Arnold Shaw , Redbridge Ilford South

I find it difficult to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boy son). The only conclusion to which I can come from what he said is that when we have the totalitarian State that he suggests, eventually we shall find that the comprehensive school does not really work and so we shall have the elite school as set up, as he suggests, in Poland and in Russia. I object to the elite school whether it is in capitalist Britain or Communist Russia, because the intention is exactly the same. I believe in a comprehensive system. Everyone should have the right to the same facilities and the same opportunities in our education system.

I see no reason to be surprised that the Opposition have picked on the part of the Gracious Speech which deals with the introduction of legislation to compel local auhorities to introduce schemes for secondary reorganisation. Previous Labour Governments have made it quite clear that that is Labour's intention. However, I am surprised that the Opposition have been surprised that this matter has been introduced into the Gracious Speech.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) at least paid some tribute to the Government's intentions in other respects. For example, he showed concern for the handicapped child and mentioned children who attend nursery school. I appreciate the hon. Member's sincerity in this matter, but I wish that he would do me the favour of writing to the Chairman of the Education Committee of Redbridge Council to ask him kindly to restore the nursery provision in Redbridge which is being cut out. Perhaps he will also ask him to open the brand-new school for educationally subnormal children which is opposite where I live. It seems that children will not be admitted to that school because the authority says that it does not have the money. Redbridge Council is going well beyond its remit in the cuts which it is proposing to make not merely next year but this year. It could well bring such schools within its programme.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

The hon. Gentleman has made a most important accusation. Does he not realise that as the money is not earmarked for any particular educational function, and as his own Government are putting the screws on local authorities, the result is that the authorities are having to cut back? That is why buildings such as ESN schools stand empty. The authorities do not have the money to cope with the recurrent maintenance and staff costs involved in ESN schools, nursery schools or anything else.

Photo of Mr Arnold Shaw Mr Arnold Shaw , Redbridge Ilford South

I have made a valid point. The Redbridge Council is cutting more than it should cut. In fact, the money could have been provided within the grant which it was likely to get next year.

The issue that has been made of the independence of local authorities is humbug. Of course it has been raised before. I remember that a similar attack was made in 1966. I remember that occasion because at that time I first became a Member of this House. The charge was made by the then Member for Birmingham, Handsworth, now Lord Boyle, and refuted by the then Secretary of State. He denied that he was acting as an ogre and pointed out what had taken place under previous Tory Ministers responsible for education—namely, the late Dame Florence Horsbrugh and Sir David Eccles, as he then was.

The Present Leader of the Opposition was the Minister who stamped on local education authorities as Secretary of State for Education and Science. The way in which she treated the schemes put up by local education authorities wants some examination. She particularly stamped on local education authorities concerning school milk.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to be fair. In fact, my right hon. Friend confirmed the majority of the schemes that were put to her. She came in for a great deal of criticism because she did not veto more schemes. Is there not a difference in principle between retaining the right of veto, on which there is common ground between both sides, and introducing a measure which would take away from local authorities the right of initiative in organisation?

Photo of Mr Arnold Shaw Mr Arnold Shaw , Redbridge Ilford South

The charge has been made that the independence of local authorities is being threatened by the present Minister. I am saying that this independence has been threatened over and over again by previous Tory Ministers. The last Tory Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is now Leader of the Opposition, did not alter anything. There is nothing new in the Government's intention. In the Gracious Speech in 1966 the declaration was made that the Government would promote further progress in the development of comprehensive secondary reorganisation. In my maiden speech I welcomed that declaration.

Opposition Members who have forgotten what we mean by comprehensive secondary education should be reminded of our objectives. In my maiden speech I welcomed the forthright declaration of the then Secretary of State for Education and Science when my right hon. Friend said: We believe that selection at 11-plus is totally unjustifiable on educational grounds, on social grounds and even, fundamentally, on moral grounds. While I am certain that we shall achieve the objective by co-operation with local authorities, it is for that reason that we propose to go firmly on with our steady policy of eliminating the 11-plus and achieving genuine equality of opportunity through comprehensive re-organisation."—[Official Report, 25th April 1966, Vol. 727, c. 496.] That same Minister, the present Secretary of State for the Environment, set up the Public Schools Commission under the chairmanship of Professor Donnison. The Commission reported in 1970. It clearly underlined the objectives laid down by my right hon. Friend. It is significant that in 1970 very little was done to implement those recommendations. The report said: But once we have decided to enable all children to take their education as far as they can go, we cannot accept early selection and segregation of a minority deemed fit for opportunities of advanced education—the traditional grammar school. It would be illogical and self-defeating if central and local government were to bend their efforts towards creating a comprehensive educational system while simultaneously supporting schools outside that system which frustrate its development. We concluded that schools which intend to secure continuing support from public funds, for themselves or their pupils, must participate in the movement towards comprehensive education That is clear enough. I accept the judgment of those who served on the Commission rather than the judgment of the hon. Member for Brent, North.

The case for comprehensive secondary reorganisation has been made. As has been pointed out, a great deal of development and progress has been made. It is not so much a question of welcoming the legislation which is to be introduced as saying that, although we welcome it, we thought that it might have been introduced a long time ago. It is not merely a case of introducing legislation to require the submission of schemes for reorganisation; it is also necessary to make certain that the schemes are implemented within a reasonable time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) mentioned my authority, Redbridge—one of the seven. I know the situation there, having been on the council during the long struggle. The Tory majority has fought a running battle over the years with Labour on this question. There were those in the majority who set their faces steadfastly against the implementation of any comprehensive system—by comparison, the hon. Member for Brent, North would be a moderate—and there were others who were prepared to go some way. Eventually the moderates won and it was decided to go comprehensive except for two elite grammar schools serving about 7 per cent. of the secondary school population. That is the scheme that the Minister finds unacceptable.

Recently the news reached the chairman of the education committee that the Minister intended to "take Redbridge apart" in the sense that it would be required to go comprehensive. The chairman was alarmed, and according to the local paper, the Ilford Recorder, said: We deplore any monopoly situation in education. We want to reopen to parents the choice of opting into the new-style grammar schools if they wish. I can imagine no more fatuous statement. If all the parents opted into these two "new-style" schools, parental choice would be impossible. There would be a virtual bloodbath in Redbridge as some people rushed to get their children into those schools.

The Government have already made some welcome progress towards the abolition of selection by the ending of the direct grant. Might we not go a little further and end all State aid to schools in the private sector? Might it not be that solicitude for the grammar school and the direct grant school is more than merely solicitude? Might it not be that they are regarded as a forward bastion in the defence of the public schools? Might people not be being mislead about the necessity for maintaining them, so as to keep the last vestiges of educational privilege?

The hon. Member for Chelmsford mentioned the phone-in in which he took part. I did not hear all that he said about it, but I heard his statement that, when someone asked him about the direct grant schools, he suggested that they should go independent as a holding operation until a Tory Government restored the direct grant. He suggested that local authorities might meanwhile take up places in them. My reading of the intentions behind any legislation is that selection would be unlawful. Therefore, how could anyone select the children to take up places in the private sector?

The Daily Telegraph recently published a review of a book by the hon. Member for Brent, North, who has been writing and "Black Papering" for some time now, in which he said that there had been a rapid rush over the last 25 years from the public to the private sector. I therefore asked a Question on this matter and was told that from 1949–50 to 1974–75 the number of pupils entering maintained primary and secondary schools had risen from 1,130,000 to 1,490,000 and that the number entering the private sector had remained static at 50,000. So I cannot understand the hon. Member's reasoning. That is probably tied up with the type of speech that he made today.

We on this side warmly welcome the introduction of such legislation as is envisaged.

7.8 p.m.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I listened with what patience I could muster to the speech of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw), but the one thing that I wanted to hear he did not tell us—why there would be a bloodbath if the two grammar schools in Redbridge were retained. Apparently we must remain in ignorance, although I suspect that we could all make our own guesses.

I found profoundly depressing the part of the Queen's Speech that dealt with education, and there was no shaft of light in the Secretary of State's speech; if anything, the gloom thickened. Both the Gracious Speech and that of the Minister were complacent where they should have been alert, and over-enthusiastic where they should have been cautious.

I would have hoped for caution about the compulsory spread of comprehensive education. I do not propose to deal with the wisdom or otherwise of forcing local authorities to go comprehensive, but I should like to deal with one or two practical issues involved. I speak with experience as a chairman of a local education authority, 10 years ago, actually charged with a scheme which looked likely to work and would not jeopardise the children in our care. One of the difficulties was the lack of finance then available. It is a mistake which the Government have seen fit to perpetuate 10 years later.

We are told that £25 million will be available to assist, but the Secretary of State, trying to fend off a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), let the cat out of the bag when he said that the £25 million had been over-subscribed three times. This is an indication of the inadequacy of the sums of money available. It must be emphasised that it is hopeless trying to get comprehensive education off the ground if there is insufficient money for the conversion of schools. It is no use coupling schools and describing them as "comprehensive" without providing them with the necessary facilities. This is a recipe for disaster.

Strangely enough, there was nothing in the Secretary of State's speech about the forms that comprehensive education might take. One might have thought that with 65 per cent. of children now in comprehensive schools and a body of experience building up there would have been something to show which forms were best. There was no word about the problems arising from the large schools with which some parts of the country are now saddled. There was nothing about the factory-like atmosphere that this engenders, or the intimidating effect this can have on the shy and nervous child, or the glorious opportunities it affords to those who try to escape education and find that they can easily do so, running in and out of the numerous doors of a large comprehensive school. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) can probably give us some good information on this, as the former head of a large school.

What is worse is the failure of the Government either to make any inquiry or to offer to do so in the near future. Surely, if the comprehensive system is as fine as they would have us believe, there is everything to gain from going into the subject and presenting the facts in the form of a report, with statistical backing. One wonders why the Government are so shy about doing this. Is it because they are less sure than they would have us believe that all is well in the comprehensive garden?

There was a remarkable lack of information in the Gracious Speech about certain other aspects of education which, I know, are worrying parents. I thought that there was complacency in the sentence: My Government will seek to consolidate the improvements they have made to the statutory school system. One is tempted to ask, rudely, "What improvements?" Certainly there appeared to be no time to spell them out this afternoon. Perhaps some information will be given to us later this evening. The Secretary of State conceded—I quote from memory, so it may be a paraphrase—that no one in the Government held any brief for lowering educational standards. For small mercies, I suppose, we must be grateful. I would have liked to hear the right hon. Gentleman make a more positive defence of the value of educational standards and of discipline, without which no educational standards are possible.

Here I speak as a former teacher. Nothing can be more daunting than a class of children who are not attending, and where discipline has to come before all else. Then it is well-nigh impossible to din anything into them or to get any thing out of them. Certainly there is worry, not simply about discipline but even about violence in schools. It is worth noting that the National Association of Schoolmasters—a body with an increasing membership and a reputable union—has brought out two reports, one on discipline in schools and one on violence, based on a survey of its members. To those concerned with standards and discipline, both reports make disquieting reading. We would never know anything about this from speeches made by Ministers in the Education Department.

Only recently I heard the head of a comprehensive school give a fine rundown on the problem of discipline and violence. I have no reason to believe that he was a Conservative supporter, or was biased in favour of the Conservatives—if anything, the opposite was the case. His point was that he was less concerned about violence than about general disruption which he felt was widespread and, if anything, growing. He instanced such things as children being late for class so that a 40-minute period was whittled to 35 minutes or 30 minutes of actual teaching. He spoke of pupils arriving for a lesson without their books, so that, again, they could not do their work properly. There was general insolence and insubordination and, of course absenteeism and truancy.

We are well aware that the information on truancy and absenteeism—I take it that the terms are interchangeable—is scarce. I hope that the Department is making an effort to obtain reliable figures. The difficulty is that no school wants its record on such matters—if it is not a good one—to be brought into the light of day. Therefore, it has to be dragged out. It is no use allowing the school to do the job itself. Someone else has to come in and do it, preferably the school inspectorate. That too can have a damaging effect on standards.

The same head reckoned that someone losing even a day or so at fairly regular intervals between the ages of 5 and 16 could lose the equivalent of a year of academic work. These are the things that go unnoticed—the odd day off—not the absence of those pupils who stay away for a fortnight or more, which is much more easily noticed. There needs to be a much greater follow-up of those who are occasionally absent. Clearly, there is no easy solution to the problem of discipline and standards. What worries me more than anything else is the refusal of the Government to admit that there is a problem. Unless there is an admission of the problem, no one will set about finding solutions to it.

Standards, too, are of immense concern. There was no mention in the Gracious Speech of any encouragement of adult literacy. We know that this is an extremely worrying business. There are probably several million people who are unable to read or write properly, or at all. The BBC has a very good series dealing with this, and I know that my city of Plymouth operates a lively and excellent scheme, whereby volunteers try to teach people skills which they have never had. This is probably true of a number of authorities.

What an indictment of our present educational system that such remedial work is necessary. Let us remember that these are not all elderly people. A great number are youngsters, who would have been brought up in the present era when universal education was supposedly available but obviously not always taken advantage of. If the Secretary of State is so anxious to claim first-class honours for the comprehensive system he cannot, by the same token, ignore or disclaim this worrying statistic which arises from the previous system. It is quite obvious that we have fallen down on the basic tools of the trade—the old three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic—

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

Is the hon. Lady saying that the show-up that we have had of adult illiteracy is the direct result of the comprehensive system of education?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I did not say that, and it was not to be inferred from what I said. I said that it was an indictment of our education system since the war, and it is worrying, bearing in mind that we have had universal secondary education since the war. Many secondary school heads are having to turn their attention to these basic skills, which should have been dealt with earlier. What is even worse, I am told by a friend of mine who serves on a local authority that in his area colleges of further education are holding remedial classes, in the use of English and the like, for those entering their portals, because otherwise they cannot follow the other courses which they are supposedly following.

There are many causes of this state of affairs. One lies in teachers who have not been properly trained. In the past, there has been too great a tendency to keep up the numbers of teachers and to allow to pass into the education system teachers who should never have been allowed to pass. The colleges of education themselves have also been guilty of far too great a concern with the philosophy of education and not enough with the practical craft of teaching. As a result, teachers have come out without the necessary skills, and they have not always been sufficiently supported in the first probationary year. That is another indictment of our education system. Far from being given help and encouragement, often teachers are thrown in at the deep end and given the worst classes to deal with.

We have suffered also from a number of teaching methods—perhaps far greater in numbers than they have been in value. We need a period of consolidation, in which some of these methods can be picked out and taught to the teachers, so that they, in turn, can use them intelligently.

It is not necessary that everything in a school should be splendid. I saw a very good example of what can be done in relatively poor surroundings when I visited a school in North London a few weeks ago. The school buildings were old and not very attractive in themselves, but they had been made attractive by the teaching force. They were dealing with children, from a deprived area, who, in many cases, could scarcely speak when they first arrived, at the age of 5. Seventy per cent. of them were immigrants who did not speak much English, anyway. Yet that dedicated band of teachers, using the initial teaching alphabet, were getting excellent results. They were not achieved by using discovery methods, or by allowing children to do what they pleased when they pleased. The atmosphere was extremely happy. The children seemed happy and well cared for. They were getting good academic results. If that can happen in a school in such an area, there is no reason why it should not happen elsewhere.

It is not as though employers are all that satisfied with the products of education. How often do we hear complaints from employers that the people whom they have are not very well trained in the use of English, spelling and punctuation—again, the tools of the job—and that they are unable to do mental arithmetic, or even the written version, with any degree of skill.

I hope that the Government will take note of these concerns. It is interesting that the Associated Examining Board, commenting recently on the A-level results in English literature, was extremely scathing about the outcome of the examination this year. It said that English literature answers were badly presented, badly expressed, untidy and casual. These were A-level results. I repeat. The board went on to say that students either grossly simplified questions in an attempt to find an easy way round them, or answered others which had not actually been asked. What is more, it criticised poor spelling, inadequate punctuation and slovenly sentence construction. I repeat, this was English literature at advanced level. There is something seriously wrong with our education system, and that example can be multiplied again and again.

I hope that the Government will take seriously these strictures on the standards that we have in our schools, but I am not altogether hopeful. It is a sad reflection on the Government that no time has been found to debate the Bullock Report on the use and teaching of English. When I recently asked the Minister about the Assessment of Performance Unit in the Department of Education and Science, I got a very ragged reply, to the effect that the chairman had not long been appointed, and so on. In other words, there has been no real attempt to get it moving. Again, we have had no inquiry into comprehensive and secondary education generally.

I remind the Government that discipline and standards are all too easily dissipated. They are maintained only by constant effort on the part of teaching staff and by pupils themselves. It is far easier to tear down and destroy than it is to build up, but that appears to be the last thought in the Government's mind as they pursue their education policies.

7.26 p.m.

Photo of Ms Maureen Colquhoun Ms Maureen Colquhoun , Northampton North

I suppose that the strength of a political party is to say what it means and then, when it is elected, to do what it has said. The intentions of the Labour Party about education have always been quite clear. They have been spelt out both in its long-term programmes and in the manifestos on which it won the last two General Elections. For that reason, it is with pleasure that we welcome the sentence in the Gracious Speech which says that A Bill will be introduced to require local education authorities in England and Wales who have not already done so to make plans for the abolition of selection in secondary education, and to deal with certain other matters. I want to draw attention to the negative and destructive attitude adopted by the Opposition towards our children—an opposition which is generally expressed in the Opposition's amendment on today's Order Paper. I want also to seek an explanation from them about the lack of clarity and intent which the Conservative Party has shown about education, not only in this House, to Members of Parliament, but even to their own supporters in local authorities. The way that the present Conservative Opposition have deliberately overlooked the decisions taken to support comprehensive education by Conservative-controlled councils is quite shameful.

I speak with considerable local government knowledge. I served on the West Sussex County Council. By an overwhelming majority, that authority abolished selection. At the time there were 10 Labour members and 62 Tory members of that authority, and a huge majority voted to bring in comprehensive education for West Sussex children. They voted in the system because they sincerely and honestly believed that selection should be ended and that comprehensive education was the way ahead for the county's children. Are those councillors to be branded by their own party in this House with some of the rather fanciful views put forward by Her Majesty's Opposition? If so, that is a disgraceful political view.

In my constituency in Northampton, Labour and Conservative councillors voted together to introduce what they considered to be a civilised and correct form of education, namely, a comprehensive system. When the lime came to vote in the old Northampton Borough, which was then Conservative-controlled, although there was some opposition it was not the vehement and decisive, class-ridden type of opposition of which we hear so much in this Chamber. That vote reflected a genuine concern that children should have equality of educational opportunity and the right to be educated together. It concluded that the old system, the old ideas, were fundamentally wrong, and that selection was wrong.

Are the Opposition now saying that the Conservative councillors in Northampton were wrong to put children before the Conservative Party's doctrinaire attitudes? If they take that view, they should say so loudly and clearly tonight, so that at least the Northampton electors know what the Conservatives in Parliament are doing to their locally-elected representatives, and certainly what they are doing in this debate.

The Conservative Party is seeking to undermine the judgment and the rights of elected representatives to take decisions at local level purely in the interests of children. Many people must feel that this is an arrogant attitude for parliamentarians to take. I believe that it is time for those of us who are in favour of comprehensive education to fight back. We have been passive for far too long. We have seen an insidious and divisive campaign against comprehensive schools and those who attend them, mounted by an emotional and obsessive minority who want to perpetuate é in the State education system.

In Northampton, the campaign over the grammar schools has been less than fair. It has behind it a heartlessness and prejudice against the majority of Northampton children who attend comprehensive schools set up and backed by the Conservative-controlled council at the time. That campaign has within its framework the local Tory Member of Parliament and certain educationists who probably find it easier to educate the brighter child and to computerise that child with facts and figures—facts and figures that could more easily be contained within a computer than be used to educate a child for the battle of life.

But I am straying from the point I was seeking to make. I read somewhere that to certain people the comprehensive school is equivalent to the blacks moving in next door in the urban areas. Sadly, because of the situation, Conservative politicians are far happier serving up that kind of prejudice than bringing to bear any fresh thinking on the matter. That prejudice has been openly displayed.

We must remember that about two-thirds of all State secondary schoolchildren attend comprehensives. I believe that we Labour Members should do our utmost to back a campaign to state our intentions loudly and clearly, and to back the ideas and ideals in which we believe. In the "Save our Schools" campaign, backed by the elitist part of the community, we have heard nothing from the huge silent majority of parents whose children attend comprehensives. Those parents are satisfied with the comprehensive schools and are happy with the educational opportunities, but they have little to say. When the time arrives that majority will give the Opposition the answer that they so richly deserve. I believe that we in the Labour movement—and certainly the Labour Government—are providing something very worth while in the comprehensive system, and that it is a concept well worth speaking up for.

7.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Neil Macfarlane Mr Neil Macfarlane , Sutton and Cheam

The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) made a wrong assumption by assuming that the Conservative Party is blindly "anti-comprehensive". That has never been the case. My right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition in an earlier role as Secretary of State for Education and Science, has frequently made our situation clear to the nation. I do not wish to pre-empt the Opposition spokesman in his reply to this debate, but the reason why we shall be voting for the amendment tonight is that we believe that the inclusion of this proposal in the Queen's Speech amounts to divisive, narrow and doctrinaire Socialism.

That is the reason why the Conservative Party may have held the seat in Northampton, South. I know nothing of the internecine educational political warfare in Northampton, but I would remind the hon. Lady that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) won the seat in February and again in October last year when it was claimed by all political pundits that Northampton would provide two safe Socialist seats. The educational argument which she put forward in a parochial sense was, to say the least, spurious.

I wish to concur with many arguments advanced so far by Labour contributors to this debate. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) made an important point when discussing nursery education, a subject frequently brought to my attention by constituents. Furthermore, the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) referred to the 5-year-olds and to bridging that educational gap where some 5-year-olds are well beyond their fifth birthday. There is great concern over children of that age who appear to suffer merely because their birthday happens to fall on a particular date. The Department should give a firm lead in righting this wrong.

There is mounting anger, confusion and bewilderment at the way in which the present administration have embarked on further political educational warfare. The Secretary of State for Education and Science, with his own special brand of dynamism, is not exactly pushing the argument for the proposed Bill announced in the Gracious Speech. There is undoubtedly great apprehension throughout the country on this score.

I wish to ask the Secretary of State why these proposals are being forced through at the present time when we know that there are grave misgivings about the role of too much central Government in our lives. We also know that this is a time when little money is available. The Secretary of State said that £25 million was to be allocated to secondary education. Where will the money come from, and will it be enough?

In the past year I have taken the opportunity to visit all but one of the secondary schools in my constituency. These schools have been operating under great difficulties. They face problems because the teaching staff have been cut and they are beginning to feel the full brunt of the raising of the school leaving age. I disagree with the timing of the move to raise the school leaving age. I was critical of the Labour administration and critical when the Conservative Government's policy was to continue with the proposal to raise the school leaving age. I do not disagree with the principle. I disagree with the timing of it.

The Gracious Speech says that a Bill will be introduced to require local authorities to do certain things. I should like to know what the Bill will contain. Will it remove the parental choice provided for in the 1944 Education Act? Will the Secretary of State withdraw the funds of those authorities which do not comply? Will there be sanctions? Is this to be another Socialist sanction, or is it yet further Socialist lack of vision about the importance of education in our society?

I represent one of the two constituencies in the London borough of Sutton. The Secretary of State received a letter from the leader of the Sutton Council. It was a reasoned and moderate letter and we in Sutton will watch closely the right hon. Gentleman's reaction to it. The final paragraph of the letter makes the position abundantly clear and presents a reasoned and moderate argument. It says: The council, in any event, are not convinced that the abolition of selection will improve secondary provision in Sutton. Courses are provided in the selective and non-selective high schools suited to the needs of the individual pupils, whether they be academically able, average or below-average ability. The existing system is, moreover, flexible enough to ensure that transfers between high schools are possible if pupils show that they should be transferred to another type of course in another school. Schools which specialise in particular subjects are always ready to accept pupils who have special talents in that direction. Finally, for many pupils it is advantageous to be among the most able children in a non-selective high school rather than the least able in a selective high school, where the courses could be too demanding for them. I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows what is said in the rest of the letter, and I shall not take up the time of the House or of my colleagues who wish to take part in the debate by reading it. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that that is a reasoned and moderate letter and something that should not draw his full attention in the form of financial sanctions in the future. It is true that in Sutton we have perfect examples of grammar schools, comprehensive schools and good secondary schools operating together within a mixed education system, and they are thriving and popular.

It is also stated in the Gracious Speech towards the end of the paragraph on education: and to deal with certain other matters. It would be interesting to know what those other matters might be. No doubt when the Under-Secretary winds up the debate she will refer to this. I wonder whether, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) said, it might be the further divisive battleground of ultimately abolishing private schools. Is this something for which we should be prepared?

Bearing in mind the Labour Party's electoral platform, I find it difficult to accept that it ignores what is happening in Greater London. As I said earlier, I represent an outer London borough, and it is interesting to note that education has been perhaps one of the most important political issues over the past 18 months to two years. I know that when I lost a by-election in 1972 education was a big battleground in the borough. In 1974, when I came to this House with a modest majority, the Labour Party had five councillors from my constituency on the local authority, yet this year it has none, and education was the principal battleground.

The Secretary of State has the addendum "and Science" after his title Secretary of State for Education. It is a pity that there is no reference in the Gracious Speech to science, which is an important topic. It is perhaps a weakness of hon. Members that we do not debate and pose more questions to the Secretary of State for Education and Science on scientific matters. It would be interesting to know the Government's policy on science. Does the Secretary of State wield direction on science throughout all the other Departments of State which handle various features of science? What are his plans to rejuvenate science? What about consultations with the University Grants Committee? What about the Committee of Vice-Chancellors? All these things come within the right hon. Gentleman's orbit. When did he last have discussions with the Advisory Board for the Research Councils to consider its proposals, programmes and schemes? What amount of money will be made available for these important facets of the right hon. Gentleman's job?

Above all, I should like to know the right hon. Gentleman's plans for the "and Science" part of his job, because this is something that has been relegated by successive administrations. It is something to which I hope the Government will give urgent attention, because education and all those involved with it need to be rejuvenated swiftly. I hope that later this evening the hon. Lady will give us some hope and indication about science matters in this country.

7.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Young Mr David Young , Bolton East

For nearly 20 years before I entered the House I taught in maintained schools in both the primary and comprehensive sectors. I say that merely to show that I have some knowledge of the practical difficulties involved. I do not by any means claim to be an expert. I am disqualified from that position because I spent 20 years doing the job and not talking about it. What is important is that my support for the comprehensive system, and for the Government's attitude, belated as it is, to back comprehensive implementation by legal means, comes not from a doctrinaire basis but as a result of years of practical teaching of children.

That is the subject about which we are talking, and it is worth remembering that in this Chamber we are talking about children and not about political shuttlecocks. I shall, therefore, not be diverted into arguing about what is a good school because I think that those who suffer most from this argument are those children who, by implication, are considered not to belong to a good school, and these are the majority of our children. Nor shall I be diverted into intellectually bankrupt sloganising to which complex educational issues have recently been reduced.

The issue is not between grammar schools and comprehensives. The issue is between those who believe that there should be no pre-secondary selection and those who do not. The issue is not coexistence, but that the two concepts are irreconcilable. They are diametrically opposed, and they make illogical nonsense if they exist within the same authority. Within the present district authority of which my constituency forms part there are grammar schools, high schools and comprehensive schools. It is virtually impossible for any child in Bolton to go to a comprehensive school although such schools exist in other parts of the new district. The co-existence of these different kinds of schools has done nothing to provide parental or education choice. From what I have said, it follows in all logic that Bolton, or the metropolitan borough of Bolton, must now opt either for a comprehensive system of education or for a selective system. In the interests of the children in my constituency I support a comprehensive system of education.

Much has been said on the question of consultation. In the two years 1972 to 1974 the Labour council of the then county borough of Bolton engaged in consultation with all sections of the community and formulated a plan for the county borough. In both General Elections in 1974 I made it absolutely clear that I would advocate and support a comprehensive system of education. Apart from having many grammar schools in my constituency, I have five direct grant schools.

To ensure that there was full consultation, during the election campaign of October 1974 and prior to polling day I invited the then Secretary of State to visit Bolton and we held an open meeting. Ten people turned up, and I cannot recall anyone who attacked our concept of introducing comprehensive education. I should have thought that, in all justice and democracy, if this issue was so strong parents would of their own volition have come along and put their questions before polling day.

Why am I advocating that the comprehensive principle should be legally enforceable? On 4th April 1974 the Department issued a circular requesting that outline proposals of local authorities be in the Department's hands by December 1974. In June 1975, the Department had received an interim set of proposals from my authority on reorganisation on comprehensive lines. The Department requested a date by which final proposals would be in its hands. Up to 21st November it was still awaiting a reply to that letter.

I said that the debate was about children. It can surely not be good for children to feel the uncertainty that hangs over them when local authorities which are unwilling to comply can delay things to such an extent. I talk to many Conservatives in Bolton, as I do to many of my Conservative friends here. I hope that my hon. Friends will not hold that too much against me. Tories will say openly in conversation "You can issue as many circulars as you like, but till you make it the law of the land we will not comply." I dare say that we should do exactly the same were we in their position. So let us not blind ourselves to the fact that there is no way of enforcing this except by making it a legal requirement.

I said that I was glad that the Ministry had belatedly come to this position. If the timetable for making the comprehensive principle legally enforceable is to be equally protracted the children will suffer again. So I ask my hon. Friend to state by what date the Secretary of State will be able to set the timetable for the implementation by law of comprehensive education.

I am becoming increasingly concerned at reports about authorities using the excuse of present financial stringency to cut back on teaching staffs. I greatly hope that the Secretary of State will enter into discussions with his colleagues to ensure that authorities which are not in favour of comprehensive education are not by this means allowed to undermine the system in which many of us so fervently believe.

7.55 p.m.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , Liverpool Wavertree

The Gracious Speech, which would have lacked all grace had it not been delivered by Her Majesty, contains a fleeting reference to the vocational preparation of young people aged 16 to 19. That is the extent of the Government's programme for the young, even though there are more than 7 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 and of which at least 70,000, and probably many more, are school leavers without work—

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

That point has been raised in the debate. I gave the figure as 65,000.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , Liverpool Wavertree

With respect to the Minister's view, the National Association of Careers Officers takes a different view, that the actual figure is nearer 200,000 and that the Government's figures do not include the 16-to-18-year-olds or the concealed unemployed—that is, those who worked for a week and then became unemployed again. However, I am grateful for the Minister's statement, because it merely confirms that there are far too many school leavers out of work, even on the Government's figures, but if the careers officers are right the Government's figures are hopelessly wrong because they do not contain the essential figures.

The programme that the Government outlined in the Gracious Speech is what one has come to expect from the Government, whose track record of helping young people is virtually non-existent, and borders on negligence. A good example of this is the £30 million job creation programme that the Government launched earlier this year and on which my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) touched. This was a unique opportunity to do something imaginative for young people. In a Press statement the Government stated that they would create 15,000 jobs particularly for young people, in areas of high unemployment; the jobs would be relevant to real and pressing needs and would be designed to provide some vocational training.

Up to three weeks ago 64 jobs had been created on Merseyside. They were all manual jobs, totally lacking in vocational training. They were jobs such as clearing waste land and landscaping the M63 at Ellesmere Port—this at a time when thousands of people are bored and spend most of the day hanging around the streets. Consequently, vandalism and violence on Merseyside have increased.

I learned from the job creation branch of the Manpower Commission in Liverpool that it had not seen one unemployed person. That was not surprising as the office was tucked away so far from young people that they would not find it. All applications must be made in writing on forms and must specify exactly the jobs to be created, durations, budget and other details, supervisory costs and materials needed. What young person could fill up such a form? What organisation apart from local authorities have the staffs to provide such details? The local authorities have been slow to come forward, and not surprisingly so in a no-growth economy.

It is perhaps also relevant to mention how the process continues once the applications have been submitted. An action committee led by a local professor and made up of a brace of town clerks, some trade union officials, and one solitary industrialist, make a decision on each application.

The Government created a further special obstacle. They said that they would not grant jobs for young people unless there was supervision. But they provide only 10 per cent. of the supervisory cost and only 10 per cent. cash for materials needed, so any job to be created will put off any would-be sponsor, because of the obstacles he will have to overcome in order to get started. The result is that only 64 jobs have been brought about on Merseyside, while nearly £4 million in the area remains unspent instead of creating jobs for the young unemployed.

The Gracious Speech should have said that the Government would offer all young people the opportunity of becoming employed immediately by letting them create their own jobs. Young people are imaginative and full of ideas, and in the districts in which they live they know well what is needed, they can help the old, the lonely and the handicapped; they could help with adventure playgrounds, and on play schemes. Every constituency has a thousand and one jobs which need doing. It merely needs a young person to be given the opportunity to create his own job. He surely does not need to go through committees of civil servants or the Manpower Commission.

How would this scheme work? A young person would say that he knew of a local job which needed doing—clearing a canal, for example. He would then get paid the equivalent of his present unemployment benefit, and not up to £50 per week which is provided under the present job creation programme and which he will lose once he is no longer employed by the job creation programme. He will not earn anything like that sum on the open market. On my proposals, instead of going to the local employment office to collect his wage, he would go to the local authority treasurer's department and claim his wage for the job done. Do the Government prefer young people to be out of work rather than creating their own jobs? If they want young people off the streets and doing something useful, they must provide an imaginative and creative scheme.

Some young people will not be able to create their own jobs, and that is why I suggest that the Gracious Speech should have made it clear that the employment service agencies and the local employment offices should have a running list of jobs which the local authority, or the voluntary organisations, or the local health services need doing. This would be a daily running list, to which all young persons seeking work could refer, to see what jobs needed doing, and where. In this way, they could either create their own jobs and be paid or do jobs which existing organisations felt needed doing.

That would be a first-rate way of converting, overnight, thousands of unemployed school leavers to employed school leavers. The arrangement would at least give young people an incentive to get out of unemployment, because their pay would be unemployment benefit instead of the market rate, and which therefore gives young people no incentive to find other work.

The Government should have given such a lead and such a hope to young people. The fact that they have failed to do so creates a sadness which we know is shared by many hon. Members opposite. So let us hope that the Government puts the matter right before long.

8.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Ovenden Mr John Ovenden , Gravesend

The debate has not yet ended, so I do not know what will emerge from it, but it is evident that we shall be no clearer at the end than at the beginning about precisely where the Conservative Party stands on the principle of comprehensive education. Despite the attempts made to elicit some reply, we have had little success so far. It seems to be a case of "Wait and see what happens. We are in favour of comprehensive education where it happens to occur but against it where it does not happen to occur."

Presumably, the Conservatives believe that one system suits one area and another system suits another. What they are perpetuating by opposing the Bill is a system whereby the occurrence of a certain type of education is dependent not necessarily upon any special features which exist in the area but only on the political control which exists locally.

The pledge in the Gracious Speech to introduce legislation for comprehensive education, although it has brought forth a lot of synthetic indignation from the Opposition, has brought immense relief to the people who have been striving against selection in many areas, not for years but, in many cases, for decades. They have in many areas been fighting a losing battle because, although the Labour Party has been given a mandate on four occasions to introduce compreprehensive education, we have still failed to do it everywhere. In many areas we have been thwarted by the attitude of the local education authorities.

The faster progress towards comprehensive education which the legislation will make possible will be welcomed by everyone interested in creating equality of opportunity in education as a reality rather than a pious hope, as it has been throughout so many generations. It would have been more pleasant and more comfortable to have avoided legislation, but it was evident to everyone, from the experience of the last Labour Government, that that situation would not come about. It has been amply demonstrated during the time of office of the last Labour Government, and from the experience so far of this Government, that in some areas selection can be ended only by legal measures.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

Is it not also evident from the experience of the last Labour Government that, when they introduced this legislation, it was lost through the defection of Labour Members, including the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State?

Photo of Mr John Ovenden Mr John Ovenden , Gravesend

I cannot enter into debate about what happened in that Parliament because I was not a Member, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that no such problem will arise this time. I am sure that the vote tonight will amply demonstrate that the Government enjoy probably a very large majority support in the House on this issue.

The attempts to proceed by agreement and consent have been frustrated by dogmatic people who still, unfortunately, dominate so many education authorities. In many parts of the country we have been dealing with people who are not open to reason and who would rather bury their heads in the sands of prejudice than listen to serious educational argument.

We are told that seven authorities have refused point blank to have anything to do with comprehensive reorganisation, but I believe that they are only the spearhead of the resistance to reorganisation among local education authorities. They might perhaps be better described as a Kamikaze squad rather than as the spearhead of the resistance movement. They are totally misguided, but at least they deserve more respect for their approach because they have been more honest than the authorities which have hidden behind their coat tails.

Thirteen other authorities, including my own, the Kent Education Committee, have been more cunning and devious in their approach to reorganisation. They have lacked the courage to stand up and debate the issue on its merits. Instead they decided to resort to a campaign of delay, obstruction and prevarication. They have managed in the last year to avoid submitting plans to introduce reorganisation. Other authorities have been prepared to send in plans but have made it plain to the Secretary of State that if they can possibly avoid doing so they will not see them implemented before the end of this decade.

In the face of that varied but equally determined opposition to reorganisation, the Government had either to legislate or back down. If they take the latter course, they will be giving the green light not only to authorities which have refused to co-operate but to authorities which have reluctantly submitted plans but which which would grasp the first opportunity to backslide.

It is 10 years since the last Labour Government issued their circular on ending selection in secondary education. To legislate now can hardly be considered by anybody to be a sign of impatience. Most of the children who started school at the time that circular was issued are now in their last year at school, and their hopes of receiving a better deal from our education system have already been dashed. If we fail to introduce the necessary legislation, we shall effectively condemn another generation of children to the inadequacies of the selective system. We shall leave them to the tender mercies of a system which fails most of them, not because of any accident of administration but because the selective system is designed specifically to exclude three-quarters of our children from the best it has to offer.

The underlying principle of selection is objectionable. It is based on the view that we as a society cannot afford to pay for a good education for all our children. Therefore, we have to single out those whom we consider to be fit to benefit from such privileges and condemn the rest to inadequate opportunities. Even if it were possible in the selective system to determine properly who could or could not benefit, the system would still be objectionable. However, it is made even more objectionable by the fact that the selective system is crude and inaccurate, and whatever modifications we propose to it make it no less objectionable.

The deferment of selection from 11 years of age to 13 years of age, as has happened in my constituency, does nothing to overcome objection to the system, and the replacement of an examination or test system by guided parental choice only ensures advantages for children lucky enough to have articulate, vociferous and demanding parents as against those who do not.

However, it is not only the system of selection which is the fundamental issue. The real indictment of our selective system is that it assumes, quite falsely, that children can be neatly divided into two categories—those who can benefit from wider opportunities, and those who cannot. Unfortunately for the supporters of the selective system, children cannot be so neatly divided because such an analysis ignores the talents which they possess. The wider range of forces and opportunities available in comprehensive schools can bring out those talents. The present selective system ensures that the unfortunate ones who are not selected are denied those opportunities and are isolated from the resources which can benefit them most.

There has been a great deal of fuss in this debate, as there has been in every debate on comprehensive education, about the issue of parental choice. With our present education system, it is humbug to talk about parental choice. What choice have the parents of the pupils at present denied selective education? They have none whatever. They are told which secondary modem schools their children will go to, and they have no alternative but to accept that decision. Yet we talk in every comprehensive education debate about the rights of parents and their choice. That situation does not exist in our present system except for a few privileged people.

We have already waited far too long for legislation. Having waited that long, we must ensure that the legislation is effective. It will not be enough for the Secretary of State to provide in the Bill that local authorities must submit comprehensive reorganisation schemes by a certain date. We must ensure that those plans are implemented. We need to know from the local authorities their timetable for the implementation of comprehensive education and the elimination of selection. We want the Secretary of State to take power to intervene if that timetable is unrealistic and unnecessarily long so that we can enforce the end of selection within a reasonable time.

We must also ensure in the legislation that there is protection from authorities which will do their best to delay even further by putting forward the most grandiose schemes possible to ensure that they cannot be implemented because of lack of resources. It will be up to the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State to decide whether a system could be introduced in such an authority which would bring about the end of selection much more quickly and far more easily than the system which some authorities will put forward. Such authorities, having fought so long to preserve privilege in education and to preserve the selection system, will not meekly back down because the Government introduce a Bill. They will fight all along the line. We must therefore ensure that the powers in the Bill are effective against such resistance.

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

I remind hon. Members that the winding-up speeches are due to begin at 9 o'clock. If hon. Members are prepared to limit their speeches to 10 minutes, I shall be able, I hope, to accommodate all hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate.

8.16 p.m.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

I shall endeavour to keep within those bounds, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We would all agree that these are very worrying times for parents. Social attitudes have changed and are changing rapidly. Young people are faced with great problems of behaviour and of conduct because many of the guideposts which had served for many decades have been swept away. This has posed difficult problems for the young, as it has for their parents and their schools, and they have been greatly accentuated in the decaying urban centres. Indeed, in some areas there has been a breakdown in respect for law and order. Parents are desperately worried about standards of conduct and learning in many schools.

There has been too little recognition by the Secretary of State and by some Labour hon. Members of the rights of parents in the education of their children. I should first like to say something about that matter and then to speak briefly of the more active role which parents could be invited to play in the improvement of schooling at every stage.

The Education Act 1944 was a superb piece of legislation, balancing many interests in the education system and in enshrining the rights of parents. In abolishing grammar schools and direct grant schools, and in narrowing parental choice, does the Minister think that he knows better than the parents in the areas of such schools?

And here I disagree fundamentally with something that the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Young) said. There may have been only eight people at his meeting. When I held a meeting in Bolton within the last few months, 800 people strongly supported the continuance of the grammar schools and direct grant schools.

Does the Minister think that he knows better than 70 per cent. of the teachers who, in the autumn of 1974, said that it was wrong to abolish the grammar schools? Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that he is acting within the terms of the 1944 Act? He claimed so, but that was denied in another place by the Lord Butler, who made it clear that the Minister's action in bringing the direct grant system to an end was against the spirit of the 1944 Act.

The Secretary of State quoted Section 1 of the 1944 Act, which lays on him the duty to promote not only the education of people in England and Wales by, in particular, a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area. We have heard little of the varied nature of the Secretary of State's proposals.

Lord Butler asserted that the Secretary of State's action was also contrary to Section 36, which laid on parents a duty to cause their child to receive efficient full-time education siutable to his age, ability, and aptitude". This was where the direct grant schools came in by providing schools that would deal with children with advanced aptitudes.

Lord Butler argued that the Secretary of State was acting also contrary to Section 76 in that he was paying too little attention to the principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. I do not think that the Secretary of State can, in the face of the author of the 1944 Act, claim that he is acting in the spirit of that law. I believe that the Minister, by abolishing two types of school—the grammar school and the direct grant school—is limiting parental choice.

What are the local education authorities doing? Some, both in urban and in rural areas, are doing their best in a sensitive way to give parents as wide a choice of school as is available in their areas. But should not the Secretary of State ensure that all local authorities approach these high standards? That is their duty under Section 76 of the 1944 Act. Some authorities—amongst which I include Surrey with its rigid zoning—are denying that choice in the most high-handed manner.

I now turn to the secondary and primary schools in the maintained sector. I welcome the evidence brought forward in this debate of academically successful comprehensive schools. We know that there are good comprehensive schools in many parts of the country. We wish to see the Secretary of State and the local education authorities taking more vigorous steps to improve those comprehensive schools which fail as schools, fail the boys and girls attending them, fail the parents and fail the nation. Too often the heads of those schools cover up their failings. The local education authorities are reluctant to give information about some of the worst schools which continue in chaos, denying the younger people their proper opportunities to learn.

How robust is the Secretary of State in taking the initiative in finding out the causes of these failures and in dealing with them? What action are the local authorities taking to deal with such failures? I do not believe that either the Secretary of State or the local authorities are doing their duty to the young and to their parents by allowing bad schools to continue without swift and deep investigations and prompt remedial action. For example, what steps are they taking to ensure the retirement of a head of a school when he is no longer professionally competent to lead a school which is recognised to be a failure? Have they the required powers to do that? If so, why do they not use them? If not, why does the Secretary of State not come to the House for an enlargement of his powers?

My charge is that the Secretary of State and some of the local education authorities are failing parents, the young and the staffs of the schools if they do not act firmly but humanely—that means generously—in such cases.

In the face of all those worries about standards in schools, I believe that parents should be allowed to play a more influential part in helping schools to reach high standards. Parents are a natural additional educational influence for good in the management of schools. I believe that parents should serve on the governing and managing bodies of schools. They might best be elected by postal ballot of all parents having children at the school. There should be a far more active welcome by schools to the help that parents can give not only in the government of schools but in the consultative bodies such as parent-teacher associations. They should be more closely associated with all other main activities of the schools, whether music, drama, organised games or other outdoor activities.

The parents have much to give if they are properly led; invited and made welcome, they will give in good measure. I ask the Secretary of State to recognise that parents are an extra human resource for improving schools at a time when the Government are desperately short of financial resources with which to improve schools.

At this time my charge against the Government is that they are spending what money they have not on improving existing schools but on dislocating and disrupting some good schools and changing the nature of the others beyond recognition. That is why I support the amendment.

8.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

A select group of Members of Parliament participate in debates on education. From our experience of such debates in the past couple of years we know exactly who will speak.

There are many imponderables in education. Every debate reveals the fact that they exist. However, there is one subject which is not an imponderable. I refer to the growth of comprehensive education.

The Opposition are ploughing the ocean when they struggle against the comprehensive idea. They can talk till they are blue in the face about teachers and children, but there is not the slightest doubt that the majority of parents, and of teachers and children in comprehensive schools, support increasingly the comprehensive idea. That process will continue. It can only be held back by the educational reactionaries in the Conservative Party who cannot face the realities of the developing democratisation of our education system.

Recently, as chairman of the Labour Party education group, it was my pleasure to speak to the representatives of the blind teachers' leadership. To a man they are deeply committed to the comprehensive idea. They put forward splendid proposals to improve comprehensive education and help blind children by means of co-education, and other splendid ideas which I am sure most Conservative Members would support.

I have constantly heard talk about "the wishes of their parents". I point out that 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of the children were sent to certain schools because at the age of 11 they had failed the 11-plus. Does anyone believe that the parents of those children were consulted and said that they did not want their children to go to a certain school but wanted them to go to the secondary modern school to which they were sent? They were not consulted, but under the conditions imposed by the education system their children had to receive that type of education so that a select group of children, contrary to any educational ethos, could have an élitist education at the expense of others.

We have heard arguments about violence. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) spoke about the education system for a long time in terms of the Black Paper and the black circular. Indeed, I was overjoyed when a small light appeared and she praised a group of teachers in her area The hon. Lady expressed the Opposition's attitude to the furtherance and democratisation of our education system.

There has always been truancy, but this is a bigger problem than we should like it to be. I should like an inquiry into the truancy at the House of Commons. My imagination boggles at what would happen if a pairing system operated in the comprehensive schools. Of course, there is truancy and some violence. Violence is endemic within the society in which we live. The dispossessed are struggling to get some of the possessions which the Opposition grasp unto themselves with such religious fervour. Those are the realities which surround our education system and the number of drop-outs.

Therefore, truancy and violence are deep-rooted within society. I see that the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) is smiling. I remember that he intervened on the last occasion I spoke on education and said that my speech was déjà vu—in other words, it had all been heard before. The hon. Gentleman may well nod his head, because it has all been heard before. The Opposition are slow to grasp the realities and, like good teachers, Labour Members continually have to point out the facts. However, the Opposition still neglect them because they are motivated not by desires for real education but by desires for elitism and the preservation unto themselves of that which they consider to be best. Those are the déjà vu thoughts which I bequeath to the hon. Member for Ripon.

The hypocrisy which I have heard today and during other education debates was equalled only by a feudal debate to which I listened on hare coursing. Opposition Members gazed across the Chamber and kept lifting their visors. They looked at Labour Members from turrets, towers and battlements so far removed from the reality of what was commonly decent. That is equally true to a great extent about their views on education. They talk about equality of opportunity and at the same time they want their children to attend private, public and direct grant schools and they want all others to attend secondary modern schools where teachers fight and work hard to give children a good education in conditions which fit neither the children nor the teachers.

Conservative Members have put forward all types of arguments against comprehensive education. For instance, they have said that comprehensive schools are not purpose-built and, therefore, we should not have comprehensive education. On no occasion has the time been more ripe for development. We have had to do what we can and we have made a success of comprehensive education, and I believe that we shall make an even bigger success of it.

Opposition Members have referred to bussing. I have walked through a village near where I live and seen children getting on and off buses. I am not in favour of bussing, but it is taking place all over the country. Village schools are now primary schools and children are bussed to the nearest secondary school.

In addition to the 65,000 unemployed school leavers there is a large number of teachers who are also unemployed—one of them is my son—who want to teach in schools. We need money. The Minister has recently pointed out that many of the authorities which receive money from the Government are not using it for the purpose for which it was given to them. On behalf of education generally I appeal to those authorities to use that money for educational purposes and to bring into the schools the teachers who are unemployed at present, so that classes can become smaller, the relationship between teacher and children can become better and education can progress.

It will be argued that the money is not available. I say, with all the conviction at my disposal, that we could take a great deal of money from the defence Estimates—the sacred cow of the Conservative Party—and use it, rather than on weapons of mass destruction, on the education of our children. It would be better used in that way than in any other.

8.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Lane Mr David Lane , Cambridge

I wish that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hills-borough (Mr. Flannery) would not distort the Conservative Party's attitude towards education, because there are other points he made to which I warm. I am sorry there is not more time to take up some of the hon. Member's distortions this evening.

I was not present last week for the Gracious Speech, because I was a member of a Commonwealth Party Association delegation to three islands in the West Indies. In telling the House of the encouraging progress in education being made in those islands, may I hope that, despite our present economic difficulties, we shall be able to continue as generously as possible to give the West Indies help in the form of teachers, buildings and equipment, and to enable many students from those islands to come here for higher education?

Turning to the Gracious Speech, I welcome, as have others, the priority to be given to children with special needs, but will the Under-Secretary of State tell us more than the Secretary of State told us about specific plans, for example, about areas of urban deprivation where white and black children alike suffer from particular disadvantages and about the Government's whole approach to nursery education?

I feel sad and angry, however, that the Government should threaten to compel local authorities to go comprehensive. In previous debates I have made my view clear. A tide is moving in the direction of comprehensive education and I do not seek to turn it back, but I am strongly against the Government's forcing the pace.

An increasing majority of our children are being educated in the comprehensive system. There is no more pressing problem in the whole education scene than improving standards in the mainstream of our comprehensive schools. We are tackling this in my constituency, which went comprehensive more than a year ago. I am glad that the Under-Secretary was recently able to visit Coleridge School, which is a good example of the efforts that are being made. Nothing is more deserving of ministerial attention than backing up and stimulating these efforts. Instead, Ministers propose to distract themselves and many other people by forcing the comprehensive issue and needlessly raising the political temperature. This failure of statesmanship, as I see it, may do the comprehensive cause more harm than good. I appeal to the Government, even now, to eschew compulsion and let this issue be decided on its merits, through public discussion and persuasion.

I turn now to another area in which the cause of education is being damaged by the Government's wrong-headedness—the universities. People working in the universities are apprehensive of a Government who seem prejudiced against them. University teachers have had less than a fair deal. University independence could be threatened by the ideas of more centralised planning, with which some Ministers seem to have been flirting. Will the universities next be asked to accept a disproportionate part of any further cuts in education spending?

I suggest that it is time for a careful review of the whole national system of higher education, possibly through a new Royal Commission. During the lean years ahead, from which the universities are not expecting to opt out, how can resources best be concentrated to preserve excellence in both universities and other institutions? What is the most satisfactory method of financing? What ought to be the structure and content of courses, and the balance between teaching and research?

These questions and others should be debated and answered inside and outside the universities. However, there is now a heavy responsibility on the Government. I am sure that this process of self-examination by the universities would be helped if the Secretary of State, who is relatively new in office, were to make a clear statement of confidence in the universities, recognise their uniquely valuable contribution to education, and give a pledge of greater support and understanding by the Government. Such a statement is long overdue.

I mentioned research. Many hon. Members will have taken note of the recent report on university research by Professor J. W. Linnett, who was Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University for two years until the beginning of last month. That report was his last major work before his tragic and untimely death just over two weeks ago. I pay a brief, inadequate tribute to a man who was outstanding as a scholar, administrator and friend, and who never spared himself.

All hon. Members are aware of the more demanding nature of our job today, compared with earlier times. The same is true of the job of senior academics as they try to meet the growing demands of teaching and research, and of administration and committee work. They carry a heavy load, which is not appreciated by the nation as a whole. Among these distinguished academics, Jack Linnett was an example and an inspiration.

Over the weekend I read the Secretary of State's appeal to local authorities not to let education bear an unfair share of the necessary economies in public expenditure. I strongly support his appeal. I appeal to him, in turn, to put right the wrong priorities in which the Government persist. The total burden of new legislation in this new Session is plainly excessive. Let the Secretary of State, even now, lighten that burden by dropping the ill-advised proposal to force the comprehensive pace by legislative compulsion.

8.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Hatton Mr Frank Hatton , Manchester Moss Side

I want to make some brief remarks on two issues raised in the Gracious Speech. First, I welcome the Government's declaration to consolidate the improvements that have been made to the statutory school system. The real challenge that we face today is to make absolutely certain that there is no deterioration in that system.

Recently I have had correspondence with the chief education officer in Manchester on the question of current expenditure and the need to maintain the service. He wrote to me: We do know that it is very unlikely that significant improvements can be made in the education service next year but from discussions held so far I know that the Education Committee are very anxious not to reduce the existing level of provision. This is the attitude that local authorities should take. The Government have a responsibility to monitor what is happening in our local education authorities, in order to make absolutely certain that the provision of facilities and opportunity for the generation that will not have another opportunity is not missed by savage cuts that need not be made.

I want to comment briefly on the proposals to reduce the size of our teaching force. One proposal is to reduce it from 114,000 to 60,000 by 1981. I am far from satisfied that there is a need to make a reduction of this order. I accept that in some of our larger cities and major conurbations there is a decline in the birth rate, but there is no substitute for the teacher in the classroom. If we are to maintain the improvements in our educational system the next challenge which we have to meet is substantially to reduce the size of classes.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Marks Mr Kenneth Marks , Manchester, Gorton

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he is talking not about the teaching force but about the numbers of teachers in training?

Photo of Mr Frank Hatton Mr Frank Hatton , Manchester Moss Side

Yes, I accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) says. I am talking about the number of teachers in training. This is very important. I refer again to my own city, which has a proud record in regard to the number of teachers it has trained over many years. I am disappointed to find that by 1981 we shall have reduced the number of places by about 53 per cent. The national reduction is only 46 per cent. My city deserves something better than this. Indeed, over many years, in periods of difficulty when there was a real need to increase the number of teachers in training, Manchester went out of its way to find additional places in its teacher training colleges. There are very great advantages for many of our teachers in future years to be trained in the urban centres of population.

I turn briefly to another aspect of the Gracious Speech—the vocational preparation of young people aged between 16 and 19 years. Here I should like the Government to initiate a very wide-ranging discussion on this important topic. It is most important that we should get our priorities right. If there has been an under-privileged sector in higher education, it is the group of young people aged between 16 and 19. One of the difficulties, in so far as it is an obstacle to provision in a single sector, is the hostility or suspicion that exists among many members of the teaching profession. I well remember the discussions in my city about reorganising our secondary schools, and I sympathise with many of my hon. Friends who have expressed their serious concern about delay in reorganising their secondary education system. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hills-borough (Mr. Flannery) said, there is no doubt that when the change has occurred not only the teachers and pupils but also the parents are most anxious for it to continue. When we completed the change in my city, in 1967, the Conservative Party gained control of the Manchester City Council. It did not for a moment think that it would turn back the clock. It knew that there were no protests from parents, who were anxious to see the situation improve for their children.

However, there is need for a wide-ranging debate. When we were considering our reorganisation there were many occasions when we would have liked to consider the idea of a sixth form college. The opposition came from those heads of schools which had youngsters from the age of 11 to 18, and who did not want to see the 16–18 age group disappear from their schools. However, having had comprehensive education for a number of years in many of our large cities, I believe that there is a need to re-examine the type of organisation we have—and it is in respect of the 16–19 age group that we need a very wide-ranging discussion of the best road for us to take in the future.

8.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

It is unfortunate that every time we have an education debate it comes back to the same old sterile arguments about the 11-plus and selection. We have so many important topics that it is disappointing to find so few dealt with in the Gracious Speech. The Government have not seized upon the priorities that are so essential. This is an age of priorities, more than any ever has been. There is so much common ground that could be achieved in getting to grips with the important priorities in education which have been missed.

Standards are the fundamental concern, clearly—primary, secondary and throughout the field. The Government's response has been totally inadequate. This is only highlighted by the fact that three times during the last Session I asked for a debate on the Bullock Report, and although the Lord President said "Yes, it will come", we still have not had it. That Report has a section on monitoring established standards; it suggests how one can monitor them and ensure that the country gets the best.

On teacher training, I absolutely agree with Labour Members. It is a fundamental issue. We have been prone to pass over fundamental educational priorities because of a belief in limitless resources. We have allowed bricks and mortar to become too important. We have forgotten what goes on inside the buildings. We must carefully re-consider how we train our teachers to teach. We must get to grips with the fundamentals.

In the profession there is great doubt about the value of college reorganisation and the way in which the Department is allowing it to take place. There is doubt about the B.Ed, degree and the Diploma of Higher Education. There is doubt whether we are going about things in the right manner. There is a fear that we shall have a vast collection of mediocre qualifications.

School leaving unemployment is an area of national priority but one which should not be dealt with in isolation. I keep asking about the sort of liaison that exists. Should a committee be set up so that a clearer relationship may be established with the Department of Employment? I never receive any answers to my questions. The result is that important aspects are overlooked. For example, there is the question whether the cash that the Manpower Commission passes into further education courses through the Training Services Agency actually finds its way to the colleges, or whether the local authorities sit on it. Do the local authorities use the cash for different purposes? Does the cash go to the colleges?

If an unemployed person goes into part-time further education, in the context of a training course, he keeps his dole money, but if he goes full-time he does not. We should be encouraging full-time courses, bearing in mind the many critical considerations that exist. Let us deal with those on such courses as students, constructively, instead of letting them ramble on the streets, thus increasing street violence. We need to examine carefully the whole adult sector and not merely the 16–19 age group.

We must also give consideration to inservice training for our teachers, so that we deal adequately with all sectors of education and promote greater opportunities. There will have to be a shifting of resources, and the Government must give clear guidance about their priorities. These must clearly be qualitative rather than quantitative.

I am sick to death of hearing the Secretary of State give the feeblest of all excuses every time I raise such an important questions. The right hon. Gentleman claims that they do not fall within his responsibility, yet he does not—

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Conservatives must make up their minds. I am suggesting a modest intervention into an area which is within the general nature of the local authority scheme. If the Opposition want me to take far wider powers to intervene on all these detailed matters I shall seriously consider the proposition.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

I am not asking for extra powers. If the right hon. Gentleman needed such powers we would probably be willing to give him time to debate them, rather than have him wasting time on the proposal he is to bring forward. He knows the influence that his Department has by the use of the circular. He can easily influence the attitude and the thinking of local authorities and colleges. Indeed, he even has powers that he does not know about. When I asked him a Question about college reorganisation he put forward the excuse that it is a matter outside his area of responsibility. But he has responsibility under the Further Education Act 1974.

It is because of the right hon. Gentleman's attitude that things are going wrong. The Department is misdirecting the colleges. We are establishing a wasteful modular degree set-up.

Under the Left's influence, we are returning to the ideological insistence on driving ahead with comprehensive reorganisation. As I said earlier, this is an evolving system. The authorities have been changing. Since 1945 they have been experimenting with many different forms of structure. Basically, the whole idea of early selection by examination at 11 has been eroded. More and more areas have adopted the alternatives. Why force them along the present road at a quickened pace?

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

No, I have given way once, and I have only 10 minutes. This is just another example of Big Brother Government. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is the best example of someone who believes that Big Brother knows best. This is a classic example of the Government's general attitude.

Yet there are very few true believers in the full comprehensive gospel still left. There is no true comprehensive school. Labour Members point to the importance of environment, background and neighbourhood—rightly, because the whole social and intellectual range will never be reflected in one school.

The attempt to establish this concept is wrong, because it takes no account of the diversity of human need or the need for flexibility and openness—not only the differences of people and potential but the differences in educational aims. I sometimes wonder whether Labour Members want comprehensives to be just grammar schools. Some of them sug gest that they are so elitist that we are denying "the best" to many children, which implies that they want comprehensives to be glorified grammar schools. Is that so? Silence. Surely it is not right for a great many children.

Let us not delude ourselves about what a comprehensive school is. We on the Opposition side are not against the principle; the present Leader of the Opposition oversaw more changes to a comprehensive pattern than did any other Secretary of State. But we are adamant that we must preserve academic standards. If we accept the diversity of human need and the differences of potential we must obviously provide for those who are academically gifted.

Many comprehensive schools have done well on these lines, but, equally, we should not deny the role of specialised schools, or try to achieve a total solution; there is none. We cannot impose a single structure. There must be flexibility—a wide variety of institutions dealing with diversity of talent and permitting transfer within the State system, at the same time giving parents greater influence about where their children are best placed and the power to suggest another school.

There should be openness rather than ideological commitment to an irrelevancy—the queston whether a few local authorities still retain selection at 11. None of us is against selection on principle—

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

Surely selection is part of life, and should be part of the education system. Can one not tell that at the age of 14 or 15 a child should go in a certain direction—that some are better suited than others to higher education? That selection is made—they make it themselves nine times out of 10, provided that avenues are kept open as long as possible. That is why I, personally, am against selection at 11, because it produces rigidities in the individual child and distortions in the system.

This is not a battle that we should go on fighting now. The way forward is the examination of what is happening in the classrooms and staff rooms of the comprehensive schools, what is taught, the relationship of those schools to the community and of parents to the schools. That is the constructive way to improve our system. Comprehensives exist and their products in increasing numbers, are going to university. But we obviously have to be careful about the statistics.

If the whole country is comprehensive, entry into universities will be 100 per cent. from comprehensive schools. That does not prove very much. One of the attacks that should be made on the way that we have handled this issue compared with, say, Sweden is that where as they have re-organised with each step monitored so as to assist in the planning of the next step, we have not. There has been no help for one local authority as a result of the experience of another. There has been no research on different systems of work. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), in replying from the Front Bench tonight, to denounce the implications which always come from the Labour benches that the Conservative Party stands for privilege.

At the same time we must insist that there is nothing wrong with élitism. All that it means is something different, something that is the best. We are trying to produce diversification and quality in our educational system. We must insist that we want an educational system which provides a role for the individual. Individualism and "localism" are essential aspects.

There are two suggestions which I urge for major change. The first concerns the priority that should be given to the older end of the age group—16 onwards. This deserves a Royal Commission on post-school education to help us sort out the priorities. In the light of the legislation which the Government will no doubt force through the House we shall also need a new Education Act which will re-establish not only the rights of local authorities vis-à-vis the Secretary of State, but also the rights of parents which were enshrined in the 1944 Act and were a cardinal feature of it.

9.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

It is usual when speaking at this point in the debate to say that we have had a most interesting and important debate. The debate has been important in one way, yet in another way I have found it profoundly depressing.

After listening to the speeches by the Secretary of State and a number of Labour Members, I have to admit that I have not heard a single educational argument in favour of the measures proposed in the Gracious Speech. There have been political arguments and social engineering arguments but no educational arguments. It is often said—and people outside frequently bid us to try to do this—that it would be nice to take education out of politics and politics out of education. That has become almost a parrot cry.

We cannot take education out of politics as long as the overwhelming proportion of the provision of education is financed by money raised through taxes and rates. Education will be a political issue in those circumstances whether we like it or not. It should, however, be possible to take politics out of education. It is a pity that we have not been able to keep to the educational issue tonight. As my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) and Ripon (Dr. Hampson) have said, there is so much to do now in education that the Government seem to have chosen a most extraordinary priority.

With the exception of a single set of selective figures produced by the Secretary of State, with which it was clear that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) did not agree, there has been no suggestion that what is being proposed will raise educational standards anywhere. There has been a strange diversity of arguments from Labour Members. The Secretary of State suggested that, since the overwhelming proportion of education authorities had already proceeded or were proceeding with comprehensive schemes, it was desirable to take compulsory powers to deal with the small minority that was not so doing. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Ovenden) said that this was not true. He said that far more local education authorities were either not proposing to proceed with comprehensive schemes or were planning to sabotage them by delaying work on them, and that these powers were necessary to deal with the considerable number of local education authorities which obviously did not want comprehensive schemes.

In what I thought was a slightly naive diversion, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) said that it was impossible to allow two grammar schools to remain alongside the comprehensive schools in his constituency because all the parents there wanted their children to go to them.

Photo of Mr Arnold Shaw Mr Arnold Shaw , Redbridge Ilford South

I did not say that. I said, in effect, that if there were two grammar schools catering for 7 per cent. of the secondary school population and 100 per cent. of the parents wanted those places, where would parental choice come?

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

That is exactly what I thought the hon. Gentleman was about to say, which is why I gave way to him with such alacrity. He has made my point for me. If only 7 per cent. of places are to be provided under this scheme and if, as he suggests, the overwhelming wish of all parents is to send their children to comprehensive schools, I cannot see where there will be fighting in the streets for places in grammar schools.

Government supporters must make up their minds about this. They have said from time to time that there is overwhelming and growing support among parents for comprehensive schools and the non-selective system. If that were true, we ought to have seen some statistical evidence for it somewhere. We have had drawn to our attention already the fact that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, when she was Secretary of State, confirmed a considerable number of local authority schemes to get rid wholly or partly of selection. However, when she turned down a scheme she did it because there was a known volume of parental or local electoral opposition against it—

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. There were always cases where petitions were signed by 15,000 or 16,000 parents or electors. In Birmingham about 250,000 signatures were produced. It is very strange that Government supporters can never produce comparable figures or evidence of demonstrations of support for the destruction of grammar schools and of selection when they seek to impose this by Government edict.

The running on this issue has always been made by middle-class pressure groups in every area of the country. There has never been a surge of working-class parental resentment against the selective system. On the contrary, in the North of England and elsewhere far more working-class parents are worried about losing the chance of getting free places for their children, as opposed to taking action against maintained grammar schools.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Am I to assume from the fact that the hon. Gentleman did not give way to me with alacrity that I am about to put forward a valid point? When the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said on numerous occasions that she had not agreed to a scheme, she justified her action on every possible occasion by saying that she had received a large number of letters. I was a member of a number of delegations on this subject. On every occasion the right hon. Lady said that. I assure the hon. Gentleman that in Sheffield the Labour Party made comprehensive education its basic platform in an election and got the biggest vote ever because of it.

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

One reason why I did not give way to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) with alacrity was that I was sure he would make a very long intervention. In any event, if we are to talk about local government election results we can point to the fact that the Conservative Party swept Bradford on one occasion on the comprehensive issue alone. The same applies to Bristol in terms of direct grant places and also to Northampton.

One of the oddest things about this argument is that so much has been forgotten about the origins of the 1944 settlement. Labour Members seem to have forgotten that in the name of equality of opportunity Labour Ministers and supporters worked very hard to establish the 1944 settlement. Labour Members are now always talking about equality of opportunity and of how the selective system offends against it. But it was precisely to secure equality of opportunity that the 1944 system was originally established. Its Labour supporters, like those of other parties, thought that it would provide new chances for bright children from poorer homes to receive an academic education and to get their feet on the ladder of advancement to university. The argument used was that of equality of opportunity.

It is only lately that the Labour Party has discovered that this great method of securing equality of opportunity is elitist and meritocratic. The system was elitist and meritocratic, and even Labour supporters in 1944 made no bones about it. What they were trying to do was to give opportunities to the brightest children of all classes to obtain an education suited to their intelligence, abilities and aptitudes. It is true that an inquiry discovered that 5 per cent. of children were placed too low in selection tests. It has always been argued that that result destroyed the whole principle of the system. People operating businesses or bookmaking establishments or even those in the Treasury who forecast economic outturn would not think that they were doing too badly if they had a failure rate of 5 per cent. What has happened to Labour Members is that they have ceased to believe in equality of opportunity and to regard that as the most important consideration. Over and again we have discovered that what most Labour Members are interested in is not equality of opportunity but equality of outcome and of result.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ripon was much too optimistic in saying that Labour Members believed in selection at some stage. I assure him that many Labour Members do not believe in selection at any stage at all and have said so repeatedly. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price)—now silent from our education debates since he is engaged in running little errands for Ministers of State—has said openly in previous debates that if selection at 11-plus was wrong, so was selection at 14 or 16, or even at 18 for the university. Only when students entered Open University without qualification was it to be regarded as genuinely democratic. Another Labour Member said that he was not merely against the 11-plus but was against selection at 12 or 13. None of the arguments raised so far is an argument against selection. Labour Members are not arguing that we are missing out some children who should be receiving greater academic education. Their argument is inflexible—namely that one is not giving equality of opportunity to all children to give of their best and to receive the best possible education for their needs.

The answer is not the abolition of selection but the provision of more selection. If they really wanted equality of opportunity, Labour Members would be arguing for continuous selection, for continuous testing, to make sure that nobody was falling behind and that no late developers had been ignored, and to make sure that there was complete flexibility of transfer. At a time when so much else needs to be done in the education system, one does not need to pre-empt parliamentary time to compel what may be comparatively few, but what may be a substantial number of, local authorities to abolish selection altogether.

Nobody has ever really produced a convincing argument to show that in certain areas grammar schools cannot, for educational reasons, coexist with comprehensive schools. The Opposition get tired of being told that if we are against the compulsory abolition of all selection we are therefore in favour of the 11-plus examination. I have said repeatedly in this House, in education debate after education debate, that selection at 11-plus might have made some sense when nearly all children were leaving school at 14. It makes no sense when they are leaving at 15 and 16 and in increasing proportions at later ages. But there is no reason why selection should be at 11-plus and there will always be, in any effective system of education, some selection somewhere, whether it is outside the school or inside it.

Those Labour Members, and they are quite a substantial minority, if they are not a majority, who really are, for philosophical or sociological reasons, against selection as a whole are going to be driven, as some of them are already being driven, much further than to support the measure which the Secretary of State will introduce. His predecessor, now Lord President of the Council, when he introduced his ill-fated 1970 Bill rejected the concept of banding. Others have rejected the idea of streaming. Even setting is not considered egalitarian enough for some Government Members. They will be driven irresistibly towards the non-stream school. One can see this happening with some of the arguments coming from the benches opposite. I see that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough agrees with me and nods. That is the way in which the argument is bound to go.

I think it was de Tocqueville who said that when attempts were made to lessen differences and to produce greater equality, such inequalities as remained were always more bitterly resented and the campaign to get rid of them became stronger, and so it will do now. It will not be enough to produce so-called comprehensive schools. The common curriculum, the equal-ability form, will be fought for with increased stridency and pressure by the egalitarians on the Government Benches. When they have succeeded in driving a number of direct grant and voluntary-aided grammar schools into the independent system, the pressure will start to abolish the independent school.

Inevitably they will be driven to that. I see some Labour Members nodding. One hon. Gentleman interested me when he put forward the argument that the removal of direct grant was justified by the findings of the Donnison Committee. It fascinated the Opposition to see what happened in the case of the Newsom and Donnison Reports. The Newsom Committee started by recommending that all independent schools should become direct grant schools and that the smaller of them could remain selective. The Donnison Committee then published a report which said that all direct grant schools should become non-selective and recognised that this recommendation would drive some of the biggest and best of them into the independent sector. Thus, Newsom having said that all independent schools should become direct grant schools, Donnison said that direct grant schools should become independent if they were not prepared to be selective. Four gentlemen of academic distinction managed to sign both reports by some miracle which I have never been able to discover.

The Secretary of State went some way, but not very far, towards telling us what would be in the Bill. We should like from the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary a little more explanation of what the Secretary of State will do about local authorities which wish to take up free places at the remaining direct grant schools and which wish to take up out-county places or to go outside the strictly non-selective sector which will come in.

What we must now discuss is whether this is something that the Government should have put as their first priority at this time. Inevitably, everybody who is worried about education is talking about the things that need doing now. Textbooks are, perhaps, the smallest of the things which are needed. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake said in an excellent speech, there are now so many worries on the part of parents of children at schools—whether they be high schools, secondary modern schools or even comprehensive schools—about standards, discipline and absenteeism, that one would have thought that the Government would have put forward proposals for doing something about these matters or even for finding out what was happening, because in many cases the Government just do not know since the schools have not been adequately inspected.

If the Government are not to do anything about these things, they might at least put forward a reputable educational argument for the steps they are taking to enforce comprehensive schools on unwilling local authorities. This we have not heard. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North said, the comprehensive school is just one form of secondary school education. Hon. Members opposite and the Secretary of State know that there is no conclusive evidence either way to say whether on the whole the comprehensive school works better than the bilateral or tripartite system. There is no convincing evidence to show that one kind of comprehensive system works better than another kind of comprehensive system. How could there be conclusive evidence yet?

In the absence of conclusive evidence—nobody on the Labour side of the House has attempted to produce any conclusive evidence—is it sensible to try to hurry up local authorities, many of which are at present genuinely trying to work out a system of organisation which suits their local needs best, and to force them to embark upon schemes of reorganisation which neither they nor, in many cases, parents in those localities want?

I hope that the hon. Lady will clear up one or two questions I have about school leavers. It is clear that unemployment among school leavers has become a statistical argument about which there is grave doubt. We want to know something about this. The Secretary of State said that figure includes the under-18s. It was only 65,000. We are not clear whether that figure includes the under-17s. It was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) that some experts connected with the careers advisory service and others believe that there was a great deal of under-counting, that there is much concealed school leaver unemployment and that the figure may be between 100,000 and 200,000.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate said, rightly, that there were no anxieties now in areas where good selective schools coexisted with good comprehensive schools—none commensurate with the widespread anxieties among parents over standards in some of the other schools. He was surely right in saying that the danger of neighbourhood comprehensive schools in poor urban areas is that they will create educational ghettos which in the end can be relieved only by an extensive system of bussing. The evidence is that the danger is not only to the academic child but is very great to the child of average intelligence and average interests if he goes into a school where the prevailing atmosphere is anti-academic.

In certain urban areas this is already beginning to happen and it is an extremely dangerous thing for certain types of children. Unless the Government are prepared to look at this problem and to provide some method by which the neighbourhood comprehensive school in the disadvantaged or deprived area can be given special treatment, they are going to run into very serious difficulties.

In case the Liberal Party should think that it is overlooked, I want to mention one thing that the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) said. I thought I would reserve his accolade for the last. He said, getting in the Liberal Party's usual back-handed slap at both the major parties, that the two-party swing would be very dangerous for some schools and that, if the next Conservative Government—which I was interested to hear he seemed to assume—restored the selective direct grant schools, such schools would be forced to have a sandwich of selective and non-selective years. There would be two or three years of comprehensive intake, with a top layer of selective intake and a new layer of selective intake coming in below, and great damage would be caused by this to the pupils and the staff.

I thought that the hon. Gentleman exaggerated the damage that this might cause. The main point, however, is surely whether it has not occurred to him that this damage could well be avoided by the Government not making the change from the present system. If the hon. Gentleman feels so strongly that great damage is caused by changing from one system to another, the answer is for the Liberal Party to vote with us tonight to prevent the destruction of the selective direct grant school now.

In conclusion, I make an appeal to Labour hon. Members. If they had produced a single educational argument in favour of the measure which they propose to introduce, we would have listened and discussed it on its merits. But not one single educational argument has been produced. We have been told only that the Labour Party has always said this, it has promised it, that it is unfair that some children should not be able to go to grammar schools and that the present system is elitist and meritocratic. But that is a fault of the way in which the system is administered and not something inherently wrong with the system itself.

If the Government do not think that the school system and the way in which the schools are run are exercising the minds of parents, they should go about the country a little more. They should perhaps go to Brixton and talk to West Indian parents who are desperately worried about what is happening to their children. If the Government are prepared to think again about this matter and to deal with the real problem and withdraw or postpone this divisive measure until they have made an effort to grapple with the genuine problems of education, I will, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, give them a pledge: we shall not deride such a change of heart nor boast of it as a victory. [Interruption.] Difficult as it is for the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) to believe that anybody could ever respect a genuine principle or change of heart, it is possible for us. We would respect it, praise it and support it because we would regard it as a victory, not for us but for wisdom and common sense.

9.31 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

It has been said by one or two Opposition Members that the argument on the question of selection is sterile, and various hon. Members have put forward their views about the part of the Gracious Speech on comprehensive education which we are debating. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) referred to the reply of the right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) in November 1972 to the effect that she had no personal views about the 11-plus selective examination system.

One thing which has stood out in the debate today on the question of comprehensive education is that hon. Members who have said that this is not an important matter, that we are rolling along rather nicely and that there are other more important matters than this to debate have overlooked two things. First, the Opposition tabled the amendment. Secondly, and more importantly, if hon. Members opposite argue, as many of them have done, that authorities which have not gone comprehensive have the right to maintain the selective system, they should have put forward a defence of that system. However, they know that it is indefensible.

No Conservative Member has taken up the arguments which show why we oppose the system of selection and why particular authorities wish to retain it. The point about selection is that it is not possible to have a system of education under which it is said "We shall make available to most of our children a type of school which contains many forms of education and, at the same time, keep outside it certain schools for which certain children will be selected and a method devised for determining which children shall go to those schools".

The argument against selection—it is worth restating it, because I do not believe that the Opposition have wanted to hear it—can be summed up quickly and adequately in this way. No method has been devised, and nobody has been able to establish a system of examination or of review by teachers, or both, by which one can predict the development of a child of 10, 11 or more years of age.

To select some children, as the authorities concerned wish to do, and say that they will go to one sector of education but that the rest will have a different type of education—and to give greater resources to those who have been selected for one type of education and less to the others—would result in the fulfilment of predictions made at too early a stage. That has been the argument against selection all along the line.

Moreover, there has never yet been devised an intelligence test or method of selection which avoided the difficulty of a test which is independent of culture and knowledge at the same time. That is another argument against selection.

Have the Opposition forgotten the question of the maldistribution of grammar school places in the areas which they wish to protect from comprehensive education? Have they forgotten and overlooked the fact that in those areas, before the days of comprehensive education, children were coached to pass the 11-plus or other examination? Have they forgotten that outside the State system and in the independent sector schools exist for the express purpose of coaching children to enter schools for which they are selected on the basis of an examination? That is the argument against maintaining that type of selective education.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) made an interesting statement. He admitted that some children should have been, but were not, receiving academic education. That is part of the argument. We forget that, if we tell one group of children that they will receive an academic education and that the rest will not, we are damaging equally those who receive it and those who do not. In other words, we shall have made a prediction about a child. The hon. Gentleman presumably believes that academic education is better than any other type of education. If there is nothing better, it is preferable—as the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) said—to delay the selection process for as long as possible. It is better that we should provide within the larger schools the opportunities for children of varying abilities, interests, aptitudes and intelligence to find their own level and to move about freely within an all-embracing type of education. We should delay making decisions on their behalf for as long as possible. Thereby we would not be fulfilling the prophecies already made about them. We would be leaving the door open.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

I was asking if the Government seek to establish a pluralistic system in which there is a wide variety of different specialised schools, including academic schools?

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I shall come to that later.

I was anxious to deal with the myth of correct selection at any one time. If we are moving towards a comprehensive system of education—I believe that one hon. Gentleman used the word "rolling"—we cannot contain within that system of education a number of authorities which refuse to afford opportunities to children but which perpetuate a system of education which denies opportunities to those whom they select, or do not select, on academic criteria.

Two or three hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who opened the debate, said that the Opposition would have preferred to debate other aspects of education. Reference was made to an inquest on comprehensive schools. But those schools are not dead. We cannot hold inquests on bodies which are not dead. The hon. Member for Chelmsford would like to debate the merits of comprehensive education and what is happening in comprehensive schools. In my view, that would be an excellent idea.

As the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) pointed out, I visited a comprehensive school in his area. Since my appointment to the Department of Education and Science I have taken it upon myself to visit comprehensive schools in various parts of the country. If the Opposition are extremely anxious about this subject, they can select a Supply Day to debate what is taking place in comprehensive schools throughout the country, and I should welcome the opportunity. It would be an extremely valuable debate. I hope that at some time the hon. Member for Chelmsford will press his usual channels for such a debate. I see the hon. Gentleman indicating that he would like me to give way to him. I shall do so, but I shall not continually do so because my time is limited and I may stint him if he wishes to interrupt me more fully later in my speech. However, it is up to him.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I cannot make a treaty with the hon. Lady about when she will or will not give way. However, I was pointing out that, by making comprehensive schools compulsory throughout the country, the Government are preventing a discussion on rational and non-partisan basis about the problems which face comprehensive schools. The hon. Lady has preferred confrontation to dialogue.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

We have tried hard to get the co-operation of all local authorities. We have tried to get all local authorities to go along with what has been the declared wish of the country during several General Elections on the question of comprehensive education. No one is preventing a discussion on the merits of comprehensive education.

There is one point which I should like to correct about what the hon. Member for Chelmsford has just said. It is a question not only of comprehensive schools but of comprehensive education. It is an extremely different proposition to say "Yes, I believe in comprehensive schools but not in a comprehensive system of education."

The point which is always made in debates on this issue is that we are denying parental choice concerning education. If we have a comprehensive system of education, it is said that parental choice is denied to a large number of children. It is important to note that those authorities that are not yet comprehensive are denying parents and children anything other than the selective system of education. They are denying all but a few children the right to choose their school.

The development of a comprehensive system of education means that all types of education are contained within what can be termed "one school". Such a system removes the difficulty which local authorities have to face every time children reach the point where they move on to secondary schools—namely, "Which school will this child go to? How do we decide which school he shall go to?" That is the difficulty which we seek to remove because the choice has been denied to the overwhelming majority of children and parents in this country.

The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) spoke about what he called the ghetto areas of schools and bright pupils being doomed. I should like to know which school or schools he was talking about. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) spoke about the factory-like atmosphere in comprehensive schools where children rush in and out of doors because there are so many classrooms. However, no hon. Member ever indicates which school he or she is talking about.

I have visited comprehensive schools in many parts of the country. There are problems in many comprehensive schools, but there are also problems in grammar schools, even in Eton College and primary schools. I have yet to meet any head teacher or teacher in a comprehensive school who has said that the problems were a direct result of the fact that the school was comprehensive. I agree with the hon. Lady. I have a great deal of concern about the difficulties in some of our schools today.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I should like to complete this point. I am concerned, but I believe that when making these observations hon. Members should make clear whether they are laying these problems at the door of the comprehensive system or are saying that these are problems of discipline and other factors—some of them greatly exaggerated—about which we must be concerned and which are connected with our whole society.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

The hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) wishes me to give way. I shall give way to him, but then I must carry on.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

Has the hon. Lady not had it put to her that in comprehensive schools with about 2,000 pupils some of the problems are due to the particular type of comprehensive school sponsored by the ILEA? Has she not spoken to Mr. Briault, the protagonist and, indeed, the death-bed repentant of such schools?

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I think we are talking about Dr. Eric Briault.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

I am out of date, and so was he.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I have certainly had it put to me that in some schools—some of large and some of not so large numbers—there are problems. Eton College and Manchester Grammar School are large schools. If the problems in some of our large comprehensive schools are the direct result of their size, the same problems must exist in Manchester Grammar School, Eton College, and many others. It is not the number of pupils attending a school that creates the problem. We must look at the organisation of the school, and how it is administered. Indeed that might form the subject of the debate that one hon. Gentleman is particularly anxious to have. I believe that this is a matter to which we could give some attention. Some schools are admirable, and have excellent management, considering the large numbers of children under their control.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

No. I may give way later. I have been generous with my time in giving way. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I must go on.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake said that the Government had ignored the question of adult literacy and that this was a matter of crucial importance. I entirely agree that it is important, but we have not ignored it. We gave money last year, and we hope to give more this year, for adult literacy. That is more than the Conservative Government gave when the problem was mounting and much attention was being drawn to it. We have not ignored that problem. I wish that we had more money to give towards it.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

The hon. Lady is missing the point. I was suggesting that the need to have resources devoted to literacy and the scale of the problem were indications of the failure of the education system.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

We are talking about adult literacy. I agree that adults who cannot read and write need extra help, but I take it a little hard when the hon. Lady suggests that nothing is being done about the problem. We started the first programme for this. However, I do not want to upset her. Perhaps we both agree that the problem needs adequate attention. The Government are looking at it very closely.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate and Banstead

Will the hon. Lady give way? [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."]

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not wrong for the hon. Lady to give way to another hon. Lady but not to an hon. Gentleman?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. I do not want to become involved in the administration of the Sex Discrimination Act.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

I seldom notice the sex of the Members to whom I give way. As I had already given way to several hon. Gentlemen, I felt it only right, when I noticed that the interrupter was an hon. Lady, to give way to her.

I turn to a point of some importance that has attracted discussion tonight. It was raised by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake, and has been referred to by several of my hon. Friends. It is the question of achievement and standards within comprehensive schools. It is difficult to decide how to measure the success or otherwise of any school or system of education, because people are usually self-selecting in what they set out to prove. It is because I believe that the ultimate development of comprehensive education will make us change some of the narrow criteria that we have applied in the past to the question of success or failure, that I hesitate to use some of the more orthodox methods of measuring success or failure.

The comprehensive school is doing very well if it is judged by examination results and the development of examina tion abilities of pupils as we rapidly "roll on" in comprehensive education. If we use that narrow standard of measurement—the old standard—we find that the comprehensive school is doing very well. I hope that as time goes on we shall widen the ways in which we measure the so-called success or otherwise of our pupils. Even on the narrow test that many Conservative Members want to use, children in comprehensive schools are performing very well.

Two other matters were raised. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolver-hampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) raised the question of nursery education. As time is short, she will appreciate that I cannot go into the details of what is happening in nursery education. I shall make two important points. My hon. Friend was absolutely right when she said that the provision for the pre-school child should be developing along the lines of marrying the education service and the caring service. I have visited many nursery units in those areas of the country that are already doing this, to see how this co-operation between the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Social Security is working. They share facilities and concentrate resources, and the result is much better for the children. This is the way we have to go. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security and I are working closely together.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East is right when she says that the provision for the under-fives is not rolling ahead as rapidly as she would like. It is not progressing as rapidly as I should like. Nevertheless, some local authorities are going ahead with it. We hope that many more will do so. Although it is a matter for local authorities, in terms of what allocation they take up and the money they use, it is important to point out that long before we were faced with economic stringency, some local authorities were not taking up the allocation available for nursery education. I hope that they will bear in mind the importance of this aspect of education, particularly the needs of children who have special difficulties. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East is aware of some of the difficulties that exist in this area.

The question of the public lending right is raised in the Gracious Speech. I cannot foresee what the legislation will be, but it is the Government's hope that it will be included.

The question of what will happen to the Old Vic Theatre was raised. The whole matter is under consideration. The point is well taken. It is not my area of responsibility, and no decisions have yet been made.

Perhaps I may come to one other point that was made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen). We are trying to arrive at an adequate figure for unemployed school leavers, but I tell the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon that it is important to know the full picture of what the figures are and what groups they represent, and whether we are talking about those young people who left school in July and are not yet working or about young people who left earlier than that. We must get an accurate figure. Both hon. Members are aware that these figures are not within my Department's area of responsibility. This is a matter of employment, and we must get the figures from the Department of Employment.

However, the point raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree about the job creation programme is very interesting. Again, this is a question of employment, and it is not a matter for my Department. The hon. Gentleman has shown a great deal of interest in this subject over the years—long before he became a Member of the House. I hope that the points he has made will be taken up by my hon. Friends in the Department of Employment. They are important ones, and I am sure that my hon. Friends will note what he said.

As we draw to the close of this very important debate, largely upon the question of the reorganisation of education along comprehensive lines, I believe that my hon. Friends, who have fought four General Elections on this issue, are very

proud tonight that we are able to say that there will be a Bill to ensure that the country offers a system of comprehensive education to the overwhelming majority of children in it.

One or two hon. Members have said that they fail to see what is so urgent about this. They have asked why we do not leave certain authorities alone, and said that things have moved very well—not without help from them, I might say. Some hon. Members have asked why we have picked this out rather than many other things which, I agree, are very important in the whole field of education. The reason must be very obvious, certainly to my hon. Friends and, I believe, to the country in general. First, as I have said, we have fought four General Elections during which we have highlighted the question of comprehensive education, and the fact that we believe in it. We said that if we were elected to power we would implement it for the majority of children up and down the country. We said at each General Election that we hoped we would have the willing co-operation of local authorities. We wanted that, and worked towards it. In the arguments that have taken place over the years, I believe that we have changed the minds of a large number of people in this direction.

Politicians are often accused of not keeping their promises. They are accused of not carrying out the manifesto that they have brought before the electorate. I am very proud this evening to say that this is a commitment that the present Labour Government intend to keep. Its keeping is not a question of political dogma; it is a question of bringing adequate educational opportunity to the overwhelming majority of children under our auspices.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 255, Noes 299.

Division No. 1.]AYES[9.58 p.m.
Adley, RobertBennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Boyson, Dr Rhodes(Brent)
Altken, JonathanBenyon, W.Bradford, Rev Robert
Alison, MichaelBerry, Hon AnthonyBraine, Sir Bernard
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBiffen, JohnBrittan, Leon
Arnold, TomBiggs-Davison, JohnBrotherton, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Blaker, PeterBrown, Sir Edward (Bath)
Awdry, DanielBoscawen, Hon RobertBryan, Sir Paul
Baker, KennethBottomley, PeterBuchanan-Smith, Alick
Banks, RobertBowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Budgen, Nick
Bulmer, EsmondHowe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPercival, Ian
Burden, F. A.Howell, David (Guildford)Peyton, Rt Hon John
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Pink, R. Bonner
Carlisle, MarkHunt, JohnPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Carr, Rt Hon RobertHurd, DouglasPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Channon, PaulHutchison, Michael ClarkPym, Rt Hon Francis
Churchill, W. S.Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Raison, Timothy
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Rathbone, Tim
Clark, William (Croydon S)James, DavidRawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Jenkin, Rt Hn P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Clegg, WalterJessel, TobyRees-Davies, W. R.
Cockcroft, JohnJohnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)Jones, Arthur (Daventry)Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Cope, JohnJopling, MichaelRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Cordle, John H.Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRidley, Hon Nicholas
Cormack, PatrickKaberry, Sir DonaldRidsdale, Julian
Corrie, JohnKellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRifkind, Malcolm
Costain, A. P.Kimball, MarcusRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Critchley, JulianKing, Evelyn (South Dorset)Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, NW)
Crouch, DavidKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Crowder, F. P.Kitson, Sir TimothyRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Knight, Mrs JillRoss, William (Londonderry)
Dodsworth, GeoffreyKnox, DavidRost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLamont, NormanSainsbury, Tim
Drayson, BurnabyLane, DavidSt. John-Stevas, Norman
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLangford-Holt, Sir JohnScott, Nicholas
Dunlop, JohnLatham, Michael (Melton)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Durant. TonyLawrence, IvanShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Dykes, HughLawson, NigelShepherd, Colin
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLester, Jim (Beeston)Shersby, Michael
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Silvester, Fred
Elliott, Sir WilliamLloyd, IanSims, Roger
Emery, PeterLoveridge, JohnSinclair, Sir George
Eyre, ReginaldLuce, RichardSkeet, T. H. H.
Fairbairn, NicholasMcAdden, Sir StephenSmith, Dudley (Warwick)
Fairgrieve, RussellMcCrindle, RobertSpeed, Keith
Farr, JohnMcCusker, H.Spence, John
Fell, AnthonyMacfarlane, NeilSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Fisher, Sir NigelMacGregor, JohnSpicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Sproat, Iain
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Stainton, Keith
Fookes, Miss JanetMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Stanbrook, Ivor
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Madel, DavidStanley, John
Fox, MarcusMates, MichaelSteen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Mather, CarolStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fry, PeterMaude, AngusStokes. John
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.Maudling, Rt Hon ReginaldStradling Thomas, J.
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Mawby, RayTapsell, Peter
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinTaylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)Mayhew, PatrickTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Glyn, Dr AlanMeyer, Sir AnthonyTebbit, Norman
Godber, Rt Hon JosephMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Temple-Morris, Peter
Goodhart, PhilipMiscampbell, NormanThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Goodhew, VictorMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Goodlad, AlastairMoate, RogerTownsend, Cyril D.
Gorst, JohnMolyneaux, JamesTrotter, Neville
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)Monro, HectorTugendhat, Christopher
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)Montgomery, Fergusvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Gray, HamishMoore, John (Croydon C)Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Griffiths, EldonMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Viggers, Peter
Grist, IanMorgan, GeraintWakeham, John
Hall, Sir JohnMorris, Michael (Northampton S)Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Hampson, Dr KeithMudd, DavidWall, Patrick
Hannam, JohnNeave, AireyWalters, Dennis
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon MissNelson, AnthonyWarren, Kenneth
Hastings, StephenNeubert, MichaelWells, John
Havers, Sir MichaelNewton, TonyWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Hawkins, PaulNott, JohnWiggin, Jerry
Hayhoe, BarneyOnslow, CranleyWinterton, Nicholas
Heath, Rt Hon EdwardOppenheim, Mrs SallyWood Rt Hon Richard
Heseltine, MichaelOsborn, JohnYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Hicks, RobertPage, John (Harrow West)Younger, Hon George
Higgins, Terence L.Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Holland, PhilipPaisley, Rev IanMr. Spencer le Marchant and
Hordern, PeterPattie, GeoffreyMr. Cecil Parkinson.
Abse, LeoArmstrong, ErnestAtkinson, Norman
Allaun, FrankAshley, JackBagier, Gordon A. T.
Anderson, DonaldAshton, JoeBarnett, Guy (Greenwich)
Archer, PeterAtkins, Ronald (Preston N)Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)
Bates, AltGilbert, Dr JohnMillan, Bruce
Bean, R. E.Ginsburg, DavidMiller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodGolding, JohnMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Gourlay, HarryMolloy, William
Bidwell, SydneyGraham, TedMoonman, Eric
Bishop, E. S.Grant, George (Morpeth)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Blenkinsop, ArthurGrant, John (Islington C)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Boardman, H.Grocott, BruceMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Booth, AlbertHamilton, James (Bothwell)Moyle, Roland
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Bottomley, Rt Hon ArthurHardy, PeterMurray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Boyden, James (Bish Auck)Harper, JosephNewens, Stanley
Bradley, TomHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)Noble, Mike
Bray, Dr JeremyHart, Rt Hon JudithOakes, Gordon
Brown, Hugh D (Provan)Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyOgden, Eric
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Hatton, FrankO'Halloran, Michael
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Hayman, Mrs HeleneO'Malley. Rt Hon Brian
Buchan, NormanHealey, Rt Hon DenisOrbach, Maurice
Buchanan, RichardHeffer, Eric S.Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Hooley, FrankOvenden, John
Callaghan. Jim (Middleton & P)Horam JohnOwen, Dr David
Campbell, IanHowell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Padley, Walter
Canavan, DennisHowells, Geraint (Cardigan)Palmer, Arthur
Cant, R. B.Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)Park, George
Carmichael, NeilHuckfield, LesParker, John
Carter, RayHughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)Parry, Robert
Carter-Jones, LewisHughes, Mark (Durham)Pavitt, Laurie
Cartwright, JohnHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Castle, Rt Hon BarbaraHughes, Roy (Newport)Perry, Ernest
Clemitson, IvorHunter, AdamPhipps, Dr Colin
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Cohen, StanleyIrving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)Prescott, John
Coleman, DonaldJackson, Colin (Brighouse)Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Colquhoun, Mrs MaureenJackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)Price, William (Rugby)
Concannon, J. D.Janner, GrevilleRadice, Giles
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Jay, Rt Hon DouglasRichardson, Miss Jo
Corbett, RobinJeger, Mrs LenaRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)Robertson, John (Paisley)
Crawshaw, RichardJohnson, Walter (Derby S)Roderick, Caerwyn
Cronin, JohnJones, Alec (Rhondda)Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Cryer, BobJones, Barry (East Flint)Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Rooker, J. W.
Cunningham, Dr J (Whiteh)Judd, FrankRose, Paul B.
Dalyell, TamKaufman, GeraldRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davidson, ArthurKelley, RichardRoss, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Kerr, RussellRowlands, Ted
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Kilroy-Silk, RobertSedgemore, Brian
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Kinnock, NellSelby, Harry
Deakins, EricLamborn, HarryShaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Lamond, JamesSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Delargy, HughLatham, Arthur (Paddington)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dell, Rt Hon EdmundLeadbitter, TedShort, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Dempsey, JamesLee, JohnShort, Mrs Renée(Wolv NE)
Doig, PeterLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Douglas-Mann, BruceLever, Rt Hon HaroldSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Duffy, A. E. P.Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)Sillars, James
Dunn, James A.Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Skinner, Dennis
Dunnett, JackLipton, MarcusSmall, William
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLitterick, TomSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Eadie, AlexLoyden, EddieSmith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Edge, GeoffLuard, EvanSnape, Peter
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Lyon, Alexander (York)Spearing, Nigel
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)McCartney, HughSpriggs, Leslie
English, MichaelMcElhone, FrankStallard, A. W.
Ennals, DavidMacFarquhar, RoderickSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)McGuire, Michael (Ince)Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)Mackenzie, GregorStoddart, David
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Mackintosh, John P.Stonehouse, Rt Hon John
Evans, John (Newton)Maclennan, RobertStott, Roger
Ewing, Harry (Stirling)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Strang, Gavin
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.McNamara, KevinStrauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Madden, MaxSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Flannery, MartinMagee, BryanSwain, Thomas
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Mahon, SimonTaylor, Mrs. Ann (Bolton W)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Mallalieu, J. P. W.Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMarks, KennethThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Forrester, JohnMarquand, DavidThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Freeson, ReginaldMaynard, Miss JoanTierney, Sydney
Freud, ClementMeacher, MichaelTinn, James
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Mellish, Rt Hon RobertTomlinson, John
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Mendelson, JohnTomney, Frank
George, BruceMikardo, IanTorney, Tom
Tuck, RaphaelWeitzman, DavidWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Urwin, T. W.Wellbeloved, JamesWilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.White, Frank R. (Bury)Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Wainwright. Edwin (Dearne V)White, James (Pollok)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)Whitehead, PhillipWoodall, Alec
Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)Whitlock, WilliamWoof, Robert
Walker, Harold (Doncaster)Wigley, DafyddWrigglesworth, Ian
Walker, Terry (Kingswood)Willey, Rt Hon FrederickYoung, David (Bolton E)
Ward, MichaelWilliams, Alan (Swansea W)TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Watkins. DavidWilliams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)Mr J. D. Dormand and
Watkinson, JohnWilliams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)Mr. John Ellis.
Weetch, KenWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question again proposed.

It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.