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Primary Schools Testing

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th May 1992.

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Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton 12:00 am, 20th May 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take on testing in primary 4 and 7.

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

My right hon. Friend intends to have in place a system of testing that implements our policies and commands wide public acceptance.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

I welcome the Minister to his post—not least in the expectation that, unlike his predecessor, he will listen to those concerned with teachers and parents and others who are worried about Scottish education. The Minister will be aware of the hostility and disruption that the unilaterally imposed tests caused. Given that the Government have reached agreement with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities that from next year it will police those tests in the proper way, will the hon. Gentleman, as an act of generosity, announce today that he is withdrawing those tests—so that the Government may demonstrate their respect for the concerns felt by parents and teachers in Scotland?

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

Certainly not. As to the tests, we believe that it is absolutely necessary to be committed to the assessment of pupils' progress against national standards. The hon. Gentleman does my predecessor a grave injustice. He is a person of courage and conviction, and in April 1981 he raised with COSLA the proposals that were recently advanced. There will be a review, and a consultative paper will be published in due course. The tests must most certainly go ahead.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Less than 10 minutes ago, we witnessed a parliamentary outrage. An English Tory Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone), who represents a constituency on the south coast of England, arrived for Scottish Question Time at twenty-five minutes past three. After you, Madam Speaker, called that hon. Gentleman, he asked a question about fishing. My hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), who is a Scottish Member of Parliament, had been in his place since half-past two waiting to ask a question on that subject, which is vital to his constituency.

It is outrageous that an English hon. Member can stroll in here five minutes before the end of Scottish questions and be called in preference to a Scottish Member of Parliament. We are given only one hour per month to question the minority regime that governs our country. It is an abuse for the Government's ranks to be buttressed by Tory Members rolling in after a good lunch and disrupting Scottish questions in that way.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Does it relate to the same matter?

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

It does. When you accepted the high office that you now hold, Madam Speaker, you said, quite correctly, that you would give high priority to defending the interests of Back Benchers. I calculate that there are only 50 genuine Back Benchers representing Scottish constituencies. Given that we can question the Government on only one day per month, whereas English Members of Parliament can raise questions every day that the House sits, why cannot you rule, Madam Speaker, that priority be given in Scottish Question Time to Scottish Members of Parliament who represent Scottish constituencies?

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Let me attempt to answer the points of order that have already been raised. As to Scottish questions, I am obliged to call right hon. and hon. Members present at a particular Question Time, wherever they may be seated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Order. Let me finish. I was not aware today that the hon. Member in question had been present in the Chamber for only a few minutes. If that was the case, it was remiss of me to call him. I assure the House that I deprecate right hon. or hon. Members who slip in to the Chamber for just a few minutes in order to be called, and then slip out again. I assure the House that in future, I shall keep a close eye on such activities.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Is the point of order of the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Sir D. Thompson) on a different subject? If not, I call the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan).

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have no personal complaint against you, but I wish to raise what I believe to be an important matter of principle.

Tory Members represent fewer than one in six Scottish constituencies. Would it not be in the interests of fairness all round if that political composition were taken into account when supplementary questioners are selected during Scottish Question Time?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

I take a great deal into consideration before I come to the Chair.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

Yes, Madam Speaker. On a number of occasions during the last Parliament, I urged Mr. Speaker Weatherhill to impress on Scottish Office Ministers the need to offer concise, brief answers to questions, rather than making speeches. The same holds true in this Parliament.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The hon. Gentleman and the entire House will know that I have already made a statement about that. I refer the hon. Gentleman to Hansard. Now I hope that we shall have no more points of order.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already raised a point of order with me.