As I have already announced to the House, no fewer than 48 right hon. and hon. Members seek to take pail in today's debate on the Queen's Speech. I again make a special plea for brief contributions, bearing in mind the fact that a large number of new Members wish to make their maiden speech.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At the beginning of our debate on the Queen's Speech, I asked whether you could select the amendment tabled by myself and my hon. Friends, which is second on the Order Paper, after the Leader of the Opposition's amendment. Does your decision on that amendment rule out the selection of my amendment in tomorow's debate? If our amendment were selected, it would give us the opportunity to vote on the substantial matters contained in it.
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:
but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech lacks any coherent strategy to regenerate Britain's cities and urban areas, contains proposals to diminish local accountability and undermine the quality of local services, especially housing, and to introduce the poll tax; and regret those Government proposals which will disrupt Britain's education service, limit choice, restrict opportunity, threaten standards and lead to greater central control.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his reappointment to his position. I guess that, like us, he shares the hope that he will have to spend more time in this Parliament on future effective legislation and less time on retrospective legislation, putting right the incompetent previous acts of his predecessors. I express commiserations to the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson)
who, in spite of our differences, always treated my hon. Friends and me with courtesy and consideration in our dealings with him.
The recognition by the Government of the need to have more urgent and more effective address to the needs of Britain's cities and urban areas is welcome. The Labour party has believed for many years in the need for new policies and mechanisms to deal with the deteriorating circumstances in many urban communities. A huge consensus for action for change has developed outside Parliament and outside politics, led by voluntary organisations, the churches and professional bodies. Given the mountain of evidence and the broad nature of views in that consensus, it is extraordinary that it has taken eight years for the Conservative Government to get the problems of millions of British citizens back to the top of the agenda.
It was over a decade ago that a Labour Government recognised that need, when they conceived the ideas of partnership to begin a more sustained, coherent attempt to improve the physical environment: employment opportunities, community facilities, housing, education and morale in neglected city and urban communities. The principles and ideas embodied in partnership are as valid now as then. The problems are well defined. We all know that, while some areas of all our cities and towns are bright, vibrant, attractive, prosperous and reasonably safe and secure, although increasingly less so, too many of our urban communities are forced to live in awful conditions of unfit housing, high rates of deprivation, unemployment and crime, and have little hope of change unless policies are changed dramatically.
We know that the people want again to make a contribution to rebuilding Britian's economy, our manufacturing base. We know, as they do, how vital it is that our cities should be strong, attractive, thriving and well-managed communities because in the ebb and flow of national, indeed international, change, the cities will always be central to millions of people as the places in which they most want to live and work.
However, a visit to many of our major cities today, such as Glasgow, Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Coventry, Birmingham and London, demon-states the failures of Government policies over the past eight years and the damage resulting from those policy failures. We see industrial decline, dereliction, social injustice, the miseries of persistent high unemployment, low pay and racial prejudice. We see that the welfare state can no longer guarantee the people's welfare. Why is that? Why are large areas of our major towns and cities so neglected? Who benefits from such neglect? Not their citizens, not Britian. Not the British people, whether they live in town or country.
The hon. Gentleman said that the Labour party recognised those problems some 10 years ago. Will he tell the House, and, I suppose, the nation, why the worst problems of housing, education, deprivation, industrial decline and unemployment take place without exception in areas controlled by Labour local authorities? Why have they not done anything about them?
I intend to spend the next 20 minutes addressing the House on why those circumstances are as they are, but I regret giving way to the hon. Gentleman because I shall develop my speech in my own way. I say simply that what he says is not true. What has happened, on the contrary, is that in election after election at local level, the Tory party has been driven from office in the inner cities and urban areas, leaving manifest problems in its wake—for example, in Liverpool.
Britain is weakened by that weakening of our cities, which were and should be the backbone of our economy, the centres of British innovation in science, the arts and medicine, as well as in industry. Why are school teachers demoralised and schools falling down? Why are we unable to fight crime as effectively as we should? Why is so much housing, whether public or private, rundown and in need of repair? Why are so many of our young people unemployed? Why are so many women afraid in their own cities, even in their own homes?
It is not that Tory policies have not been tried. It is not that the Tories have not had time. They have had eight years. It is not that their policies have not been tried extensively. There have been 43 Acts of Parliament on local government alone since 1979. It is not that Tory Ministers have not tried to trick their way through, either. They have tricked local government, local communities and even the law. On an unprecedented number of occasions, Conservative Ministers have acted outside their legal powers to frustrate local authorities, and, when they lose in the courts, do they concede graciously? On no; they legislate retrospectively to make their actions lawful.
One of the Tory policies on the inner cities that has worked quite well is that of establishing urban development corporations, particularly in London. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that the Labour authorities in east London could have achieved in a million years what the London Docklands development corporation has achieved in seven?
I am always generous in giving way to hon. Members, but I do not intend to give way if they intervene on different parts of the argument. The hon. Gentleman must know full well that I shall be coming to urban development corporations in a moment.
Yes, Tory Ministers have had time; they have tried; they have tricked their way through from time to time—the Secretary of State is the best example of that. They have failed to meet the challenge of necessary change in our communities. To date, the record is one of failure and incompetence, but the Government's systematic removal of financial support for our inner cities has been no accident. It was not incompetence. The massive, cumulative reductions now total almost £21·6 billion in rate support grant alone. The 60 per cent. reduction in housing investment, the abolition of the traditional urban programme and all the regular annual cuts have not been the result of incompetence—they have been deliberate acts of policy. The massive, bureaucratic, contradictory and inconsistent legislation has made the sensible management of social services, housing, education and other services immeasurably more difficult for those who are responsible for the affairs of our cities.
It has been interesting to hear and read some of the speeches of Ministers and former Ministers in the debate. Take, for example, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). He said:
We want to make it possible for growth and prosperity to return to the inner cities".
However, we must be fair to him, because he said that in 1979 when he was the Secretary of State for the Environment. He is still saying the same today. On Monday, he urged his ministerial colleagues to take powers. Where has he been these past eight years? Ministers have taken powers all right. There have been 43 Acts of Parliament and next week there will be another Local Government Bill. One thing is certain with this Government: there is always a Local Government Bill, and a permanent state of legislature change—always with the effect of giving Ministers more powers, always centralising power, always diminishing the power, role, freedom and flexibility of elected local government and often strengthening the power of non-elected local administrations.
Ministers have not taken only powers—they have taken the money, too. Consider what the Conservative Government have done to funding in the partnership and programme authorities—those councils in the very inner cities and urban communities that we are discussing today. Government figures show that between 1981 and 1987 the reductions in grant to partnership and programme authorities amounted to £9·8 billion, while special programme funding was at £1·9 billion. The reductions were five times greater than the additional funding.
It used to be accepted that councils' main programmes were the most important tools in the process of regeneration, but the Government have abandoned that approach. The special programmes are hopelessly inadequate to solve the problems. Moreover, the collapse of manufacturing industry has had devastating additional effects on many inner city and urban areas, compounding the problems that they face. In addition, when one recognises that housing investment programmes in those same areas have been slashed from £2 billion in 1979 to £621 million this year, and that the loss of housing subsidy totals £1·4 billion, it is impossible not to see the damage that the Government's policies have done.
The plethora of conflicting, confused, contradictory legislation, and the financial powers that have been condemned as so damaging even by the Audit Commission and by any reasonable person, should lead anyone to conclude that the position of local government in many of these areas has become impossible.
The Government are in danger of compounding these failures, as the Financial Times said in a leading article yesterday. Like our amendment, the FT concludes that the Government have no coherent strategy or philosophy for the future of local government in Britain. Like us, that newspaper questions the motives and the methods of the Government. To his credit, the right hon. Member for Henley called, as we do, for a coherent Government strategy to deal with these problems. Few outside the Conservative party — in Parliament, at least — believe that we can solve the problems of the inner cities and urban areas by ad hoc, piecemeal, unco-ordinated, ill-considered change of the type that we have experienced and which is proposed.
The Government propose again to diminish the constitutional position of elected local government. Few believe that that can lead to more effective, more sensitive, better quality, more open or responsive public services in education, housing provision or social services.
That is not to say that the status quo is acceptable to us. No one can be content with a position in which millions of our fellow citizens suffer inadequate housing, education, health and environment. Change is not only necessary but inevitable. How we manage that change is at the centre of the political differences between the Labour party and the Government. It is time for a new agenda for local government. We believe that the reform of local government functions, structure and finance should be on that agenda. That, too, is a widely held view—except, apparently, in the present Cabinet.
There should be a White Paper on inner-city policies. The last one — regrettably, the only major study of urban policy — was launched by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) when he was Secretary of State for the Environment in 1977, a decade ago. The Government should respond quickly and positively to the realistic, reasonable requests from Jeremy Beecham of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and Margaret Hodge of the Association of London Authorities for the opening of a new, constructive dialogue in what they describe as a spirit of co-operation. Such discussions should also include the voluntary organisations from the beginning. Their considerable expertise will be invaluable if they are consistently involved.
Ministers, and especially the Prime Minister, should recognise that, so long as we depend for local administration and delivery of crucial services on institutions with no real autonomy, Government and Parliament cannot escape the ultimate responsibility for the quality and effectiveness of those services. The record and current attitude of the Government is to take power and autonomy away from local councils and local people, c e appwhile laying the blame for failure at local level.
The Government hold directly conflicting views. In industry they call for local and regional initiatives and solutions, the market solution, but in local government policy the Government centralise more and more power. However, they cannot centralise the ideas and the knowledge so essential to good local government. The Prime Minister and successive Secretaries of State apparently cannot accept, let alone work with, the competition of ideas in a plural democratic society.
What about the Government's policies and initiatives? On Monday, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster described Government priorities. He said that they were
to ensure that the benefits of a property-owning democracy and an enterprise economy …
The Chancellor of the Duchy said:
to ensure that the benefits of a property-owning democracy and an enterprise economy reach those parts of the country that they have not yet reached".—[Official Report, 29 June 1987; Vol. 118, c. 348]
It sounded faintly like an advert for German beer except that the Government's product is a lot of gas, a bit of froth and a bitter taste. They have taken a plethora of initiatives of limited value and impact. They have proposed city action teams, task forces, urban development grants,
urban regeneration grants, urban development corporations and Mr. Richard Branson. Several are obscure, with few, if any, new cash resources. Others, like urban development corporations, are more significant but even in total they fall hopelessly short of the scale and nature of the task.
I challenge Ministers to explain their objectives for these policies and to explain what they propose in the Queen's Speech. Can they tell us what they think these initiatives will have achieved by the end of this Parliament? There is still an absence of any clear sense of purpose and of a strategy to bring resources back to the inner cities in anything like sufficient quality or quantity. No one seems to know who is in charge. Is it the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry? According to today's Financial Times, in a period of a few hours yesterday, no fewer than four different Cabinet Ministers claimed overall responsibility for heading this alleged drive to solve inner city problems. Who is in charge? Who is responsible?
None of these initiatives will bring any new freedom of choice to people in the areas concerned. Indeed, urban development corporations meeting in secret deny freedom of information or involvement not just to individuals but to local authorities and to voluntary organisations as well. Such corporations are not required to cooperate in other local plans; too often, the property market leads their work and it is not led by local people's needs or choices. The London Docklands development corporation is the worst example in that regard. [AN HON. MEMBER: "It is very successful."] The hon. Gentleman says that it is very successful. In answer to questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), the Secretary of State for the Environment has admitted that the total impact of the London Docklands development corporation is a net loss of jobs in the area concerned. That was the Government's answer during Question Time.
That answer was about jobs coming in and about jobs lost through closures. There was a net loss of 517 jobs. Does the answer not show that the urban development corporations cannot be a national model because large areas of public land adjacent to the City of London are being sold and the plans for them do not meet the urgent needs of the inhabitants of Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Newham? It is not regeneration at all.
I share my hon. Friend's concern, but that is not to say that we are against the principle of development corporations. However, in reality they are failing to meet the needs of the very local people that the Government say they are expressly trying to assist. No one can convince me that the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) can afford an £80,000 apartment in the docklands. They are being priced out of the development corporation area because of what is going on there in the property market.
To be effective, spending and development must be with the participation of local communities and should not be undertaken on their behalf or imposed on them. The dockland experiment and experience shows that public investment must come first. That is the lesson from American experience and of the best of local government. Absence of such participation is exactly what many Tories complain about when they criticise local councils. However, it is exactly what they now apparently support and propose in their policies on central direction and control.
It is sad to see that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has lost the battle with the Secretary of State for the Environment over contract compliance legislation. Again, the American experience is clear; again, legislation is necessary; and again I emphasise that the Labour party stands ready to assist with the passage of sensible contract compliance proposals.
It is deplorable to see the complete absence of any intention to strengthen the Race Relations Act 1976 or legislation to end racial harassment in housing. In 1983, in similar circumstances, the Conservative party manifesto said:
Our goal is to make Britain the best housed nation in Europe.
In the eight years of Tory policy, investment in housing has been slashed. Millions of houses are now unfit and I million more have fallen into disrepair, giving the nation a total housing repair bill of a staggering £50 billion. That includes many thousands of families in owner-occupied inner-city houses who cannot even get improvement grants. About 250,000 elderly people want to move to more suitable accommodation, such as bungalows or ground-floor flats, but cannot do so because Government policies stop councils building that accommodation and releasing family homes to those on the waiting list. The Tory attitude to housing is that its provision should be left to the market, that somehow Adam Smith's hidden hand will ensure that enough housing will be provided and that divine intervention will ensure that, as fewer resources go into council housing, more will go into the private sector. That has not happened, and it is unlikely to happen.
In every sense of the word, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) is an honourable gentleman. Will he take this opportunity to express dismay at some of the propaganda put forward by his party during the general election campaign? It said quite clearly that the Conservative Government's proposals were to privatise council properties over the heads of tenants and that that would lead to Rachman-type landlords and high rents. Now that the hon. Gentleman knows about Government policy, will he take the opportunity to refute that?
I certainly will not refute that, not least because I said it in several speeches during the election campaign. Until such time as we see the detail of the Government's intention, that remains our view about their intentions and proposals. It is our view not just about people in local government housing, but about elderly people in sheltered dwellings schemes as well.
In addition to all that, we are now apparently to have a poll tax throughout Britain — the only democratic country to employ such a manifestly unfair and regressive tax. The tax will not be related in any way to people's ability to pay. Again, Tory confusion is evident because the impact of the tax will be most severe in the inner cities, as the Government's own figures show. It will mean startling increases in bills in inner London and most major industrial conurbations. It will further divide Britain because, inner London apart, the people of the north of England and Scotland will be hardest hit while people in the prosperous parts of the south of England will benefit. The poll tax will particularly hit extended Asian families in inner cities and urban areas.
We know, on the admission of Ministers, and of the right hon. Member for Brent, North in particular, that the poll tax will be at least twice as expensive as rates to collect. The poll tax will be much easier to evade than the rates. Those who pay will have to pay more to make up for those who do not register and do not pay.
We arc told by The Daily Telegraph that the Government are considering a massive bureaucratic and costly system of Big Brother checks to trap people at swimming pools, bowling greens, libraries, museums and social services departments. We read that many Conservative Members and former Ministers have suddenly discovered the horrors of all this since the conclusion of the election campaign.
On Monday, the right hon. Member for Henley said:
Twice I have advised Conservative Cabinets and shadow Cabinets against this form of local authority finance, and twice, at least, they have accepted my advice. I must say that I have not yet seen any reason to change my mind. I shall listen to the reasons why my right hon. Friends have changed theirs."—[Official Report, 29 June 1987; Vol. 118, c. 281.]
We did not know he had changed his mind. On 9 December 1986, when a Conservative Back Bencher, he voted on a Second Reading for the principle of a poll tax for Scotland. To make absolutely sure, later, on 5 March 1987, he voted for the Third Reading of the Bill confirming all the details of the legislation of a poll tax for Scotland. He must have a short memory.
We know that people such as the Prime Minister will save almost £2,000 a year from the poll tax, while many pensioners, single parents, student nurses, apprentices and unemployed people will pay more. We also know that we do not have a proposed poll tax from any sense of fairness on her part. The whole world knows that a poll tax is unfair. It is a tax specifically excluded by the American constitution.
The poll tax results from a decade-long search to redeem a reckless political promise by the Prime Minister to abolish domestic rates, made without the slightest idea about how to replace them. That included a search for a Secretary of State and a Tory party careless enough, self-seeking enough, divisive enough and reckless enough to legislate and force it through. After four previous attempts, the right hon. Lady has found a Secretary of State who represents unfairness personified. He will force the legislation through regardless of the social, economic, constitutional, and I dare say political, damage it will inevitably cause.
We on the Labour side look at the people who support the proposal and at the party that supports it: we look at them with sorrow for the British people whom it will harm, and with contempt for those who will support it in the Lobbies. It is not surprising that people in many urban areas and inner cities reject Tory candidates and Tory councils. People recognise the damaging consequences of Tory policies. They have to live with them. The Government programme shows no sign of a coherent response and no evidence of direction. That is why we tabled our amendment and that is why we shall divide the House tonight.
I thank the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) for his kind words about myself arid particularly about my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson). I am grateful to him and in turn I commiserate with him on the two perils which he has recently had to face: first, getting back here, and, secondly, staying on the Opposition Front Bench. The second peril is still to come. He survived the first peril by a squeak. I gather from his constitutents that the poor performance of the Labour party in the opinion polls persuaded them that it was safe to keep him without risking the nightmare of a Labour Government. I only hope that the hard Left will take such a charitable view when it comes to next week's elections and that we can look forward to working with the hon. Gentleman in the future. If he does not succeed, he will at least be spared a very hard legislative programme that my Department will be putting forward during the coming Session.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his felicitations. I ought to thank him because, as he ought to know, when he came to my constituency and in an injudicious speech announced that there was no need for any new council housing in Copeland and no need for any new bungalows for pensioners or people with disabilities, he encouraged a few waverers to vote for me.
I seem to remember that the subject of my speech in the hon. Gentleman's constituency was the future of the nuclear industry. I do not want to open old wounds. It would be much better if the hon. Gentleman and I could continue in the felicitous form in which I started my speech and, if I may say so, in which he started his speech.
First, I should like briefly to amplify the proposals in the Gracious Speech which concern the privatisation of the water industry. Before legislating to return water authorities to private ownership we will bring forward a Bill early this Session to allow water authorities to prepare for water supply and sewerage functions to he privatised. The Bill will also permit compulsory trials to be undertaken of water metering for households, so that they may test this as a fairer system of charging for water. We have announced that we intend to establish a national rivers authority to take over pollution control and other regulatory functions of the water authorities at the same time as the water authorities are privatised.
A decision has not yet been taken whether it will be possible to include this second, longer Bill in this Session of Parliament, and, as we intend to publish a consultation paper and have full consultation on our proposals, it looks somewhat unlikely.
Is there any possibility in the future of the metering of water being made compulsory rather than optional, as at the moment? Will there be metering of sewage? Does the Secretary of State now accept that it is impossible to privatise those functions of the water authorities that relate to the cleaning-up of pollution and that, therefore, the real burdens of public expenditure will be kept by the Government and not saved by privatisation?
The hon. Gentleman will want to see the consultative paper, but he will find that our new proposals properly leave with Government the responsibilities that are the Government's in those matters. He will see that the Bill gives the water authorities power to set up trials for metering in trial areas where there would have to be power for them to insist on metering to study the effects of it based on demand and on people's behaviour.
I will amplify that. The point is the effect on demand of various charging strategies.
Today's debate is about those parts of the Gracious Speech related to the inner cities — local services and education. In choosing to link the issues for debate, the Opposition at least seem to recognise that they go together as part of a coherent strategy, which is what the hon. Member for Copeland wanted. The strategy is not short-term, piecemeal or cosmetic. Inner city revival can arise only from a radical shift in the balance of power to the people who live in inner cities and use local services. It can be based only on private sector-led growth.
Local authorities are indeed crucial. On their attitudes, their levels of spending and levels of rates and their policies on matters such as planning, housing and education hang the finely balanced decisions which private investors take about whether to locate and expand in one area rather than another. Local authorities perform that vital function well where they have an understanding of the requirements for business growth, but in too many of our inner cities that has not proved to be the case.
Last week, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) — the first unblushing maiden of this Parliament — made a plea for us to leave matters to inner city local authorities. He asked for
the opportunity to do things for ourselves." — [Official Report, 25 June 1987; Vol 118, c. 73.]
Translated, that means spending more public money. The hon. Gentleman has been doing that for a long time in Sheffield — [Interruption.] The House should listen to these figures. Last year, spending per adult in Sheffield was £755, which is £82 above the national average and £153 above GRE. The business rate was 342p—139p or 65 per cent. above the national average business rate of 213·2p. The average rate for the metropolitan districts was 265p, so he was 77p or 29 per cent. above the metropolitan district average. On top of that, he has a deferred purchase loan of £110 million. It is clear to people who care about the appalling problems of Sheffield that, despite that massive expenditure, he is not going in the right direction to solve those problems.
The record of the Labour party in local government on inner city regeneration has not been happy. There was talk earlier about the docklands——
I hope that the Secretary of State notified my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) that he intended to mention him in this way. That is the normal courtesy of the House, as I wrote to the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) to tell him that I would be mentioning him in the debate. In view of what the Secretary of State said, can he explain why the Audit Commission described Sheffield as one of the most efficient and well-managed cities in the country? Why does he think that, at council and parliamentary level, people support the Labour party in Sheffield in such massive numbers?
I followed the example of the hon. Member for Brightside of not warning me that he would be speaking about these problems last Thursday. I never dreamt that he would not be here for the debate during which those matters would be discussed.
And he did not tell me. My point is that cities such as Sheffield will not recover until they get their business rates to a level where they can start to attract businesses.
The record of the Labour party on inner city regeneration has not been happy. There used to be a committee of London boroughs called the docklands joint committee, which met to plan the revival of London's docklands. The committee sat for five years under Labour as well as Conservative Governments. It achieved almost nothing. The dereliction simply spread. Since the London Docklands development corporation was established in 1981, the area has been transformed, with 7,000 new houses having been built or under construction, the provision of 10,000 permanent jobs, more than 400 companies starting up or moving into the LDDC area and £2·2 billion of private investment being committed.
During the past few months, we have added to the list of London and Merseyside four new urban development corporations — the Black Country, Trafford Park, Teesside and Tyne and Wear development corporations—each charged with regenerating their areas. They are now establishing themselves. They will bring a single-minded approach to their areas which could lead over a decade to private investment between three and six times the initial pump-priming investment by the public sector. We shall also be setting up mini urban development corporations to tackle smaller sites. They will have the same powers as the larger UDCs, but above all they will create the business-friendly environment and single-minded approach which are the necessary pre-conditions for regeneration.
The hon. Member for Brightside and his friends have not learnt the lessons of this approach. There can never be enough public money to do everything through municipal ownership, nationalisation and services provided by highly unionised public sector services. It is inherently inefficient, and, worse, the necessary level of rates drives businesses and business men alike away. A partnership between local and central Government on inner city policy must be one between partners who believe in attracting private enterprise and capital through a constructive attitude to the private sector, low rates, sensible planning and the pursuit of excellence in education, housing and many other essential services. Partnerships where there is no consensus seldom seem to work. But with compatible partners, much can be done, and I believe increasingly that there will be more compatibility when the practice of local democratic accountability conforms with the theory.
The present rating system gives neither accountability to local residents nor effective control over local authority spending to the Government. Spending has continued to increase inexorably. During the past eight years, it has increased in real terms by 13 per cent. In the current financial year, local authorities are budgeting to spend, on average, 4 per cent. above the rate of inflation. That average conceals wide variations between authorities. Inner city authorities have increased spending way above inflation. They have been able to do that because, in those areas, as few as one in four adults pays full rates. So people have been content for the costs of local authority services to be met by others.
Profligate spending has not only driven employers and would-be employers away and thus lost jobs, but resources have been taken away from other areas by the rate support grant formula as the spiral of inner city decline causes the rate base in inner city areas to diminish, while their needs—as expressed in the GREs—grow. People who live in frugal shires, which many of my hon. Friends represent, know all too well that their annual rate support grants dwindle and their rates increase with little relationship either to their ability to pay rates or to their use of local services. Last year, many of my hon. Friends were clamouring for a reform of the present system — and that was after the most generous rate support grant settlement in years.
Will my right hon. Friend not lose sight of the fact that need does not always exist only in the inner areas of a city? In my area, on the edge of Birmingham, there is a very high proportion of one-parent families. There is great resentment that so much money is spent on the inner city while need exists outside. In one inner city area, a series of hanging baskets was placed in the streets, which looked very pretty. But they had all been stolen within 24 hours and were sold on what is called the black market. If that money had been spent to help schools in the outer areas, a great deal of help would have been available for one-parent families which is not available now. Will my right hon. Friend remember that need does not only exist in inner areas?
I will of course remember what my hon. Friend has said. She will be encouraged to learn that many of her constituents, particularly the single and one-parent families, will benefit largely from the community charge.
As I have said, the present local government finance system is not only grossly unfair; it provides very poor accountability. The only effective solution to the problem is to ensure that all pay something towards the costs of local services. That is why we propose to phase out domestic rates and replace them with a flat rate community charge payable by all adults in each area. We set out that policy at length in the Green Paper on the reform of local government finance. We have consulted on the policy and we have published all the details. My right hon. and hon. Friends fought and won the recent election campaign on that policy. On the now famous basis of "What you see is what you get" many people voted for us on the basis that we would introduce the community charge. We should not and will not let those people down. For Opposition Members to suggest that, having published all the details of the reform and having been elected to office, we should now immediately turn round and tear those details up is to deny the verdict of the electorate.
All Opposition Members are well aware that when the poll tax issue was really tested before the electorate in Scotland, the result was a crushing defeat for the Conservative party. I want to pick up on one critical issue. The Secretary of State said that the fundamental principle of the poll tax was that everyone should pay a flat rate charge. Does that mean therefore that the undertakings given during the election campaign to cover the 20 per cent. minimum paid by the poorest through housing benefit is to be abandoned? if not, what is the Government's policy?
The hon. Gentleman has asked about the 20 per cent. paid by the poorest. The Government have made it absolutely clear that up to 80 per cent. rebates will be available for those on low incomes. With regard to the 20 per cent., income support will be uprated by the equivalent of the average of the 20 per cent. of the community charge. We have always stated that. That means that some people on income support will be slightly better off, although some may be slightly worse off.
Locally raised non-domestic rates will be replaced by the national non-domestic rate set at uniform poundage by the Government. There will be a revaluation of non-domestic property in 1990. The national non-domestic rate will not be able to increase each year by more than the rate of inflation. The proceeds of the national non-domestic rate——
I will give way in a minute.
The proceeds will be distributed to all authorities as an equal amount per adult. There will be a transitional period of up to five years. The effect of that in Sheffield, for example, would have been to bring down the business rate by 30 per cent. That will be a great help in bringing more investment and more jobs to the inner city areas that we have been discussing. Indeed, the whole of the community charge and the new system of local government finance has been designed largely with a view to reducing the rate burden of business and industry of the areas about which the House is most concerned.
The Secretary of State rightly drew attention earlier to the importance of lower rates, business confidence and success. How does he square that statement with the fact that his proposals will overnight, without any increase in services, mean an increase to the business community in business rates which could in Somerset, for instance, mean an increase of 20 per cent. or 30 per cent.?
I do not believe that "overnight" is the right word. There are transitional arrangements. At the same time, we do not know the results of the revaluations, which might have very different results in different parts of the country. All I can say is that it must be true that, with a total sum of money that is close-ended, if the rates are to come down for businesses in inner city areas, they are bound to go up for other businesses in other places. I would not deny that for a moment.
The community charge is a charge made for the services provided by a local authority. It is like a service charge, which is rather different from a poll tax. Against that background I must mention three allegations that have been made about it—curiously enough, mainly since the election.
First, the community charge is said to be inequitable between the north and the south. However, surely the right principle is that between two different areas, having taken account of differing needs through needs grant or the GREs, people should pay the same charge for the same level of services, except of course that the less well-off will be protected by rebates and uprating of benefits.
Let me give an example. If we consider two district councils, Copeland in Cumbria and Cotswold in Gloucestershire, we see that this year in Copeland every adult will enjoy services to the value of £689 while in Cotswold the figure is £589. The average rates bill per adult in Copeland is £162. In Cotswold it is £230. Therefore, my constituents were charged £68 more per head than the constituents of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), although £100 per head more was spent on the hon. Gentleman's constituents than on mine. Those rate bills were after extra grants had been paid to Copeland on account of its needs. After taking account of the hon. Gentleman's constituency's needs, higher spending in his constituency resulted in a lower charge for which my constituents have had to pay. That is not fair.
The Secretary of State says "That is not fair." He should continue with his comparison. If he compares unemployment, bad housing and deprivation in Copeland and the resource base, and if he compares the political administrations, he will discover that Copeland is Labour-administered and his area is Tory-administered. In Copeland the district council has not increased the rates for six years. This year, the rates were reduced. Is the Secretary of State claiming that all that should be thrown away for some ephemeral gain from a poll tax and a uniform business rate? He is talking nonsense.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not like this point. The fact remains that his constituents are being subsidised by my constituents for no other reason than the fact that property and rateable values in my constituency are higher than those in his constituency. The needs of his constituents are taken account of in the GREs. He does not have a leg to stand on. Had the community charge been in place this year, the charge in Copeland would have been £258 and £180 in Cotswold. My constituents would still have £100 less spent on them per adult than the hon. Gentleman's constituents, but they would have paid £78 less per adult. That would be a much fairer system and a better signal for people to realise that they receive what they pay for.
Another argument is that it is inequitable that all should pay the same amount. It is simply not true to say that all will pay the same for local authority services. As I have said, those on low incomes will be protected by the 80 per cent. rebate and the uprating of benefits by 20 per cent. of the average community charge. Old people living in residential homes and the severely mentally handicapped will be entirely exempt. Students will pay only 20 per cent.
There will he a taper from those who will rely entirely on income supplement to those whose income is slightly above it, but the precise details have not been put forward.
I must get on.
Secondly, about half of local authority expenditure will be met by the Exchequer, which is financed by a most progressive income tax. The better-off will certainly contribute more through the national tax system, but they will not have to pay a premium on top through the local tax system. That is as it should be. Redistributive taxation should be for one authority only—the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The third allegation was made last Thursday by the Leader of the Opposition, who gave the House one of the best imitations that I have ever seen of Neil Kinnock addressing a ticket-only Labour election rally. All that was missing was Brahms. Among other schoolboy howlers, the right hon. Gentleman alleged that the community charge was a tax on voting. He does not understand the two meanings of the word poll. The only way to avoid the tax was to surrender the right to vote, he said. That allegation is totally groundless for three reasons.
First, the right to vote will not depend on registration for or payment of the community charge. Secondly, it will not be possible to avoid registration for the community charge by failing to register to vote. Thirdly, there will be completely separate registers compiled on a different basis for community charge and for electoral purposes. I hope that he will not repeat that nonsense in the future.
Our proposals are the only solution that achieves accountability and preserves true local democracy. At a time when the Labour party in local government is getting more extreme, and when the spending of local authorities takes so much of the nation's resources, it is the only possible solution which will save local government as an institution with real powers and real discretion. None of the alternatives on offer does anything to improve accountability.
The Secretary of State has been very generous in giving way, but it is important that this matter is clear and on the record. Is the Secretary of State giving the House and the country a categorical assurance that there will not be, under any circumstances or conditions, cross-referencing between the electoral register and the registration of people to pay poll tax? Is that what the Secretary of State is saying?
That is an absurd question. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the electoral register is published. I suspect that he had it during the election and put "Labour", "Liberal", "Conservative" and "doubtful" against it all the way down. I cannot possibly promise that nobody will look at the electoral register and the hon. Gentleman knows that as well as I do.
If the present system were left in place there would have to be a revaluation. We could not continue with figures based on values from 1973. Those who are concerned about turbulence with the new system should consider what the effect would be of moving, under the present grossly unfair and unaccountable system, to new rateable values after all this time.
There must be an incentive for councils to control their costs. The community charge provides that incentive, and our new Local Government Bill that was published last Friday provides local authorities with a way of so doing. This legislation sets out six services—costing authorities some £3 billion a year — which will be exposed to competitive tendering. It provides a power for more services to be added to the list. It outlaws abuse of non-commercial contract conditions that are so beloved by Labour authorities, and I am glad that the hon. Member for Copeland says that he supports this in principle.
Over the past year the evidence of the potential savings from competitive tendering has continued to mount. The Audit Commission, for example. has estimated that over £500 million could be saved from local authorities' budgets for housing maintenance, refuse collection and vehicle maintenance.
We have confirmation of the benefits from an unlikely source—the National and Local Government Officers Association. In February it commissioned some opinion poll research on privatisation and, according to an article in Local Government Chronicle, NALGO reported:
Researchers find such strong feelings that privatisation is an extremely good idea that they advised that though it is an issue of great importance to NALGO, it should probably be avoided in the campaign to defend public services.
The report went on to say:
The overriding perception is that private equals efficient, which means the principle of privatisation is accepted as a solution to the public sector's inefficiency".
Worse was to come for NALGO. It held a conference on "Privatisation: an effective response" and found that some of its members
even want to work in the private sector, expecting higher wages and better promotion chances".
It is no accident that some of the areas of greatest inner city deprivation and decay lie where there is the greatest dominance of rented housing. This is not the time or place for me to go into the details of what the Government propose for the future of housing. Those details will be made available to the House shortly, and in the autumn there will be a major Bill that deals with the Government's response to the serious problems of housing.
Does the Secretary of State agree, as he has just made a point about privatisation and efficiency, that it has been a huge failure in Halifax? We had the launch of the urban renewal house unit, which is now called Estate Action and we waited 16 months for Wimpey to come up with the money. We have now been left with 320 dwellings. The Government would not allow us to borrow, but will they allow us to do so now because Wimpey has pulled out after keeping us waiting for 16 months, thus allowing properties to fall into dereliction? Will the Secretary of State allow Calderdale council to borrow the money? Does he agree that in this instance the private sector was inefficient?
I cannot comment on that circumstance because I do not know the details, but I shall make inquiries and write to the hon. Lady.
With the major reform of housing policy that we are proposing, the measures in the Gracious Speech will not only provide a lot of work for the House but will provide the most comprehensive set of instruments for tackling dereliction and poor housing, poor councils, poor schools, poor job opportunities and poor environment, which are the components of the inner city problem. The Labour party is said to be trying to adjust to the "new world"—the world of prosperity, wider ownership and more freedom and opportunity. I hope that its response to all our policy initiatives will not remain sterile and negative. If it attacks these proposals, whether it admits it or not, it will be seeking to perpetuate the problems that we are debating today.
I welcome the Government's determination to tackle the problems of the inner city. I hope that their determination will be accompanied by a recognition that many of those problems have been aggravated by the policies that the Government have pursued over the last eight years.
I hope that we will not see yet another Whitehall-organised and directed campaign in which no fewer than seven Government Departments compete with each other for headlines in the national press, while little changes for the ordinary people who live in the inner cities.
Nor do we want to see another series of initiatives that will create more jobs outside the target areas than they offer to the unemployed in the inner city. Our first priority, if we want to tackle the problems of the inner cities succesfully, should be to listen to the people who live in those areas and see how far it is possible to incorporate their ideas and solutions into the programmes that we are putting forward.
Housing figures strongly in the Gracious Speech. It has been my experience that if one goes to the most depressed and run-down council estate the most practical advice usually comes not from the architect who created the problem in the first place, not from the academics, however well intentioned and impressive, but from the tenants who live in those estates and who understand the problems. They want entry phones, changes in the layout of the estate to reduce the risks of crime and vandalism and extra staff to supervise what goes on and to keep the place clean and tidy. Their basic view is that essential services such as lifts and lights should work. They have plenty of ideas for improvements but their ideas cost money. All too often the money is simply not there. Certainly it is not there in sufficient volume to deal with the problems.
If we really want to improve difficult, run-down estates we must recognise that providing the resources is just as important as providing new forms of management and ownership. There is a wide measure of agreement in all parties that we should try to break down the over-centralised, remote, monolithic management of council housing. But it is no good doing that unless we provide the resources to back up change and to make estates decent places in which to live. If we do not do that but simply change management style and organisation, the cynicism will continue, as will the sense that nobody really cares.
I have for long argued the case for housing co-operatives. We should ensure that tenants have much more control over what goes on in their homes and on their estates, but we cannot create housing co-operatives overnight. People must want to come together in a co-operative and they must develop the ability to take the responsibilities involved in managing their own estates. Let us encourage co-operatives but do not let us believe that such a solution will come rapidly.
The Government have not yet spelt out what they mean by the housing action trust approach. Perhaps they are considering what is happening in the Thamesmead development which is now run by a housing action trust. All its members are elected by the residents. That solution can be applied elsewhere. There is much good sense behind it, but once again the problem is one of resources. Thamesmead is not yet up and running. It has not yet taken over full responsibility for running the area, and. it has major resources problems despite the valuable development land that is available to it. I wonder whether other housing action trusts will be able to deliver the goods and improve our run-down council estates.
The other aspect of the housing problem which we must begin to face is the desperate housing shortage in the inner cities. In my area housing shortage is the worst that I have known in 20 years as an elected representative. Homelessness is growing at an alarming rate. In my local authority 234 priority homeless families are waiting for somewhere to live and another 79 potentially homeless families are behind them in the queue. Husbands and wives are compelled to live apart. The army of single homeless young people is a growing problem. They wander round and sleep rough, on friends' floors or in cars. They are totally unable to find housing in the inner London area.
I accept that many of the problems are aggravated by the length of time that it takes local authorities to relet empty property. That is also a problem of resources. There are major difficulties in putting into a decent state of repair some of the housing which we were encouraged to throw up in the 1960s and which has not stood the test of time.
Local authority administration also causes problems. Slow-moving bureaucracy means that properties are not let swiftly and are then vandalised or used by squatters with the result that even more work has to be done and the property remains outside the housing stock for even longer. But even with the most perfect local authority administration in the inner cities there are simply not enough homes to meet the need.
The Government suggest that the private landlord is the knight in shining armour who will come to the rescue. I doubt whether the private investment necessary to provide the rented housing that we need will be forthcoming. I doubt whether it can produce housing at a cost that the homeless can afford. People who want to make a profit out of housing must charge rents way beyond the reach of homeless people in the inner cities.
I would rather the Government provided more resources for housing associations and encouraged them to tackle the desperate shortage of rented accommodation than try to breathe new life into the discredited private landlord system.
The Government should also build upon the public-private partnership, which they have tentatively begun, by the use of public funds as a leverage to encourage building societies and other institutions into index-linked investment in housing. That could help provide the rented homes that we need.
I strongly endorse what the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said about the poll tax proposals. They will do nothing to improve our inner cities. I accept what he said about the injustices and the costs of the proposals. The combined effect of the community charge and the unified business rate will be that the biggest loser in terms of resources for local government will be Greater London and the biggest gainer will be the south-east of England, outside Greater London. That will merely exacerbate the existing problems. The hardest-hit residents will be in the inner London boroughs because they are likely to have to pay a great deal more. The problems will be fewer in the outer London areas and residents in the leafier areas of Surrey will be the gainers from the switch from rates to poll tax. I am sure that the people of Surrey will welcome that, but such a financial change will accentuate the flight of people from the inner city.
The Layfield report examined the proposals for local income tax suggested by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) and his colleagues and found that they would be extremely expensive, costly and burdensome.
I do not accept that. I was a member of the Layfield committee and what it said stands up to the test of time. Layfield's basic proposal was that we should have a clear decision on whether we wanted local accountability or national direction. The House has not yet made that choice and the people have not yet had an opportunity of making that choice.
The impact of the poll tax will encourage the people whom we want to remain in the inner cities to move out.
The precise consequence of the enormous increase in rates under the loony Left in London has been to drive businesses and individuals out to the shire counties, creating pressure on land and house prices and creating skill shortage problems. It is no solution to say that we should stick to the rating system.
I do not advocate sticking to the rating system. I advocate a switch to local income tax, which is better, fairer and more straightforward than either rates or a poll tax.
The poll tax will create enforcement problems. Evidence suggests that the mobile population in our cities will aggravate the enforcement problems simply because more people generally move around in the inner cities. Enforcement will as a result be more costly in the inner cities than elsewhere.
The hon. Member for Copeland referred to an article in The Daily Telegraph earlier this week about local authority officers being recruited as poll tax narks to shop people who use services without being registered. The hon. Gentleman did not need to read The Daily Telegraph because the proposal was included in the Government's Green Paper published in January 1986. It said:
The task for local authorities would be to develop their information systems so that, if they were providing a service to an individual, it would be possible to check back conveniently, either before or after the event, on whether a person was registered and take steps to register those who were not.
Thus, we would actually be encouraging local authority officers, sometimes providing essential services, to act as a sort of secret police force for the poll tax collectors to ensure that everyone was swept into the net. The Secretary of State tried to pour scorn on the suggestion that there would be a risk of people who registered to vote finding their names on the poll tax register. I refer him to the Department of the Environment and Welsh Office paper on the poll tax. On the problem of the enforcement of registration, it said:
Registration officers will be able to use the electoral role to help check the completeness of the community charge register, and vice versa.
It is therefore evident that anybody who registers to vote will make himself liable for inclusion on the poll tax register.
From what we have heard in the past week or so it seems that the Government are now to some extent backing away from their original concept of a poll tax to be paid by every person in the community. Recently we have heard talk of a rebate system and of the idea that those on supplementary benefit would have their benefit increased to take account of the poll tax charge. Surely all that simply undermines the Government's original contention that they did not want people who voted in local elections for improved services then evading the costs of those services. The more the Government move to take away the worst rough edges of the poll tax proposals, the more they undermine that original argument for total accountability and the more they find themselves on the slippery slope towards an income-related tax for local services.
Of course, I do not object to that. I cannot understand the Secretary of State's argument this afternoon. He says that it is absolutely right, fair and proper for us to pay for national services on the basis of our income, but that it is improper for us to pay for local services on that basis. To me, that makes no sense at all. If the Government are totally and irrevocably opposed to the concept of a local income tax, they might at least listen to the expert advice of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, which rejects the whole concept of a poll tax but suggests that the Government should consider
some form of banded community charge which could better reflect ability to pay than does a flat rate tax.
I hope that even at this late stage the Government will consider that.
The Government are right to stress the partnership approach in tackling the problems of our cities, but it should not be merely a public sector and private enterprise partnership. We need a series of partnerships. We need partnerships between central and local government, in the interests not of the political parties in control but of the people whom they represent. Most important, we need a partnership that involves the people of the inner cities. We should stop thinking solely in terms of people from Whitehall and Westminster, however well-intentioned, coming in from outside to do things for the people of the inner cities. We should be trying to give those who live in the inner cities a real chance of standing on their own feet and sorting out their own problems.
I very much agree with the last remarks of the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright). The idea that the problems of the inner cities can be solved simply by people moving in and doing things for them can he falacious. The inner cities will succeed in solving their problems only through their own strength and determination.
I broadly welcome the Gracious Speech, which marks the continuation of the very successful policies which we have been pursuing since 1979 and which flow from the remarkable endorsement of those policies by the electorate in the general election. If I had to summarise the election in a nutshell, I would say that on defence policy and on economic policy we won by a knock-out but that on social policy we perhaps did no more than win on points.
It seems clear that social policy will dominate this Session of Parliament and perhaps this Parliament as a whole. I profoundly believe that we must get it right. We have to face very important matters and we must think about them carefully. I hope, in particular, that we will think carefully about the remarks that all of us heard on the doorsteps during the election campaign. It is remarkably good for us to have to knock on so many doors and listen to so many different people speaking to us frankly when we canvass them. I have come away with a number of very clear points that I would like to pursue.
I noted that my right hon. Friend the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, whom I greatly respect, delivered a cautionary speech the other day about public expenditure. Clearly, we cannot abandon our public expenditure policy, but I believe that there is enough buoyancy in tax revenue at the moment for us to contemplate a number of areas in which we might provide a bit more money to good effect.
During the election campaign, one message that came over to me very clearly was the message about pensions. I was frankly surprised at the force with which old-age pensioners argued that they were pretty close to the bread line. Although we have done valuable things for them, I believe that the Government would be doing something that would be well received and very just if they could add another couple of pounds over and above what comes under the RPI to the next uprating.
I ask the Government to do what they can to relax the restrictions on the spending of the capital receipts of local authorities. It would not be right to say to the local authorities, "You can spend 100 per cent. of the capital receipts" because that would have an inflationary effect on the construction industry. But if it were possible to raise the present 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. levels that are permitted at present, adding perhaps a further 10 per cent. to each, that would make a useful contribution towards dealing with pockets of homelessness.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is here, let me say that I hope that we can do more to support civil science and the universities.
I turn to the aspects of the environment that have dominated this debate so far. I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's plans for stimulating the private rented sector by liberalising tenure and rent control. It is high time that we embarked on that process and it is a good thing to embark on it at the beginning of a new Parliament so that it is given time to be seen to work—as I believe it will— and so that we may dissipate the fears which have always existed that another Government will up-end the policy. I hope, too, that we shall support the housing associations, as the hon. Member for Woolwich suggested. There is a real need to stimulate the rented sector. We have had great success with our home ownership policies and we must now work hard on the rented sector.
I am less sure about the proposal to give council tenants the right to transfer the ownership of their homes to other landlords. That proposal needs to be thought about and explained carefully. The public will need to understand that it is a workable proposal and, if that is not possible in the near future, it might be better to leave it over for a later Session rather than rushing into it. At the moment I have an open mind about it, but I certainly have to be persuaded.
What worries me is that the proposals seem to reflect an overall exaggerated distrust of local government. We all know about the loony Left and we know that sometimes we are talking not just about lunacy but about a brutal malevolence. Nobody wants that to 'persist, but it seems a mistake to allow our suspicions in that regard to spread over into a generalised suspicion of local government—a view that seems to be reflected in some areas of our policy. We need local government in this country. It is a fallacy that we can run everything from the centre; if we pour everything into the centre, the centre will not hold, and it is crucial for our Government to achieve a clear and positive idea of what local government can do.
Last year, in the debate on the Address I spoke about the community charge proposals that were to be introduced in Scotland. Then I expressed my doubts about the community charge on grounds of fairness and administrative viability. I cannot say that those doubts have been dispelled from my mind.
I know that the new system as a whole—of course, it consists not only of the community charge and the unified business rate, but a change in the composition of the rate support grant, which is most important — is extremely attractive to my county of Buckinghamshire. I am aware of that from the exemplification figures that I have seen and I must bear that fact in mind. I certainly believe that it is correct to look for a more sensible and objective rate support grant rather than the somewhat nonsensical system that we have had in recent years. However, we must get something that is believed to be fair and manageable. Although I believe that we should go ahead with the reform of the non-domestic rate and rate support grant system we must think a bit harder about whether we have got the right answer with the community charge. I believe that it would be perfectly possible to have the other two sides in the triangle without having the community charge as the means of providing the domestic contribution. My right hon. Friend must accept that a great deal of argument and persuasion must be gone through before many people will accept that reform.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will reply to the debate tonight. I hope that we shall not approach education in any spirit of distrust or a desire to bash local government. I accept that the Secretary of State has the job of overall supervision of the education system. The Education Act 1944 made that role absolutely clear, as did R. A. Butler when he piloted the Bill through Parliament. I believe that, in years gone by, Secretaries of State have not sufficiently exercised their role of monitoring the education system.
I believe that it is right that my right hon. Friend should take powers to provide a system of testing children as they proceed through the education system. I must confess that I wrote a pamphlet in 1976 in which I advocated the testing of children at the ages of seven, 11 and 14. Therefore, it would be rather surprising if I did not support the present proposals. Those proposals are good and I believe that it is right to have a core curriculum, as contemplated by my right hon. Friend. I believe that it should be a fairly loose curriculum and I certainly hope that it will not be a great mass of detail. However, I believe that it should provide some kind of general steer on the way in which we approach the all-important question of what is taught in our schools.
I believe that my right hon. Friend will be under a lot of pressure the whole time to get subjects added to the curriculum. He will be asked to include whatever happens to be the current concern of the day. It may be AIDS one day or child abuse on another. Such topics are important, but my right hon. Friend must be firm and say, "No, that is not what the educational core curriculum is about". The core curriculum is concerned with the more traditional elements of education. I believe that my right hon. Friend is on the right lines and I give him my support.
I also believe it is right to give more financial control to schools and I believe that that is a welcome form of delegation. However, almost the greatest need at the present time within the education system is a period of constructive harmony and constructive tranquillity. We have witnessed a great deal of turmoil. I certainly hope that our proposals will not extend that turmoil. I am sure that my right hon Friend understands extremely well the pressing need to get on with the business of finding the right system for determining teachers' pay. I believe that we would all like to get that problem out of the way. Perhaps I am being too optimistic, but it would be very good to solve that problem in a matter of months because, at the present time, it is bedevilling things.
My right hon. Friend must take care that he does not ram the proposals for opting out down the throat of a rather unwilling educational community. As with the proposals for transferring the ownership of council houses, I believe that the proposals for opting out need to be presented more clearly and there should be more discussion about them before they are in a condition to go through Parliament. If, after such discussion, my right hon. Friend still feels that they are the right proposals, there is no need to include them in the Education Bill that I believe my right hon. Friend will introduce in this Session. Such proposals will keep perfectly well for a later stage. I believe that it would be a great pity to bring in such proposals if they serve to undermine the otherwise positive things that my right hon. Friend has offered and, with any luck, the positive response that he will receive. The same thing applies to the proposals about the Inner London education authority, which is a difficult, contentious area, and my right hon. Friend should move with extreme care.
There are many other matters that could be covered, but what comes through from this debate, and what I am trying to say, is that we have the chance in this Parliament to improve the conditions of all people. In many ways we are pointing in the right direction. However, I urge my right hon. Friends to get on with the things that will really help. They should not get trapped into pursuing some other things that will be of only marginal, if any, advantage and will serve only to promote discord rather than harmony.
I represent, with great pride, the constituency of Newport, West. Newport, West is a constituency that was formed in 1983 and its first Member was Mr. Mark Robinson. Mr. Robinson was a diligent, hard-working Member whose talents were swiftly recognised by the Conservative party and he won promotion as a junior Minister at the Welsh Office. Mr. Robinson's work within the constituency won him the respect and affection of its people.
The decision of the people of Newport, West to reject Mr. Robinson was in no way a reflection on his gifts, energies or work. The right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) referred to "a knock-out" on certain issues, but in Newport, West the Conservative party was the victim of a walkover. In local government elections, the people of Newport, West regularly gave the Labour party 60 per cent. of the vote for council members. In the last election, there was a swing of nearly 11 per cent. to Labour. That swing represented a judgment on the work of the local authority.
Today and in the previous debates we have heard an ugly caricature of the work of Labour local authorities — indeed, all local authorities. The right hon. Member for Aylesbury said with some truth that there will be great resentment of the gratuitous insults contained in the Government's intentions. Those intentions will be deeply resented by local authorities of all political colours. I believe that the attempts to suppress and frustrate the work of good, intelligent local authorities will be deeply resented and all parties will revolt against those attempts.
History contains some dire warnings about Governments who have subjected themselves to the delusion that absolute power means they have an absolute monopoly of wisdom, intelligence and judgment. I commend hon. Members to read once again Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". They will discover what happened when Rome decided to draw the power to the centre. The effects of that attempt are found in the volumes devoted to the fall of the Roman empire.
The words "sterile" and "negative" have been used to characterise the work of the Labour local authorities. However, I can talk with great pride of the work of Newport borough council. In the interests of brevity I shall confine myself to one area of its work — housing. Of course, that council cannot compete with the rate freeze suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), but rates have been frozen for three years within the borough. The borough's policy on housing has been one of high achievement, sensitive management, inspired innovation and a genuine non-doctrinaire quest for continued improvement.
It may come as a surprise to hon. Members on both sides of the House to learn that an authority that has been Labour for almost every one of the past 50 years has, for nearly 20 years, been selling council houses. Its reasons for doing so are not the Government's reasons. It is not done as an act of social engineering, a self-motivated act designed to win people to its side. It has always been part of the history of the Socialist movement—going back on the continent to the Swedish Socialists, and in this country to the Rochdale pioneers and the early guild Socialists —that home ownership is the cornerstone of Socialism. We have always considered it right for a person to own his home; what we object to is the belief that it is right to own someone else's home.
The reason that we in Newport have sold council houses for all this time is that we have seen the dilemma of housing in its long-term aspect. Too often, it is forgotten, or seen as a temporary, short-term problem. But when we decide on our answers to housing problems, we are looking for solutions that will not merely last for the life of a Parliament or a council, but will stand firm and good for 60 or even 100 years. The decision to sell council houses in Newport was made, and the sales are being continued, to create stable, mixed communities, and because, in these inflationary times, it is not property but rent that is theft.
We have heard the words "sterile" and "negative". Let us look at the achievements in Newport. Every pre-war dwelling in the town has been modernised; every council house has been equipped with central heating; 20 per cent. of stock has been sold to its sitting tenants, and it is all still occupied by the same tenants. There are highly successful and innovative share ownership schemes to enable the very young to get on to the ladder of home ownership, and stay-put schemes to help the elderly to remain in their communities. All those schemes are up and running. There are more housing action areas in Newport than anywhere else in Wales, and there are brilliantly successful pioneering schemes for the elderly and the disabled. A continuous, successful and unique programme of decentralising power to the estates and the tenants has been introduced.
I could proceed with a long litany of such achievements, but it is a measure of what has happened that those great achievements have been made in the teeth of remorseless antagonism and hostility from the Welsh Office. There has been a 95 per cent. cut in real terms in new money for funding housing since 1979. Apprenticeships have virtually disappeared, and have been replaced by the candy-floss MSC jobs, leading to enormous problems in obtaining skilled building workers. Repeated bureaucratic and frustrating delays by the Welsh Office have left the borough constantly under-funded and under-resourced. To make matters worse, the Government have locked away the money that we legitimately obtained—nearly nearly £28 million — and thrown away the key. We cannot touch it. We cannot use it to create jobs and better housing.
Finally, let me quote the words of a great Member of Parliament for the county of Gwent — Aneurin Bevan—when he was Minister of Housing. He said that his finest ideal—what he hoped above all else to create in the new estates that were being built in the late 1940s—was the reproduction of what he described as the most lovely feature of English and Welsh village life in which the farmworker, the lawyer, the blacksmith and the doctor lived side by side in the same street. He wanted to create the rich tapestry of a mixed community. That is a high ideal that we have rarely achieved.
What do we see in Thatcher's Britain today? Do we see the picture of that tapestry, a balanced picture of harmony and order, or do we see something else? What we see is not a tapestry, but an ugly jigsaw broken by lines of division and injustice. We are seeing the creation of ghettos. On one side are those whose estates are shunned: they are places of fear, crime and neglect. The other, almost equally worrying, piece of the jigsaw shows the privileged estates behind barricades with security fences and guards in front of them.
That is our choice today. Do we take the line—this is what we will vote on tonight—that we will continue to try to create in the long term that happy rich tapestry of a mixed community, or do we carry on as we are and produce again the Thatcherite confusion of our jigsaw estates and our jigsaw society of injustice and unfairness?
First, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me thank you for calling me so early in the debate. I should like to crave the indulgence of the House on this first occasion that I have spoken in the Chamber.
I am particularly honoured to follow as Member of Parliament for Leeds, North-East such a distinguished politician and parliamentarian as the right hon. Sir Keith Joseph. I am sure that it is unnecessary for me to remind the House of his enormous contributions over 31 years to this place, to his constituents, to his party and to the country. He has held many major offices of state, including housing, social services, industry and education, but I shall confine myself now to saying that he has been most kind and thoughtful to me, as his successor, and that I know how highly he is regarded by all those whom he has helped over the years with understanding, warmth and humility.
I am particularly proud to represent Leeds, North-East, being a northerner myself and having been born and educated and having lived in the north all my life. I am proud of being northern, and of representing a northern seat. At the same time, I am fully conscious of the important role played by the northern region in the prosperity of the nation as a whole—in the past, in the present and, I trust, in the future.
I do not think it very helpful to look at the north in a parochial or a narrow way. Such an attitude, in my view, creates greater divisions — divisions that are quite unnecessary in what is a comparatively small country. That kind of negativism has not helped us over the years. We in the north are dynamic, positive, inventive and hardworking. We are a strong and important component of the whole nation and its activities, and we must always remain so.
My constituency is perhaps notable for being very broad in its cross-section of the communities who live within it. The northern end contains the countryside and farmland around Harewood, Shadwell, Wike and the other villages, and goes down through the suburbs of Leeds to Chapeltown in the inner-city area of Leeds. I should like to mention Chapeltown particularly, as it is very relevant to today's debate. Chapeltown is a community made up of all kinds of parts. There are a number of different ethnic-minority communities, and from time to time there are tensions. However, I should like to give credit to the community leaders and others in that part of my constituency who, over the past few years, have co-operated fully with each other. As a result of Government initiatives during the past eight years, they have begun to build a community of great happiness, potential and prosperity.
Leeds as a whole, like the rest of the north, has adapted to changes over the years. My constituency has been very much a part of those changes. Leeds contains a large number of businesses. Members of the business community do not necessarily work in the constituency but they reside there. They have great confidence in the future of the area. They have told me how much they welcome the Government's initiatives, particularly those that relate to the abolition of rating, as we know it, and the new community charge provisions. The effect will be greatly to increase the ability of businesses, particularly in my area, to do well. They will then be able to employ more people, which will create greater prosperity for Leeds and for other great cities.
My constituency contains just over 65,000 electors. All of them have aspirations—some great, some limited—but all those aspirations are important to me, as their representative. It is my duty to help them to achieve their aspirations. When we speak of the powers of local government and national Government, we should be concerned about preserving as many powers as possible for ordinary people. Certain powers must, of course, be delegated to central Government. That has always been the case, and it will always be so. However, it is important not to assume a divine right to hold too many powers over others, or to deny freedom to individuals to direct their own destinies and those of their families. Such paternalism is open at times to misuse, and in some areas, particularly the poorer areas of our cities, such misuse leads to resentment within the community.
In this context it is worth noting that it is not just a phenomenon of the 1970s and the 1980s that central Government have sought to vary or to reduce local powers. It happened much more radically when the health services were nationalised, when national assistance was taken over by central Government and when the electricity and gas services were taken from local authorities and put under national control. History shows that Governments on their own are particularly unable to create success out of failure, to promote happiness out of misery or to create wealth out of poverty. Only people themselves — free people, with the power of preference and the power of activity—can change things for the better.
I served as a county councillor for some years and saw the developing conflict between local government and central Government. With more goodwill and understanding, we might have avoided some of the extreme results. I saw central Government adding to the legislative burden of local authorities, while at the same time trying to keep expenditure in check. I saw local authorities abusing their position by exercising functions that were not rightly their own and attempting at times to avoid the effects of national policy by circuitous means.
Now is the time to set out precisely the functions that may be undertaken by local authorities so that future misunderstandings may be minimised. Now is the time to ensure that as far as possible central Government do not add to those responsibilities by their own processes. That would at least provide an opportunity for mutual respect between central Government and local government to be restored and maintained.
I support the Government's education proposals. I mentioned earlier the Chapeltown area, which is in my constituency. It is made up of many different interests and groups of people. They are particularly keen that there should be more freedom for parents to choose how their children shall be educated—by what means and in what places. In their education proposals the Government have provided a marvellous opportunity to allow that freedom to be respected.
I believe in freedom for both individuals and families. I believe also in the attendant rights and responsibilities that accompany such freedom. They are the cornerstone of our society, and they are our best guarantee against dictatorship or oppression. That is fully consistent with my Conservative philosophy, and it is the basis upon which I hope to pursue my parliamentary career.
The pleasant task falls to me of following two maiden speakers, both of whom, though from different sides of the Chamber, were equally succinct. The content of their speeches was also quite pleasant.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) quoted Gibbon. I note his past interest in leasehold reform, which is very near and dear to my heart, as it is to the hearts of many other hon. Members who represent Lancashire constituencies where we have chief rents to worry about. I make that early "plug" now, knowing that I have immediate support from my hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) succeeds a man who had many friends on both sides of the House. Because of the way that he has spoken tonight, I suspect that the hon. Member will also acquire many friends on both sides of the House.
I read the Gracious Speech with great care and noted that it contains proposals relating to copyright and intellectual property. Those who have had time to consider those matters over the years know that reform is much needed. However, when they introduce the legislation we trust that the Government will draft it with care and that they will learn from the experience of other parts of the world where reform, when rushed, often led to disaster.
The subjects for debate tonight are the inner cities and education. I represent not an inner city but a northern industrial town that lies between two major cities. The Minister who has responsibility for these matters but who is not in his place at the moment knows, from his other incarnation, that I am somewhat persistent in furthering the interests of the people of St. Helens. St. Helens is not an inner city but it suffers from the urban deprivation of the inner cities. Other towns like St. Helens ought to be considered. It is very easy to talk about the inner cities but to forget the old industrial towns of the north that have suffered just as much from de-industrialisation, bad housing stock and lack of investment.
St. Helens is boxed in by its motorways. The M62 lies to the south, the A508 to the north, the M6 to the east and the M57 to the west. Therefore, one drives past it. I give the Minister fair warning that when it comes to urban investment he must not dare to drive past St. Helens, otherwise I, for one, will demand to know why St. Helens is being left out of the plans for investment, infrastructure and replacement of housing stock. It is galling to realise that money will be afforded to Liverpool and Manchester, which I welcome. Warrington has its new town. I welcome that, too. However, St. Helens has its rights, and those who represent St. Helens intend to ensure that it succeeds in obtaining its fair share. The people of St. Helens deserve equality of opportunity. In the last Parliament I begged that St. Helens should be given equal development status and equal investment grants, but it did not get them. Because so many jobs in the glass industry have been lost, on this occasion we intend to have our share of the cake.
Education is irretrievably linked with the redevelopment and regeneration of an area. Therefore, Ministers should look most carefully at the education proposals. I dread that we shall return to the days of my boyhood when, as one neared the age of 11, one began to sweat and worry about the examinations that would separate and differentiate one boy or girl from another.
The right hon. Gentleman has accused me of usually being wrong. I have inevitably been proved right, particularly when I have criticised the Secretary of State, among others.
I listened to what was said during the election campaign. It seems that there is to be some form of selectivity. Schools that opt out may be able to choose the type of pupils that they want. I wonder what the criteria will be. "Do you come from the right side of the street? Do you come from the right part of town? Do you have the ability to supply your own books and to pay for your own school trip?" I remember teaching many years ago in a primary school in Rotherham. Those who know south Yorkshire will know just how rough the back end of Rotherham was 10 or 20 years ago. I remember the children who were deprived. Eventually inevitably they lacked opportunity. I do not want to see selectivity back in our education system.
Would it not be nice if the Secretary of State recognised that there is a link between education and achievement and that there is a link between a future and an investment in youth? Would it not be nice if we began by providing proper nursery schools, adequately staffed and supported primary schools, and, subsequently, secondary schools in which one does not have to rely on parents to buy books, as one does in Derbyshire, or to provide all the extras, for the state actually has an input? If we recognise that by investing in children we create the intellectual assets of tomorrow, perhaps we shall realise that education, further education, advanced education and university training are great investments in our society.
If the Government come forth with investment in education and the inner cities—remembering, of course, places such as St. Helens—I shall cheerfully withdraw all of the criticisms that I have made, and I shall do so humbly and openly. I fear that I shall not make that apology. We shall have to wait for the electorate to give us the chance to put right the wrongs within our society.
The House has heard two excellent maiden speeches, one from the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) and the other by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope). In some ways, I am making a second maiden speech. It is 12½ years since I spoke from the Back Benches. One finds a type of later adolescence, for one who has enjoyed office, to return, in metaphorical terms, to the crystal waters of belief—the driving forces that brought us here—and again return to the main principles.
I am particularly interested in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's ideas about schools opting out. Throughout the 19th century, although it was the century of classical liberalism, it was a matter of opting in. That century began out of personal efforts and small areas and moved towards more power for local government and national government and, funnily enough, to more centralisation. Some hon. Members have talked about Socialism. I have always considered that the Benthamites were almost the beginning of what followed 20 or 30 years ago when we said that we were all Socialists. The past 10 or 20 years of this century are the years of contracting out —of opting out. The tide of movement against more collective control has come. Throughout the developed world, we are moving towards more individualism and more personal choice in every way.
I welcome the passage in the Gracious Speech that states:
My Government will take action to raise standards throughout education and to extend parental choice.
I believe in consumer control of education and health, as the Government also believe in it in the economic field and in denationalisation. I believe that parents should be sovereign. The child — the scholar — belongs to the parent. The parent is the only one who is totally and solely concerned for the child. I respect the education experts, although they usually are experts in other people's children. But I would sooner have the commitment and concern of parents. Similarly, I respect the expertise of teachers and head teachers, but they are still concerned for the school and the standard of the school, and the only person who is ultimately concerned for the child is the parent. A child's education is the biggest responsibility of a parent's life. Any extension of parental choice is good. Indeed, neither parents nor pupils brought about the disasters that have occurred in education over the past 25 years —the discovery method in primary schools, non-selection gone mad, and non-orientation in secondary schools. They were brought in by experts, advisers, even Her Majesty's inspectorate, and a body of political interference. The parents were certainly not involved in any decline.
I am a believer in the direct funding of schools. I would settle for direct funding of schools in opting out. However, I have one proviso. The decision should be made in the school, not by governors or teachers, but by consumers — parents — by secret ballot and, if necessary, in a secondary school, by parents and the senior forms in the primary schools from which new pupils are to be found. The children are involved in every way.
On the matter of opting out, I shall ask the Secretary of State three questions. First, what is the position of voluntary schools? If they opt out by agreement, are they still responsible for 15 per cent. of capital costs? That would strike me as unfair. Secondly, in areas in which parents want a school because they are dissatisfied with the present schools, how do they opt in to national funding? In my constituency, a group of about 200 Moslems want a Moslem school. I support Jewish schools, Catholic schools and other Church schools. I support the right of Moslems, as long as they follow a basic curriculum, to have their own school. Can they go to the Secretary of State, as I hope they can, and say that they want to opt into this method of direct national funding because no school in the area satisfies them? Indeed, it could be in Brent. All of us have read the reality regarding Brent. Hundreds, if not thousands, of parents in Brent soon will not want any of the schools in Brent because of Left-wing intervention and the way in which schools are run. Is there a chance for them to say that they want their own school because none of the present schools satisfies them?
Thirdly, what about independent schools that have recently been founded? Some such schools cost less than those in the state system. There is one in Northampton, and others in other areas. Can the great independent schools which work for the education of our children say that they too want to be fee-free? Can they return to the basic organisation of educating poor children that started them in the first place?
I welcome the national curriculum. I have read the pamphlet written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison). I regret that a word was not put in before "curriculum", and that word is "minimum". I am concerned about a minimum curriculum by achievement, which all those with an IQ of 70, well-taught and attending well, can achieve at 7, 11 and 14. Beyond that, the teacher should be free. I should not like any textbook specifications. It must be the minimum standard. What happens if, at 7, 11 or 14, a child does not pass? He cannot wait for an inquiry to see why he has not passed. In certain parts of America, one may have a re-course in the summer and take the examination at the end of it, as some of us at university did from time to time. In Germany. one goes back a year. With a minimum curriculum, what will happen to those who do not pass? If they do not pass, it will mean that they are handicapped for life unless they are brought up to the required standard.
I have taken from the Library a book which I have not seen for years, and that is the "Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers". We used to have a minimum curriculum. It was guided by the "Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers". When, in 1950, I met my first secondary modern school class, I was given a copy. Indeed, when Her Majesty's inspectors visited the school, they asked me whether I had a copy. Although they were satisfied by the teaching, they were interested to know whether I had a copy of that book which offered guidance and not over-specification. It was last published in 1946 and states that the board —at that time we had just moved out of the system of the Board of Education—
hope … that the present volume will be regarded as a necessary part of the equipment of every teacher in a Public Elementary School. It remains for the teachers themselves to apply and to adapt the standards of practice suggested in the volume in the particular circumstances of the schools in which they are at work.
By all means let us have a minimum curriculum but let us also have maximum freedom for teachers to go beyond it and to teach from the textbooks and syllabuses that they want so long as they cover the minimum curriculum.
Opposition Members have referred to selection in education. Yes, there is now selection because a comprehensive school is a neighbourhood school. One can buy one's child a place in it by buying a house in the area. If Opposition Members think that that is an advantage, they must have funny ideas about education. Estate agents refer to houses being in certain catchment areas and advertisements to that effect can be seen in newspapers. All that the Labour party did was ensure that those comprehensive schools that are basically grammar schools, but with a CSE stream, are available to the rich. However, the comprehensive schools in the inner cities tend to be of a lower standard, and are often secondary modern schools, with only a few pupils taking GCEs. I find it astonishing that there can be any praise for what the Labour party did.
There is always selection. Indeed, we are all here as a result of selection. We are not, for example, the first 50 names in a telephone directory, about which Bill Buckley talks. We have come here by a highly selective method. One can watch Wimbledon. Children in Czechoslovakia start to learn tennis at the age of five or seven and that is why competition is so intense from those people. Selection is everywhere, but the issue is the type of selection that we are offered. Opposition Members have referred to a rich tapestry and that is what I should like to see in schools.
I should like to see schools of different types, commercial, science, language, craft, technical, mathematical and dancing schools — all of which must conform to a minimum curriculum, but all of which could offer two extra hours' tuition in their special subjects in the evening. In that way, we could compete with Germany and Japan. Selection must come back in some form, and it must include individual self-selection.
Individual men and women differ in every way — for example, in their height, the speed at which they grow, the age at which they go bald, in their sense of humour and in the side of the Chamber on which they choose to sit. Anyone who believes that the one thing in which individuals are equal is a mark I brain which is the same in everybody's head makes the flat earthers seem the most rational of men.
On local government, I am in favour of the community charge. Despite its disadvantages, I believe that it will have great advantages over the present system and over any alternative method. I agree with the concept of a universal business rate and with the privatisation of local services. Political contracts should not be imposed by local authorities. I agree with contracting out of the Inner London education authority. However, I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that if it is right for Westminster, Kensington and Wandsworth to contract out of ILEA because they do not like the way in which it is run, some parts of other London boroughs, which are Socialist-controlled, might like to contract out also. Wembley. for example, might like to contract out of Brent, Chingford out of Waltham Forest — where I was a councillor for seven years — and Hornsey out of Haringey. Indeed, one could find examples throughout London. If that principle is established—and it is such a good thing that we need more of it—we should extend it.
I shall return regularly to this topic because I am on record as saying that the local government reforms of 1964 and 1972 were a disaster for this country. They destroyed familiarity with areas. They occurred when hon. Members from all parties worshipped size and conglomerates in industry. Tower blocks were built, as were large comprehensive schools. However, the tower blocks are now being knocked down. Schools are now smaller and businesses are breaking up into smaller parts. Why can we not do the same in local government? It should not be done through Westminster and Whitehall. Individual areas should be able to say that, because they are of a certain size and population, they can manage and, therefore, want to be on their own. They should be allowed to operate as parts of the great free society of the Conservative Government.
I welcome the fact that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are taking much of education away from the local education authorities by the system of opting out. They are doing the same with housing also. If that is the case, there could be smaller authorities and we could return to local authorities that are responsible for small libraries, street paving and other matters relevant to local government. In that case, local government could be run by volunteer councillors attending two nights per week and one day per month, receiving only their expenses and being reimbursed for their loss of earnings. Local government would then not be run, as it is now, by the poly-Trots who are employed full time, together with their political hangers-on, to run the Socialist boroughs. In that way we could return to real local government.
There is no time to waste in London. I am sorry that there are not more hon. Members present who represent London constituencies. However, I shall make sure that they know what I have said this evening because I shall need their support at some stage. It is always well to get in early. The community charge will help to bring back discipline and people will know that they are paying for what they voted for. The people are the source of authority and that is part of self-help. I am surprised that the community charge has not been met with great cheers from Opposition Members. All that is required is enlightenment and it is only a matter of time before Opposition Members say that the community charge is the best thing since sliced bread.
The community charge will not come into effect until 1990 which is when the next local elections will be held in London. There will not be time for it to have been effective in 1990, and the next election in London after 1990 will be in 1994. Are we to have eight years of Socialist spending in London, in areas such as Waltham Forest, Hammersmith and Fulham and Brent?
We want rate capping because otherwise the Socialist desert of the inner city, about which we are all concerned, will extend to the suburbs. There are three renowned geographers present in the Chamber, as all hon. Members will be aware. I shall not name them now as I must not delay myself and the House. Those hon. Members who are geographers will know that a desert will expand unless the vegetation on its fringes is protected. The fringes of London are the Camdens, the Brents, the Waltham Forests and other such areas. Unless those areas are protected by rate capping, the inner city, its Socialist problems and the deprivation that I sometimes think is built in for political voting purposes will extend to the suburbs. Although we may solve the problems of the inner city, its problems will spread to the suburbs. Therefore, there should be rate capping so that any authority that spends more than its grant-related expenditure should not be allowed to increase its expenditure this year by more than the rate of inflation. That should apply throughout London because, if it does not, the problem of the Socialist desert will spread.
I hope that I am allowed to return to that matter at some time in more detail. However, I conclude on a tone of harmony. [Interruption.] I welcome the fact that Opposition Members are concerned. Indeed, that is a great gesture from them. I turned up one of Matthew Arnold.'s narrative poems in the Library earlier this week, in which he wrote:
Hath man no second life? Pitch this one high."
Tonight, I have begun my second political life.
It is perhaps apposite that this debate is on the cities because I believe that it is the custom in a maiden speech to make references to one's own or adopted city. Bradfordians are proud of their city and its traditions of craft, skill and hard work. We are proud of our heritage which includes Forster, Delius, Margaret McMillan, J. B. Priestley and many more. We are proud of much of our modern city, if not of all of its new redevelopments. We are proud of the national photographic museum, our refurbished St. George's hall, the Alhambra theatre and, in the light of tomorrow's debate, of our flourishing tourist trade. However, as the country's fifth largest conurbation, Bradford shows and mirrors exactly the problems of so many of the cities in this land.
Last Friday I accompanied a delegation concerned with further development of a historic and interesting part of our city known as Little Germany. It is known as Little Germany because of the refugees who came there, settled and expanded part of our textile trade. As many waves of immigrants have done in the city of Bradford, they added to our heritage and culture.
On that visit, I should have been accompanied by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), but at the last minute he declined to come. That lost him some support among his friends in the city, as his political allies lost votes in the general election in the city of Bradford. But I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman. He was faced with the prospect of accompanying three Labour Members of Parliament, who had not only won three seats and increased their votes, but had other distinctions—a hat-trick in the 101 Damnations, two goals in the Terrible 30 and even a semi-finalist in Rupert Murdoch's Eve of Poll Fearsome Four. Therefore, I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman was not interested in sponsoring our Bradford league.
However, had the right hon. Gentleman or, more importantly, any of the Ministers responsible for inner cities, urban renewal or trade and industry walked along the Leeds road for a mile and a half at most, out of the Little Germany district in the centre of Bradford, he would have seen Crofts engineering largely demolished, the Metro bus workshop closed after deregulation, GEC closed and replaced by a supermarket — three factories that employed 7,000 Bradford workers now employing 125.
When I arrived in Bradford some 18 years ago, it was at the time of the building of the M62, which was finished within two years of my moving to the city. It was to link the Atlantic sea port of Liverpool with the European gateway of Hull, before our entry into the Common Market. The motorway was to bring renewed prosperity to the industrial areas of Lancashire, west, north and south Yorkshire. In Bradford we had real hopes 18 years ago—and 16, 15 or even 10 years ago. We hoped that the motorway would result in the development of industry, with engineering brought into the town to replace the declining wool industry. Our children were promised a future with an expanding university and colleges, and jobs that were cleaner, more technical and more interesting than the jobs that their parents and grandparents had. That promise was held out to the people of Bradford.
What must be understood about the cities is the terrible desolation and breaking of people's hopes and aspirations over recent years. At that time we were in the "white heat of the technological revolution", as Harold Wilson called it.
Even some of those of us who doubted the ability of the declining British capitalist economic system to solve the problems and improve the lifestyles of our people could not have foretold how quickly those promises would turn to ashes. The M62, the trans-Pennine highway, runs from redundant Liverpool, through de-industrialised Lancashire and west Yorkshire. It bisects north and south Yorkshire, with the closed steel mills and the empty pit villages of two eras of MacGregor. It ends in the port of unemployed Hull, where today there are not even any fishing boats. Our university has faced 30 per cent. cuts under the Conservative Government. Our smaller colleges are closed or closing. The vast majority of the students of the largest college in Bradford are on YTS or have become part of other groups of unemployed young people. Bradford is not producing the scientists, technicians and designers that we were promised when the M62 was built.
From 1978 to 1984, jobs in manufacturing, energy and construction fell by 30,700, a fall of 35 per cent. In the same period, most of the jobs created were in the service sector and in supermarkets. We attracted only 6,600 jobs, and 84 per cent. of them were for part-timers.
The Prime Minister talks of abolishing Socialism and of her popular people's capitalism. Over generations, capitalism has done little for the mass of Bradford people. Old-style capitalism in Bradford was the mills. It is true that they brought some fine civic architecture to our town. The mills' confidence meant that the banks were built like cathedrals. On the wool exchange, people boasted that there were more Rolls-Royces per head than in the London stock exchange. But those mills were built on the backs of tens of thousands of workers in squalid back-to-back housing, and for eight-year-old children working part-time in the mills, while the mill owners lived in luxury.
Post-war capitalism in Bradford was in engineering. However, two thirds of engineering has already left Bradford. Apparently modern progressive people's capitalism is jobs in supermarkets. Somebody in Bradford said as a joke that, taken to its logical conclusion, that means that we shall end up selling each other packets of sausages and tins of paint, nobody will make anything in Britain, and all manufactured goods will be imported.
The reason why the general election was called 12 months early had nothing to do with opinion polls or with the division between the two alliance parties on defence. I believe that it was called because the more serious Conservative Members realised that we are on the verge of the third major recession in the post-war period. Nothing in the Government's programme offers anything to the people of Bradford. It is not the hiving-off of some of our better schools in the better-off areas to be the private privileged bastions for sections of the upper middle class that we need in Bradford; it is the rebuilding of the one third of our schools that were built before 1904. It is not the hiving-off of our housing estates to private landlords and developers that we need; we need payment to help with the backlog amounting to £130 million, to refurbish housing in our city. That sum represents the amount that we would get in 10 years from the housing investment programme.
We are on the eve of a further recession. All the signs show a slowing down in the economies of Germany, America, Japan and all the major western powers. Britain is incapable of dealing with the growing trade war on a world scale, because of the underinvestment, under-research and underdevelopment of our industry, and our undertrained work force. Britain is incapable of facing such competition.
I say, sadly, that no one in the Opposition likes poverty, indignity, squalid housing or slum schools. We stand for the elimination of those things, not their increase. I have to tell the good people of East Anglia and the Thames Valley, the majority of whom voted for the Conservative party in the past two general elections, that a further crisis in Britain will hit the south more than the rest of the country. It will hit the service and financial sectors. The good people of those areas may find that their dreams will turn to ashes tomorrow, like the dreams of Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and other workers over the past 10 years. I should like to return to that subject in debates in the House to a greater extent in future because that is the platform on which the debate between both sides of the House must be conducted.
I believe that we shall not see the death and abolition of Socialism. The people in the south-east and the more prosperous areas will learn, like those in Bradford. We are proud of our heritage, that the Independent Labour Party was founded in our city, and that Keir Hardie fought a famous by-election in my constituency. People will realise that Socialism is more relevant than ever, and that it is only the collective action of people, the use of public ownership and public finance in our cities that can establish a platform of decency on which individuals can flourish and develop.
I can honestly claim that the Conservative party, in attempting to prevent me from speaking in this House, spent more money during the last two elections than has ever been spent against any candidate. We estimate that at least £250,000 was spent on newspaper advertisements, and many people think that the figure was even higher. I humbly suggest to Conservative Members that that was a poor investment. I suggest that in future, instead of those ludicrous advertisements and quotations, they confine the debates in this House and future elections to the issues. I cannot promise them that they will get better results in Bradford, but at least they will be much cheaper.
I am delighted to be here representing the constituency of Billericay. First, I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Harvey Proctor, who was a most conscientious, and hard-working Member of Parliament for the constituency and greatly respected by the people for whom he assiduously worked. I know that he had many friends in this House, who greatly admired his work to provide better protection for people who had mental problems. He will be greatly missed in the constituency. I have a tremendous example of hard work to follow.
Billericay is close to London — about an hour to the east, in the green belt. One might wonder why the green belt should be concerned about the inner city. A number of speakers have made the point that the green belt is to some extent threatened by the problems of the inner cities. The constituency has many delightful villages and open spaces, but the pressure to develop those spaces because of the needs of people who want to escape from the suburbs in the east of London — suburbs that are controlled by Socialist councils which have developed the most horrible living conditions for people in those areas — is of great concern to the people whose interests I represent.
Billericay is a delightful microcosm of the type of prosperity that the policies followed by the Government have introduced to the country. It is successful; it is an area in which jobs are chasing people; and it enjoys the type of people's capitalism that we are extending to all parts of this country. The hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall), who painted such a gloomy picture of his part of the world, should cheer up, because we intend to continue those policies, which will, I am sure, reach Bradford, North before the next election. I am sure that the people who voted for the hon. Gentleman will carefully consider whether the Socialism that is largely responsible for the destruction of the industries in Bradford, North, and elsewhere is something that this country can really afford.
The people of Billericay are concerned about the pressure to develop in the green belt. Their young people often have difficulty in finding somewhere to live because the price of property, the result of that pressure, has gone through the roof. Many of the areas are as expensive, when it comes to buying property, as those in central London. Those young people travel up and down each day on the Liverpool street and Fenchurch street lines, which are grossly overcrowded and rather mismanaged by our nationalised British Rail — I hope that we shall get round to privatising it with a view to improving services. They travel to work, leaving home between 6.30 and 7 am to come to London — as I know from canvassing—and come home at 6 pm looking grey and tired. They would be happy to live in London near their work if they could find somewhere to live. However, in many parts of the city there are large areas in which young people can no longer find housing. That is largely because of legislation, much of which was misguidedly developed in this House.
I know, because I was a city councillor for Westminster, that there are tens of thousands of houses and flats in London that are held out of occupation because of the Rent Acts, which we must reform. Thousands more houses are held out of occupation because of the inefficiency of local government management of property. I say that, not in anger, but in sorrow, as some of those authorities are Conservative, although the majority are Labour. Local authorities are inherently inefficient at managing property. They have no real motivation to put it back into circulation quickly, so it stands idle, boarded up and useless. In order to get that property back into circulation, we must wrest control of those council estates from the authorities. I welcome the policies that were set out in the Queen's Speech by my right hon. and hon. Friends to do something to reform the management and ownership of the property that is now controlled by city councils.
My right hon.Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) said earlier that he was a little concerned about schemes to make the tenants of such estates co-owners, but I want to draw the House's attention to an example from what is, perhaps, an unusual source — Castro's Cuba. There, having nationalised all the property, Castro found himself in such a mess that he was unable to fund them, so he converted the rents that were paid by people into mortgages. This simple measure made the people home owners overnight. For a Communist society, that must have been an enormous innovation — a jolly good capitalist measure. I recommend it, to spread ownership more widely in our cities. It does not have to be difficult to make those estates privately owned and run organisations.
Vast acres in the centre of London are held out of occupation by local authorities who were hoping arid praying — deludedly, as it turns out — for a Labour Government to return and allow them back into the housing development business. I am sure that that will not happen. I hope that the Government will consider the possibility of making local authorities auction off that land so that it can be developed by the private sector, and more young people can find homes in the City. The problems of our inner cities have been caused by too much Government and local authority power, intervention and planning. The solution is not to introduce yet more laws to perpetuate that practice. We need more power to be returned to the hands of the people who live in the cities. In doing so, we want to reduce the cost of running those cities.
A point that has been raised several times in the debate is the proposal to change the way of collecting domestic rates. A great deal has been said about the amount of money to be collected.
There are other measures in the Queen's Speech that go hand in hand with the proposal to alter the rating system. They are:
Measures … to promote further competition in the provision of local authorities' services.
I know that those measures are dear to the heart of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. As a member of a council, I know that there is an enormous waste of funds in local authorities. The way that we do things is complicated and expensive. I should like to relate a story about a hole in the road. When I was a city councillor we had to have a hole dug in a road, the sort of thing that has to be done in every street from time to time. On this occasion I took particular interest because it was the street in which I live. I found that it was to cost us £1,200 to have this hole dug and refilled but by going round private builders and asking for a better price I found that we could do the same job for £400, one third of the original cost. That is a measure of the economy that we can make when we introduce new measures for competitive tendering.
I would like to see all local government services put out to tender, not just the dustbins but the core services as well. One of the most heartwarming remarks I have heard from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is that he would like local authorities to meet once a year to award tenders, then pack up and go home. When we achieve that level of local government we will have solved the whole problem of the rates. We shall be saving such enormous sums of money that we need no longer worry about how that money is collected.
The solution to the inner city problem is not the hair of the dog — more planning and more interventionist measures. The solution is to reduce planning, to introduce control by the people who live in those cities. That should be done not by fake Socialist co-operatives on which the busybodies in the community take over and persuade local authorities to spend even more on their pet schemes but by enfranchising all the people who live in the cities. That can be done by handing over to them the ownership and management of the property they live in. It is the ownership of private property that gives people respect for their surroundings, which makes them keep an eye on the streets to see that they are not becoming dangerous. It encourages them to keep the kids in order and stop vandalism and generally restore to the city the kind of friendly neighbourliness that once existed. It was the planners who moved in and smashed those neighbourhoods and it is the planners, the bureaucrats, the organisers who want to dominate and inflict their ideas and opinions on people's lives who are the enemies in our society.
I am convinced that the policies proposed in the Queen's Speech and already begun by the Government will enable us to achieve those aims. By doing so, we shall take the pressure off the green belt so that the constituents of Billericay whom I have the honour to represent will be able to sleep quietly in their beds, no longer worried that their part of the countryside is to join the urban sprawl of London. We shall achieve our aims, handing back power to the people, which is what Conservatism is all about.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for the Environment is not in his place. Earlier I listened to his speech and he was surly enough to speak disparagingly about my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) when my hon. Friend was not here. My hon. Friend's constituency already had one of the biggest Labour majorities in Britain and at the last election he increased it by 9,000.
In south Yorkshire there are 17 seats and only one of them is held by a Tory, whose vote went down. That is the reality of life in the great cities of the north. The Conservative party should take note of that because in the process of time there will be a change of Government. I profoundly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) who said that the election was called a year early for a good reason and that the people who called it knew that a most serious situation was about to develop. The Conservatives could not possibly have got in if they had called the election many months later. Therefore, from their viewpoint they were wise to call it when they did.
I should like to speak about education. Our amendment says that we:
regret those Government proposals which will disrupt Britain's education service, limit choice, restrict opportunity, threaten standards and lead to greater central control.
I should like to speak about some of those things. The Government have unleashed an all-out attack on our education system, a system that has taken well over 100 years to develop, and they will destroy it as they have destroyed so many things.
I should like all Conservative Members to come to see the great area of east Sheffield lying still and quiet. In the centre there was a large Tory poster on which with unconscious ironic humour was written,
The fastest growing economy in the world.
We raised the matter with the television companies, but the demolition agents were there when we went to have a look at the site where the poster had been. The convener of shop stewards went into the office that he had left on having been made redundant. A man sitting there said that he was in charge of the demolition team who were knocking down the factory. That is the kind of thing imposed on us by the Tories.
The Government are now about to fire a broadside at education, launch a full-frontal attack on the whole of our education system. They have imposed a settlement against the will of the teachers and in time that will be dealt with. The Government are anti-union and certainly anti the teacher unions. They are attacking comprehensive education because they know that it is the focal point of our education system. They have imposed on us the so-called assisted places scheme under which they will cream off a section of the community. They have the nerve to take public finance in order to do that — money for the education of our children and which we have paid by way of rates and taxes. They are appropriating that for themselves and for their children. They have initiated a drive towards centralisation, the like of which we have never witnessed, and have launched an unprecedented attack on local democracy.
Complete confusion prevails about how the Government will carry out their disruptive plans. They are so utterly confused that they have no idea about how they will put those plans into effect. The Government will cause chaos and find themselves in great difficulty. I spoke briefly to the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the corridor and he was kind enough to welcome me back, God preserve us. I said to him, "It is not a revolution in education that you are engaging in; it is a counterrevolution and it will not work." The Government will learn that as surely as I am here.
The Secretary of State for Education and Science had the effrontery to bring out some curious work called "GREB" —I am not sure how it is pronounced—and he calls it the great reform education Bill. I have never seen anything like it. It is an all-out onslaught on education and should be called the great anti-state education and disruption Bill. That will be discovered by many people who do not suspect what is happening and, as I have said, chaos will prevail. So fundamental are the provisions of the Bill that it will need draconian methods to put it into effect.
Some of us can remember when the Prime Minister gave that press conference that morning. She was in a most unholy mess as the proposals had not been thought through. She did not know what she was saying. I listened to the various news reports that day and in every subsequent statement made by other Ministers they tried to undo the damage that the Prime Minister had done by sowing such confusion because she did not even understand her brief about education. No wonder that she panicked a week before when she thought that we were going to win the election. As a result, we have not seen much of a Minister whom she apparently had a row with, and who may not be a Minister much longer.
The Government's policies mean that there will be selection. The National Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations, which represents 4 million parents, called the opting-out process "a divisive mechanism". We did not call it that. No matter what the Government say, there will be selection. Children undergo a process of continuous assessment at school. It has existed for years. Now we have the mentality that Friday morning is test morning. Children will be tested at 7, 14 and so on, which is a waste of time when they are assessed all day every day by their teachers. The fewer students that teachers have, the better they can assess them.
Whitehall, instead of the democratically elected local education authorities which are so near the people, will reign. The Tory party at one time used to call itself the party of local democracy. It is now the party of anti-local democracy. It no longer believes in local people having any say in anything. The local comprehensive will become the local selective if we allow the Government to have their way. The Prime Minister said:
We are not excluding the possibility that they may also raise additional sums".
The Government are raising additional sums in the posh areas. I visited those areas as a member of a Select Committee. In the south the parents already contribute three times the capitation allowance. What do the parents contribute for education in Sheffield, Bradford and those great cities? Does anyone think that they have money to give for education? Government Members are filching money that we have contributed through rates and taxes to use for their children.
State education is now in the hands of people who have never believed in state education. They do not send their children to state schools, and they never attended such schools. Those people now presume to lecture us on state education notwithstanding the struggles we have waged on it. Our children are in the hands of people who have a flag day mentality. They are siphoning off our cash, as well as the loot from their shares and so on, for their children's education. It means the return of the secondary modern through a creaming off process under the guise of freedom of parental choice. Who do they think they are talking to about freedom of parental choice? That is the reality. More than anything else it means the total destruction of the successful system of comprehensive education. It has been so successful that the Tories have hated it almost from the beginning. They know that every HMI report increasingly vindicates state education.
I ask the Minister why the Government sat on the report of the HMIs until after the election. It is hard for the Minister to have to hear these things. He would like us to talk nicely and politely about the ravages that are occurring to our education system. They know that exam results are better than they have ever been and that more and more of our young people qualify to go to universities, polytechnics and colleges. They also know that education, like the Health Service, is expensive. They are determined to smash comprehensive education at all costs. They will run the risk of destabilising a successful system of education for their own class prejudices.
Ever since the 11-plus exam was abandoned by all civilised LEAs, the Tories have attacked the education system with their black papers and disguised freedom associations and so on. However, they will lose out because they have blundered with this so-called plan. They have enlisted The Sun, the News of the World, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the Murdochs to attack us. The reality is that they are their papers. They have the entire panoply of the gutter press at their disposal in every attack on our education system. They are now desperate because they know that even their voters prefer comprehensive education to private education.
They could go to private schools because they had the money. They thought of vouchers, but they would not work. They intend to fund the so-called CTCs with private money and a new creaming-off process. They have tried to smash the teachers unions. We cannot educate our children without a well looked after union of teachers. They thought up the expensive assisted places scheme for creaming-off. They imposed a GCSE before proper preparations were made. That was denounced by the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations., which said that:
We found that schools are short of teachers, ancillary staff and cash, and that basic training and teaching material deliveries have been completed in only 3 per cent. of secondary schools.
The parent-teachers association said that, not me. Those associations asked for a lengthy period of calm and consolidation. What hope do they have with those so-called plans? There will now be a long, wearying and totally unnecessary attack by the Tory party on our education system. It is to be unleashed on us by this most dogmatic and doctrinaire of all British Governments. It will be superimposed on all the disruption and destabilisation of our education system that they have caused by holding back teachers' wages when they could have offered increases two or three years ago. That is a reality that they must know. We shall fight tooth and nail to defend our education system. I prophesy that we shall win when chaos intervenes, as it undoubtedly will.
We have listened to the usual speech delivered in the usual way and for the usual time by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). I do not intend to waste any of my time on replying to the observations that he made. However, I would like to refer to two interesting speeches which were made by my hon. Friends. The first was by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), who made what I can only describe as a Boysonic speech. I look forward to hearing many more such speeches.
The other that I thought particularly noteworthy was from my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman). She spoke exceedingly well. She is obviously knowledgeable in the subjects that she referred to—local government, the green belt and the need for more competition to be introduced into local government. She spoke with authority and I look forward to hearing her speak again in the Chamber.
There was an interesting contrast of styles between those speeches, but they were linked by the fact that each speaker knew precisely what they were speaking about, which is in marked contrast to the speech that we have just sat through.
I would like to concentrate on education. The proposals on education that have been outlined in the Gracious Address are worth while and will do a great deal to improve the quality and standard of state education. I would refer specifically to the national curriculum, the introduction of grant-maintained schools and the provision of greater responsibility to schools, head teachers and governing bodies and parents.
The national curriculum will ensure that all pupils at state schools will benefit from a core of common subjects that will include maths, English, foreign languages, science and technology. This is no revolutionary concept. It is already common practice in many countries, certainly throughout Europe and elsewhere. The idea of having attainment targets at 7, 11 and 14 will ensure that parents and teachers will know what standards children should be, and are, achieving. For the first time in the United Kingdom we will have a clear national standard against which parents, teachers and employers will be able accurately to judge the performance of individual children. The three separate benchmarks of attainment will help to ensure that each child reaches a good standard of education. If a child begins to slip behind, that slippage will be identified and remedied.
The fact that 40 per cent. of children under-achieve has been a source of great concern both in the House and outside for some time, and the attainment targets will do much to ensure that the numbers of under-achieving children will be reduced. I welcome the basic core of studies, but hope that there will be some flexibility, because although science and technology are of genuine and real importance, I would not like children who are gifted — for example, in art — to be denied the opportunity to pursue their talent simply because of an artificially restricted syllabus. I understand that music, art and physical education will all continue to be taught and studied and that there is no intention to force children into an educational straitjacket. They will not be art-deprived.
But the national curriculum should ensure that school time — teachers' and pupils' time — is concentrated on what are increasingly seen as the more important subjects and to the detriment of more peripheral studies. A greater concentration on those subjects will benefit children when they leave school because they will be able to use them in their adult working lives.
The establishment of a national curriculum should not stop teachers exercising their professional imagination and responding to challenges. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North also made that point. The national curriculum should reflect the needs of an industrial-based society and the recognition that, in an increasingly technological world, our young people must be trained in the subjects that they will use in the outside world.
My second point relates to the establishment of grant-maintained schools. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North said, the quality of state education in some education authorities is so poor that an increasing number of parents are voting with their wallets and their feet and are moving outside those LEA areas.
The hon. Gentleman says, "Rubbish", but the facts are clearly there. Some parents are so worried about their children's education that they will sell their homes and move from the catchment area of one school into the catchment area of a school that is seen to be better. Parents who can afford it will exercise their freedom of choice and will buy independent education for their children. That is a major criticism of the quality and standard of education being provided by many local education authorities.
No. Several hon. Members are anxious to make their maiden speeches today, so I shall press on.
In several local education authorities of the type to which I have referred, the core curriculum will improve education, but if heads, parents and governing bodies can opt out of the LEA and accept a direct grant, they will be better able to provide the type of education required by parents, teachers and employers. Additionally, it will introduce a measure of competitiveness which is lacking in education now. That competitiveness will be ignored by the LEA at its peril, for if it is ignored, more schools will decide to opt out of LEA control.
Grant-maintained schools will be of benefit to the remaining grammar schools, especially in those areas where the Labour and Liberal parties still pursue a vendetta against grammar schools. Only this morning, I heard that the LEA in my area has dropped plans to abolish grammar schools.
I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend agreeing with that point. He also represents a Warwickshire constituency, and he will be aware that Warwickshire county council has abandoned its plans to abolish grammar schools. My right hon. Friend's policies are beginning to work even before they reach the statute book. The local education authorities understand that grammar schools which are threatened will opt out, and are trying to pre-empt that move by abandoning their own schemes to abolish grammar schools.
Provided that grant-maintained schools can control their own development with adequate funds, funds which will enable them to identify and satisfy their priorities, they will have a bright future. I am convinced that parents will beat a path to their doors, and that will undoubtedly help to lift standards in the remaining LEA schools. Competition is a good spur.
However, I must ask my right hon. Friend one question. Will the ownership of school premises and land be vested in the trustees of schools that opt out of the LEA? Will the school be completely outside the control of the LEA?
I see my right hon. Friend nodding, but it would be helpful if he referred to the point when he replies to the debate.
When enacted, this legislation will apply to all secondary schools and to primary schools with more than 300 pupils. Therefore, it will apply to comprehensive schools, but it should not be assumed that if a comprehensive school opts out of the LEA it can automatically become a grammar school or a technical school. I understand that, as now, the Secretary of State's permission would be required before a school could change its essential character.
The proposal will ensure that, within the basic framework of the core curriculum, a school's ethos and character can be protected and strengthened, to the benefit of the children who attend that school. In many education authorities, the hand of the bureaucrat lies heavily on schools, and that is to the disadvantage of teachers, governors, parents and pupils alike.
In our concern about the quality and standard of state education, we should remember that the great debate was started in 1976 by Opposition Members. The answer is not found simply by voting more funds. If that was the solution, education in the United Kingdom would be second to none, for during the past five years expenditure on education in schools has increased in real terms by 10 per cent. per pupil.
My third point relates to the devolution of more responsibility to individual schools, head teachers and governing bodies. That will be widely welcomed, but it is essential to provide the head teacher with the necessary financial and administrative expertise required to run a large secondary school. We can learn a lesson from the independent schools which appoint bursars to take some of the administrative and financial burden from the head teacher. It would be logical to follow that example in our larger secondary schools. Additionally, head teachers should receive more training in administration and man management than they do now. It should not be assumed that a good teacher automatically becomes a good manager. It would also be helpful for school governing bodies to have a greater range of expertise than they do now.
All that having been said, I am committed to the view that a school which has more control over its budgeting will make better use of funds and resources. The head teacher and his governing body are in a much better position than the bureaucrats at shire hall to know precisely what new equipment or textbooks are required by a class. If repairs to buildings are required, the headmaster and the school governing body will be in a better position than the officials at shire hall to ensure that the repairs are carried out as quickly and as cheaply as possible. I am in favour of devolving more control over budgets to individual schools.
The solutions that have been proposed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State are radical and imaginative, It is a case of serious problems requiring strong measures, and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend is bringing these measures forward. I give him the utmost credit for having fought them through. I am delighted that he recognises the difficulties and problems that exist in state education. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has not abdicated his responsibility to children or parents and I welcome my right hon. Friend's proposals.
That will come later.
However, I have one area of concern. For any educational reform to work, it is clear that we should enjoy the wholehearted co-operation of the teaching profession. Sadly, that is not the case at present, despite the substantial pay award. I am aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is issuing a Green Paper on teachers' pay and conditions. Certainly he needs no urging from me or any other hon. Member to issue that as quickly as possible so that the interim or temporary arrangements can be wound up and replaced by something more permanent.
I very much regret that the teacher unions have not responded to my right hon. Friend's suggestion that they meet him to discuss a more permanent machinery to replace the present interim arrangements. I am aware that my right hon. Friend has done his utmost to persuade teacher unions to discuss those points with him. Even now, I hope that they will do that, not just for the benefit of their members, but for the benefit of the nation's children.
My hon. Friend must forgive me. There are a number of maiden speeches yet to be made and I am anxious to press on.
In conclusion, if we are to improve the quality and standard of state education, the measures outlined in the Gracious Speech must be adopted and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has the courage and conviction to introduce these considerable and wide-ranging measures.
It is with some trepidation that I make my first real contribution to the proceedings of this House. I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my first speech so early in the new Parliament.
My constituency of Ynys Môn made history in the early hours of 12 June this year when the constituents elected their first Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament. I am conscious of the great honour and responsibility that they bestowed upon me. I am bound to say that Ynys Môn has usually returned hon. Members who have been in the mainstream of the Welsh radical tradition in politics. Indeed, in the latter part of the 19th century, Anglesey, as the constituency was then known, was represented by Ellis Jones Griffith. During this century it was represented by Lady Megan Lloyd George and Cledwyn Hughes, as he then was. All three hon. Members represented Anglesey for three quarters of a century and were strongly in favour of some measure of home rule for Wales.
I want to pay a particular tribute to one of my predecessors — Cledwyn Hughes, now Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. For 28 years he was returned regularly to the House and he became the constituency's favourite son. During his long parliamentary career he held high office, particularly as the Secretary of State for Wales and as the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. During his tenure at the Welsh Office, the Welsh Language Act reached the statute book in 1967. That was a significant milestone in the history of the language and we look forward to similar proposals being brought forward by the Government to strengthen the language.
I said that Ynys Môn normally returned hon. Members from a particular tradition. That tradition was broken temporarily in 1979 when my immediate predecessor, Mr. Keith Best, a Conservative, was elected. He was known as an assiduous constituency MP and we were all saddened by the manner in which his parliamentary career came to an end.
Ynys Môn is known affectionately in Wales as "Môn Mam Cymru". For the benefit of the House, may I say that that translates as "the mother of Wales". Following the election result, there was a feeling that the wayward mother had at last returned home and would recount the stories of the past eight years when she was tempted away, but found the charms of home and the deep sense of history too difficult to resist.
The island is known not only for its scenic beauty, but for its sense of pride in its community and its community values. Whether they have been born on the island or have moved there recently to live, the people of Anglesey pull together to protect and nurture their community. However, I warn the House that that community is under threat, principally from unemployment. Holyhead, the biggest town on the island, is an unemployment blackspot with one in four out of work. The town relies heavily on the port of Holyhead for employment and with the recent loss of jobs in the marine workshops and the dry dock unique skills built up over generations have been lost, perhaps for ever.
In Ynys Môn we are also dependent on agriculture and the public sector. We look to the Secretary of State for Wales to defend the interests of our farmers in the negotiations in the European Community, particularly on the sheep market regime, and thus prevent a repeat of the debacle that we saw over the introduction of milk quotas. We note with alarm the Government's attack on the public sector as outlined in the Queen's Speech particularly on local authorities and the privatisation of the water industry which will be resisted fiercely in all parts of Wales.
During the election campaign the idea of a Welsh senate appealed to more and more people and a number of opinion polls stated that more than 50 per cent. of the electorate favoured the establishment of a Welsh senate. Although that support was not translated into hard votes for Plaid Cymru on this occasion, the House should note that the people of Wales have been alarmed at the collapse in manufacturing industry, cuts in regional aid, the lack of real training opportunities for our young people and the lack of a developed infrastructure in terms of good road, rail, sea and air links. The idea of a Welsh senate is gaining ground because people see the link in all those things and recognise their inability to get things changed.
The proposals set out in the Queen's Speech on education are noted with some alarm, not only on the Opposition Benches, but by many parents, teachers, parent-teachers' associations and school governors. The Government's first tasks must be to restore morale in the classroom and to restore teachers' negotiating rights.
Listening to the Prime Minister address the House on Thursday, I had the distinct feeling that the Government's proposals on education have not been properly thought through. We have a right to know whether parents are to be charged for music lessons, sport trips and other activities. If so, we will oppose that as that opens the door to selection based not on choice, but on parents' ability to pay.
What about the talented musicians and sportsmen of families on small incomes? My brother, if I may say so, is a talented musician and received the full benefit of the free comprehensive state education service. My father, on a minister's stipend, could not have afforded any fees.
In the county of Gwynedd we are very concerned at the opting out proposals contained in the Queen's Speech. In many rural areas, such a scheme would spell disaster. Many of our secondary schools are small and face falling pupil numbers. In addition, we are in the middle of a consultative process on tertiary education. We also have reservations about the introduction of a national — or core—curriculum in Wales. What does national mean in that context? We are against further centralisation as a matter of principle. But on a point of detail. what would happen to bilingual education if a core curriculum were established? Some local education authorities in Wales are concerned that the provision of bilingual education will be hampered by such a scheme. The Secretary of State for Wales should make the Government's position clear at an early date.
My final point adverts to the general comments that I made earlier in my speech. In the period before the election some party political broadcasts, notably and surprisingly by the Labour party, showed a map of Britain with Ynys Môn missing. I was elected to ensure that Ynys Môn was put back on the political map of Wales. I tell hon. Members that from here on they disregard Ynys Môn at their peril.
I have the privilege of representing the Beverley constituency, and I have the greater distinction of following Sir Patrick Wall, who is a distinguished public servant and who represented the constituency of Beverley for 33 long, successful and fruitful years.He is held in as high regard by his constituents as he was in this House, as I have gathered since I arrived here. Sir Patrick Wall is a defence expert of international repute. He has held high office in NATO and there is no journey that he would not make to any part of the globe in the defence interests of the United Kingdom. His wise counsel will be missed in this Chamber, as it is already in the corridors of NATO.
I shall spare the House a geographical description of the constituency of Beverley, but it is sufficient to say that, although my constituency abuts the river Humber, few of my constituents recognise what they regard as a modern corruption—the name Humberside. I and most of them — I say this to my Front-Bench colleagues — want to revert as soon as possible to the more traditional name of the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Most of my constituents work in the Hull conurbation, hence my interest in inner city policy, to which I shall return later in the debate. There is another reason for my interest in this topic. Before being elected to this House I served as the midlands director of the CBI. I became deeply involved in the urban problems of that region and had to work closely with the local authorities that were charged with implementing many of those urban policies. As I talked to local politicians I never doubted where their hearts lay, irrespective of politics. The hearts were always in the right place, but in my view it is heads that solve problems and not hearts.
Sloganising does not help to solve the intractable problem of inner city deprivation. I am thinking particularly of the example of the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), who talked last week about the Balkanisation of the inner cities, whatever that means. I caution against listening to rhetoricians or orators, because we need to be level-headed to solve these problems. That is exactly what we are getting from the Government Front Bench. Balkanisation has not been caused, as the hon. Gentleman tried to suggest, by the Government, but by what I regard as myopic local authorities, and it has resulted in matters which all hon. Members would deplore and which I have seen at first hand in places such as Handsworth — I live only a few miles from there — and to a lesser extent in the Hull conurbation. We all deplore the shocking environmental problems of unlettable council houses, decaying private rented housing, little social balance in the communities in which people live, and often with poor schooling. In some people's eyes, the worst problem is that of street crime and vandalism. In the face of all this, any fair-minded individual, he it a politician or anybody else, would recognise the enormous amount that the Government have done to ameliorate these problems, including programmes to alleviate social problems, which is quite right. I hope that the Government will continue along that line and I will support them in it.
It is the lack of economic regeneration that exacerbates social problems. Of that I have no doubt, given that I have operated particularly in the west midlands in the past few years. One of the keys to solving our problems in the inner cities is to encourage enterprise, which is something that we all want to do something about. One of the best means of solving the problem, in contradistinction to what I have heard earlier in this Chamber in the debate, is urban development corporations. I say that as somebody who has not looked on urban development corporations from afar but as one who, in a small way, helped to lobby for the black country urban development corporation.
We should ignore the local authority lobbying that I have seen for the past year or more, which is hostile to urban development corporations because they see UDCs taking powers away from them. It seems to me that that is irrelevant. It is what does the job best that matters, not who or what does it.
The other matter that UDCs have illustrated is that inner city progress is achieved not by the public sector or the private sector alone but by the two of them working in co-operation. I see that in the conurbations of this country and where it is working best we are seeing the best results.
As someone who has been involved with UDCs. I see four reasons for their success. First, they have an ability to target resources. I often find that local authorities, although they are well-meaning, do not target resources in the manner that some of us would like. Secondly, we should not use the scatter-gun approach to economic development, but concentrate on well defined discrete geographical areas. Thirdly, there is the equally important aspect of the speed of decision-making. The private sector will not wait for ever for local authority committees to come to decisions. Speed of decision-making is of the essence. Fourthly, and perhaps most important of all, is the ability to liberate private sector funds. The private sector cannot do it by itself, the public sector cannot do it by itself, but together there is no doubt that they can do it. That is why we lobbied so hard in the black country for a UDC. Local authorities are bad at delivering such things. They do not mean to be bad, but they are. I therefore respectfully disagree with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) who last week petitioned the Prime Minister to use local authorities as vehicles for economic development. I do not want funds that might go to an urban development corporation to be channelled to Humberside county council, for instance.
I appeal to the Secretary of State not to forget our small cities. Attention is usually grabbed by places such as Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow but there are other conurbations which are not so large but are equally important. Hull should be considered. I hope that the Secretary of State will take my representation seriously and establish a Humberside urban development corporation. I believe that the future of 1 million people in that part of the country depends upon an urban development corporation.
I heard this evening for the first time the details of many UDCs. I need more details. Perhaps that is what we require for the area which I represent.
Many new initiatives were promised in the Queen's Speech. I have no doubt that they will help, but we must improve what is already being done. Many projects need improving. I do not intend to go into detail because I am conscious that others wish to make maiden speeches, but I shall mention one or two possibilities.
I have represented industry and business for over 10 years and I can assure the House that they are at distraction point because of the antics of some local authorities, which increase rates irrespective of the ability of companies or work forces to pay. I strongly support the proposals for rating reform. The sooner they are introduced the better. By that route we shall give confidence to British industry and so populate inner cities. The sooner the Government do that the better. Local planning procedures are inhibiting development in the urban areas. Flexibility is the watchword for local planning. In my view, it is lacking.
Property valuation in inner cities is also a problem. Large tracts of derelict land in inner cities are kept according to 1970 valuation sheets. They are not sold because the true valuation is much lower.
The special programmes for inner cities need refining. One Opposition Member earlier criticised the urban programme. I think that it has been immeasurably successful. The urban programme ranges widely over disparate projects, but better targeting of resources is needed.
The derelict land programme has transformed lunar landcapes in some of our inner cities. Again, the Government must market their grants better. More aggression is required by Department of the Environment offices to achieve a better overall performance within regions and nationally. The Government should reappraise derelict land grant to the private sector because it must make a loss to qualify for grant which is, if I might be forgiven, rather Irish.
We should continue to devote more resources to the problem of clearing dereliction. No inward investment will go to an inner city when the investor sees only a lunar landscape.
In conclusion, I thank the House for listening to me with such courtesy to which elsewhere, I confess, I am unaccustomed.
I have the privilege of representing Sunderland, South. I succeed Gordon Bagier to whom I wish a long and happy retirement. Despite my name appearing on every hit list of child eating extremists dreamed up by the Tory party Central Office and their friends in the SDP, Sunderland, South recorded the highest ever Labour vote. I am not foolish enough to believe that that was due to me, but it is hard evidence of the deep division created by the Prime Minister and her friends since they formed the Government. On a night when a Tory majority of over 100 seats was obtained, the Labour party more than doubled its majority in Sunderland, South.
Anyone interested in the effect of the merciless application of market forces should study Sunderland. We have whole streets where almost no one is working. A generation of children is growing up, but those children may never work. At the last count 26,790 adults — 26 per cent. of the male population and a substantial part of the female population—were out of work. Half of that 26,790 were less than 35 years of age and 40 per cent. of them had been out of work for two years or more.
At the last count 1,700 school leavers were looking for jobs but there were only 17 vacancies. At the same time 3,438 people were on what are euphemistically called special measures which, when the Prime Minister was in opposition, she liked to call "pretend jobs". Today large parts of Sunderland depend upon cheap labour, known as the community programme. In India I believe that people who are out of work are forced to sit by the roadside chipping stones for 10 rupees a day. I sometimes wonder whether that is where we are heading.
Sunderland was once the biggest shipbuilding town in the world. That is within the memory of most Sunderland people, but those who are slightly older than me recall when one could not go round the town without hearing the sound of hammers on rivets. Today, there in only silence. In the nine years since the present Government came to power the number of engineering workers in Sunderland has halved.
It is sometimes said that the shipbuilding industry is obsolete, and that what is happening is inevitable. Never. As far as I know, the Gracious Speech contained no proposal that we should stop being an island. As long as we are an island, we shall always need ships, and there is no reason on earth why those ships should not be built here in Britain or why the huge accretion of skills that we have built up over generations should not be put to good use rather than being wasted in the dole queues.
It has sometimes been said that our shipbuilding and engineering workers cannot compete and that they should be competing with workers in South Korea, whose wages are about a third those in British shipyards. Every night on our television screens we see what the South Koreans think of their Government, and I hope that it never comes to that here.
The other day, the Prime Minister referred to the shibboleths of the 1930s. People might be forgiven for thinking that she is dedicated to the shibboleths of the 1830s. Many people in Sunderland are only too well aware of what the 1930s meant and they recognise the symptoms when they see them. A fine lady in my constituency, Mrs. Peggy Weatherstone, recently told me about her childhood in Sunderland in the 1930s. Her mother suffered chronically from asthma and was constantly in fits on the floor. Mrs. Weatherstone had to run down to the telephone box at the end of the street and ring for the doctor. The doctor would ask, "Have you got a pound?" and she would answer "No. We won't have a pound until we get our relief on Friday". The doctor would reply, "Come back on Friday, then." That is how it was, and that is how many people think it may be again.
There is also the experience of a Sunderland shipyard worker, Danny Morgan. He can recall a time, as recently as the mid-1960s, when he would turn up with the others at the gate of the yard and the foreman would say, "We'll have you, you and you, and the rest of you can go home." Those days are coming back, and plenty of people in Sunderland and elsewhere recognise the symptoms.
Last week I was approached by a blind lady in my constituency who has three children. She simply wanted to move from the council house in which she lives to one a little nearer to her mother in another part of my constituency. When I asked a councillor to look into her case the answer came back, "It's not possible because just about all the houses in her street have been sold off." That has happened in the last seven or eight years.
The Prime Minister and her colleagues have been in power for nearly a decade. They have deliberately used mass unemployment as a weapon to degrade and humiliate our people — [HON. MEMBERS: "Come off it."] Hon. Members are not supposed to heckle maiden speeches.
The Government have ruthlessly subverted respected institutions for political ends. The police and the courts have been converted into instruments of the Tory party. The BBC has virtually been converted into an arm of the state and now the Prime Minister and her Government are proposing an all-out assault on local government which, in Sunderland and elsewhere, is the last line of defence for millions of poor people and their families. The Government propose to hive off the best state schools and let the rest sink.
They propose to bring back the private landlord and to strip the public sector of its best housing — at least, the parts of it which have not already been sold. Finally, they propose a measure which, despite all Conservative Members' denials, will take away the votes of thousands of poor people — the poll tax. People will not dodge paying it just because they want to; it will be a matter of survival rather than of choice.
The Prime Minister and the Government have unleashed a mean streak in our country. They have mobilised the fortunate against the unfortunate. Millions of our people are now held hostage by the greed and myopia of the southern middle classes. My job, and that of my hon. Friends, will be to defend the unfortunate from the tyranny of the fortunate, to try to offer a vision of a society in which people care for each other once again and to try to revive the decent instincts of the British people, so ruthlessly snuffed out by the Government.
Finally, I refer to one other matter with which I have been associated for two or three years now —the cases of the six innocent people convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings and the four innocent people convicted of the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings, all of whom have been in prison for 14 years. I have researched the cases extensively and I am satisfied — I take comfort from the fact that many hon. Members on both sides of the House are satisfied — of the innocence of those people. I believe that many people in high places know that these people are innocent, or at the very least strongly suspect that that is the case. These cases stain our judicial and political system. I know that that view is widely shared on both sides of the House and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) who has spoken out on this matter. I, and many others, will not rest until justice is done for those people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for fitting me in before the winding up speeches. I hope at some future date to be able to take some more time on issues affecting my constituency. Tonight, I should like to start by paying homage and thanks to my predecessor, Peter Rees, who has so kindly looked after me in these past seven months and who also looked after the constituency for some 17 years. Peter was well known and, I believe, well liked in the House of Commons. He was also well known and well liked in the constituency. Over the years, I have been to many constituencies, but I am afraid that I cannot say of a great many that the constituency Member commanded such a liking as was commanded by Peter. Peter certainly achieved much, and that was illustrated in the recognition and recommendations from those for whom he worked. I should also like to commend Peter Rees's longstanding work for the port of Dover. On many occasions he took an interest in and lobbied to improve the communications to the port.
I should like to feel that I shall remain the Member for Dover for as long as did the Member at the turn of the century, George Wyndham, who held the seat for some 24 years. It would also be nice to be returned four times unopposed as he was.
Dover intends to develop greatly the tourist industry within its area. Dover is one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country. It contains three castles. One can see the castle at Dover as one arrives across the English Channel or as one arrives at Dover from the land. It is a beautiful castle and it has defended the nation for some 2,000 years. Indeed, it is reputed that Julius Caesar had to land some miles away because he was thrown off by the castle's defences.
Defence is terribly important to Dover. The Royal Irish Rangers have been stationed in Dover for some three and a half years — their history goes back 300 years. The Royal Marines are stationed in Deal. For many years, previous Members have helped to keep them in the area. We are proud to play our part in the defence of the nation. We are proud that, in the 13th century, Dover was described by Matthew Paris as the "key of England".
There is much within the constituency that is attractive. The countryside is beautiful. Agriculture prospers within the countryside, but there is also other industry, such as coal mining, that is extremely important to the constituency.
The port of Dover is the dominant industry and it employs, directly and indirectly, 10,000 people. It will be for those 10,000 people that I shall express my concern when, later in the course of the session, I hope to be called to speak in the Channel tunnel debate. The port of Dover has successfully expanded during the past few years of the Conservative Government as economic growth has resulted in more passengers going abroad and more freight being exported. The port of Dover looks forward to the next four years of economic growth under this Government.
I should also like to pay tribute to two other companies in the area, Dover Engineering Works and the Avo Electrical Company, not only because they are world beaters, but also because the management had the sense, under this Government, to apply to buy out the companies. They are now mainly owned locally as a result of management buy-outs, and that is what the new capitalism is all about. That is what has given the managements the opportunity to expand their businesses.
Another company within the area is the Buckland paper mill, which makes Conqueror paper of the type that is used in the House of Commons. That company is especially interesting because it has given share options to all of its staff—not just the managers, but also those on the shop floor and the secretaries of the typing pool. They know what wealth creation is about — they have seen and received the benefits of wealth creation.
In the last few moments of my speech I should like to deal with the Gracious Speech and the relevance of wealth creation to that speech. I was somewhat saddened and depressed by some of the comments that were made in earlier speeches. I am sad because wealth creation has been knocked and attacked. The policy of attacking wealth creation does not exist in most other Parliaments of the world today. Even in the Soviet Union, the debate has moved on, and I hope that it will not be long before it moves on in this Parliament as well.
I heard attacks on speculators, but it seems to me that the only speculators in stocks and shares who deserve to be attacked nowadays are councils like the 20 Labour councils that invested in the News on Sunday. That was one of the fastest bankruptcies that the country has ever seen. Ratepayers' money was lost, and when trade unions invested in the paper their members' money was lost, too.
When I was a councillor, I and my colleagues knew that the only way that we could control expenditure was by common sense, because we knew that the expenditure control systems were inadequate. Both Labour and Conservative Governments had tried to control local authority expenditure, but it had not proved possible in the 1970s or the 1980s. I commend the community charge to the House as an advance in controlling local government expenditure.
I also reject the attacks on the stock exchange and share ownership that were made in earlier speeches. Nearly 20 million people in this country now own shares. That is a wonderful statistic, and I hope to see it expand considerably in years to come. Attacks on share ownership are an attack on pension funds, and hence an attack on the coal miners in my constituency, who own part of the largest pension fund in the country. I am pleased for the coal miners who own shares, and I hope to see them own more.
Let me now return to the subject of the winding-up speeches, education. It is vitally important to the young of this country, but we have failed in some key areas. We have failed in terms of interesting and involving parents in how their children are educated, and in terms of interesting and involving business men more in that subject. Consequently, I was not surprised when one teacher told me the other day that when he had asked his class how many of them would run their own businesses in later years not one member of the class put up his hand. Yet by the law of averages in this country, where one person in seven is self-employed, at least three or four pupils should have done so. I believe that that is because the education system has not had enough business men involved in it. It has not enjoyed enough parental interest, or enough of an opportunity to develop children in the way that they need to be developed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to speak in such a brief session before the winding-up speeches. I wish to support the motion on the Gracious Speech.
My first speech in the House was made some time ago, and it is rather strange to be here again making a maiden speech as a new Member —especially such a brief speech so late in the evening. Let me first say a word about Mr. John Whitfield, my predecessor, who was in the House for four years. He was, to say the least, an abrasive character : indeed, he would have regarded that as a compliment. The best acknowledgement that I can give him is that he always believed in ensuring that people knew his opinions.
My constituency is far larger and more diverse than many people realise. It has many of the problems of an old industrial area, and I hope to be able to speak on those in the House in the not-too-distant future. However, today's debate is on the inner cities and education, and I should like to say a few brief words about that.
I share the concern expressed earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that the Government's new interest in inner cities should be more than a token gesture, and that local authorities should not be bypassed in dealing with inner city problems. However, I am also concerned that all the help, if there is to be real help, should not go just to the large city areas, but should also go to the large northern towns which have, albeit on a smaller scale, many of the problems about which we have been talking today. The Dewsburys and the Huddersfields of this world have high levels of industrial dereliction and housing need, besides high levels of multiple deprivation which, although not on the same scale as Leeds, are the product of the same chronic under-investment.
One of the areas of greatest under-investment in our towns and cities is housing. When this Government were first elected in 1979 they made the decision to cut spending on housing by half. We are now seeing the consequences of that deliberate policy. The waiting lists are longer than ever before; there is less building and less improvement. There has been a real deterioration in the condition of the housing stock.
The Government have concentrated their energies on selling council houses. They do not seem to realise that the housing crisis cannot be solved by selling the houses. That may achieve other aims, but it will not contribute to the solution of housing problems, especially when local authorities are not allowed to use their capital receipts. The only way to solve or even to begin to solve this very real housing crisis is to build and to improve and repair more houses. The housing problem cannot be solved simply by changing the tenure of those who are already housed. I hope that the Government will embark on substantial investment as part of their about-turn on the inner cities.
I am profoundly disturbed by the Government's education proposals. Schools will be able to opt out of local authority control. I am desperately worried about the Government's plans for examinations at the ages of seven, 11 and 14. I do not want my children's education to he ruined by examination swords hanging over them and dominating the school curriculum in the way that the 11-plus examination was used to dominate junior schools when I was young.
Of course there is a place for examinations, but pupil profiles are infinitely more valuable. We cannot turn back the clock and allow primary schools to become testing places, with competition between schools and the comparison of results and with cramming for brighter children to boost school results, all of which we had in the 11-plus days and all of which would mean a return to the kind of testing that is proposed by the Prime Minister and this Government.
Does the Secretary of State intend to encourage schools to opt out? Has he thought through the consequences? Are we to have rural schools opting out and selecting and, by definition, therefore rejecting some pupils who might want to attend them because they are nearest to them? What will happen to pupils who have to travel a long distance to other schools? Who will pay? How long will their journey be? Will that really be in the educational interests of those children? What will be the basis of selection? Will bright children be selected? Will the children of pushing and motivated parents be selected? At the interviews to which the Prime Minister referred, will parents be asked whether they are willing to help with the PTA, with fund raising and, indeed, with funds?
The Secretary of State should devote his energies to promoting strong, local community schools that have proper resources and that can cater for all the children in the area. If the Secretary of State is concerned about the education of all children, he will back down both on the proposal that schools should be able to opt out and also on the proposal that examinations should be held at seven, 11 and 14. A healthy education system does not consist simply of a series of hurdles. That is no education system; it is just an escape route for the few. If the Secretary of State does not believe that there is a case for investing in all of our children, he should not be responsible for education.
We have heard an impressive crop of maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) spoke eloquently and powerfully about his Conservative predecessor, Mark Robinson. whom we all remember. He was learned enough to quote Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" against the Tories' education proposals. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) praised Keith Joseph, my old sparring partner. Whatever we thought of Keith Joseph's policies, we all respected him for his courtesy and honesty in the House. It was nice to hear his successor's remarks about him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) spoke knowledgeably and with feeling about his city. From my visits to Bradford, I know how schools there desperately need investment in their fabric. The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) made an eloquent speech. We were certainly interested in the lessons that she drew from Castro's Cuba. The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) spoke with sympathy about one of his predecessors, my old friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and gave a warning about the Government's education proposals. The hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran) showed his interest in inner city problems. We look forward to hearing from him in future. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) showed his concern about the problems in the town of Sunderland, which, of course, I know well, and about the problems of the north of England. We welcome him to the House. The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) spoke about his constituency. I wish him well, but I cannot promise him that he will be returned unopposed, as was one of his lucky predecessors. Of course, I welcome back my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). Clearly, all those hon. Members will play an important part in our future debates.
Education plays a major part in the Gracious Speech. Indeed, in one of his characteristically modest press briefings, the Secretary of State for Education and Science promised that he would make an important wind-up speech on his proposals tonight.
We now know that his speech will not be important, so I can have more time to make my remarks.
Education was, of course, a key issue at the 1987 general election. It is right that it should have been so. Parents are more than ever aware that their children's life chances are to be decisively affected by the schooling that they receive. As for the individual, so for the nation as a whole. As we move towards a knowledge-based economy, it becomes ever clearer that our prosperity will depend on the skills and talents of our people and that the most effective way in which we can develop such skills is by investing in education and training.
Contrary to the view that is put across by the popular press and, I am afraid, all too often by Government Ministers, there is much to praise about British education. Our primary school system is widely admired not only in this country but in other countries. Judging by examinations at ages 16-plus and 18-plus, standards have risen significantly over the past decade. So much for those who claim that the spread of comprehensive secondary education has led to a decline in standards. That is not the truth. The quality of our higher education is highly respected throughout the world. I particularly highlight the achievement of polytechnics and other public sector institutions which, over the past eight years, have widened access and preserved standards, in spite of the Government's failure to provide adequate funding. Of course, the Open university, set up by a Labour Government, is a triumphant success, so much so that., despite increases in charges, it is over-subscribed by 25,000.
For all the achievements, we cannot be complacent. Education faces challenges and problems. and many of the problems are of the Government's making. Year after year, the Secretary of State's own advisers—the HMI — have pointed to the lack of books and equipment, the poor state of repair of too many of our schools, and the shortage of teachers in key subjects, all of which represent a threat to educational standards. Yet in a report published a few days after the general election, the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts warned the House that Government spending plans for next year will lead to reductions in spending on books, equipment, repairs and maintenance. So much for the Secretary of State's claim during the general election that the Government are releasing enough resources to provide pupils with an adequate supply of books and equipment, and enough money to repair our schools.
Indeed, the Select Committee confirmed a point that I have made on a number of occasions, both to the Secretary of State and to his predecessor, that insofar as there has been some improvement in the resources going to education, it has come about largely because local education authorities have chosen not to follow the Government's spending plans. As the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), my old pal, reminded the Government yesterday, money is important in education. If the Government want to boost the supply of books and equipment, to tackle the backlog of repairs and maintenance and if they want smaller classes, they must provide extra resources.
One glaring weakness is the damaging education and training gap that has now opened up between this country and our main competitors. About two thirds of West Germany's labour force have a recognised academic qualification, compared with only half of the labour force in this country. In Japan, most young people stay in full-time education until they are 18. In Britain, fewer than one third of our young people stay in full-time education after the age of 16. Our proportion of 18-year-olds going into higher education is lower than that of many of our rivals. Yesterday the Royal Society revealed a brain drain from this country of high-flying scientists and engineers.
The obvious conclusion from those disturbing facts is that if we are to survive and prosper as a nation we must carry through a major expansion of educational opportunities. Tragically for this country's future, the Secretary of State will not recommend such a programme or outline any relevant legislation to the House this evening. Instead, he will tell the House about the Government's ill-thought out and hastily conceived proposals which, if they become law, will disrupt Britain's education service, restrict opportunity, threaten standards and lead to an education service run on the basis of "the Secretary of State and Whitehall know best."
The Tory proposals were revealed to the nation for the first time at the general election, and a right old shambles ensued. Apart from making the obvious blunder of suddenly inserting a muddled and half-baked opt-out proposal into the Tory manifesto at the last minute, it was clear that the Secretary of State had failed to brief the Prime Minister about its implications. Hence the undignified spectacle of the Secretary of State, once he had learned how to switch on his car telephone, rushing out a disclaimer only hours after the Prime Minister had blurted out the awful truth that opt-out meant selection and charging.
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that there is selection in this country? There is selection if one is in the privileged position of being able to afford private education. There is selection if one is in the privileged position of being able to move house to the school that one wishes one's children to attend. I have received two letters from constituents, informing me that people are moving house so that they can send their children to the school that they want. Therefore, there is selection, but we want to give opportunity to everyone, and not just to some.
The answer to the problem that the hon. Gentleman has just outlined is to ensure that every school is a good school and that they are all comprehensive schools. That is what we must do.
As the polls showed, the more the voters heard about the Tory's education plans, the more they disliked them. What had been held as the centrepiece of the Tory manifesto suddenly became the great unmentionable in polite Conservative circles. Given the shambles of the election, it is not surprising that the Secretary of State decided last week to invite his Ministers and their senior advisers to a well-publicised secret council of war. According to The Independent, a Department of Education and Science official is reported as saying that the meeting was designed to ensure the philosophical coherence of the Government's programme.
Given their record, I remain unconvinced about the Education Minsters' credentials on philosophical coherence. First, we have the chameleon-like figure of the Secretary of State, once a wet, now rapidly drying out as he tries to make himself acceptable as the Prime Minister's successor. In any case, he is far more interested in saying something that might grab tomorrow's headlines rather than dealing with the philosophy or logic of his own proposals.
Then we have the right hon. Gentleman's deputy, the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold), who is extremely schizophrenic about her distinguished past in local government. They can always turn for ideological advice to the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), the self-styled philosopher king of Dartford, who, we understand, owes his surprising survival to his position as the Prime Minister's spy in Elizabeth house. Finally, there is the new Minister responsible for higher education, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), who until recently, I understand, was the prize fellow for All Souls. I am not sure that his new job is much of a prize. He has the unenviable task of trying to explain the Government's higher education policy.
Out of that high-powered philosophical discussion, two brilliant ideas emerge. The first is GREB. Apparently the Secretary of State has coined the acronym for his Bill of GREB, which stands for the great reform education Bill.
The second brilliant conclusion reached by the Secretary of State, again reflecting his characteristic modesty, is that GREB should at the very least be regarded as the equal of R. A. Butler's Education Act 1944. I find the Secretary of State's claim preposterous. The 1944 Act, drawn up by R. A. Butler and his Labour Under-Secretary Chuter Ede, was the fruition of a long period of detailed discussion and consultation. It followed and drew on the authoritative Hadow and Spens report on secondary education. It had a three-year gestation period from Green Paper to statute book. It was founded on a broadly based consensus, not only between parties but between the Government on the one hand and local government and the teaching profession on the other. By providing for the first time secondary education for all, it greatly expanded education opportunities. Finally, the 1944 Act established the principle of free schooling as of right.
The contrast between the 1944 Act and the proposals in the Queen's Speech is glaring. Whereas R. A. Butler proceeded on the basis of careful discussion and consultation to achieve the widest possible agreement, this Secretary of State sacrifices everything for instant publicity. I referred to the shambles over the opt-out proposals.
I shall not give way because I have little time.
The city technology idea was launched at the most recent Tory conference, when it was little more than a scribble on the back of an envelope. The main purpose was to win the Secretary of State a standing ovation from the party faithful. No wonder so little progress has been made in its implementation.
The national curriculum project was launched on "Weekend World". The Secretary of State was apparently more interested in pressing Matthew Parris than getting the idea accepted by those who will have to work with it. Whereas R. A. Butler worked constructively with local government and the teaching profession, the present Secretary of State works against the education partners. The CTCs, the open enrolment policy, the opt-out proposals and the delegation of school budgets will all weaken the local education authorities without putting any coherent alternative in their place.
The move against the Inner London education authority, euphemistically described in the Queen's Speech as reforming the structure of education in inner London, can only be motivated by political spite. It certainly has no
educational justification. In 1981, the committee on the future of inner London education, chaired by Lady Young, concluded that the problem of inner London
calls for a single authority of adequate size".
Even the 1979 committee, which was chaired by the present Secretary of State — then a Back-Bencher — rejected the proposal for London boroughs to opt out of ILEA on the ground that that would leave a rump of the poorer, deprived boroughs. If that was the case then, what is the argument for the Government's proposals now? Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell the House how such a policy is supposed to improve inner London education. Like too many of his colleagues, the Secretary of State's motto seems to be, "If I cannot control an institution, I shall either abolish it or seek to undermine it."
Certainly, the Secretary of State is an enthusiastic centraliser. Apart from the moves against the local education authorities that I have described, he proposes to remove the polytechnics from local government responsibility and put them under a body that he can ultimately control.
We have also heard disturbing rumours that the Secretary of State plans to run the national curriculum centrally from Elizabeth house. There is a strong case, on social and economic grounds, for an agreed core curriculum, but there is an overwhelming case against a national curriculum that is imposed and then controlled from Elizabeth house. I suspect that it will not work, and even if it did. it would be dangerously authoritarian. Paradoxically, at a time when the French are moving away from central control, the Secretary of State has ambitions to become the British Napoleon.
The main argument against the Government's education proposals is that they are attempting, under the guise of greater choice, to reintroduce selection and to expand charging for education.
First, a word about charges. For all the Prime Minister's reassuring words during the election that parents will have to pay only for a few extras, the reality is that parental contributions are already essential to maintain the basic curriculum, as many reports have shown. They are essential to ensure that the schools have the books and equipment that they need and that school buildings are properly maintained. However, it is clear that the Government want to move much further down the road of pay-as-you-learn. The Secretary of State has already announced, since the election, that he would like all authorities to follow the bad practice of a few and charge for music, field trips, swimming and many other sporting activities. For all the protestations to the contrary, it is surely revealing that whenever the Prime Minister mentions the so-called opt-out schools, as she did again last Thursday, she talks about school fees. The truth is that the Government want a pay-as-you-learn system, and if one cannot pay, one will not receive a good education. They should listen to the wise words of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North:
I hope that it will be clearly understood that the proposals are designed to reinforce that collective tradition of maintained education and that they are not intended to be some oblique form of privatisation."—[Official Report, 30 June 1987; Vol. 118, c. 399.]
I hope that the Government take notice of what he says.
Finally, I turn to selection. Whatever the Government's protestations, the city technology colleges, the so-called popular schools and, most of all, the opt-out schools will, by their very nature, become selective. In choosing their pupils they are bound to use the national tests — at seven, 11 or 14—that the Secretary of State proposes to introduce. So, we could be talking about not only an 11-plus, but a seven-plus and a 14-plus. Instead of a unified national system of education we shall increasingly have a two-nation education system, with the lucky few going to the selective schools and the majority to the inferior, less prestigious schools.
We shall see the re-creation under another guise of the old grammar school-secondary modern divide. Tory educationists as well as Labour ones condemned the old 11-plus system as being unfair, divisive and inefficient. That is why the Prime Minister approved so many schemes for comprehensive reorganisation when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science. She got rid of more grammar schools than any other Secretary of State in living memory. When Sir Keith Joseph was Secretary of State for Education and Science he concluded that it would be wrong to bring back selection and that the most sensible policy, both for the nation and for its citizens, was to concentrate on raising the standards of all pupils. The present Secretary of State for Education and Science seems to have forgotten that very simple point and his proposals are without reasonable justification.
Today, the vast majority of parents get their first choice of school and rather than create first, second, third and fourth division schools, we should now set ourselves the task of making sure that whatever school parents choose it will be a good school. That means guaranteeing that all schools are well resourced, that teachers arc well trained and regularly update their skills and that our curriculum and our examinations system stimulate and stretch. Excellence for all is what Britain needs, not high standards for a few achieved at the cost of the majority. We reject the Government's education proposals and we shall vote against them.
One of the pleasures about speaking in the debate on the Address is that one is able to congratulate a number of maiden speakers. We have heard. many eloquent speeches, quite the largest number of maiden speeches that I have ever heard on one day. The hon. Member for Newport, West ( Mr. Flynn) made an eloquent speech and started by paying a generous tribute to a friend on the Conservative side and, I think, a friend in many parts of the House, Mark Robinson. We are sorry that he is not with us. The hon. Member for Newport. West was ambitious in that he recommended hon. Members not only to read Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" but to read it again. He represents the town in which I was born and I hope that he will look after my birthplace well. I think that his wife was taught by one of my cousins who was an English teacher. I am sure that we shall hear much more from the hon. Gentleman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) succeeds Sir Keith Joseph who made a considerable contribution to the previous Conservative Government. My hon. Friend spoke about the needs of the north and spoke movingly about the confidence of the people of the city of Leeds. He welcomed the effect of the unified business rate upon that city. He also welcomed our education policies, particularly because of the significance that they may have in the inner city part of his constituency, Chapeltown.
Then we heard the maiden speech by the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall). It was a rigorous attack on capitalism. The hon. Gentleman has a gloomy attitude to life and I do not agree with him that we are on the edge of a major recession. His speech was a vigorous defence of old-style Socialism and I have no idea how Mr. Hugh Hudson will present that or the hon. Gentleman in future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) made an eloquent maiden speech, and spoke from her great experience in local government. She is a strong supporter of competition in local government services and I was glad to hear that she is such a strong defender of the green belt, protecting the interests of her own constituency. There is a consequent obligation for more development in our inner cities.
Then we heard a speech by one of the Welsh Nationalists, the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones). He spoke of his predecessor, Keith Best, and paid tribute to the assiduous work that Mr. Best did in that constituency. The new hon. Member for Ynys Môn is a most eloquent speaker and I congratulate him on his speech. He said that in the election some political maps that appeared on television excluded Ynys Môn I thought Vincent Hanna had struck again. I am quite sure that he will represent his constituency effectively.
Then we had a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran), who is bringing clearly to the House his considerable experience in industry in the west midlands and in the Confederation of British Industry. He spoke from his experience of how effective urban development corporations are.
We had a speech from the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) who, I am sure, will be a worthy successor to Gordon Bagier. Then we had a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw), who follows a very popular former colleague of ours, Peter Rees. My hon. Friend brings to the House a practical business experience. He made a very eloquent and robust defence of our programme, particularly in the area of education.
Finally, I welcome back to the House the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). We are very sorry that she had to come in by defeating John Whitfield. She made her second maiden speech tonight and I am sure that she will be welcomed by many on both sides of the House who remember her when she represented Bolton, West.
Many hon. Members today referred to the proposal of education reform outlined in the Gracious Speech, as did many speakers on other days. The main proposal on education in the Gracious Speech is the establishment of a national curriculum. We want all our children to receive a good education—wherever they live, whatever type of school they go to and whatever their ability. That expresses a unity of purpose. There is no divisiveness here, there are no exceptions and there will be no preferential treatment. If Opposition Members think that, it is in their imagination. The reality is that we stand for higher standards and greater quality for all our children. That is what we shall deliver.
Our chosen instrument is the national foundation curriculum. This will be an entitlement for all five to 16-year-olds. All children will get the breadth and balance of agreed programmes of study in the foundation subjects —maths, English, a foreign language, science, history, geography and technology in all its aspects. We shall also find time within the national curriculum for physical education, music and art. All parents, wherever they live, will have the security of knowing that their children are receiving a fair deal — the national curriculum. Better, they will know, from the periodic tests to which the hon. Member for Dewsbury referred, what their children are achieving at the ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16. She expressed anxiety about this and I have heard anxiety expressed elsewhere. Therefore, I say to her that the idea of testing has been criticised, but that testing is nothing new. The process of assessment at those ages will involve testing. HMI inspections of primary schools show that reading is now tested in 93 per cent. of schools. A range of standardised tests—about nine—are used. Mathematics is tested in approximately 76 per cent. of the schools. What about the quarter of primary schools where maths is not tested and where these children may not be getting a fair deal?
They will be used to assess the ability of the child at ages close to seven, 11 and 14. They will also take into account the varying range of ability at each of those ages. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that this is not a particularly uniquely Conservative proposal. Tests have been implemented in English and maths by the Inner London education authority. They are used to assess the ability of the child and, if needed, to provide the basis for extra remedial coaching or teaching.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech last Thursday, not only attacked our proposals, and this particular proposal, but accused us of wishing to introduce them malevolently. That is nonsense, because the person who started the debate on the national curriculum in 1976 was a former Labour Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan. He called for
rigorous educational standards …greater monitoring and accountability of teachers …greater concentration on the basic skills of literacy and numeracy and …giving greater priority to technical, vocational and practical education.
Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to the House that his reforms, which many of us think will be a great improvement, will end the practice in many areas whereby the comprehensive system is rounded down to the level of the secondary modern instead of being rounded up to the level of the grammar school?
I shall come to that point in a moment. May I finish my point about the national curriculum? The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) said that we might find some common ground. There is considerable agreement across the country that we must move this way. There is agreement that there should be a national curriculum—[Hon. Members: "A core curriculum."] The difference is on how we should arrive at that core foundation curriculum. I sense much consensus irrespective of party. We share a common interest in raising standards.
In the next few weeks, I shall be issuing a consultation document on what we intend by way of legislation on the national curriculum. There will be a debate not just in the House but in the country. We want to listen to people in the education system. Indeed, the debate has already started and many educationists have commented on the proposal.
The second element of our proposals to reform and improve education covers the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind). Another major strand of our policy is to involve parents more in the education of their children—to bring them more into the education system. The trend has been growing for the past 10 years; it has not happened suddenly. There has been greater parental involvement, and every report from the inspectors says that if parents can he attracted to visit a school, even once a term, and to take an interest, we shall begin to build a bridge between the home and the school which will improve the education of the child and improve the school itself.
The hon. Gentleman refers to my children. I thought that the Labour party deplored the practice of dragging into politics the families of politicians. I should have thought that the latter days of the election campaign showed the danger of that path. I stand by the choice that I made, and I want more parents to be in a position to exercise choice in the education that their children receive in the state system. Much humbug and hypocrisy is talked about the matter. If the members of the shadow Cabinet are so convinced about the sanctity of public provision and the consequent limitation of choice, why do not more of them live in council houses in their constituencies?
I know that this may be the last appearance of the hon. Member for Durham, North but never mind.
I want to consider the policy of open enrolment. Under that policy parents will have a much greater say over the choice of the school in the state-maintained sector which they want their children to attend.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves) has drawn to my attention a case in Birmingham. This has not occurred in ILEA, Haringey or Brent. It has occurred in the city of Birmingham which the Labour party boasts is under moderate control. The school in question is Baverstock, which is a very popular comprehensive school. However, the Labour education committee has set an admission limit on that school. The headmaster of the school, Mr. Perks, has offered to take an extra class in September for 30 children who have been denied access to the school. According to The Times Education Supplement:
Most of the parents who have been refused the school of their choice claim to be from working-class backgrounds and many are Labour supporters. The council's refusal has angered them and now threatens to split the Labour group.
Mrs. Shirley Truckle, a member of the Labour Party for 20 years … claims … that … 'I have not been offered any choice about which school
should go to.
That is the reality of Labour councils in practice.
The head of that school wants the children, the children want to go to the school, and their parents want the children to go there. The school wants to take the children. The only group saying no is the Labour-controlled education committee. That is what we want to change. Our policy will bring a major extension of parental choice and influence.
I am sorry, I will not give way to the hon. Member for Yeovil.
The hon. Member for Durham, North referred to the creation of two types of schools. I do not accept that argument at all. I do not believe that local education authorities will allow their less popular schools to sink because these schools will also be subject to the national curriculum. They will also be able to benefit from our policies.
One nation in education is not the same as one system of education. Some schools are better than others. Parents want to get their children into those schools and they are willing to move house to do that. Teachers want to work in those schools. Good people come forward to serve as their governors. I have not invented unpopular schools. They are a feature of the system defended so fully and uncritically by the Labour party. I am concerned about pupils in all those schools. I want to raise standards for all and I do not believe that that can be guaranteed by uniformity. I put my trust in diversity and pluralism. I want a choice of schools—comprehensive, grammar and grant-maintained schools, city technology colleges, independent schools and church schools. I want to liberate those forces which will apply upward pressure for improvements.
We need a set of policies to stimulate those changes. There is a revolution in hand. We have listened to the fears, hopes and aspirations of the parents. We want to make our schools more accountable. Choice is the lever. The Labour party's denial of choice angers parents and frustrates children.
|Division No. 1]||[10 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Douglas, Dick|
|Allen, Graham||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Alton, David||Dunnachie, James|
|Anderson, Donald||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Eadie, Alexander|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Eastham, Ken|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Ashton, Joe||Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Fatchett, Derek|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Fearn, Ronald|
|Barron, Kevin||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Battle, John||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Fisher, Mark|
|Beggs, Roy||Flannery, Martin|
|Bell, Stuart||Flynn, Paul|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Foster, Derek|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Foulkes, George|
|Blair, Tony||Fraser, John|
|Blunkett, David||Fyfe, Mrs Maria|
|Boateng, Paul||Galbraith, Samuel|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Galloway, George|
|Boyes, Roland||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Bradley, Keith||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||George, Bruce|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Gordon, Ms Mildred|
|Buckley, George||Gould, Bryan|
|Caborn, Richard||Graham, Thomas|
|Callaghan, Jim||Grant Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Griffiths, Winston (Bridgend)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Grocott, Bruce|
|Canavan, Dennis||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Cartwright, John||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Henderson, Douglas|
|Clay, Bob||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Clelland, David||Holland, Stuart|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Home Robertson, John|
|Cohen, Harry||Hood, James|
|Coleman, Donald||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Howells, Geraint|
|Corbett, Robin||Hoyle, Doug|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Cousins, Jim||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Crowther, Stan||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Cryer, Bob||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Cummings, J.||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||lllsley, Eric|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Ingram, Adam|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Janner, Greville|
|Darling, Alastair||John, Brynmor|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Lanelli)||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Dewar, Donald||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Dixon, Don||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Dobson, Frank||Kennedy, Charles|
|Doran, Frank||Kilfedder, James|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Quin, Miss Joyce|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Radice, Giles|
|Lambie, David||Randall, Stuart|
|Lamond, James||Redmond, Martin|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Leighton, Ron||Reid, John|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Lewis, Terry||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Litherland, Robert||Robertson, George|
|Livingstone, Ken||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Livsey, Richard||Rogers, Allan|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Rooker, Jeff|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|McAllion, John||Rowlands, Ted|
|McAvoy, Tom||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|McCartney, Ian||Salmond, Alex|
|Macdonald, Calum||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McFall, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McKelvey, William||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McLeish, Henry||Short, Clare|
|McNamara, Kevin||Skinner, Dennis|
|McTaggart, Bob||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Madden, Max||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Marek, Dr John||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Snape, Peter|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Soley, Clive|
|Martin, Michael (Springburn)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Martlew, Eric||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Maxton, John||Steinberg, Gerald|
|Meacher, Michael||Stott, Roger|
|Meale, Alan||Strang, Gavin|
|Michael, Alun||Straw, Jack|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Thomas, Dafydd Elis|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Turner, Dennis|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Vaz, Keith|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Wall, Pat|
|Morley, Elliott||Wallace, James|
|Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe)||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Mullin, Chris||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Murphy, Paul||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Nellist, Dave||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Williams, Rt Hon A. J.|
|O'Brien, William||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Wilson, Brian|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Winnick, David|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Parry, Robert||Worthington, Anthony|
|Patchett, Terry||Wray, James|
|Pendry, Tom||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Prescott, John||Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. John McWilliam.|
|Primarolo, Ms Dawn|
|Adley, Robert||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Batiste, Spencer|
|Alexander, Richard||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bellingham, Henry|
|Allason, Rupert||Bendall, Vivian|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Amess, David||Benyon, W.|
|Amos, Alan||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Arbuthnot, James||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Biggs-Davison, Sir John|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Ashby, David||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Body, Sir Richard|
|Atkins, Robert||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Atkinson, David||Boswell, Tim|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Bottomley, Peter|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bottomley, Mrs Virginia|
|Baldry, Tony||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bowis, John||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Brazier, Julian||Gorst, John|
|Bright, Graham||Gow, Ian|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Greenway, John (Rydale)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Gregory, Conal|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Grist, Ian|
|Burns, Simon||Ground, Patrick|
|Burt, Alistair||Grylls, Michael|
|Butcher, John||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Butler, Chris||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Butterfill, John||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hannam, John|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Cash, William||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Harris, David|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Chope, Christopher||Hayes, Jerry|
|Churchill, Mr||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Hayward, Robert|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushclifte)||Heddle, John|
|Colvin, Michael||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Conway, Derek||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hill, James|
|Cope, John||Hind, Kenneth|
|Couchman, James||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Cran, James||Holt, Richard|
|Critchley, Julian||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Howard, Michael|
|Curry, David||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Day, Stephen||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Devlin, Tim||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Dicks, Terry||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hunter, Andrew|
|Dover, Den||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Dunn, Bob||Irvine, Michael|
|Durant, Tony||Irving, Charles|
|Dykes, Hugh||Jack, John|
|Eggar, Tim||Jackson, Robert|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Janman, Timothy|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Evennett, David||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Fallon, Michael||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Farr, Sir John||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Favell, Tony||Key, Robert|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Forman, Nigel||Knapman, Roger|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Forth, Eric||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Knowles, Michael|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Knox, David|
|Franks, Cecil||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Freeman, Roger||Lang, Ian|
|French, Douglas||Latham, Michael|
|Fry, Peter||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Gale, Roger||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Gardiner, George||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Gill, Christopher||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Lightbown, David||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Lilley, Peter||Rost, Peter|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Lord, Michael||Ryder, Richard|
|Luce, Rt Hon Richard||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Lyell, Sir Nicholas||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|MacGregor, John||Scott, Nicholas|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Maclean, David||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Madel, David||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Shersby, Michael|
|Mans, Keith||Sims, Roger|
|Maples, John||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Marlow, Tony||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfied)|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Speed, Keith|
|Mates, Michael||Speller, Tony|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Squire, Robin|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Mellor, David||Steen, Anthony|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stern, Michael|
|Miller, Hal||Stevens, Lewis|
|Mills, lain||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Stradling, Thomas, Sir John|
|Moate, Roger||Sumberg, David|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Summerson, Hugo|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Morris, M (N'hampton S)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Morrison, Hon P (Chester)||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Moss, Malcolm||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Mudd, David||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Thorne, Neil|
|Needham, Richard||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Neubert, Michael||Thurnham, Peter|
|Newton, Tony||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Tracey, Richard|
|Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)||Tredinnick, David|
|Onslow, Cranley||Trippier, David|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Trotter, Neville|
|Page, Richard||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Paice, James||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Viggers, Peter|
|Patnick, Irvine||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Patten, Chris (Bath)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Patten, John (Oxford W)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Walden, George|
|Pawsey, James||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Waller, Gary|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Walters, Dennis|
|Portillo, Michael||Ward, John|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Price, Sir David||Warren, Kenneth|
|Raffan, Keith||Watts, John|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Wells, Bowen|
|Rathbone, Tim||Wheeler, John|
|Redwood, John||Whitney, Ray|
|Renton, Tim||Widdecombe, Miss Ann|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wilkinson, John|
|Riddick, Graham||Wilshire, David|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Woodcock, Mike||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Yeo, Tim||Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.|
|Young, Sir George (Acton)|