Clause 1

Orders of the Day — Education Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 1979.

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ABOLITION OF DUTY TO GIVE EFFECT TO
COMPREHENSIVE PRINCIPLE

11.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 1, leave out line 11 and insert: 'shall be repealed on 1st January 1980.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 5 in page 2, line 2, at end insert: ' provided such application is not made before 1st December, 1979.'.

No. 17, in page 2, line 2, at end insert: ' The Secretary of State shall not revoke any application under this subsection unless a resolution to make the application has been approved by more than half of the members of the local education authority, managers or governors concerned at a meeting convened for the purpose of passing such a resolution '.

No. 10, in page 2, line 11 leave out '1st October' and insert ' 31st December '.

No. 13, in page 2, line 11, at end add: '(4C) No application for revocation under subsection 3 above shall be made in respect of proposals due to be implemented after September 1979.'.

No. 11, in clause 2, page 2, line 16, at end insert: '(3A) This Act shall come into force on 1st December 1979.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. Will hon. Members please leave the Chamber or sit down? I cannot hear the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo).

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

I shall be brief in moving the amendment, for two reasons. First, I cannot bring to bear on the subject anything like the deep and wide expertise that has been exhibited by many of my hon. Friends in the earlier debates. This is a subject in which I am not a specialist, but it is manifest that, ignorant as I am, I know a great deal more about it than all the Conservative Members except the Under-Secretary, because none of them knows enough about it to utter even a single syllable.

The second reason is that the main purpose of the amendment has been discussed earlier. Is it necessary to ensure that when a major change is being made—[HON. MEMBERS: " Order, order."] Mr. Deputy Speaker, a lot of the Conservative Members seem to be beginning to feel the effects of the cordials that they drank with their dinner.

A great deal of the point of the amendment has been covered in earlier debates. When we are making a major change such as this, which will affect the welfare and the careers of very large numbers of children, and, therefore, is a matter of deep interest to very large numbers of parents of those children, we ought not to act in a way which is much too hurried.

One of my hon. Friends, who has much experience in these matters, described earlier what a long and patient process of discussion, negotiation, consultation and exchange of information was gone through by those authorities which changed to non-selective secondary education and, in the course of making the change, took the greatest care to ensure that they carried with them the support of parents, of teachers, of educationists and of all the other people who were interested. That was not a very quick process. It was a slow process. Democracy is a slow process. The business of dispersing the power to influence decisions—which is what democracy is really about—is a very slow process, and sometimes a very troublesome one. But all that was gone through in the course of making the change to non-selective education.

Here we are proposing to provide the opportunity for making the directly opposite change in the course literally of a few weeks. My only purpose in tabling the amendment was to say " For goodness sake, can we not have a few weeks more? ". There will be a great deal for local education authorities to do in this process of making the change—unless they are to ride roughshod over parental feelings. I get the impression from our debate so far that some Conservative Members are quite happy to ride roughshod over the feelings of parents. But unless the authorities are prepared to ride roughshod over the feelings of parents, a bit more time must be provided so that there can be some consultation.

It is not only parents who are concerned. I read with very great care all the proceedings—there were only three sittings—in Committee. There were raised in Committee the special problems of a number of particular areas. There manifestly are such special problems in North Yorkshire. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) mentioned the problem which arises in his neck of the woods from the fact that the county council takes a very different view about what is the best form of secondary education from that taken by the council of the city or borough of Leicester. It is not for me to say which of them is right and which is wrong, nor is it for me to say which of them should have its views prevail. One is the local education authority and the other is not. But at least there ought to be a bit of time in which they can exchange views with each other.

If there is a disposition on the part of the Government to resist an amendment as obvious and simple as this, it will be a manifestation of the fact that they really do not care about the thoughts and feelings of people and simply want in a dogmatic sort of way to impose their view without giving people the chance to talk about it.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

The principle of amendment No. 10, which stands in my name and the names of my hon. Friends, is similar to that of amendment No. 12, and I understand that the Government are prepared to agree to it. I shall therefore speak to my amendment fairly briefly. I shall explain why it is necessay, because it shows some of the difficulties.

The York city council decided in 1967, after consideration by a working party comprising all the teachers' organisations and all the political parties, to adopt a system of comprehensive education based on the middle school. That decision was virtually unanimous and caused no ideological split between any of the parties represented on the city council. But, because York is a tightly-contained county borough, with very little land for housing development, and most of the new housing development takes place in the overspill in what used to be called North Riding, no new money was available for school building for the new system.

The problem over the money has delayed the implementation of the scheme for all these years. When the new county council came into existence in 1973, there was a reconsideration, in the light of the changed circumstances, and, despite the resistance of two teachers' organisations to the middle school system, that system was again confirmed by an all-party decision both in the city council and in the county council.

We had decided, over a period of about 12 years, that comprehensive education in York was desirable and on the middle school system, and there is no ideological divide on the issue. Section 13 notices had been served and advertised but they had not yet been approved by Labour's Secretary of State by the time of the election and, therefore, they fall under clause 1(4) of the Bill.

We are about the only local authority in the country which is pressed by the time limit in the Bill of 1 October 1979. As a result, the county has properly decided that it ought to ask for representations from the teachers' organisations and from the parents in order to decide what ought to be done in the changed circumstances.

If those consultations are to be conducted properly, the county will need more time than is allowed by the Bill as drafted. I have put down my amendment in the hope that the unanimity of view which has hitherto obtained in York about going comprehensive, and doing so on a sensible basis, will be allowed to continue and that there will be no forcing of the pace so that decisions are taken precipitately. I hope that the Government will accept my amendment so that we can have another couple of months to consider the matter and all the parents and the teachers' organisations can make their views felt. I am sure that in the end that would be to the benefit of all.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Stockport North

I support these amendments because the Bill as drafted is defective in that it has few dates for implementation included in it. Admittedly there is a date in the provision giving some authorities the right to opt out, and I welcome the indication that the Government will accept a different date, but there is no date in the Bill for its implementation. I agree that that is not absolutely necessary in a Bill, which can normally be assumed to come into operation on Royal Assent, but we need to examine why an implementation date has been omitted in this case.

Some very doubtful activities have been going on over the Bill. Some local authorities have been anticipating the Bill and have been getting themselves involved in expenditure. There will be further questions about the legality of that expenditure, since it is now clear from Mr. Speaker's ruling that the Bill does not authorise it. If the Bill did authorise such expenditure, there would need to be a money resolution, but it is being done under the 1944 Act, and for the time being the 1944 Act is affected by the 1976 Act. There must, therefore, be some doubt about the expenditure.

12 midnight

There has been a great deal of indecent haste on the Government's part. They might have said that they wanted the legislation on the statute book as soon as possible. We had the exchange between the usual channels earlier today. I was not a party to it, and I may be told that I am wrong, but my understanding was that the Government delayed the negotiations while they checked up with the other place to find out whether they could manipulate their Lordships into putting their rubber stamp on the Bill at the same time as they had originally promised so that the Government could still get Royal Assent for 26 July.

We on these Opposition Benches must take note of these facts. A Labour Government trying to get legislation through quickly would not get an automatic rubber stamp from the other place. Difficulties would arise and there would be many objections raised by their Lordships if a Bill were put before them two or three days later than they had expected. But, apparently, in less than an hour it became possible for the Government to fix things with their Lordships so that, even though the Bill will go before them some time late on Monday, the Government's original timetable will not be affected.

If the House of Lords is to scrutinise legislation, it should do so evenhandedly and not pick and choose which Government's legislation it will scrutinise and which it will not.

There is great uncertainty and hardship is being caused to children. It is very worrying to go right towards the end of the summer term and not know which will be the school one will go to for one's first year in secondary school. There is the question of getting uniforms, of going to look at the school, of starting to get to know the teachers and so on. The latter is particularly important if the school is a large one, and it can be very valuable to visit the school in the summer term. But, because of the Government's enthusiasm to scrap all the plans so far made, those opportunities are being denied to the children.

The big advantage of putting in a date for implementation is that it would make clear that the Bill ought not to affect those authorities which have reached the stage, as in Bolton, where the changes were intended to take place this September and ought to involve only those authorities for future years. But by their indecent haste the Government show that they do not care very much for the children in such areas, and one suspects that they care little for the legality of the expenditure which has gone on. What is more, they care little for the House of Lords, since they have asked it so rapidly to guarantee delivery of its rubber stamp some time next week.

There is a strong case for including dates for the Bill's implementation. The date should certainly be into September, and we might well do much better to take the date offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), namely, 1 January 1980. I therefore support most of these amendments.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I do not think that anyone wants to delay the House much longer, but, since all these amendments would in one way or another give local authorities a little more time or a breathing space, it is proper to examine the indecent haste with which the Bill is being rushed through, with the complaisant support of the other place, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) pointed out.

I endorse what my hon. Friend said with reference to indecent haste and the local education authority of Bolton. The Secretary of State made a sedentary interruption that I suspect he later regretted. He may care to interrupt later from a less sedentary position.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North mentioned the indecent haste in Bolton and the money that is being spent. The legal position is that the Bolton education authority is subject to the 1944 Education Act, which has to be read as one with the 1976 Education Act. In making expenditure it is under a duty to have regard to the comprehensive prin- ciple and implement the non-selective plans approved under section 13 and the procedures of the 1976 Act. If it spends money on an object contrary to those duties before it is legally entitled to do so, the district auditor might well have something to say, and I am sure that certain ratepayers of Bolton, conscious of their civic duties, might wish to draw that to the district auditor's attention. I hope that the matters raised in the debate will cause the councillors of Bolton and their legal advisers to think twice about their highly dubious activities. They may lead them to feel that it would be better to take a little longer and do what they want next year instead of this year.

An indication has been given that the Government have seen reason about clause 1(4). They have many friends on the North Yorkshire local education authority, and I understand that there are only three Labour members. The Government have been accommodating to North Yorkshire to that extent. They are accepting the first amendment, which gives us hope that they might also see reason on others.

I draw attention to amendment No. 17 and hope that we might press it to a Division. It says: The Secretary of State shall not revoke any application under this subsection unless a resolution to make the application has been approved by more than half of the members of the local education authority, managers or governors concerned at a meeting convened for the purpose of passing such a resolution. What we are presented with this evening is unprecedented in the history of legislation affecting local authorities. The Government expect the Bill to receive Royal Assent on 26 July. Their experience this evening, however, might indicate that there is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. Even the House of Lords can become affronted when a constitutional principle is being breached. The Government are proposing that a Bill that receives Royal Assent on 26 July, when everyone is about to go on holiday, shall have effect with regard to decisions taken by statutory bodies by 3 or 4 September, when children start returning to school. It is to have effect in this way without any safeguarding provisions about the way in which the decision will be taken by the local education authorities, governors or managers concerned.

The amendment provides that at the very least the education authorities, governors or managers shall go through the proper motions, even if it means calling a few councillors back from holiday or having a special meeting in the middle of August of the governors or managers concerned. If the Government insist on breakneck-speed legislation of a kind completely unprecedented in the annals of education measures, at least we should ensure that half the membership of whatever body is in control of the school should have the option of taking a clear decision on the matter. Clearly, such bodies cannot take a decision now.

We have already had one amendment to the Bill. There is no saying what other amendments there will be during the rest of the Report stage or in another place. No local authority or board of governors or managers can properly meet and take a statutory decision of this kind until the Bill has been given Royal Assent. It would be utterly improper to do otherwise.

We feel that this amendment would be a safeguard. In fact, not many local authorities, governors or managers want to take advantage of the Bill. That may be so—we shall see what happens after Royal Assent. If it is so, it is an even greater reason for saying that the few authorities that want to take such a draconian step in such a short time and with such disruption to children, teachers and parents should have to go through the motions of making an application to revoke, passing a proper resolution to do so and passing it at a properly convened meeting.

There was a period when there was a lot of litigation against the Labour Party for not calling its meetings properly. This occurred in the previous constituency of the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) when he represented Newham, North-East. One hesitates to warn local education authorities about the effect of this Bill. It is possible that if a local education authority applies for revocation under clause 1(3), certain ratepayers may feel that the application has been made in improper circumstances, and they may attempt to take the authority to court. We may have another spate of education cases in the courts, as occurred in 1968 at Enfield and in 1978 at Tameside.

12.15 a.m.

Rushed legislation of this kind, which is designed simply to bail people out of election promises, is productive of such litigation. Amendment No. 17 seeks to ensure that it does not have that effect and that proper procedures are followed. Even though the Government may use dubious means in the House to rush through legislation, we should try to protect those in local government from the effects which the Bill might innocently have on them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) drew attention to the potential effects which the Bill could have on local councillors—my hon. Friend is one of the few hon. Members who are still local councillors—if some of the fears expressed in this debate were borne out and if expenditure were improperly made and surchargeable on local councillors.

Amendment No. 17 is designed to ameliorate the rushed effect of the Bill on local councillors. Therefore, although I am pleased that the Secretary of State has seen reason and decided to help the local education authority in North Yorkshire, I hope that he will also see reason in respect of amendment No. 17 and will protect those members of local authorities who otherwise may find themselves surcharged or subject to litigation.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell:

I wish to support the amendments in this group tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and Lewisham, West (Mr. Price).

We heard a great deal from the Conservatives in the general election campaign about the freedom of the individual. The Bill is a piece of authoritarian legislation. Because it is being rushed through, it will deprive a large number of people of their rights.

We were also told how strongly the Conservatives believed in parental choice, and it was said that they would listen to the views of parents. One of the functions of parents—I am a parent with two children who attend State schools—is to be able to visit schools and to meet the staff. If one of my children moves from one stage to another in his education, before he does so I want to have the right to visit the school and make inquiries of the staff about my child's welfare. Unless more time is given, there will be no opportunity for parents to take such a course. If the Bill becomes law at the end of the month, the schools will then be closed and there will be no opportunity for parents and teachers to have the kind of discussions to which I have referred. That will deprive parents of a legitimate right.

If a local education authority wishes to rush through a proposal, the least it should do is to call a meeting of the authority—even if it is August, when local councils do not meet—to approve the decision. The same applies in the case of a voluntary school, where the governors will make the decision. It should be compulsory for a meeting to be called before any action is taken by the Secretary of State. That is elementary democracy. I cannot imagine that the authorities would not do so, but I have been informed that at least one authority has no intention of calling such a meeting.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Does my hon. Friend think that it would be interesting to know whether Cumbria county council, which seems to be intent on making a revocation under the Bill, intends to call a meeting in August? Perhaps the Chief Whip could be absolved from the tradition of not speaking in debates to tell the House whether the Cumbria county council intends to call a special meeting before allowing Kendal grammar school to operate under the 11-plus procedure.

Mr. Mitchell:

I see no movement from the Government Front Bench. Apparently, the tradition of the House will continue. Of course, it is possible that the Chief Whip does not know the answer to the question.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Stockport North

Is not another possible explanation that a deal has already been done and that local authorities are assuming that not only will the House of Lords be a rubber stamp but so will this place?

Mr. Mitchell:

There have been many back-door consultations between Ministers at the Department of Education and Science and their Tory friends who are in charge of some of the more reactionary councils which will take advantage of the opportunity. That makes it even more important that properly called meetings of local authorities should take place so that justice can be seen to be done and the opposite opinion can be expressed via the councillors.

There will be no opportunity between 26 July and 3 September for consultation with teachers in the affected areas. Some consultation will have taken place prior to the Bill passing into law, but once that has happened it is a different matter. Teachers will be widely dispersed during the summer holiday, and the only voice that they will have is via their elected councillors, provided there is the meeting specified in the amendment.

I support the amendments strongly and I hope that the Government, in replying to these points, will show the same accommodation as was shown to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon).

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

The amendments are concerned with the date of operation. Amendment No. 12 states: shall be repealed on 1st January 1980. It is our intention that the Bill should become law on 26 July, so that authorities which have been forced by the previous Government, under duress, to put forward plans under the 1976 Act in which they do not believe should be able to revoke those schemes immediately. It is a wrecking amendment.

Giving the Bill an early start provides local education authorities with the earliest opportunity of deciding what they want to do—and that may include revoking schemes that were submitted under duress from the previous Government. We do not want any delay. The amendment would not give authorities the opportunity to safeguard their schools and run them as they wish.

Amendment No. 5 also provides for a delay of six months. We want applications from authorities that want to revoke immediately schemes put forward under duress so that they may leave their systems as they are or put forward alternative schemes with the agreement of people in their areas. That is another wrecking amendment.

Amendment No. 3 provides that the Bill should not apply to schemes implemented this year. The object of giving the Bill priority is to deal with schemes coming forward under duress. If authorities wish their schemes to go forward, they may do so. No one is compelling authorities to do something that they do not wish to do. Some areas want to go ahead with their schemes, and the Bill will not compel them to change course. However, it will give local authorities time to revoke schemes that are going forward under duress.

Amendment No. 11 provides for another delay of six months and is a wrecking amendment in terms of how we see the intention of the Bill. I recommend my hon. Friends to reject all those amendments. Most of us are enjoying the debate, but I hope that those amendments will be withdrawn so that we may be saved the tedium of walking through the Lobbies at this time of night.

We are unclear what amendment No. 17 means, and we do not like it. The amendment says: The Secretary of State shall not revoke any application under this subsection unless a resolution to make the application has been approved by more than half of the members of the local education authority, managers or governors concerned at a meeting convened for the purpose of passing such a resolution". There can be many interpretations of that. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) knows that we spent much time in Committee on the interpretation of the word " concerned ". Amendment No. 17 could mean that more than one-half of the members of a local education authority and each set of voluntary school governors had to have a single joint meeting, that more than one-half of the members of a local education authority and each set of voluntary school governors had to have separate meetings or that more than one-half of the members of each body, in respect of their own proposals, must agree on the application. That would be wrecking amendment. I do not accuse the hon. Member of seeking to table a wrecking amendment, but we feel that that would be its effect.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I accept that the drafting of the amendment may not be as felicitous as that which the Minister's draftsmen are so well known to be capable of, and I accept that there has been uncertainty about the meaning of the word " concerned ". I hope that that will be settled on the next group of important amendments.

However, I gather from the Under-Secretary that the problem is a drafting rather than a basic problem. Will he therefore reconsider the matter so that it may be raised in another place and the principle of the amendment may be incorporated in the Bill?

12.30 a.m.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

My first comment was that it would be difficult to work out where the meetings would be. We shall make clear on the next set of amendments that the revocation must be made by those who put up the scheme. If it is a local authority scheme, it must be the local authority. If it is a voluntary body, it must be that body.

The amendment would bring in other people. That is not how it was done under the 1944 Act, and basically we are going back to that Act. The amendment would introduce a new principle which, apart from the fact that the amendment is not well drafted, we do not like and would reject.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Stockport North

Does the Minister agree that after Royal Assent each local authority which wants to carry out the revocation procedure will have to have a meeting and then have to make submissions?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

Each local authority that wants to make submissions can do so The words managers or governors concerned raise the question of the group of people involved. The position is quite clear under the 1944 Act, and I trust that we shall find it quite clear when we discuss the next group of amendments. The scheme must be revoked by the people who put it up. We want to revert to the 1944 position.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell:

Does the Minister interpret that as meaning that if the local education authority puts the scheme up it must hold a meeting at which all members are present, in order to revoke it, or does he think that it could be done at the discretion of the chairman of the education committee? That would not enable people to make representations to the councillors.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

It would depend on the rules under which the local authority worked. I should be astonished if the matter were left to a chairman's discretion, unless it had been resolved previously that he had that discretion. We cannot lay down how an authority revokes a scheme, on which night it holds the meeting, what is a quorum and so on. Local authorities have their own rules, and normal rules would apply.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

This is an important issue, which cannot be rushed. Just as it is Mr. Speaker's job to check whether Bills properly have or have not money resolutions attached to them, so it will be the job of the Department of Education and Science, when applications for revocation start coming in after Royal Assent, to check whether they are legally proper. In order to check the propriety of those applications, not from the local education committee but from the local education authority, what test will the Department apply?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I think that we are pushing this a bit far. When the Government receive a letter from a local education authority, we presume that it has come from the authority with the agreement of the authority. Is the hon. Gentleman so suspicious that he thinks that every letter must be tested and fingerprinted to see whether it is done properly? The clerk to the authority is at risk unless it is, and he will not put himself at risk. I think that I have cleared the matter up, and that hon. Members are becoming finicky.

I appreciate that amendment No. 10 is intentionally helpful. The other amendments may be intended to be helpful as well, but, if so, they are misconceived. Amendment No. 10 is well conceived as well as helpful. As the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said, the North Yorkshire authority is the only authority involved. Under the amendment, instead of having to have rushed meetings before 1 October, it would have until 31 December. The hon. Gentleman put the matter very fairly. There are problems there, and the amendment would enable them to be properly sorted out. It would be to the advantage of that local authority and education in the area. I must advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to accept amendment No. 10 and to reject, if they go to a vote, the other amendments.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

I shall be brief because most of the main points I wish to cover have been covered adequately by my hon. Friends, especially my hon. Friends the Members for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), for York (Mr. Lyon), for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). I wish that the same interest had been shown by Back Benchers on the Conservative side of the House on what is an important issue. Many words of wisdom have been spoken from the Opposition side of the House. Conservative Members who have been listening should have learnt a great deal.

These amendments are important because they emphasise the haste with which the Government have introduced the Bill into the House. This might explain some of the difficulties that arose this afternoon. Had the Government given more care to the Bill and had they not prepared and presented it so quickly, we might not have experienced the difficulties that occupied so much time earlier.

I am tempted to speak about the situation in Bolton at length. I would not have spoken on the same lines as my earlier point, which I am sure will receive a great deal of attention later. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West says, the Bill affects Bolton directly. His amendments would also have affected Bolton. The indications given to children in Bolton in January of the schools to which they would be going this September have been withdrawn. We are now near the end of the school term. Children leaving primary schools in Bolton at the end of this term still have no idea which secondary schools they will be attending.

That state of affairs has arisen because of the undue haste with which the Bill has been introduced and the way that the local authority has anticipated the passage of the Bill. This is a serious situation, which I am sure will receive attention later. It is a situation that I would hate to see happen elsewhere. The uncertainty and the difficulties caused in Bolton by the Bill and this clause are very damaging.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell:

Will my hon. Friend say whether the authorities in Bolton have made any suggestions to parents about visiting schools or meeting teachers?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

No proposals whatever have been made so far. No dates have even been given on which parents will be told of the allocations, let alone told of the arrangements for open day, parents visiting schools or anything of that nature. I share my hon. Friend's concern. It is not a matter of which the Conservative Party should be proud.

The issue is as simple as my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow said. These amendments basically try to ensure that when local authorities are considering their form of secondary education they get it right. It is important to realise that whenever local authorities have embarked on a comprehensive scheme there has always been a great deal of consultation with parents, teachers and educationists. If that amount of consultation is required to introduce a comprehensive scheme, it is reasonable to argue that the Bill should not go through so quickly and that time should be allowed for consultation if selective schemes are to be retained.

The basic problem for the Government side is that for all they say about not being anti-comprehensive and for all they say about not wishing to reintroduce the 11-plus, this is exactly what the Bill is designed to do. The Bill makes life easier for local education authorities that do not want to go comprehensive. It makes life more difficult for local education authorities that want to go comprehensive. [HON. MEMBERS: " Why?".]

I suggest that hon. Members who are asking " Why?" have not even read their own fairly short Bill. I refer hon. Members who wish to enlighten themselves to subsection (4) of clause 1. I would also refer them to subsection (1) of clause 1, removing the provisions in the 1976 Act which allowed development plans and section 13 notices to be considered in conjunction. This simplified and made easier the passage of comprehensive schemes into existence. The Bill makes it more difficult. [HON. MEMBERS: " No."] The Secretary of State is making it more difficult, because the purpose of the Bill is to create more obstacles so that it will take longer and be more difficult for local authorities to go comprehensive.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

I find that very interesting. Would the hon. Lady explain in what way the Bill makes it more difficult for any local authority which wants to do so to go comprehensive?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

In two ways. Under clause 1(4), if a local authority wishes to continue with its plans as at present, it has to take the initiative and elect to do so. The onus—[Interruption.] I do not know why Conservative Members find it so difficult. This is their intention. They have altered the onus, so that a local authority has to try harder and make more effort to go comprehensive.

Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stafford and Stone

The hon. Lady wants consultation.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

This is after all the consultations. This relates to the schemes which are going through. The Bill makes things more difficult because it means that local authorities have to elect to go ahead with their schemes. It removes from the 1976 Act the provisions for section 13 notices to be considered along with development plans. I think that is clear.

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

For clarification, will my hon. Friend tell us whether the gun has been jumped in Bolton? Has the 11-plus taken place? When did it take place? Have the teachers marked the papers? Have children taken the examination before the law has come into effect but still have no idea whether they have passed or failed and which schools they will go to? Is that the situation in Bolton?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

The simple answer is " Yes "—

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

" Yes " to all my hon. Friend's questions. [HON. MEMBERS: " All of them? "] I suggest that hon. Members should listen.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there any limit to the extent to which hon. Members who dare not get up and say a word for themselves may go on barracking my hon. Friend, like the gallant gentlemen they are, from sedentary positions?

12.45 a.m.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

It is a short Bill and its provisions are direct. However, it is clear that Conservative Back Benchers have not read the Bill and are not interested in it. None of them has been able to contribute to the debates. The interventions that they are making prove that they have no idea what the Bill is about.

The situation in Bolton is precisely as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) outlined. The Bolton local education authority has anticipated the Bill. Since the Bill was introduced to the House, it has instigated emergency 11-plus procedures in Bolton. The children who are leaving primary schools this month do not know which secondary schools they will be attending in September. That is directly because of the Bill.

The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), said that he was willing to accept amendment No. 10. He complimented my hon. Friend the Member for York on his persuasion. I must compliment my hon. Friend, because anyone who makes the Government change their mind has obviously done an extremely good job. The Under-Secretary of State told my hon. Friend that he agreed that if York had extra time to consider its proposals it would have a better chance of arriving at the right answer and getting the right sort of secondary education. I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman is so much against all the other amendments, which are based on consultation and ensuring that arrangements are right in local areas.

The confusion that arose on amendment No. 17 is difficult to understand. I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman should be afraid of ensuring that each local authority affected has a special meeting to consider the problem. It may be, as he suggested, that there are drafting problems with the amendment. However, I ask him to reconsider it. If he cannot accept it technically, I ask him to accept its spirit.

The Government have given themselves away a great deal during the debates. It is obvious that their intention is merely to help local authorities that wish to retain the selective system and reintroduce the 11-plus examination, although that is something that they always say they do not want to do. It would be in the interests of the children who will be affected and in the interests of fair play, consultation and the House if the Government were to reconsider their position on the amendments, especially amendment No. 17.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

A short while ago the Under-Secretary of State suggested that all the amendments other than No. 10 should be withdrawn to avoid the tedium of going through the Lobbies. That is one of the most staggering remarks that I have ever heard in all the years that I have been in the House.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

I am sorry for the hon. Gentleman and my heart bleeds for him. If he finds going through the Lobbies a source of tedium and an occasion for tedium, he must spend many boring hours in the House.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

I enjoy Divisions. A Division gives me an opportunity to puff my pipe, to meet some friends whom I might miss during the day and to exchange a few jolly quips with one or two hon. Members. If I ask, as I wish to do, for the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment, it is not for the reason that the hon. Gentleman gave but only because the amendment that he has accepted is identical to my own. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 2, line 2, leave out ' managers or governors concerned '.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this we can discuss the following amendments: No. 4, in page 2, line 2, leave out ' concerned' and insert: which originated the proposals '. No. 8, in line 6, leave out ' managers or governors concerned '.

No. 9, in line 6, leave out ' concerned ' and insert: ' which originated the proposals '. No. 15, in line 11, at end add: (4E) No election by managers or governors under subsection (4) above shall have effect, if a local education authority responsible for the support of pupils in the schools to which proposals under subsection (4) above applies, make an objection to such election before 1st November 1979.'. No. 16, in line 11, at end insert: '(4A) In the event of managers or governors applying for revocation under subsection (3) above without the agreement of the local education authority, the Secretary of State shall not confirm the application.'

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

This group of amendments concerns what was probably the most drawn-out debate we had in Committee. It was on this point that the Under-Secretary gave a pledge that he would look at the matter and give us his considered views. The amendments concern the relationship in a local education authority between the voluntary schools and the county schools.

Because of the semi-pledge that the Under-Secretary gave in the debate on the last set of amendments about the meaning of the word " concerned "—on which I hope he will enlarge in his reply—I do not want to press amendments Nos. 3, 4, 8 and 9. However, amendment No. 16 is particularly important, safeguarding the position of the local education authority as against a maverick voluntary school which might want to wreck a comprehensive scheme. I and a number of my hon. Friends would want to press the amendment to a Division.

In subsections (3) and (4) the phrase is used: the local education authority, managers or governors concerned ". The advice we received from the Under-Secretary in Committee was that the meaning of " concerned " was controlled by subsection (2) of section 13 of the 1976 Act. The Minister said that the result was that only a local education authority could apply to revoke a section 13 notice submitted by a local education authority and only a body of managers or governors could apply to revoke a section 13 notice submitted by a body of managers or governors. There could not be any cross-revocation between the two. This was a flaw which the hon. Gentleman said existed in my amendment No. 17, which was copied from the words in the Bill.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is right. However, I require more assurance. As I said in Committee, although the hon. Gentleman and his advisers may say that that is what the words mean—and his advisers, although they are worthy folk, have not always been right about these matters—on the face of it it appears to be possible, given this wording, where a local education authority has issued a section 13 notice to cease to maintain a voluntary school, for an application to revoke the section 13 notice to be made not only by the local education authority but by the managing body, on the ground that the managing body was as much concerned, in the ordinary meaning of the word " concerned ", by the section 13 notice as was the local education authority.

I should appreciate it if the Minister would do his best to convince me that the ordinary meaning of the word " concerned " could not be misused. I do not doubt that that is what he thinks it means and that that is what his legal advisers think it means. It is just that there are a number of voluntary aided schools, not controlled by the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church, with completely maverick boards of governors who might want to do a try-on in this case and persuade a court that it meant other than that which the Minister said it meant. I shall need convincing on that issue, but I am ready and willing to be convinced if the hon. Gentleman can do it.

The other issue, with which amendment No. 16 is concerned, is very much more fundamental and important, and that is why I think that if the Minister does not give way we should press the matter to a Division. What subsection (3) means is that if a local education authority decided that it wanted not to revoke but to keep a comprehensive system intact—as it has been admitted from the Government Front Bench many local education authorities wish to do—just one voluntary school within that local education authority could frustrate the wishes of the democratically elected people on the local authority. By applying to revoke under the Bill, one school could force the local authority, against its wishes, to reintroduce an 11-plus examination for every primary school within that authority, because of the structure of the relationship between voluntary schools and county schools within the 1944 Act.

I put it to the Minister that this is a complete departure from all previous education legislation. On every occasion when the House has passed legislation dealing with education which concerns local education authorities and voluntary bodies, we have insisted on consultative procedures between the two and made it clear that managers and governors are part of the general system and cannot operate completely independently as though the local education authorities, which pay 100 per cent. of their running expenditure, and as though the public purse, which now pays 80 per cent. of the capital expenditure and repair costs. simply do not exist and they are, as it were, an estate of the realm with independent powers.

It was made clear in the 1944 Act that managers and governors of schools could not issue section 13 notices until they had consulted the local education authority concerned, and that if they wished to build a new school, for instance, they could not issue those notices unless they had got the local education authority to place that school in a building programme.

1 a.m.

On the 1976 Act, once again after exhaustive discussions with the voluntary bodies it was finally agreed that plans for reorganisation should be submitted by local education authorities, but transmitted—that is, taken from the voluntary bodies and sent on to the Secretary of State—in the case of the voluntary schools. This linkage between the submission and transmission of plans, the joint planning of secondary school procedures and the issuing of section 13 notices was agreed to by all the voluntary bodies with the enthusiastic support of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. It has become an established procedure within English educational law.

The Government are now saying for the first time ever that this tradition of linkage is to go and that voluntary bodies will be able, if they wish, to frustrate their local education authorities. I am saying not that it is particularly likely that this will happen but that we should pass legislation in the well-tried traditional form. If we do not, we shall give rise to complete absurdities. It would be an absurdity if one voluntary school—from any of the schools in the long list that the Under-Secretary gave us—was able to do that.

The Under-Secretary could give me some reassurance in this matter if he were to say from the Dispatch Box that he will not agree to any revocation by a local education authority without there being unanimity in that authority and between the authority and the managers and governors concerned. That was the principle of the 1976 Act in going comprehensive, and it ought to be the principle in reverting to the 11-plus, if that is what the Under-Secretary insists on doing.

This matter is important. I do not say that because we on the Labour Benches have anything against the broad mass of voluntary schools. They perform an essential function in our education system. We support the dual system as much as anyone does. However, in recent years a number of voluntary schools have emerged which have set out to frustrate the wishes of the electorate. King Edward VI School, Southampton was one and there have been a number of such schools in the area of the Inner London Education Authority. One that was mentioned in Committee was the Mary Datchelor school in South London near my constituency. It preferred to close and remove from the public the facilities that had been left to the poor children in London by their benefactors 100 years ago rather than allow the school to go comprehensive.

Given that there are such odd schools, the aim of this set of amendments is to get from the Minister a pledge that he will not allow such a situation to arise. Unless that pledge is forthcoming, I and my hon. Friends will feel like pressing the amendment to a Division.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

We had quite a long discussion on this matter in Committee, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I know the amount of work and study devoted to it by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). We spent more than an hour on the meaning of the word " concerned " and about who could revoke. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for centring his attention on amendment No. 16. I should like to do the same, because in many ways that is the crux of the issue.

The purpose of drafting the Bill in this way was to restore the position to what it was up to 1976—that is to say, before the passage of the Labour measure of that year. Obviously, where a local authority wishes to change its schools, it gives its section 13 notice. It does so, in fact, under section 13(1), and the voluntary school does it under section 13(2). Usually they run in harness, but it is not necessary for them to do so for this purpose. I take the point as to the change of wording and about how the schemes came into being, but even in 1976 it was a question of consultation. I appreciate that the scheme came through the local authority.

The only way in which, in the ultimate, a local authority could intervene—if I may use that phrase—with the voluntary body would be by a " cease to maintain " notice. This was one of the points raised by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West about who could revoke on the question of a " cease to maintain " notice.

When the hon. Gentleman raised the matter in Committee, I promised to look into the legal drafting. I am not a lawyer but I am assured by the legal advisers that the only people who could revoke a " cease to maintain " notice would be the local authority which had issued it. It could not be revoked by the voluntary school governors. That was the specific question put to me by the hon. Gentleman, and the specific reply is that it could be revoked under the wording of the Bill only by the local authority which had issued the " cease to maintain " notice. A voluntary school could not change its mind after such a notice had been issued.

I point out, in relation to amendment No. 16, that we are trying to restore the position to what it was up to 1976. Clause 1(3) states that the Secretary of State may, on the application of the local education authority, managers or governors concerned, revoke the approval. The hon. Gentleman asked me to give an assurance that, if the local authority did not want revocation and the voluntary body wanted revocation, we would follow through the wishes of the local authority. I could not give that assurance tonight from the Dispatch Box.

The Bill makes perfectly clear that either the local authority with the voluntary body, or the local authority itself or the voluntary body itself, could ask for revocation, but the wording here is " may, on the application ", and it would have to be considered by the Secretary of State. If a voluntary body wished to revoke and the local authority did not wish to revoke, the decision whether revocation was allowed would lie with the Secretary of State. But I could not give the assurance that the hon. Gentleman would like to have on that. The Secretary of State would have to consider the circumstances which existed at the time in question.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Will the Minister at least give the assurance that, if that position arose, the Secretary of State would give the due weight which previous Secretaries of State have always given to the wishes of the local education authority in this regard?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I am not totally aware what " due weight " means in this case. All I can say is that the Secretary of State, in carrying out the provisions of the measure, would do so in terms of the various traditions and precedents. That is as far as one could go upon it. Without knowing local circumstances, one could not say more than that.

The wording of amendment No. 16 is: In the event of managers or governors applying for revocation under subsection (3) above without the agreement of the local education authority, the Secretary of State shall not confirm the application. The Government could not accept that because it would change the situation further against the voluntary body.

I accept that in these days 85 per cent. of the building costs and 100 per cent. of the running costs are covered by national funds and by the local authority respectively, but in many cases the schools were built by the voluntary bodies with their own funds, and the great tradition of the balance between county schools and voluntary schools is accepted on both sides of the House.

To accept the amendment would go much further in giving the local education authority control over a voluntary body than did even the 1976 Act. That is certainly not our wish. I realise that everyone in the country is not reasonable all the time, but the idea has always been that the local authority and the voluntary body negotiate as free individuals. If the local authority knew that it could compel the voluntary body to do what it wanted, there would no longer be free negotiation. It is on that basis that we cannot accept the amendment.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I agree that one wants to maintain the balance of the dual system as well as possible, but would not the hon. Gentleman at least agree that a body of managers managing a voluntary school, by revoking on their own when the local education authority did not revoke, would upset the balance because it would force the LEA to reintroduce an 11-plus in every primary school so that each primary school could have the opportunity to compete for that one selective school that was left? In such a case, surely the balance is being thrown far too far in favour of the voluntary body and against the democratically elected LEA.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

Apart from the comment at the end of that intervention, I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. But one must point out how this has arisen. A voluntary body can now revoke against the wishes of the LEA only because the 1976 Act, in our view, was wrong. It was that Act which forced an area to go comprehensive, including voluntary schools which did not want to go comprehensive. The situation is a relic of the 1976 Act. If it had not been for that Act, we would not have been landed with this problem. We all have to share the problem now, but it was created by the Labour Government.

There is little else I can say on the subject. I appreciate the points raised by the hon. Gentleman, and I know the great amount of research and work that he has done. But there is the balance between the voluntary schools and the county schools, and it is important to keep that balance right. We feel that if a voluntary body negotiates freely with the local authority, both of them being free to act, we are more likely to get co- operation and the right decision than if one side can call the tune at any point. I would not like a situation in which power would go to the local authority over the voluntary body, and I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to resist amendment No. 16.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Reluctantly, on the meaning of the word " concerned ", I accept what the Under-Secretary of State has said, but only because I feel that words spoken in this Chamber add a little to the meaning of the words interpreted by the courts, although I know that they are not meant to do so. But people will hear of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I hope that it will deter any body of managers or governors who might be inclined to test this matter.

Secondly, however, the hon. Gentleman did not satisfy me in any way. I do not feel that he has really understood the ramifications of the possibilties if a voluntary school insists on its rights. If the Minister felt that our amendment No. 16 went too far, he could have instituted discussions with the voluntary bodies, as the Labour Government did on both the 1976 Act and the 1979 Bill, over an issue of this sort.

Simply to leave the situation as it is gives too much power to a single voluntary body, especially a non-church body, over the whole organisation of secondary education in an area, and when we reach amendment No. 16 my instinct will be to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to join me in the Lobby in support of it.

In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 3, leave out " where " and insert " in the case of ".

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

It will be convenient to consider at the same time amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 3, leave out from " applies " to " the " in line 5.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

We need not delay too long on this question, but it is indicative of the ramifications of the clause. I am not sure that the matter is drafted entirely correctly, but the Minister will tell me if it is not.

The aim of these amendments is to widen subsection (4). As the Bill stands, only local education authorities and governing bodies which have reached the point of actually issuing section 13 notices have the right to use the election procedure set out in subsection (4), with the later date which we are about to agree to put into the Bill, and carry on with comprehensive education as though the 1976 Act still existed although it is to be repealed, if the Bill is passed, on or about the 26th of this month.

The aim of the amendments is to widen the category of local education authorities and bodies of governors and managers which can take advantage of the election procedure which, in all the unsatisfactory circumstances of the Bill, we see not as a bright light but as at least a vaguely hopeful glimmer, and as something which will be helpful, for example, to North Yorkshire, as my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) pointed out.

The Under-Secretary has been kind enough to submit to me a third list of schools. Not having been in the Standing Committee, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will not know the saga of the lists. First, the hon. Gentleman said that we could not have any lists of schools and he would not tell us anything. Then, when this appeared to be discourteous to the Committee, he gave us one list and said we could have that. Initially, he said that he would read it but we could not have it. Then he had it photocopied, with the kind help of the Whip now on the Front Bench, and the Committee was allowed to have list No. 1. Then, between that sitting of the Committee and the next, it emerged that the hon. Gentleman had another list of schools, and we were allowed to have that list also.

Those were the two lists of schools to which subsections (3) and (4) as at present drafted apply, and it is not to those lists that I now refer.

There are many authorities which have started the consultative procedures under the 1976 Act and have submitted and transmitted schemes to the Minister but have not got as far as issuing section 13 notices. The Under-Secretary of State submitted to me a considerable list of the areas concerned. It runs from Avon, Barnet, Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Bromley, Buckinghamshire, through Calderdale, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hereford, Kent, Kingston upon Thames, Kirklees, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Redbridge, Shropshire, Sutton, Tameside, Trafford, Walsall, Warwickshire, and again Kirklees, Birmingham, Sutton, North Yorkshire, Bromley, Calder-dale, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Enfield and North Yorkshire. It is a long list of schools where local education authorities have begun the procedures under the 1976 Act.

The Government's aim is to allow the procedures already started to lapse. If local education authorities wish to continue to go comprehensive, that will happen under pre-1976 section 13 procedures rather than under the 1976 Act. The great advantage of the 1976 Act procedures is that consultation and co-operation between local education authorities and governors and managers are enforced through the transmission and submission of schemes that need to be treated as section 13 submissions.

The Bill will limit the linkage procedures to authorities that have already issued the section 13 notices, and that is an arbitrary line to draw. We do not know the full list. Some authorities might decide to pin lists on the doors of schools before 26 July and therefore come into the election category under clause 1(4).

It would be far more convenient if local education authorities and governors and managers of schools did not have to go back to square one and start again. They could use the 1976 Act procedures as set out in clause 1(4) in the same way as the section 13 notices.

The amendment is minor and will not affect local education authorities that do not want to use it. The election procedure is a triggering mechanism and takes place only if a local education authority does something. It would be useful for authorities that had co-operated with the governors and managers of voluntary schools and wanted to keep the linkage and co-operation under the transmission and submission procedures and also wanted the schemes already submitted to be automatically considered, such as North Yorkshire.

It is 23 minutes past 1 o'clock. The debate began with a difference of opinion on legal matters, but perhaps it can draw to a gentle close in an atmosphere of sweetness and light. I hope that the amendment can be at least smiled on by the Under-Secretary of State. If it is not properly drafted, it could be tidied up in the other place, which has many educational experts, such as Lord Alexander.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Stockport North

My hon. Friend may not realise that the deal made earlier this evening allows the other place to act merely as a rubber stamp. It will not give the Bill the scrutiny that it should.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

It would be a pity if that were true, but at this stage of the evening I am giving the Under-Secretary of State the benefit of the doubt. Our worst fears may be fulfilled. It would be a shoddy deal if the House of Lords had signed on the dotted line for the umpteenth time that it would not go against the Tory Government. I prefer not to believe these stories.

It would be sensible for the Under-Secretary to give a bland and mild reply to the amendment, so that when my hon. Friends and I consult our educational experts in another place we can get them to put down amendments, which may be smiled upon, to ensure that the effect of clause 1(4) can be very much wider than it is at present.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

It is now 1.26 a.m. and time is moving on. I shall try to make my reply bland and mild, as this is not one of the most contentious amendments. It would affect a certain number of schools.

The Government feel that there must be some point of cut-off where we return to the previous procedure. There could be argument about where that cut-off point should be. We feel that it is much tidier to have that cut-off point where local authorities have issued the section 13 notices than to have another body of local education authorities involved

similarly on that election procedure. Those that have issued section 13 notices have gone a long way, and it is important that a decision be made about where they stand as soon as possible.
However, in the case that the hon. Member mentioned it has gone only as far as the proposals, and, therefore, we do not feel that we can accept the amendment. It is not a matter of life and death, but we feel that there must be a cut-off point somewhere and that that point should be with those who have issued their section 13 notices. That is why the Bill was drafted along those lines—to make sure that we had a clean measure with a clean cut-off point. I ask my lion. Friends to reject the amendment.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I am glad that the Under-Secretary said that this did not really matter to the Government—

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I did not say that. I said that it was not a matter of life and death.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

I see. It is not a matter of life and death, even at this time of the morning. Perhaps I interpreted the Under-Secretary's reply wrongly. I do not know what " life and death " means to this Government. I still feel that the amendment would have provided a sensible way to proceed, and I do not believe that the Government's solution is tidier. However, in the circumstances, I shall not seek to divide the House. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.30 a.m.

Amendment made: No. 10, in page 2, line 11, leave out " 1st October " and insert " 31st December ".—[Mr. Christopher Price.]

Amendment proposed: No. 16, in page 2, line 11, at end insert— '(4A) In the event of managers or governors applying for revocation under subsection (3) above without the agreement of the local education authority, the Secretary of State shall not confirm the application.'.—[Mr. Christopher Price.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 51, Noes 214.

Division No. 56]AYES[1.31 a.m.
Adams, AllenBooth, Rt Hon AlbertCocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)
Beith, A. J.Campbell, IanCohen, Stanley
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Canavan, DennisCunliffe, Lawrence
Davis, Terry (B rm'ham, Stechford)Magee, BryanSmith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Dixon, DonaldMarshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Spearing, Nigel
Dormand, JackMikardo, IanTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Flannery, MartinMiller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMorton, BarryTinn, James
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Parry, RobertUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterPenhaligon, DavidWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Haynes, FrankPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)Welsh, Michael
Holland, Stuart (L'belh, Vauchall)Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Kinnock, NeilRace, RegWoolmer, Kenneth
McCartney, HughRichardson, Miss JoYoung, David (Bolton East)
McDonald, Dr OonaghRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)TELLERS FOR THE AYES
McMahon, AndrewRooker, J. W.Mr. Bob Cryer and
McNally, ThomasSkinner, DennisMr. Kevin McNamara
McWilliam, John
NOES
Adley, RobertGarel-Jones, TristanMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Alexander, RichardGlyn, Dr AlanMurphy, Christopher
Ancram, MichaelGoodhart, PhilipMyles, David
Arnold, TomGorst, JohnNeale, Gerrard
Aspinwall, JackGow, IanNelson, Anthony
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Neubert, Michael
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Newton, Tony
Berry, Hon AnthonyGummer, John SelwynNormanton, Tom
Best, KeithHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Onslow, Cranley
Bevan, David GilroyHampson, Dr KeithOsborn, John
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHaselhurst, AlanPage, John (Harrow, West)
Blackburn, JohnHavers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelPage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Bonsor, Sir NicholasHawkins, PaulParkinson, Cecil
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Hawksley, WarrenParris, Matthew
Bowden, AndrewHeddle, JohnPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Boyson, Dr RhodesHenderson, BarryPatten, John (Oxford)
Braine, Sir BernardHill, JamesPawsey, James
Bright, GrahamHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Percival, Sir Ian
Brinton, TimHolland, Philip (Carlton)Pink, R. Bonner
Brittan, LeonHooson, TomPollock, Alexander
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherHowell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)Porter, George
Brooke, Hon PeterHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Price, David (Eastleigh)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Hunt, David (Wirral)Proctor, K. Harvey
Browne, John (Winchester)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Raison, Timothy
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHurd, Hon DouglasRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Buck, AntonyJenkin, Rt Hon PatrickRees-Davies, W. R.
Bulmer, EsmondJessel, TobyRenton, Tim
Butcher, JohnJopling, Rt Hon MichaelRhodes James, Robert
Butler, Hon AdamKaberry, Sir DonaldRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Cadbury, JocelynKellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Kitson, Sir TimothyRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Knight, Mrs JillRost, Peter
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Lamont, NormanSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaLang, IanSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Channon, PaulLawrence, IvanShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Chapman, SydneyLawson, NigelShelton, William (Streatham)
Churchill, W. S.Lee, JohnShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South)Le Merchant, SpencerShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShersby, Michael
Clegg, WalterLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Silvester, Fred
Colvin, MichaelLoveridge, JohnSims, Roger
Cope, JohnLyell, NicholasSmith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
Corrie, JohnMacfarlane, NellSpeed, Keith
Costain, A. P.MacGregor, JohnSpeller, Tony
Cranborne, ViscountMacKay, John (Argyll)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Dickens, GeoffreyMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Sproat, Iain
Dodsworth, GeoffreyMajor, JohnSquire, Robin
Dorrell, StephenMarland, PaulStainton, Keith
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMarlow, TonyStanbrook, Ivor
Dover, DenshoreMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Stanley, John
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Mates, MichaelStevens, Martin
Durant, TonyMather, CarolStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Dykes, HughMaude, Rt Hon AngusStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Eggar, TimothyMawhinney, Dr BrianStokes, John
Elliott, Sir WilliamMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinStradling Thomas, J.
Faith, Mrs SheilaMayhew, PatrickTapsell, Peter
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMellor, DavidTaylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Fisher, Sir NigelMeyer, Sir AnthonyTebbit, Norman
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Temple-Morris, Peter
Fookes, Miss JanetMills, Iain (Meriden)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Forman, NigelMills, Peter (west Devon)Thompson, Donald
Fox, MarcusMoate, RogerThornton, Malcolm
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Monro, HectorTownend, John (Bridlington)
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Montgomery, FergusTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Gardiner, George (Relgate)Moore, JohnTrippler, David
Trotter, NevilleWard, JohnWinterton, Nicholas
van Straubenzee, W. R.Watson, JohnWolfson, Mark
Viggers, PeterWells, John (Maidstone)
Waddington, DavidWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Waldegrave, Hon WilliamWheeler, JohnMr. Robert Boscawen and
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir DerekWickenden, KeithMr. John Wakeham
Waller, GaryWilliams, Delwyn (Montgomery)

Question accordingly negatived.