Orders of the Day — Student Unions (Funding)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:39 am on 10th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett , Leeds Central 12:39 am, 10th March 1988

I am sure there will be more by the time the Bill reaches Report stage in another place.

You may think, 'So what?' But it means that the Secretary of State for Education, Mr. Kenneth Baker, can set a national curriculum for schools, by order. He can set attainment targets, by order. As this week's disclosure of a letter from an official in No. 10 Downing Street to his counterpart in the Department of Education indicates, the order is as likely to reflect the views of the Prime Minister as those of her Education Secretary. So the Secretary of State is having some difficulty winning his way on crucial issues such as assessment, and it is clear that the real Secretary of State is the Prime Minister.

Tonight, the Secretary of State faces his third major political ambush—the St. Andrews mafia have come for him. They are here to persuade the Secretary of State to change his mind yet again. They may be on to a winner, not because of their intellectual arguments but because we know that the Secretary of State is desperate for a few friends. When one's stock is as low as the Secretary of State's, even the St. Andrews mafia may comfort him.

Conservative Members may find some support, but I warn them in advance that I have had the pleasure of seeing the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in Committee, where he said no every time. I suspect that he will say no again tonight. He was christened Stonewall Jackson by my hon. Friends in Committee. I am sorry to disappoint the Minister's hon. Friends, but I can forecast what he will say.