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Operation of Parents' Expression of Preference of Schools

New Clause 4 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th June 1976.

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'(1) In establishing the wishes of parents for choice of secondary school, in accordance with the provisions of section 76 of the Education Act 1944, a local education authority shall provide the opportunity for parents to express their preference of secondary school formally, and in writing, at least six months prior to the date of commencement of that child's secondary schooling.

(2) Where a county secondary school is over-subscribed following the exercise of parental choice on application, a list of all the applicants to that school shall be sent by the local education authority to the head teacher, together with the appropriate reports and records for each applicant, and it shall be open to that head teacher, in conjunction with the governors of his school, to choose from a list of applicants entries to that school; and he may, if desired, call for interview such applicants as he thinks fit in the same manner as is customary for the voluntary aided schools.

(3) Where a county secondary school is under-subscribed, the head teacher shall be required to accept all applicants, but will be entitled to call for reports and records of each applicant prior to registration at the school; and the head teacher may request the local education authority to re-allocate a child for whom, in his opinion, the school is unsuitable.

(4) For individual cases and exceptional circumstances, the local education authority shall have the right to override a head teacher's non-acceptance of a pupil, as provided in subsection (2) above, and insist on the registration of a pupil at that school.

(5) Head teachers of voluntary schools shall retain the right of admission to the school, whether or not the school is over-subscribed, and may call for reports, records, and interviews as may be required'.—[Dr. Hampson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

10.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

With this we may take also New Clause 6 (Transfer of pupils between schools), New Clause 27 (Across boundary choice), New Clause 28 (Choice of schools), New Clause 32 (Amendment to section 36: Selection of schools), New Clause 37 (Annual right of transfer) and New Clause 38 (Application to change school).

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

The clauses cover a long list of important aspects of an overriding theme of the Opposition's case in Committee that first and foremost parents have the right to a choice of the sort of education their children shall have and that that is a fundamental part of our education system, a right enshrined in the 1944 Act.

The basic clauses in this set—New Clauses 4, 37 and 38—draw attention to that general principle, which was so important in the drafting of the 1944 Act, the general principle section of which is Section 76. When that measure came before the House in 1944, introduced by Lord Butler, as he now is, and the then Mr. Chuter Ede, much of the discussion centred on the rights of parents. The Act placed responsibility for the education of children not on the local education authority but fairly and squarely on the parents. It was then the duty of the authority to supply the means by which parents could carry out their responsibility.

Time and again during the passage of that Act, Members kept returning to that basic point. They asked whether there would be a firm guarantee that parents would have a say which meant something in the education of their children. Section 76 was originally drafted as an amendment to Clause 8 of the 1944 Bill.

We believe that there is a fundamental right, on which we have let parents down in the years since 1944. Labour Members frequently say that the right of parents to have a say has all too often meant little or next to nothing for the vast bulk of parents. We are trying to produce a scheme, a framework, which would be the basis for giving reality for the first time to that fundamental right which we have always believed that parents possessed.

Further than that, if parents can be brought into the schools, involved and interested to a far greater extent than has been the case, that will be healthy for the schools and for the children's education. We fall behind other countries in the amount of interest and concern that parents take in the schools attended by their children. Later new clauses make it clear that they have further rôles to play within the school, and that they have a say about what happens in the school, by changing the nature of the governing system and so on. We should find that as a result parents were more involved in the education of their children.

It is a fundamental fact that for every 1,000 hours a year a child spends in school, he or she spends 8,000 hours outside it. Therefore, the influences of the parent, the home and the environment of which that home is part are fundamental for the education, development and prospects of the child. I should have thought that there was common ground on this on all sides. The point has been put many times in the House and it was put by Labour Members in Committee.

I therefore feel that we have a good right to expect the Government at least to show sympathy with what we are trying to do and, further, that they will be prepared to go beyond that, particularly in the light of the factors we advanced in argument in Committee when we tried to amend the Bill. We hope that the Government will be in a position to agree to some of the proposals in these new clauses.

I hope that we shall not get bogged down in the artificial and sterile argument that the Conservative Party supports privilege and believes that richer people who have the means will opt out and buy better education. These new clauses take for granted that we are trying to get choice and that we believe that the secondary system will be comprehensive, because that is the way in which the pattern of education has evolved since the 1944 Act.

We have said many times, and again tonight, that the whole Conservative philosophy of education is gradualist. That is how we see our proposals operating. That is the essence of education in dealing with children and with the relationship of children and their teachers. It is wrong to try to establish a total approach, a one-solution approach.

In this organically developing system, what is important is the way in which parents and pupils have choice. We are firmly convinced that by the time young persons reach the age of 14, 15 or 16 they are beginning to decide what they want to do. They are taking a choice as to the road ahead which they wish to follow, whether in a vocational or an academic direction and in what subjects. It is right and proper that they should have some say in deciding what courses they should take.

We go beyond that and say that the natural corollary involves having a choice of school. It seems inevitable, in the light of public expenditure forecasts and the intentions of the present Government, and of any other Government for the foreseeable future, to limit public expenditure, that the secondary school will be far from comprehensive, if that description means that it will be able to take pupils of all abilities and of the whole ability range, offering as wide a range of courses as all those abilities require.

Can any hon. Member foresee a situation in which all comprehensive schools will offer the courses necessary to meet all ranges of ability among all their pupils? That would involve their having the whole social and economic range of their areas, since a neighbourhood comprehensive reflects the social environment of its area—unless there were gerrymandering of catchment areas. Comprehensive schools, however, will not all be the same. This must be common ground, because teachers teach differently and have different approaches. A headmaster can establish the tone of his school, and each headmaster will have a different approach.

The most important point is what I call the inheritance factor. When a comprehensive school is created, it is an amalgam of other schools. If it is formed of two secondary modern schools, especially in a bad social area, or a deprived urban or rural area, it will be a different creation from what would be formed if the amalgam was of a secondary modern and a grammar school. If there is an amalgamation of secondary modern schools, where will be the teachers with degrees and high qualifications? When a grammar school is included, the inheritance factor will provide specialist teachers, language laboratories and the rest.

Secondary modern schools may have finer vocational traditions, with better woodwork and metalwork shops, and a finer career approach than grammar schools. We have the makings of a diversified system of secondary education. This is not something to scorn, avoid, change or abolish. It is good and should be positively encouraged. With current financial limitations, it will not be easy to build new facilities and to even out the disparities in specialist staffs at various schools.

The Minister of State and the Secretary of State have recognised in the past few months—not before time—that there is a great shortage of specialised teachers, particularly of mathematics and modern languages. We have urged the Government that instead of slashing across the board the supply of qualified teachers, we need some selectivity so that we promote the areas where there are shortages. The day is far distant when we shall not be short of these specialists.

Are we to throw young people with great potential in certain areas to the dogs? Are we to condemn them to schools in which their potential, whether vocational or academic, will not be fully developed? Why should we be embarrassed at the thought that some children are academically better than others? No country can survive unless it makes the best use of its academic talents.

We must make a positive virtue of differences in schools and let children get on and develop in their own way. That should not mean that a bright child should have to go to a school which has no academic stimulus. The Government have abolished the option of direct grant schools, and this will have a particularly serious effect in urban areas where we find neighbourhood ghetto schools with no academic stimulus. Youngsters who show potential at, say, the age of 14 cannot now use the escape hatch of direct grant schools like Bristol, Manchester or Leeds Grammar Schools, when the neighbourhood comprehensive school may not be able to draw out their potential.

The inevitable consequence of rejecting what I would argue is the mythical concept of comprehensive schools is to switch to the idea of a comprehensive "service" to the community, which is a phrase from the 1944 Act. Therefore, within a given area there would be a range of schools from which parents and pupils could make a choice.

For the life of me, I cannot see why the Government should have any objection to that approach. The objection which came repeatedly in Committee is the most untenable of all—namely, that every age, aptitude and ability can be catered for in one school. That argument is what I have sought to demolish. That might be the Government's ultimate goal, but how can they be right?

11.0 p.m.

As well as the pragmatic and practical aspects, there remains the fundamental right of parents to have some say and choice. All of us have probably had many examples of people drawing our attention to the fact that their children show potential in a subject such as music. A case of this kind has come to my attention, and probably many hon. Members have had a similar experience. The parents know that a school in their area has a good music department as against the school which their child attends, where a teacher who is a specialist in another subject plays the piano for hymns and uses records.

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

The hon. Gentleman has said that the comprehensive school is one school. Does he say that a rainbow is of one colour or that a cold buffet is one dish?

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

At times I have respect for the hon. Gentleman, but on this occasion he cannot possibly have listened to my argument. I began by saying that we accepted that comprehensive schools would all be different. I was not saying that they were uniform.

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

The hon. Gentleman said "one school".

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

I said that the Government seem to believe that the answer to all education problems is to have one school. We say, on the contrary, that acknowledgment should be given to the need for a variety of schools which give parents and pupils an option.

If all schools are to be integrated and interdependent, the system will require flexibility. It will require a more flexible attitude on the part of local education authorities. For example, in the case I have cited, the parents of the child who is considered to have potential in music feel that he is not being catered for sufficiently in his present school. As one of the new clauses suggests, that might even involve the transfer of the child across the boundaries of the education authority into the school of another authority.

Many local education authorities have moved into that sort of system. They are giving a greater flexibility of choice. They are more prepared to consider transfers. That approach, however, is far from standard. It is so fundamental and impartant a principle that we feel it should be part of our education legislation.

There is no reason to suggest that a system which offered the choice I have described would not work. However, the Government stand on the principle that it would be wrong to recognise differences in schools to the point at which some specialise in certain subjects and others specialise in other subjects. We deny that the Government are taking the right position. We see no reason for there not being specialism.

The Government may say that it would not be practical to move pupils around, but it happens in Winnipeg and other parts of Canada and in the United States. There is no reason for its not happening here. The Minister of State said on many occasions in Committee that we were paying lip service to Section 76—namely, parental choice. He asked what we meant and how we would operated our system. Tonight we have given him some answers within a broad framework.

The commitment is enshired in the principle that parents shall have the right to express a preference. That is set out in New Clause 37. It provides that Parents shall have the right to express a preference regarding which of the authority's maintained schools they would like their child to attend". Surely they should have that right each year.

We have had much vociferousness from the Government's Left wing, but basically the Government have to realise that there is a problem, especially in important subjects such as mathematics. There is a perpetual decline. In 1961 The Times stated that urgent action was necessary to stop the decline in standards in mathematics and the declining number of mathematic students at university. The whole problem starts at the lower level, beginning at primary school and continues to university level. Universities now have remedial classes in mathematics and languages. The need has been recognised. It is surely sensible, however, to adopt the sensible proposals which we put forward as a first step to monitoring what is happening in junior and secondary schools, proposals which were enshrined in the Bullock Report. It is not surprising that the Government do not want to debate that report. They do not believe in the basic principles that it propounded.

The next stage is to use parents to try to get an improvement in the standards of schools. They know their children. Indeed, one can hardly turn round these days without hearing the anxiety of parents about what is happening to their children. If every year they had the right to exercise a preference whether they were happy with their school or whether there was another school which they thought more suitable for their children, I should have thought there would be pressure on the schools to ensure that their standards met the expectations and requirements of parents. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) said "That is absolute rubbish" or words to that effect.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Rossendale

The hon. Gentleman misheard me. I said "That is absolute double think". Will he tell us how he can rationalise the remarks he has been making about parents selecting schools of their choice with the situation that we debated earlier in Tameside, where parents did just that, because his friends on the local council washed it out?

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

I deny what the hon. Gentleman said. If I got sidetracked into that argument, Mr. Speaker would not be pleased, even at this hour of the night, which is yet young, because we have already gone over that matter. It is not double think at all, because it works. It works in a number of places throughout the world.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

Subsection (1) of the new clause provides that a local education authority shall provide the opportunity for parents to express their preference of secondary school formally, and in writing, at least six months prior to the date of commencement of that child's secondary schooling. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) seems highly relevant. I suggest that, if the hon. Gentleman is to be honest with the House tonight, he should deal with the point that was put to him—"at least six months"? How far away is September in Manchester?

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

I am not clear what the Minister is trying to say. If he feels that there is a problem with the period of six months, I am sure that having accepted the principle, he is capable of changing it. On the other hand, if he is trying to draw me into the Tameside debate again at this stage, I do not think that would be appropriate, as I am sure Mr. Speaker would agree.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Rossendale

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it permissible for an hon. Member to state an argument in one direction on a principle and then to reverse the principle when it suits him?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. That has been done many times, but I am not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman is doing it.

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

That is very kind of you, Mr. Speaker. I did not think that I was doing so either. The hon. Member for Rossendale is letting his hair down this evening. Obviously he was muzzled by his hon. Friend in Committee. Never mind. We appreciate that he has such a marginal seat that he has to keep stirring on any issue he can. The idea that parents have and can exercise the right is far from impracticable, because it operates.

New Clause 38 would put the onus on local education authorities to inform parents of their right to express a preference regarding the maintained schools in which their children are being educated or to which they could go. There is no reason why that should not be done. It is an easy thing to do. It can be done by notes sent home via the children. In Winnipeg a television advertisement is broadcast. I am not suggesting that we should necessarily do that. It is important, however, that the local education authority should inform parents that they have this right, otherwise we shall not get them involved in the education of their children to the degree that we want.

Frankly, parents have been conditioned by a system which has virtually ostracized them for many years. They have all been accustomed to what is in many ways a virtue in our system—that the headmaster is autonomous in the school and the teacher is sacrosanct in the classroom. But all too often that has meant that the parent has been kept out and has not been told, let alone consulted, about what happens to the child in the school. It is very important that the local education authority should remind parents of their rights on a regular basis.

In support of this I cite the study done by Lynch and Pimlott at Southampton University, produced in February this year under the title "Parents and Teachers". Their main conclusion was that: The majority of parents have little desire to interfere in the internal running of the school. They go on to say: But there is firm evidence to suggest that many parents would welcome greater information, consultation and involvement in their child's education than is available to them at the moment. Frankly, I believe that that is an understatement. We all know how deeply felt this is. There has to be a formula for releasing those tremendous energies which lie in the parents and in the family, which should be involved in the education of the children, so that anxieties may be relieved in regard to standards in certain areas.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the most successful schools in the State sector are those with parent-teacher associations, where there is this involvement?

Photo of Mr Keith Hampson Mr Keith Hampson , Ripon

That is right. I have been to Glasgow, and it is refreshing to find that the Scots are taking such an interest in the debate. I met people in the university there who had made a point of stimulating parent-teacher associations in the worst areas of Glasgow, with remarkable effect. From next to none these associations have grown to over 100 in number, and they are playing a very important role in the schools. It can be done provided there is the motivation. In many areas it is not there, and the catalyst must be somewhere else. In such cases the catalyst, as we suggest in our new clause, should be the local education authority, which would inform the parents of their rights and also supply them with the appropriate forms, as necessary.

The situation might arise in which a very large number of parents started off wanting the same schools. That is an inevitable aspect of it. It is nothing to be pooh-poohed or criticised, because parents reflect the community feelings about the reputations of schools.

Standards rise and fall in schools, often with the exchange and retirement of staff. The tone of a school can change. I have known schools which over many years have moved from traditional methods to very progressive methods, or vice versa. The sizes of schools also change. Schools in certain growth areas become bigger. A child may be ill at ease in a big, amorphous school and should have the right to move. But a large number of parents and children may want a particular school.

There has to be the option for the local education authority not just to give a totally wide-ranging choice but possibly to establish a particular zone or catchment area for a school. In that way there would be a prioritising, so to speak, of the choice, either geographically or, better still, as a catchment from the primary schools. When the child attended a feeder school, the parent would have the first preference over those outside the area in requesting a particular school, of whatever sort it might be.

Hon. Members may not be particularly in support of the actual details. We put down the new clauses because we have often been accused of not having details or proposals but merely a loose commitment to the rights of parents to have a say. It is more than that. Of course we believe that parents have a say, but we also believe that it is perfectly feasible for that say to be exercised in the choice of schools, both between those in the maintained sector and those outside it and between those within the maintained sector, because it is in the maintained sector—and now, indeed, in comprehensive schools in the maintained sector, that the majority of parents are now educating their children.

11.15 p.m.

Therefore, we say that parents have a right to have some choice. Parents have a right to know. In later proposals of ours we shall come to knowing about schools, so that parents are not only told that they have a right to choose but have a basis upon which to make their choice and know what is going on in other schools. We want to see that the figures are published and the prospectuses of the schools are made available to them. Also, parents would have a right as later new clauses make evident, to appeal against whatever decision the local education authority came to on their particular claims.

Not only do we think this to be of fundamental importance, and not only have we demonstrated that it is practicable because it works elsewhere. It has an impeccable pedigree of support—none other than the Secretary of State's present Parliamentary Private Secretary. That is not the rather more attractive one of the pair at present with us on the Front Bench, but the other one, who, I have no doubt, has his attractions. He has certainly been in the job on and off for many years. When he was not in the job, in an article some time ago in The Guardian he recommended this sort of parental choice. Why? It was because he thought that it was healthy to have parents involved in the school. He thought that it exercised a yardstick by which standards could be improved. He even dared to use the term "the use of the market".

Of the whole of this country, excluding Scotland but including Wales, 82 per cent. of the population live in urban areas. I fully accept that almost inevitably there will be less choice in rural areas under this system, where one has great travelling distances. There is a great problem in rural areas. However, as the vast bulk of people live in urban areas where there will be a wide variety of schools, this system could work.

I am not quite sure on what basis one determines what is a good school, but if there is a definition of a good school what it is not is anything to do with overall structure. What we are all about is surely the quality of education. That is what we are all after in legislating in this place. Our condemnation of the Bill is that it is not concerned with the qualitative aspect of education. It is concerned purely and simply with structure and with reorganisation of structure. A good school transcends structure. A good school thrives on imaginative leadership, on an enthusiastic staff committed to a curriculum and on adequate resources—which are all too likely now not to be available. It also depends upon the full support of governors and parents.

I hope that the new clauses receive the approval of the House. In debates in Committee the Government have always paid lip service to their belief in the right of parents to have a say. They have said time and again at every stage "Yes, we want consultation with parents. Yes, Section 76 means something." Let the Government now prove it.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

I know that the hour is late, but the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) did not do credit to his intelligence, his expertise in education, or his liberalism. I have rarely heard in this House such a vacuous and misleading speech. Throughout his speech the hon. Gentleman did not address himself to the details of the new clauses. I am scarcely surprised, because on the only occasion when I drew to his attention one of those details, he said what he so often said in Committee: "If the Minister does not like it, the Minister can put something else there." He said that repeatedly in Committee, and he has said it again tonight. However, it is not the task of a responsible Opposition to say "This is just a try on and if the Government do not like it, so long as they put forward something in the same broad area, we shall be perfectly content."

The hon. Gentleman stressed that throughout his speech. This was typical of the speeches that he made in Committee, when he was constantly trying to conceal from his hon. Friends just how liberal were his own educational views, honestly expressed, and the broad differences between him and the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson).

The hon. Gentleman again repeated the advantage which would arise from the system to the child with ability—the child who can. The hon. Gentleman said that repeatedly in his speech and the whole House heard him. Never once did he mention what happens to the child who cannot. Never once did he say what happens if one concentrates teaching resources entirely upon those able in the subject to the disadvantage of those with lesser ability in that subject.

Let me turn to the details of the new clause. New Clause 4 purports to establish a new system of responsibility for admission of pupils to schools. At the moment that responsibility rests with the local education authorities or the school governors or, depending on the school's articles of government, with the school governors specifically. But the Education Acts do not specify how school places are to be allocated, or how parents are to choose between the places available.

What does the hon. Gentleman put forward in place of the present system? I shall pass over subsection (1) of the new clause fairly rapidly. In particular I shall pass over that part which I quoted earlier—that there should be a period of at least six months before admission when parents shall name their choice of school.

The House will have noted that the hon. Gentleman was unwilling to comment on the actions of his own party in another part of the country. In any event many LEA's already comply with the requirements of subsection (1). Subsection (2) is of much greater interest.

Photo of Hon. Peter Morrison Hon. Peter Morrison , City of Chester

If I understand the Minister to say that he approves of LEA's requiring parents to put their children's names down six months before admission, why does he not believe that this right should be enshrined in the law?

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

I am not happy about the phrase "putting their children's names down". I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to a school which he attended, the system which operated there and the phrases used there, rather than the system which operates for the majority of parents. But I take the point. However, local authorities at present ask parents what their choice of school would be, particularly within the comprehensive system. There is very little point in asking parents within a totally selective system what is their choice of school, because that choice is determined by an examination at 11-plus. Therefore, the suggestion is only relevant within a comprehensive system.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at least in London education authority areas when parents are asked to give their first choice it is not actually their first choice? They are expected to go into a lottery to try to pick which school their children are likely to go to. If they do not get that school, they are put right at the bottom of the list. Can he not see the point of allowing them to choose months or even years ahead the school they would like if they had the chance?

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman has said. Nothing in the new clause would affect that situation in the slightest degree.

The hon. Member just said that parents put down the name of the school they think they will get. It does not make the slightest difference whether the system is enshrined in the law or whether it is operated informally as it is throughout the country. It is not changed by being written into the law. I know that the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Morrison) is pained by what I am saying. If he wants to intervene I shall give way, because we had such a good relationship in Committee, but I do not think that he has a new point to raise.

Subsection (2) of the new clause gives the ultimate power of admission to a head teacher: Where a county secondary school is oversubscribed following the exercise of parental choice on application, a list of all the applicants to that school shall be sent by the local education authority to the head teacher, together with the appropriate reports and records for each applicant, and it shall be open to that head teacher, in conjunction with the governors of his school, to choose from a list of applicants entries to that school". So all power resides—

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

I shall happily do so: …and he may, if desired, call for interview such applicants as he thinks fit in the same manner as is customary for the voluntary aided schools. The hon. Member seems to think that we are still on the clause dealing with literacy tests.

Those words have only one meaning —that all power shall reside with the head teacher. The Opposition continually said in Committee that the great evil of the Bill was that it took away the power of LEAs. Where is power for the LEAs in this subsection? It has totally disappeared and is passed to the head teacher. All we are left with is a perfunctory reference to the head teacher acting "in conjunction with" the governors, a power that I could not begin to interpret.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

That is surely a distortion. There is all the difference in the world between a local authority having autonomy in the policy in its own area and a head teacher having autonomy in the school to which he has been appointed by the local authority, and there is nothing incompatible between the two.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

No one suggested that head teachers should not have autonomy within the schools to which they have been appointed by the local authority. But we are talking about admissions policy, which is a major element in the responsibilities of LEAs. The Opposition propose to take that responsibility away and to offer it to head teachers.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

It is no good the hon. Gentleman saying, "No, I want the words to mean something other than what they patently mean."

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

But this idea already works well in voluntary aided schools. I have children at a State voluntary aided school where the head teacher has this right. It works well and the spirit in the school is better than at many others.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

But we are not talking purely about voluntary aided schools.

Photo of Hon. Peter Morrison Hon. Peter Morrison , City of Chester

But we are, and it works.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

The new clause does not talk about voluntary aided schools in general. We shall come to them in a moment, because the system that the hon. Gentleman talks about is not general. In voluntary aided schools the power of admission in general resides with the governors. Whether they wish to delegate it to the head teacher is a different question. It does not reside with the head teacher any more than at the moment the power of admission resides with the head teacher in a county secondary school. There is only one meaning to the words of the amendment—the Opposition want to take away LEAs' power to determine admissions policy in their own areas.

Subsection (3) essentially contains little change from the present position, except that once again the head teacher is put in the position at present occupied by the local education authority or the governors. This time we do not even get a courteous reference to the governors.

11.30 p.m.

Then comes subsection (4) in this long list of subsections determining where power and responsibility shall lie: For individual cases and exceptional circumstances"— here the local education authority comes into its own— the local education authority shall have the right to override a head teacher's non-acceptance of a pupil, as provided in subsection (2) above, and insist on the registration of a pupil at that school. I am glad that the local education authority has some residual power under the Opposition's proposal. The subsection refers to: individual cases and exceptional circumstances". What about the general run of circumstances and the general admissions policy? The LEA is left with precisely nothing on the basis of the clause.

Finally, there is subsection (5): Head teachers of voluntary schools shall retain the right of admission to the school, whether or not the school is over-subscribed, and may call for reports, records, and interviews as may be required. I alluded to that a moment ago when the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) intervened. "Head teachers shall retain", but in general they do not have that right except so far as it is delegated to them by the governors of the school. The wording of the clause is clearly deficient.

I do not intend to detain the House by talking at length about the other clauses, which are all as deficient as the one with which I have just dealt. I suppose that I should say something about each of them, if only to make the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) happy. I sat through 35 Sittings of the Committee to gratify the hon. Member for Dorking, and I do not want to break that habit.

Let us look briefly at New Clause 6, which reads as follows: Local education authorities shall provide for the transfer of children from one secondary school to another, either within or outside the area of that local education authority, in accordance with the wishes of the parents and the changing requirements of the child; and such transfer of children shall be with the agreement of the head teacher of the receiving school. The clause is designed to complement New Clause 4 by dealing with transfer cases, although the hon. Gentleman did not say so. Successive Secretaries of State, in the light of legal advice, have expected local education authorities and governors to observe, when parents ask for their children to be transferred, principles based on the criteria of Section 37 of the 1944 Act. The effect of this is that the parent's wish will normally be respected except where the proposed new school would be unsuitable to the child or his attendance there would involve unreasonable expense to the LEA—or, in particular circumstances, the proposed change of school would be inexpedient in the interests of the child.

The clause would remove from the transfer process every voice except that of the parent and the head teacher of the receiving school. There is no suggestion that their decisions should have any regard to questions of resources. In Committee we became used to the Opposition's putting forward proposals which would entail considerable but unquantifiable increases in public expenditure. That is what we have come to expect of the Opposition. There is no suggestion that the decision should have any re and to educational policy or to any other criterion save the wishes of the parent and the head teacher—not even the interests of the child, except for the vague reference to his "changing requirements", whatever that phrase is supposed to mean.

Photo of Mr Trevor Skeet Mr Trevor Skeet , Bedford

Would the hon. Gentleman take into account the position of Asians being transferred to another school? The parents may have strong views for sociological reasons. Is that not a criterion which should be considered?

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

I am sure that it is a criterion which is relevant but it does not seem to me remotely relevant to the new clause.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

I have read it out to the House. Again, I stress that there is no place in it for any criterion save the wishes of the parents and the head teachers. Once again, the function of the local education authority is as an office handling papers. It would be open to a head teacher to accept any number of children whose parents wished them to transfer from other schools, irrespective of all the normal rational considerations. The new clause would make total nonsense of the administration of the maintained schools system, and I am sure that the House will reject it totally on those grounds.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

Would the hon. Gentleman modify his statement slightly? He tried to make the point that the new clause made no mention of educational considerations and that it would be entirely a matter for the parents' wishes. As a parent, he must surely accept that a parent takes great cognisance of the varying educational needs of the child at the time, and that between that child, the parents and the head teacher there is surely a very good assessment of the educational needs of the child. There is no need to put it more explicitly in the new clause.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

As so often, I find it hard to dissent from the general principle of what the hon. Gentleman has said. I agree that parents know their own children—at least some of them do. Some head teachers know their children in their schools. But that in no way justifies a new clause which would write the local education authority and the governors out of the administration of admissions and transfer policy within the maintained system. I agree as a matter of principle with the hon. Gentleman but that does not mean that we can accept the extraordinary words of the new clause.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

If the hon. Gentleman had to say whether the parents, the local education authority or the head teacher were the most important, would he put the parents or the local education authority at the top of the list?

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

I would not put any of them at the top of the list. I would put the child at the top. The interests of the children must be paramount in our consideration of the Bill. [Interruption.] I am not surprised by the protests from the Opposition. Many hon. Members opposite are not motivated by a defence of the interests of children but have other motives which I should not spell out at this moment, but they are clear enough.

New Clause 27 would not break new ground. The present legislation on the admission of pupils to schools is administered in such a way that parental choice of school will always be upheld unless the local education authority can show either that the school selected is unsuitable for the child's age, ability or aptitude, or that his attendance there would cause unreasonable expense to the authority. If the home authority can offer a place at a suitable school within a reasonable travelling distance, it may well be relunctant to pay the extra-district fee, in which case the other authority may be reluctant to admit a child to the school as it is not going to receive the extra-district fee. We hope that the authorities will be flexible about admissions from the areas of adjoining authorities to fill marginal places remaining in schools close to their boundaries after the needs of their own areas have been met.

Nothing in the new clause would change the position, and parents would have no greater choice than they enjoy at present. Indeed, the addition of this clause would only raise false expectations, and I urge the House to reject it.

Really, I think that the less said about New Clause 28, the better. Parents are free to choose between the available maintained schools to the extent which is compatible with proper education, and the sensible use of local resources. That is the way in which Secretaries of State of both parties have administered the present law. It is not clear whether this new clause is intended to sweep away the present limitations of the law, and allow the parents' right to choose a school to take precedence over all other criteria, including the educational interests of the child. If this is not the intention of the new clause, it appears to add nothing to what already exists in relation to the wishes of parents.

The other new clause adds precisely nothing to New Clause 4, and I pass over them in silence.

What we have heard tonight is a speech of some interest—although not always of total candour—of Opposition policy. But the speech bore very little relation to the suggested new clauses. These new clauses are such patent nonsense that I hope we shall spend very little time on them.

11.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) on the way he introduced the new clause. If the Minister cannot understand what motivates us in supporting it, I can tell him that we support it not for party political purposes but simply because so many of our constituents have come to us week after week with tragic reasons and cases in which they have been prevented by local education authorities from sending their children to the school of their choice. This is something which has been happening for years—ever since the 1944 Education Act, in fact.

We believe that the time has come to put it right. I welcome the seven new clauses which we are debating. Not one of them would cost the Government an extra penny, and they would fulfil the wishes of many parents and their children. Another good reason for introducing them and for including them in the Bill is that they would stimulate a welcome element of competition among local education authorities. If we can stimulate this competition, it is only for the good of education and the good of the child.

I can give two examples of depicting why it is essential to give parents a much wider choice of the schools to which their children go. The first relates to a system of education which we have in Leicestershire which is known as the Leicestershire plan. It is a form of comprehensive education which is very popular among the parents of the children who are educated under it.

A few years ago, parts of the county of Leicester which operated the plan were due to be transferred into the city of Leicester which did not operate it. The change arose from proposals by the Boundary Commissioners. The parents of the children who were covered by the plan wrote me nearly 5,000 letters saying that they wanted to remain under the plan. If we had at that time had this Bill with New Clause 6 included, so great would have been the flood of applications from parents in the city to get their children into the county plan schools that the city would have been compelled to introduce a similar plan to avoid its schools being emptied.

My other example relates to Countesthorpe College, which was within my constituency until a couple of years ago. In this case there was grave disquiet among the parents of many of the children at the college over the manner of education their children were receiving. Eventually I led a deputation to the then Minister of Education in relation to the county's view that parents had no freedom of choice but had to send their children to Countesthorpe. We appealed under Section 76 of the 1944 Act.

I know from what happened that the only way in which parents who were desperately anxious about the system at the college were able to exercise a choice and remove their children from what they regarded as a perilous system of education was to move their home lock, stock and barrel to another catchment area.

Perhaps I may refer to Section 76 of the 1944 Act. New Clause 4 provides parents with an opportunity to express a preference, but that only emphasises the intentions of those who instituted the 1944 Act. Section 76, under the heading Pupils to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents", states In the exercise and performance of all powers and duties conferred and imposed on them by this Act the Minister and local education authorities shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. That was one of the fundamental principles of the 1944 Act. I do not need to remind the House that, if a parent thought that that was being ignored by the local education authority, the right to appeal to the Minister still exists.

I support the new clauses because they put into black and white that which should have been put into black and white years ago. I prefer the wording in New Clause 6, which relates to the transfer of pupils between schools, to the wording in New Clause 27, because that gives local education authorities the right of veto. My constituents and I have learned that, if one gives aducation authorities the right of veto, parental choice disappears. New Clause 6 does not give that right of veto. It leaves it to the parents and intaking headmasters to decide, but New Clause 27 requires the consent of the local education authority, which is undesirable.

All hon. Members have heard of examples of the tragic cases of children who are not able to go to the school of their parents' choice. Only last week a silly decision was taken over a child on the southern fringes of Leicestershire who wanted to attend a school in Northamptonshire and who had been accepted for a special course. That child's transfer was vetoed by the Leicestershire education authority and she now has to attend a Leicester city school, which means that her journey time is trebled. That was a stupid decision, and it is that sort of situation that we are trying to put right.

The group of new clauses enshrines the principle of choice by establishing a parent's right of choice on the grounds of religion or curriculum. A parent might wish to send a child to a school which specialises in music, the arts or sport. A parent might have a relative who sends a child to a particular school and might want to follow in the same path. It might be more convenient to send a child to a particular school because the parent works outside an area, and it might be easier for that child to be dropped off at a particular school. There may be no apparent reason for a choice of school, but a parent must be allowed to make the choice. A parent may wish a child to go to a school with strong discipline or send a child to a school like Countesthorpe, which is run on a tribal basis.

We do not think it right that the State should dictate in this matter. We support a policy of building schools to satisfy parental demand rather than a policy which involves local education authority direction.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , Liverpool Wavertree

Will my hon. Friend give us details of this interesting tribal system?

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

Out of deference to you and the House, Mr. Speaker, I shall not go into more detail, though not because I do not have a detailed knowledge of how it operates, with its moot, which governs all day-to-day activities in the college. But it is not in my constituency any more, and it has not been since the February 1974 election. Probably without my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) being present it would not be right to dwell upon it. I shall not be tempted by my hon. Friend, but I shall speak to him afterwards in the Smoking Room.

The Socialists are great believers in directions. It is so much more convenient for bureaucrats, particularly Socialist bureaucrats, to direct people hither and thither. It is more convenient if parents and pupils conform to a pattern, and it is very inconvenient if they do not all wish to be herded together in the same pupil flow. The Labour Party has always rejected customer and consumer choice. One can think, for example, of its stupid outlook over television. For years it resisted having more than the BBC State channels. That outlook is reflected even today in its attitude to competition with British Airways by any independent operator in this country.

The same applies to education. Apparently the Socialists are not even prepared to allow us to pass this group of new clauses, which would promote some competition within the State system of education. It is a disgrace that after 32 years of operation of the Butler Education Act we have a Socialist Government still resisting one of the cornerstones of that great Act—namely, the thesis of parental choice.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell:

In his last few remarks the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) spoilt his whole speech. They were nonsense. The large majority of people, including hon. Members, recognise the need for as much parental choice as possible. If a parent is sending his child to primary school and School A uses traditional teaching methods while School B uses experimental methods, he should have as much right as possible to choose by which of those two types of teaching method he wishes his child to be taught. I would fight strongly to send my child to a school where the method was relatively traditional, because I believe in that method. Other people have different beliefs.

I accept that we want as much choice as possible, but I want to show the weakness of New Clause 4. Subsection (2) says that parents will make their first choice. It will then be left to the head teacher to decide which of the children who have chosen his school he will accept. The subsection says that Where a county secondary school is oversubscribed following the exercise of parental choice the head teacher shall make the decision.

I speak as an ex-head teacher. The hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) rightly said that there were some good schools and some less good schools. There may well be two schools side by side, one with a relatively good reputation and the other with a less good reputation.

12 midnight.

It may well be that the mass of parental choice would be for the school of good reputation. That would be natural and normal. If one is to leave the choice of which pupils enter the school to the head teacher, the temptation must be for that head teacher to choose the best academic children out of the applicants, or possibly the most polite, or to use some other criterion, the head teacher will, for sociological reasons, choose the best pupils, perhaps on academic grounds, so that the school will be filled with the best pupils, chosen on academic lines, and the others who are unsuccessful will go to the school in category three, the under-subscribed school. The school with the good reputation will be able to improve it further, the other school will never have the chance to get out of the rut and to improve its reputation.

That is why a decision on these lines must be left to the education authority which can try to ensure that a range of abilities and social classes goes to each school to ensure that each school has a proper opportunity, with the right material, to improve its reputation.

Photo of Mr John Page Mr John Page , Harrow West

I am listening with great interest and, as usual, with admiration, to what the hon. Member is saying, except for his conclusion. Does he not feel that by taking away the parental choice of school and giving it back into the hands of the education authority so that there shall be a kind of levelling he will emphasise and continue the mediocrity of the less good school? Does he not feel that this emphasises that one should improve the standards of the lower school and possibly change the head?

Mr. Mitchell:

No. In the over-subscribed school, if it is a school of between 500 and 1,000, somebody has to make a choice. All I am saying is that it should not be left entirely to the head teacher, who will automatically choose the best 500, so that one will get an elitist school. The education authority should have a say so that one gets a spread and a different 500. It is essential that we do everything to ensure that we do not get one group of schools which becomes elitist and another group which never get the opportunity of getting out of their situation.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

Reference has been made to the effect on child, family and parent of the question of choice, but little reference has been made to the effect on the school itself. There is a world of difference between running a school where parents have chosen the school and have been interviewed by the head, where the school is one of volunteers and running a school, even with the same people in it, and a school of the same children who have been directed there by faceless bureaucrats.

There is no doubt that the morale of the public school system—I have never been there, never taught in them, and nor have my children been there—arises from the ability to recruit good children and to get the good standards which many of those schools maintain, is because of the motivation of the children, knowing that their parents have chosen the school. Parent and family choose the kind of school where the values are the same as those of the home and there is no gap between the values of home and school. But if the parent is directed to send the child to a local neighbourhood, unhappy, school, to which the child does not want to go, the child does not like the methods there.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) had a distinguished teaching career and that there was heavy over-subscribing at his school. People probably queued for miles to get their children in. The best way of improving a bad school would be to threaten it with closure. As long as it has a guaranteed audience, there will be no improvements.

There are schools in London, which I shall name if anyone wishes me to do so, though it will do the schools no good, which have been dependent on a conscript audience for 15 or 20 years and where more than one in five of the children did not want to go there. Nothing tangible has been done to improve standards so that parents and children might want to go to the schools.

We are aware of teacher unemployment—

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West

The hon. Gentleman should go back to teaching.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

We welcome a new hon. Member to our debate, but we do not welcome the utter moral arrogance shown by some hon. Members opposite who think that they are the only ones with passion and concern. They have a kind of religious purity about it. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) wishes to intervene, I shall give way. Otherwise he should stop mumbling into the wind.

Reference was made by the Minister of State to the effect that most parents do not know what is best for their children and that the bureaucrats in local education offices know better.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I did not say that. We shall make better progress if he does not distort our arguments.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

That is the view we thought the Minister was putting forward. If it was not, I am glad.

We believe in people. We believe that if we give people responsibility, they will make better decisions than clerks and bureaucrats. We believe in people; the Government believe in mandarins.

Our view of participation is not that people should sit on powerless committees, but that they should have a choice of schools, where they live, and the other things that matter in their lives

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

If the 11-plus exam had taken place in Tameside as the hon. Gentleman advocated, 20 per cent. of the children would have gone to grammar schools. What choice would the other 80 per cent. of parents have had?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I always enjoy the interventions of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). They show that we on this side have a lot of educating to do in getting our view over. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) must stop making interruptions from a sedentary position.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

If there had been an 11-plus in Tameside this year, at least 20 per cent. of parents would have had a choice. I should like a system in which 100 per cent. of parents had a choice, but Labour Members want a system where no one has a choice.

Several Hon. Members:

Several Hon. Members rose

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I give way to the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble).

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Rossendale

Will the hon. Gentleman please face the facts about Tameside? If he examines the situation he will note, according to the figures that have been produced, that 88 per cent. of parents would have had their first choice under the old system and over 96 per cent. would have had their first or second choice. Under the 11-plus system, only approximately 20 per cent. of children will go to the schools that their parents have chosen.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I know about the system of parental choice in London. The heads of primary schools received letters instructing them to tell parents that their children could not go to school X unless they lived, for example, on a specified side of the Holloway Road. If the parents did not live on that side of the road, they did not get the choice. That was parental choice.

I refer to the Tameside figures again—I trust that I do so for the last time—so that we shall all remember them. It was claimed that 88 per cent. of parents got their first choice. If we believe the Press release from the local education authority only 360 of the 3,000 children did not get their first choice. I now repeat some figures that can be checked. In fact, I know that they have been checked by parts of the media.

A letter was sent out by the Conservative authority asking parents whether they were satisfied with their first choice of school. If they wanted a different choice of school, they were asked to reply to the authority and to give the details. The 3,000 letters were sent out a fortnight ago—I know that it is time that I had more up-to-date figures—and within two days there were 700 replies. There were not just 360 replies from those who are supposed not to have had their first choice, but 700 replies asking for a different choice of school. Many people did not ask for a grammar school, but a change from one secondary modern to another.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter and allowing me to demonstrate how artificial parental choice is in the present system.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I shall explain what choice means. It means that those who want single-sex schools can have them. It means that children can participate in certain sports if their parents want them to do so. The difference in my native Lancashire between rugger schools and soccer schools was fundamental, depending on which town or street one came from. Reference has been made to discipline and whether parents are prepared to let their children travel, as well as the question of family relationships. These things matter to ordinary families living in ordinary streets. It is not elitist to desire to give such people the maximum possible choice.

I made the point earlier that with a falling birth rate we shall be going through a period when there will be vacancies amounting to 20 per cent. of the total number of places in our secondary schools. That will be the position in about five or six years. What will happen then? Will the present system allow more choice to be given to parents? The answer is "No". The local authorities will close their older schools. In many areas they will keep open the concrete monstrosities that nobody wants.

This is the very time to test what parents want if one believes in parents. If there are those who do not believe in parents but in bureaucrats, let us identify them. But if we believe in parents, who breed children and normally look after them better than any bureaucrat, now is the time to test what parents want.

That will test the honesty of Labour Members. I know the honesty of most of them and I do not challenge it, but let us see how far they are prepared to give parental choice. The forthcoming vacancies mean that for the first time for a long time it will be possible to give real and genuine parental choice throughout the length and breadth of many parts of the country.

My only other point—I realise that time is getting on and there are many other clauses that we want to examine as the week progresses—is to emphasise to whom children belong. I begin by saying what makes a good school. In most cases there is a good school when the children go there with the backing of the parents, when the parents share the school's values and give it their support.

12.15 a.m.

To whom do children belong? I suggest that 95 per cent. or 98 per cent. of parents look after their children better than anybody else does. They will make judgments on their children better than anybody else does. By all means let them consult the teachers on what is best for their children, but the decision should be theirs. After all, if a doctor tells a patient that he has appendicitis, it is for the patient to decide whether to have his appendix taken out. The patient has that right. Indeed, doctors sometimes make mistakes. Amazing things can happen in such situations.

Parents know their children. They have seen their development from birth. Advice should be made available to them —possibly through citizens' advice bureaux—but the choice must be theirs.

I am not maligning teachers. Most schools do their best for children, but they see only part of them in school. Schools see children as playing in the first eleven—the sports master will like that—or as getting good A-levels and a place at Cambridge.

I am sure that local education authorities are comprised of good people who behave well at home and who do not interrupt others when they are speaking. Apart from that, all they want is balanced numbers in the schools. They are not bleeding for individual children. They want balanced numbers. They can then go off home or to the golf club and live happily ever after. The only people who are really concerned about children and who want the best for them are the parents. Therefore, I should back the parents' choice of school against the experts and the bureaucrats.

Reference has been made to the right to transfer from one local education authority area to another. The right of continuance of transfer from one local education authority area to another was written into the London Government Act 1963. Members of Parliament for the areas affected have had to fight for every child concerned to get into different schools. Each local education authority has virtually built a barbed wire fence round its area and is concerned only to fill its schools. It is not concerned about the children at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] It is disgraceful. There is now almost no movement between areas. The right of transfer and of showing that parents and children matter more than anything else is important. It is for that reason that I support the new clauses.

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral

My hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) opened the debate on these new clauses in a reasonable way. One of the most depressing features about the Bill is the emphasis that it puts on compulsion and control. My hon. Friend referred to the real anxiety of parents at the present situation—in particular, the falling standards in schools.

We in this House should ask ourselves why parents are so anxious. Is it not because schools are now to be judged by this Government on whether they are politically acceptable rather than whether they are educationally sound? It is surely that paradox in the Government's approach that needs some clause or clauses to enshrine the rights of parents.

I was pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) quoted Section 76 of the Education Act 1944, because that Act laid great stress upon the rights of parents. But is it not a depressing fact that, much as we may search through the Bill, there is no mention of the word "parent", the word "choice" or the word "freedom"? This must surely lead the House to accept these new clauses.

Parents are very worried indeed. In my constituency, in Wirral, we have very good schools. They are good not because they are politically acceptable but because they produce excellent results and very well educated children. The parents are very worried indeed, because if the Bill becomes law without any clause enshrining freedom of choice for parents those good schools will be compelled to change.

In this country our schools have evolved over a very large number of years. They are schools which enshrine differing standards, with differing emphasis on particular subjects, technical or academic, and with different emphasis on academic brilliance or practical ability. They have evolved over centuries.

The Government now seek to say that the comprehensive school is not just a good school—I accept that hypothesis—but that there can be no school other than a comprehensive, thereby sweeping away all the experience that has been built up through the centuries and imposing a hotch-pot solution in an area where parents have very grave reason already to fear that standards are falling.

The Bill, which is striving to drive us all through the same school, also comes at a time when there are little or no funds available to do the task that the Government expect local authorities to do. What is to be the result of this? I believe that the result will be the creation of what are known as monster schools—large schools on differing sites—which have been the hallmark of this very destructive Socialist policy that we have seen in education.

Some hon. Members may say that the larger the school the better, but the larger the school the less parental choice there is. That must follow. The larger school is not the better school. I know many parents who are very worried about the lack of control in a very large school. There is considerable time wasted. This affects both the staff and the pupils as they move between sites which are very far apart. There are also the traffic dangers involved in moving from place to place.

What about the unity of the school, the unity of the parents and the teachers, of the teaching staff and the children, the ability to know the individual child and be able to name the individual child in the particular school? The discipline that a headmaster can engender by his personal knowledge of the pupil is essential in the system of education that we have today.

If hon. Members had attended the last debate, when we discussed minimum standards, they would have known of the very real anxieties of parents at the present time. In my constituency there is a school—other hon. Members probably have many similar schools in their own constituencies—called Pensby County Secondary School for Girls. If the Bill is passed it will be forced to amalgamate, thereby creating an amorphous mass of a school with well over 1,000 pupils. I think that that is far too large. Indeed, the fears of the parents are very real.

What the Government are seeking to do, apparently, is to destroy parental choice. The lack of reference in the Bill to parental freedom is very clear. When my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) asked the Minister of State whether he would put the parent or the local authority first, the Minister of State said "I would put the child first." I felt that in saying that he was expressing the view of the present Government that the Minister knows far better than parents and far better than local authorities who know their local area. He is the one to say how education should be conducted in every area throughout the country. He is the man who knows best.

All I say to the Minister is that the only achievement he is reaching is to play politics with the lives and education of children, because unless these new clauses are accepted Section 76 will be no more. We shall be compelled to have one uniform type of school throughout the country.

When the Prime Minister talks on television about preserving the basic freedoms, let him reflect on the fact that the present Government are destroying Section 76, destroying freedom of choice for parents and destroying one of the basic freedoms in this country.

Photo of Mr John Page Mr John Page , Harrow West

You will be pleased to know, Mr. Speaker, that until about an hour ago I had had rather a good day. On the whole, things had gone right. On listening to the speech of the Minister of State, however, I suddenly became unutterably depresed. His arrogant intellectual superiority was extremely evident. I was reminded very much of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who, like the Minister of State, is able to inculcate into the Opposition a sense of immediate anger and frustration as soon as she rises to speak. Recently a former Member of this House, Sir John Foster, chided the right hon. Lady on one occasion and gave her some advice which I should like, in a most friendly way, to pass on to the Minister of State. That is that, although we know how superior he is to the rest of us, the more stupid we are the more we hate being told we are stupid. To get our co-operation, it is ever so much easier for the hon. Gentleman to lead us by the hand than to bang us on the head.

That is the last direct reference to the Minister of State that I shall make, although I must add that his speech showed that he believes that the man in Curzon Street knows best; leave it to him and the chaps in the local education authorities, and let the parents, children and teachers get on with the job—because they will be dealt the hand and that is the hand they will have to play. [Interruption.] It is very interesting that Tribune Group Members are agreeing so much with the assessment of the speeches.

The only result of a refusal to accept Clause 4—I apologise, it is New Clause 4. I expect that there will be a few new clause fours before the present Prime Minister has finished his run. However, this New Clause 4 imposes upon the country as a whole the one-type neighbourhood comprehensive school. That is it, and that is the lot.

12.30 a.m.

The main result of this in Middlesex will be that the price of houses in my constituency go up by another £2,000. There is no doubt that, from the point of view of the intellectual and responsible attitude of the parents who live in Harrow, West, more and more people will want to send their children to the schools within my constituency boundaries. My own view is that parents should be given a greater choice, and this is what we have put forward in the new clauses.

I was hoping that by now the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) would have returned while I made a witty rebuttal of his remarks. He said that comprehensive schools might not be uniformly good or bad but that in a comprehensive school one can have a complete total. He asked why one should think that the rainbow would comprise only one colour and why a cold buffet would have the taste of only one dish. I am thinking of why the rainbow should be only of one colour. I achieved an O-level in physics and I remember that if one shone a small lamp on to a prism the light passed through the prism, and when it came out on the other side, on to the white piece of paper, there were all the colours of the spectrum. I believe that the Government's policy is to compress all the colours of the spectrum back through the prism and to present simply one uniform white light. In regard to the cold buffet, I have a feeling that many of us who go to various dining rooms would find that this is exactly the case —that the dishes all taste the same, red herrings and others.

I beg the Secretary of State to come from his ivory tower and accept New Clause 27. The Minister of State said it would make absolutely no difference at all because the powers conferred by New Clause 27 already exist. However it would be a comfort to the parents if the Bill allowed children to enjoy a choice of schools outside the local education authority area.

I had to fight hard with the Hillingdon council to allow the children of one of my constituents to attend a school the playing fields of which actually bordered on to the garden of their home. It took about a year's fight for this to happen. Let the Bill allow parents to have that right. From the cost point of view, I believe that on a "knock-for-knock" basis it would not be too expensive to the different education authorities.

The Minister of State totally ignored one of the major parts of New Clause 28 —its reference to maintained schools. Perhaps this is because, under Clause 5(1) and (3) of the Bill, the Secretary of State will have power not to allow local authorities to send children to non- maintained schools. Can we have a categorical assurance that he has no intention of removing the right of local authorities to send children to such schools if it is their wish?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I have been so persuaded by the eloquence of Tory Members that we should enshrine the 1944 Act that I am restoring the situation with regard to expenditure outside the public sector to what it was in the 1944 Act—in other words, the local education authority has to get the approval of the Secretary of State for such expenditure.

Photo of Mr John Page Mr John Page , Harrow West

I hope that one of my hon. Friends who is better able to deal with the oracular utterances of the Secretary of State will comment on that, because I have a curious feeling that it is rather important.

Many of my constituents enjoy sending their children, aided by the local authority, to many excellent non-maintained schools in the area. They believe that it gives them choice and that this freedom should not be taken from them. If he will not accept New Clause 4, I beg the Secretary of State to accept New Clauses 27 and 28.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

Let us get away for a moment from the details of these clauses. They are a serious attempt to recognise more clearly the responsibilities of parents and to encourage them to participate more fully in choosing schools for their young. My hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) gave some vivid examples of how parents had been drawn into greater participation in various areas of Glasgow and how the local education authority thought that this had had an entirely good effect on schooling in the area. That is an important initiative. The example should be followed purposefully by other LEAs which do not have such a close communication with parents and schools.

That example we were given was from Glasgow, and that was a new initiative. In Wales there has always, I understand, been far closer communication between parents, schools and local authorities than in most other parts of Britain. That has had a good effect on the whole tone of the schools because parents, children and teachers together have been aiming in one direction.

We are anxious that parents should participate more closely in the conduct of schools. There are big changes taking place in society, and some schools have, as a result, run into difficulties with which local education authorities have not always been able to cope. We aim to bring the under-used resource of parents and their concern for their children to help with the running of the schools. We want to give parents greater choice, to invite them to exercise their responsibilities more fully, to get more involved and to play a greater part in the whole educational movement.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) spoke with great eloquence and conviction of the Leicestershire scheme, of which he has had personal experience. The evidence from that area is that, where parents are taken into closer participation, the education system is much more acceptable to them. Those Leicestershire parents were prepared to defend their system tooth and nail when they thought that it might be taken from them. We heard a similar story from my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt), who spoke eloquently of the experience of his area; and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) spoke about similar experiences with a vigour which electrified hon. Members on both sides of the House.

But no one can speak with more authority on this subject than can my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), who as a headmaster evoked the strong support of parents in the area round his school. That was why his school was so enormously successful. It became the school of first choice for parents in the immediate vicinity and far beyond.

We must listen to the evidence of the good that comes from bringing in parents to back up the local education authority and the efforts in the schools. From the areas that have been described tonight there has emerged evidence of a good case. I know that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State attach importance to participation by parents, but organisationally they have taken no steps to confirm that belief. They have not shown it in the Bill or in the debates.

12.45 a.m.

What we are seeking to do in the first of these new clauses is to transfer more power to parents. There would be a triangle of the head teacher, the child and the parents, trying to work out what is the best school for the child. Surely it is a healthy change of emphasis to give more power to the parents and less power to the local authority. [AN HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman means the rich parents."] I do not mean the rich parents. I am talking entirely of the maintained sector and the choice within it. It was unworthy of the interrupter to suggest that I was not dealing with that problem. Our concern in these new clauses is to aim at the maximum range of choice within the maintained sector.

If the exercise of parental choice results in heavy pressure on one school, with an open withdrawal of confidence from some others, surely that should be a storm warning to the local authority that it must do something about such schools, and quickly. The school should not go on in weakness for 15 years before remedial action is taken.

Both the Secretary of State and the Minister of State believe that in the end our responsibility is to the child, and to allow a school to be below standard for years is doing no service to the children or the neighbourhood and is bringing the maintained sector into disrepute. The spur to remedial action is the exercise of parental choice, which shows which schools are losing the confidence of the parents of the area. That would be one of the great advantages of these new clauses.

New Clause 6 deals with the transfer of pupils between schools. There are many legitimate reasons for which parents wish their children to be transferred from one school to another. Most important of all is the courses that a child seeks and to which his abilities are best attuned. They may not exist in one school at the right level. Therefore, there should be a choice, by consultation between parents, headmasters and the local authority, for making a change at any stage where it appears that the child is not being allowed to use his full capacity because the courses he wants to follow, quite legitimately because of his capabilities, are not there at the right level.

It is a wrong use of educational resources not to allow children to be transferred to schools where the courses from which they can best benefit are provided.

This applies whether the course concerned is in the maintained sector or outside it. Educational resources are not so richly spread across the country that we can afford to under-use them.

There are other very special needs as well—brothers and sisters being allowed to attend the same school, the rationalisation of family transport, the change in residence of the parents, and the travelling pattern of the husband, who can perhaps take the children to school each morning and, with any luck, bring them back again in the evening.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Rossendale

The hon. Gentleman has dealt at great length with the question of transfer, and he also mentioned that we were talking not about well-to-do people but about all children. He is now talking about the cost of transport for schoolchildren and about transporting them in motor cars. I should tell him that working-class families in my constituency certainly cannot afford that sort of thing. Is the hon. Member going to offer, from public funds, the choice for children to travel to school, or is it going to rest with the parents in each case?

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

If there is a satisfactory school in the neighbourhood but the parents nevertheless prefer another school, they must vote with their own pockets as well. There is a great deal that can be done to share transport. It is being done all over the country as the Government can no longer sustain social services at the standard of recent years and local authorities are having to cut the money spent on school transport. This is being cut down all over the country, and in my county, as elsewhere, parents are increasingly having to join together in making the best of their joint resources to get their children to school and back. There is an element of self-reliance here when other resources are being withdrawn.

There are other needs too. There are the special needs of children, who, through their own fault or through no fault of their own, have become at loggerheads with the school they are attending. I do not apportion blame, but obviously it is a misery for the child to remain there, and it sometimes becomes unacceptable also for his companions. It is merciful in these circumstances to get a transfer between schools and to give the child the opportunity of a fresh start.

Then there is the case of transfer across boundaries, for which we provide in New Clause 27. This is really to deal with circumstances in which local authorities refuse, because of their local education authority boundaries, to take rational decisions about allowing children to go to the nearest school. This is particularly important where local authorities indulge in strict zoning procedures, which I hope the Minister will discourage wherever he finds them. Not only do they stop transfers across boundaries even when these are sensible, but they stop transfers between zones within their own local education authority. I hope that the Minister will encourage the proper use of across-boundary transfers where this is a reasonable choice for the parents to make.

I know of some of the difficulties from my constituency where the local authorities have been somewhat inflexible in exercising their right to give children the right of transfer across boundaries. I ask the Secretary of State to take particular note of this point. At a time of rapid change, when parents are extremely worried about changes in education, the authorities should make arrangements for transfers across boundaries a good deal more flexibly.

The new clause dealing with the choice of schools is important. If children over the age of 15 want to transfer, not necessarily to a school but to an educational course outside a school, the parents would have that choice under our proposals. The clause justifies a change in courses when there are special courses as allowed by the Bill in dancing and music. This is particularly relevant to my constituency, which has on its borders the Yehudi Menuhin school of music. We also want to add schools with advanced courses in mathematics and languages and other special disciplines which cannot be spread evenly across the whole range of secondary education.

In conclusion, there are good educational reasons for our proposals. The basic one is an attempt to get parents more deeply involved in the schooling of their children and into a closer relationship with the schools, giving all their parental authority to backing the schools' efforts. That is what the new clauses mean, and I hope that the Minister of State will take cognisance of the widespread demand by parents that they should be brought more closely into educational choice and the management of schools.

Photo of Mr Gerald Fowler Mr Gerald Fowler , The Wrekin

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall reply briefly to the debate.

The problem that we face with these new clauses was encapsulated by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell). I do not dissent in any way from the objectives stated by the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair). We are at one in wishing to see parental involvement in schools. But the clauses would put the power not in the hands of parents but in the hands of the head teachers of schools that were over-subscribed.

In Committee the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) reminded us of the danger of assessment by head teachers. I remember his saying that that system could be more dangerous than the 11-plus examination.

1.0 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman was right. The principle of selection in the case of oversubscribed schools is built into New Clause 4, and that is why I must ask the House to reject it. I assure the House that Section 76 of the 1944 Act remains unchallenged by the Bill, but we cannot accept the new clause.

Photo of Mr Walter Harrison Mr Walter Harrison , Wakefield

(Treasurer to Her Majesty's Household) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 253.

Division No. 170AYES1.01 a.m.
Abse, LeoCook, Robin F. (Edin C)Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Allaun, FrankCorbett, RobinFraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)
Anderson, DonaldCox, Thomas (Tooting)Freeson, Reginald
Archer, PeterCraigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Freud, Clement
Armstrong, ErnestCrawshaw, RichardGarrett, John (Norwich S)
Ashton, JoeCronin, JohnGarrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Crosland, Rt Hon AnthonyGeorge, Bruce
Atkinson, NormanCryer, BobGilbert, Dr John
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Ginsburg, David
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)Golding, John
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Dalyell, TamGould, Bryan
Bates, AlfDavidson, ArthurGourlay, Harry
Bean, R. E.Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Grant, George (Morpeth)
Beith, A. J.Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Grant, John (Islington C)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodDavis, Clinton (Hackney C)Grocott, Bruce
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Deakins, EricHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bidwell, SydneyDean, Joseph (Leeds West)Hardy, Peter
Bishop, E. Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyHarper, Joseph
Blenkinsop, ArthurDell, Rt Hon EdmundHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Boardman, HDempsey, JamesHart, Rt Hon Judith
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertDoig, PeterHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boothroyd, Miss BettyDormand, J. D.Hatton, Frank
Boyden, James (Bish Auck)Douglas-Mann, BruceHayman, Mrs Helena
Bradley, TomDuffy, A. E. P.Heffer, Eric S.
Bray, Dr JeremyDunn, James A.Hooley, Frank
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Dunnett, JackHoram, John
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethHowell Rt Hon Denis
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Eadie, AlexHowells, Geraint (Cardigan)
Buchan, NormanEdge, GeoffHoyle, Doug (Nelson)
Buchanan, RichardEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Huckfield, Les
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Campbell, IanEllis, Tom (Wrexham)Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Canavan, DennisEnglish, MichaelHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cant, R. B.Ennals, DavidHughes, Roy (Nwport)
Carmichael, NeilEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)Hunter, Adam
Carter, RayEvans John (Newton)Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Carter-Jones, LewisEwing, Harry (Stirling)Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Cartwright, JohnFaulds, AndrewJackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Castle, Rt Hon BarbaraFernyhough, Rt Hon E.Janner, Greville
Clemitson, IvorFitch, Alan (Wigan)Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Flannery, MartinJeger, Mrs. Lena
Cohen, StanleyFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Coleman, DonaldFletcher, Ted (Darlington)Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)
Colquhoun, Ms MaureenFoot, Rt Hon MichaelJohn, Brynmor
Concannon, J. D.Ford, BenJohnson, James (Hull West)
Conlan, BernardForrester, JohnJohnson, Walter (Derby S)
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Mulley, Rt Hon FrederickSmith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Judd, FrankMurray, Rt Hon Ronald KingSnape, Peter
Kaufman, GeraldNewens, StanleySpearing, Nigel
Kelley, RichardNoble, MikeSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Kerr, RussellOakes, GordonStoddart, David
Kilroy-Silk, RobertOgden, EricStott, Roger
Kinnock, NeilO'Halloran, MichaelStrang, Gavin
Lambie, DavidOrbach, MauriceStrauss, Rt Hn G. R.
Lamborn, HarryOrme, Rt Hon StanleySummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Lamond, JamesOvenden, JohnSwain, Thomas
Latham, Arthur (Paddington)Owen, Dr DavidTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Leadbitter, TedPadley, WalterThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Palmer, ArthurThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lever, Rt Hon HaroldPark, GeorgeThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)Parker, JohnThomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Parry, RobertThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Lipton, MarcusPavitt, LaurieTierney, Sydney
Litterick, TomPeart, Rt Hon FredTinn, James
Lomas, KennethPendry, TomTomlinson, John
Loyden, EddiePenhaligon, DavidTorney, Tom
Luard, EvanPerry, ErnestTuck, Raphael
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)Phipps, Dr ColinUrwin, T. W.
Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonPrescott, JohnVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
McCartney, HughPrice, C. (Lewisham W)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
McElhone, FrankPrice, William (Rugby)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
MacFarquhar, RoderickRadice, GilesWalker, Terry (Kingswood)
McGuire, Michael (Ince)Richardson, Miss JoWard, Michael
Mackenzie, GregorRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Wotkins, David
Maclennan, RobertRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Watkinson, John
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Robertson, John (Paisley)Weetch, Ken
McNamara, KevinRobinson, GeoffreyWellbeloved, James
Madden, MaxRoderick, CaerwynWhite, Frank R. (Bury)
Magee, BryanRodgers, George (Chorley)White, James (Pollok)
Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)Rodgers, William (Stockton)Whitehead, Phillip
Mahon, SimonRooker, J. W.Whitlock, William
Mallalieu. J. P. W.Roper, JohnWigley, Dafydd
Marks, KennethRose, Paul B.Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Marquand, DavidRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole)Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Rowlands, TedWilliams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Maynard, Miss JoanSandelson, NevilleWilliams, Sir Thomas
Meacher, MichaelSedgemore, BrianWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Mendelson, JohnSelby, HarryWilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Mikardo, IanShaw, Arnold (Ilford South)Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Millan, BruceSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Shore, Rt Hon PeterWoodall, Alec
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)Woof, Robert
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Molloy, WilliamSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)Young, David (Bolton E)
Moonman, EricSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Silverman, JuliusMr. A. W. Stallard and Mr. Ted Graham
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Skinner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Small, William
Moyle, RolandSmith, Cyril (Rochdala)
Adley, RobertBurden, F. A.Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Aitken, JonathanButler, Adam (Bosworth)Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Alison, MichaelCarlisle, MarkElliott, Sir William
Arnold, TomChalker, Mrs LyndaEmery, Peter
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Channon, PaulEyre, Reginald
Awdry, DanielChurchill, W. S.Fairgrieve, Russell
Banks, RobertClark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Farr, John
Bell, RonaldClark, William (Croydon S)Fell, Anthony
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Finsberg, Geoffrey
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Clegg, WalterFisher, Sir Nigel
Biffen, JohnCockcroft, JohnFletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)
Biggs-Davison, JohnCooke, Robert (Bristol W)Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Blaker, PeterCope, JohnFookes, Miss Janet
Body, RichardCormack, PatrickForman, Nigel
Boscawen, Hon RobertCorrie, JohnFowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)
Bottomley, PeterCostain, A. P.Fox, Marcus
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Critchley, JulianFry, Peter
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)Crouch, DavidGalbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Braine, Sir BernardCrowder, F. P.Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Brittan, LeonDavies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C.Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Dodsworth, GeoffreyGilmour, Sir John (East Fife)
Bryan, Sir PaulDouglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesGlyn, Dr. Alan
Buchanan-Smith, AlickDrayson, BurnabyGoodhart, Philip
Buck, Antonydu Cann, Rt Hon EdwardGoodhew, Victor
Budgen, NickDurant, TonyGoodlad, Alastair
Bulmer, EsmondDykes, HughGow, Ian (Eastbourne)
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Sainsbury, Tim
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)St. John-Stevas, Norman
Gray, HamishMarten, NeilScott, Nicholas
Griffiths, EldonMates, MichaelScott-Hopkins, James
Grist, IanMather, CarolShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Grylls, MichaelMaude, AngusShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Hall, Sir JohnMawby, RayShelton, William (Streatham)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinShepherd, Colin
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Mayhew, PatrickShersby, Michael
Hampson, Dr KeithMeyer, Sir AnthonySilvester, Fred
Hannam, JohnMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Sims, Roger
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon MissMills, PeterSinclair, Sir George
Hastings, StephenMiscampbell, NormanSkeet, T. H. H.
Havers, Sir MichaelMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Hayhoe, BarneyMoate, RogerSpeed, Keith
Heath, Rt Hon EdwardMonro, HectorSpence, John
Heseltine, MichaelMontgomery, FergusSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Hicks, RobertMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Higgins, Terence L.Morgan-Giles, Rear-AdmiralSproat, Iain
Holland, PhilipMorris, Michael (Northampton S)Stainton, Keith
Hordern, PeterMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Stanbrook, Ivor
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyMorrison, Hon Peter (Chester)Stanley, John
Howell, David (Guildford)Mudd, DavidSteen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Hunt, David (Wirral)Neave, AireyStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hunt, JohnNelson, AnthonyStokes, John
Hurd, DouglasNeubert, MichaelStradling, Thomas J.
Hutchison, Michael ClarkNewton, TonyTapsell, Peter
James, DavidNormanton, TomTaylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Jenkin, Rt Hn P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Nott, JohnTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Jessel, TobyOnslow, CranleyTebbit, Norman
Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)Oppenheim, Mrs SallyTemple-Morris, Peter
Jones, Arthur (Daventry)Osborn, JohnThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Jopling, MichaelPage, John (Harrow West)Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)Townsend, Cyril D.
Kaberry, Sir DonaldPaisley, Rev IanTrotter, Neville
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineParkinson, CecilTugendhat, Christopher
Kershaw, AnthonyPattie, Geoffreyvan Straubenzee, w. R.
Kimball, MarcusPercival, IanVaughan, Dr Gerard
King, Evelyn (South Dorset)Peyton, Rt Hon JohnViggers, Peter
King, Tom (Bridgwater)Price, David (Eastleigh)Wakeham, John
Kirk, Sir PeterPrior, Rt Hon JamesWalder, David (Clitheroe)
Kitson, Sir TimorthyPym, Rt Hon FrancisWalker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Knight, Mrs JillRaison, TimothyWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Knox, DavidRathbone TimWall, Patrick
Lane, DavidRawlinson, Rt Hon Sir PeterWalters, Dennis
Latham, Michael (Melton)Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)Warren, Kenneth
Lawrence, IvanRees-Davies, W. R.Weatherill, Bernard
Lawson, NigelRonton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)Wells, John
Le Marchant, SpencerRenton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWiggin, Jerry
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Ridsdale, JulianWinterton, Nicholas
Lloyd, IanRifkind, MalcolmWood, Rt Hon Richard
Loveridge, JohnRippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Luce, RichardRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)Younger, Hon George
McCrindle, RobertRoberts, Wyn (Conway)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Macfarlane, NeilRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
MacGregor, JohnRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Mr. W. Benyon and Mr. Anthony Berry.
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Royle, Sir Anthony

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 259, Noes 295.

Division No. 171.]AYES[1.14 a.m.
Adley, RobertBoscawen, Hon RobertCarlisle, Mark
Aitken, JonathanBottomley, PeterChalker, Mrs Lynda
Alison, MichaelBowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Channon, Paul
Arnold, TomBoyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)Churchill, W. S.
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Braine, Sir BernardClark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Awdry, DanielBrittan, LeonClark, William (Croydon S)
Banks, RobertBrocklebank-Fowler, C.Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Bell, RonaldBrotherton, MichaelClegg, Walter
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Cockcroft, John
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Bryan, Sir PaulCooke, Robert (Bristol W)
Benyon, W.Buchanan-Smith, AlickCope, John
Berry, Hon AnthonyBuck, AntonyCormack, Patrick
Biffen, JohnBudgen, NickCorrie, John
Biggs-Davison, JohnBulmer, EsmondCostain, A. P.
Blaker, PeterBurden, F. A.Critchley, Julian
Body, RichardButler, Adam (Bosworth)Crouch, David
Crowder, F. P.Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRees-Davies, W. R.
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)Kershaw, AnthonyRenton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Kimball, MarcusRenton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Dodsworth, GeoffreyKing, Evelyn (South Dorset)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Ridsdale, Julian
Drayson, BurnabyKirk, Sir PeterRifkind, Malcolm
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardKitson, Sir TimothyRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Dunlop, JohnKnight, Mrs JillRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Durant, TonyKnox, DavidRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dykes, HughLane, DavidRoss, William (Londonderry)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLatham, Michael (Melton)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Lawrence, IvanRost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Elliott, Sir WilliamLawson, NigelRoyle, Sir Anthony
Emery, PeterLester, Jim (Beeston)Sainsbury, Tim
Eyre, ReginaldLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)St. John-Stevas, Norman
Fairgrieve, RussellLloyd, IanScott, Nicholas
Farr, JohnLoveridge, JohnScott-Hopkins, James
Fell, AnthonyLuce, RichardShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Finsberg, GeoffreyMcCrindle, RobertShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Fisher, Sir NigelMcCusker, H.Shelton, William (Streatham)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)Macfarlane. NeilShepherd, Colin
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMacGregor, JohnShersby, Michael
Fookes, Miss JanetMacmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Silvester, Fred
Forman, NigelMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Sims, Roger
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Sinclair, Sir George
Fox, MarcusMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Skeet, T. H. H.
Fry, PeterMarten, NeilSmith, Dudley (Warwick)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.Mates, MichaelSpeed, Keith
Gardiner, George (Reigale)Mather, CarolSpence, John
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Maude, AngusSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)Mawby, RaySpicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSproat, Iain
Glyn, Dr. AlanMayhew, PatrickStainton, Keith
Goodhart, PhilipMeyer, Sir AnthonyStanbrook, Ivor
Goodhew, VictorMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Stanley, John
Goodlad, AlastairMills, PeterSteen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)Miscampbell, NormanStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Stokes, John
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Moate, RogerStradling, Thomas J.
Gray, HamishMolyneaux, JamesTapsell, Peter
Griffiths, EldonMonro, HectorTaylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Grist, IanMontgomery, FergusTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Grylls, MichaelMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Tebbit, Norman
Hall, Sir JohnMorgan-Giles, Rear-AdmiralTemple-Morris, Peter
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Morris, Michael (Northampton S)Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Hampson, Dr KeithMorrison, Hon Peter (Chester)Townsend, Cyril D.
Hannam, JohnMudd, DavidTrotter, Neville
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon MissNeave, AireyTugendhat, Christopher
Hastings, StephenNelson, Anthonyvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Havers, Sir MichaelNeubert, MichaelVaughan, Dr Gerard
Hayhoe, BarneyNewton, TonyViggers, Peter
Heath, Rt Hon EdwardNormanton, TomWakeham, John
Heseltine, MichaelNott, JohnWalder, David (Clitheroe)
Hicks, RobertOnslow, CranleyWalker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Higgins, Terence L.Oppenheim, Mrs SallyWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Holland, PhilipOsborn, JohnWall, Patrick
Hordern, PeterPage, John (Harrow West)Walters, Dennis
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)Warren, Kenneth
Howell, David (Guildford)Paisley, Rev IanWeatherill, Bernard
Hunt, David (Wirral)Parkinson, CecilWells, John
Hunt, JohnPattie, GeoffreyWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Hurd, DouglasPercival, IanWiggin, Jerry
Hutchison, Michael ClarkPeyton, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Nicholas
James, DavidPowell, Rt Hon J. EnochWood, Rt Hon Richard
Jenkin, Rt Hn P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Price, David (Eastleigh)Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Jessel, TobyPrior, Rt Hon JamesYounger, Hon George
Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)Pym, Rt Hon FrancisTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jones, Arthur (Daventry)Raison, TimothyMr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Michael Roberts.
Jopling, MichaelRathbone, Tim
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Kaberry, Sir DonaldRees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Abse, LeoBarnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Booth, Rt Hon Albert
Allaun, FrankBates, AlfBoothroyd, Miss Betty
Anderson, DonaldBean, R, E.Boyden, Jamas (Bish Auck)
Archer, PeterBeith, A. J.Bradley, Tom
Armstrong, ErnestBenn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodBray, Dr Jeremy
Ashton, JoeBennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Bidwell, SydneyBrown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)
Atkinson, NormanBishop, E. S.Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Blenkinsop, ArthurBuchan, Norman
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Boardman, H.Buchanan, Richard
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Heffer, Eric S.Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Campbell, IanHooley, FrankOvenden, John
Canavan, DennisHoram, JohnOwen, Dr David
Cant, R. B.Howell, Rt Hon DenisPadley, Walter
Carmichael, NeilHowells, Geraint (Cardigan)Palmer, Arthur
Carter, RayHoyle, Doug (Nelson)Park, George
Carter-Jones, LewisHuckfield, LesParker, John
Cartwright, JohnHughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)Parry, Robert
Castle, Rt Hon BarbaraHughes, Mark (Durham)Pavitt, Laurie
Clemitson, IvorHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Hughes, Roy (Nwport)Pendry, Tom
Cohen, StanleyHunter, AdamPenhaligon, David
Coleman, DonaldIrving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)Perry, Ernest
Colqsuhoun, Ms MaureenJackson, Colin (Brighouse)Phipps, Dr Colin
Concannon, J. D.Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)Prescott, John
Conlan, BernardJanner, GrevillePrice, C. (Lewisham W)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Jay, Rt Hon DouglasPrice, William (Rugby)
Corbett, RobinJeger, Mrs. LenaRadice, Giles
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Richardson, Miss Jo
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechtord)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Crawshaw, RichardJohn, BrynmorRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Cronin, JohnJohnson, James (Hull West)Robertson, John (Paisley)
Crosland, Rt Hon AnthonyJohnson, Walter (Derby S)Robinson, Geoffrey
Cryer, BobJones, Barry (East Flint)Roderick, Caerwyn
Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Judd, FrankRodgers, George (Chorley)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)Kaufman, GeraldRodgers, William (Stockton)
Dalyell, TamKelley, RichardRooker, J. W.
Davidson, ArthurKerr, RussellRoper, John
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Kilroy-Silk, RobertRose, Paul B.
Davies, Denzil (Lianelli)Kinnock, NeilRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Lambie, DavidRoss, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Deakins, EricLamborn, HarryRowlands, Ted
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Lamond, JamesSandelson, Neville
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyLatham, Arthur (Paddington)Sedgemore, Brian
Dell, Rt Hon EdmundLeadbitter, TedSelby, Harry
Dempsey, JamesLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Doig, PeterLever, Rt Hon HaroldSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Dormand, J. D.Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Douglas-Mann, BruceLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Duffy, A. E. P.Lipton, MarcusShort, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Dunn, James A.Litterick, TomSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Dunnett, JackLomas, KennethSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLoyden, EddieSilverman, Julius
Eadie, AlexLuard, EvanSkinner, Dennis
Edge, GeoffLyons, Edward (Bradford W)Small, William
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)McCartney, HughSmith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)McElhone, FrankSnape, Peter
English, MichaelMacFarquhar, RoderickSpearing, Nigel
Ennals, DavidMcGuire, Michael (Ince)Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Mackenzie, GregorStoddart, David
Evans John (Newton)Maclennan, RobertStott, Roger
Ewing, Harry (Stirlina)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Strang, Gavin
Faulds, AndrewMcNamara, KevinStrauss, Rt Hn G. R.
Fernynough, Rt Hon E.Madden, MaxSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Magee, BryanSwain, Thomas
Flannery, MartinMaguire, Frank (Fermanagh)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Mahon, SimonThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Mallalieu, J. P. W.Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMarks, KennethThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Ford, BenMarquand, DavidThomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Forrester, JohnMarshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Tierney, Sydney
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Maynard, Miss JoanTinn, James
Freeson, ReginaldMeacher, MichaelTomlinson, John
Freud, ClementMendelson, JohnTorney, Tom
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Mikardo, IanTuck, Raphael
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Millan, BruceUrwin, T. W.
George, BruceMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Gilbert, Dr JohnMiller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Ginsburg, DavidMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Golding, JohnMolloy, WilliamWalker, Terry (Kingswood)
Gould, BryanMoonman, EricWard, Michael
Gourlay, HarryMorris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Watkins, David
Grant, George (Morpeth)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Watkinson, John
Grant, John (Islington C)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Weetch, Ken
Grocott, BruceMoyle, RolandWellbeloved, James
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Mulley, Rt Hon FrederickWhite, Frank R. (Bury)
Hardy, PeterMurray, Rt Hon Ronald KingWhite, James (Pollok)
Harper, JosephNewens, StanleyWhitehead, Phillip
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Noble, MikeWhitlock, William
Hart, Rt Hon JudithOakes, GordonWigley, Dafydd
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyOgden, EricWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
Hatton, FrankO'Halloran, MichaelWilliams, Alan (Swansea W)
Hayman, Mrs HeleneOrbach, MauriceWilliams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Williams, Sir ThomasWoodall, AlecTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)Woof, RobertMr. A. W. Stallard and Mr. Ted Graham.
Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Wilson, William (Coventry SE)Young, David (Bolton E)

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I beg to move, That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned.

Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Of course, if that does not meet with the agreement of the Opposition, I shall be happy to ask leave to withdraw the motion. This is an important Bill. I confess that I am disappointed at the slow progress that the House has made, but I think that it will be for general convenience if we adjourn now. As the Government are determined to get the Bill on to the statute book at the earliest possible date, we shall want to return to further consideration as soon as we can conveniently do so.

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

The decision whether to adjourn the debate is for the House, but the responsibility for proposing the adjournment is the Government's. The Opposition think that is a sensible decision for the Government to take, in view of the important business later today, the importance of this Bill, and the fact that some very important new clauses still have to be discussed.

I want to make it quite plain to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there has been no communication between any usual or unusual channels. No deal has been made by anyone, and the Opposition reserve their full rights on this matter. We look forward to resuming the battle when the Government have recovered.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered this day.