Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland)

– in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 26th October 1993.

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Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 7:15 pm, 26th October 1993

I beg to move, That the draft Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1993, which was laid before this House on 18th October, be approved. Before I comment in detail on the more significant provisions, I should perhaps explain to the House the reason why the draft order was withdrawn and relaid on 18 October. The draft order previously laid before the House contained a textual omission from article 28, which relates to the substituted article 116 of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. That article made provision for regulations governing the repayment or reduction of grant in specified circumstances.

As a result of that technical defect, the order as originally laid would not have provided the necessary vires for the recovery of enhanced value of the proceeds from surplus school property which currently exists in article 116 of the 1986 order. It was always intended that the new order should provide for the vires to continue unchanged. For the same reason, an identical amendment has been made to part II, schedule 4, which deals with colleges of education. The opportunity has also been taken in schedules 4 and 5 to correct a similar deficiency in the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, relating to grant-maintained integrated schools.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

What sort of numbers will be involved, going back to 1967, if schools want to take the opt-out option?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

If the hon. Gentleman waits a little, I shall explain the provisions on the 100 per cent. grant, to which I think he was referring. I am merely explaining why the order was withdrawn and relaid. The reasons were essentially technical. I hope that the House will appreciate that there is no other reason behind the withdrawal and relaying of the order. If, when the hon. Gentleman has heard what I have to say, he still wishes to ask a question, I shall respond to it then.

The order has been the subject of wide consultation with educational interests in Northern Ireland. In addition to being sent to all schools and colleges of further education and their boards of governors, the order was sent to more than 100 other individuals and bodies, including the universities, the education and library boards, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the Northern Ireland Curriculum Council, the Northern Ireland Schools Examinations and Assessment Council, the main teachers' unions and the four main Churches.

I should like to record my appreciation of the interest shown by the 70 or so educational bodies and individuals who submitted comments. Most of them were supportive and generally welcomed the proposals. All the comments were carefully considered. As a result of the comments, several changes have been made to the draft order. I shall deal with those changes a little later.

I am sure that the House will appreciate that the order is large and detailed. I should like to comment on the main points of interest.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

Can the Minister tell me whether the Protestant Churches support the order?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I have to be cautious how I answer because the order covers a great deal of ground and I suspect that the Churches would support some parts and be less supportive of others. I know that representations have been made about one or two of the points in the order. In one case I have sought to alleviate the concerns by making a change in the order itself. I shall mention that later.

I shall now discuss the main provisions. I am happy to answer any questions about the other provisions during the debate, but it is to a large extent a technical order and I am sure that there are aspects of it into which hon. Members will not wish to delve in too much detail.

I start with what is perhaps one of the main issues—that of competitive tendering. Parts II and III of the order deal with competitive tendering and general administration of public supply and works contracts by education and library boards in Northern Ireland. The Government's policy of subjecting public services to external comparison with the private sector is already well established throughout the United Kingdom. The results of the policy of competition are becoming self-evident. In Northern Ireland, annual savings of about £7·9 million have been achieved in the health service, and in the civil service the exposure of services to competition has realised savings of about £6·1 million per year. Indeed, the benefits of competitive tendering have already been recognised by the education and library boards and most of the activities defined in the order have also already been, or are planned to be, submitted to the competitive tendering process. The savings generated to date by the boards amount to about £1·2 million per year and it is important to recognise that those savings are retained by boards for the benefit of the education service.

Although the boards have been making good progress on a voluntary basis, it is nevertheless necessary, in my view, to provide a firmer legislative framework for the policy.

I emphasise that the order does not cover compulsory privatisation or compulsory contracting out. Boards will continue to be responsible for the provision of services and their direct labour organisations will be entitled to tender for the work. Indeed all the education and library board contracts have to date been won by the boards' direct labour organisations. It is important to understand that boards will specify and monitor the outputs and standards of service they require, whether the service is provided "in-house" or by private contractors. In that way legislation will not mean a lowering of standards, as some people suggest; rather it will provide for greater choice, leading to improved efficiency and better services.

Part III of the order contains important provisions that will bring the education and library boards into line with the operation of competitive tendering of district councils in Northern Ireland. In particular, article 22 will allow my Department to specify information which contractors will be required to provide if they wish to tender for work. That is designed to counter the possibility of fraudulent exploitation of the tendering process, and to act as a filter for any attempts by non bona fide contractors to win contracts. That safeguard will be available, if required, to combat any such threat. I am grateful to the hon. Member for North Down (Sir J. Kilfedder) for his obvious support.

I shall now discuss the second part of the order—article 28 and its related schedule 2—in detail. They deal with the introduction of an option for 100 per cent. capital funding for voluntary schools. I shall explain later why it is an option.

Voluntary schools are at present eligible for 85 per cent. grants on capital works. Many schools are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their share of the capital cost, at a time when additional accommodation is especially required to meet education reform curriculum requirements. Against that background, detailed discussions took place last year with the voluntary school authorities. As a result of agreement reached in those discussions, the order provides that a voluntary school that is prepared to change management arrangements to ensure that no single interest has a majority on the board of governors will be eligible for 100 per cent. capital funding. That is an option for all voluntary schools, whether under Catholic or other management.

The new arrangements will not, and are not intended to, affect the existing ethos of any voluntary school. The trustee parent and teacher representatives are likely to continue to reflect the ethos of the school. Before appointing its nominees, the Department of Education will consult with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools in the case of Catholic maintained schools and with the board of governors in the case of voluntary grammar schools. No school will be obliged to adopt the new arrangements; that is why they remain optional. All voluntary schools may retain their existing management arrangements, but if they do so capital grants will continue to be paid at the existing rate of 85 per cent. There are obviously cost implications in paying higher capital grant rates. I can confirm, however, that that additional pressure on the education budget has been fully taken into account when reaching decisions about public expenditure allocations over the next three years.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

If a Roman Catholic maintained school takes that option, does it come out from under the CCMS directly on to the board, or does it remain under the council with its particular disciplinary regulations?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

It remains under the CCMS, but it falls under the arrangements that effectively apply to controlled schools in terms of their capital grant. To that extent, we are trying to put all schools on the same footing.

The option of 100 per cent. capital funding to the voluntary school sector reinforces the Government's targeting social need policy. Schools serving areas of social deprivation will not be prevented from providing adequate accommodation for their pupils because of difficulties in raising voluntary funds. The new arrangements will ensure equity of funding across all sectors and equality of funding for all pupils. Finally, they represent a new partnership between voluntary schools and the public authorities which reflects a degree of confidence and trust in one another.

I shall now discuss the amendments made by article 31. They are designed to complement the tighter controls being exercised in awarding premature retirement compensation to teachers, following a recent report by the Public Accounts Committee. I hope that the purpose is simple: to allow compensating authorities to impose a charge equivalent to all or part of the award made, when they have good reason to believe that the organisation responsible for deciding the award has not acted in accordance with the purpose of the compensation scheme, or has made an excessive award.

As a result of consideration during the consultation period, the recovery provisions have been further clarified, including the facility to phase recovery over a maximum period of 10 years. Their substance and effect are nevertheless the same as in the original proposal.

For some time, boards have been seeking authority from my Department to raise and retain revenue through commercial activities that would be complementary to their existing statutory services and activities. Article 32 is designed to meet that requirement. Any such activity will, of course, be subject to the approval of the Department and must not be detrimental to boards' primary educational responsibilities. Any revenue in that way will, as in the case of savings secured through competitive tendering, be available to boards for the improvement or development of the education services for which they are responsible.

The draft order also makes provision in article 34 and schedule 3 for the amalgamation of the Northern Ireland School Examinations and Assessment Council and the Northern Ireland Curriculum Council into a single body, to be known as the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.

Following the 1989 Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order, the two councils were set up separately because at that time the Government felt that it was important that when the reforms were being introduced there should be separate organisations to ensure that the exigencies of assessment—in other words, what could be tested—did not constrain or determine what should be taught in schools. Now that the programmes of study and the attainment targets are in place, however, the Government believe that the time is right to take forward the development of the curriculum and the assessment arrangements in a holistic way so that each can be seen to be supportive of and consistent with the other. I believe that that will establish an effective and integrated system which will work to the best advantage of schools, pupils and parents.

In the proposal for the draft order, article 37 limited the number of boards of governors of which a person can be a member to three. The reason behind that was that being a member of a school board of governors is a challenging and time-consuming task and it is unreasonable to expect a volunteer—for that is what governors are—to be able to devote the time and effort necessary to sustain a worthwhile contribution to more than three boards of governors at once. That is especially true since most governors are already holding down jobs and many, such as education and library board members, also have other pressing demands on their free time.

Having said that, convincing arguments were made during consultation that I should be prepared to consider exceptions to that rule for individuals with particular expertise, categories of people who are required to be appointed, or simply in circumstances where it would be in the interests of schools to have certain individuals on more than three boards of governors at once. In response to those arguments, the proposal was amended to give my Department discretion to approve membership of more than three boards in individual cases.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

I welcome the fact that the Minister has taken on board some of the representations that have been made to him. Will he accept that some people have given voluntary service in a dedicated way and have contributed much to education in Northern Ireland? Will he give an undertaking to the House that the order will not be used adversely against those in a controlled sector and that the exceptions will not be allowed only in the maintained sector?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I appreciate why the hon. Gentleman raises that point and I have had representations made to me about it. There are instances, such as when the instrument of government of a school requires a certain office bearer to be a governor, when it may not be possible to restrict the number of boards to three. There were suggestions that that affected one denomination and not the other. The hon. Gentleman will have noted that I have effectively outlined three areas of criteria and I intend to exercise the discretion that this gives me in an even-handed way.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

I welcome that response, but Ministers are transient and officials guide successive Ministers. May we have something more permanent than, the commitment of a Minister, although I respect him and accept his undertaking, because this is legislation for the future as well as the present?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

All I can say is that I have laid out the criteria that the change in the order is designed to meet. Those are the criteria that I and my Department intend to operate. I have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said and it will be on the record.

I have made a number of other changes in the order before the House, partly in response to consultation and partly in response to changed circumstances. I have withdrawn the provision to establish a system of statementing appeals tribunals. There was a clear view during consultation that independent tribunals would be superior and I wish to consult further about that.

I have also withdrawn the provision to change the timing of key stage 2 assessment for use in the transfer procedure. I know that that has caused some concern in the Province. I am convinced that assessment outcomes should not be used in this way and that separate arrangements based on the curriculum followed by each pupil are necessary for transfer purposes.

I have removed provisions for the amalgamation of institutions of further education in different board areas, simply because no such amalgamations are planned. On further education, I have responded to representations from teachers' unions by including provisions to require my Department, before making a determination, to amalgamate institutions of further education and to consult with associations which are representative of staff and students.

As I said earlier, the remaining provisions in the order are largely technical and administrative. I could cover a lot more, but I know that this hour and a half is very valuable and I wish to allow hon. Members as much time as possible to raise any points, to which I shall do my best to reply in detail. At this stage I shall go no further into the details. Nevertheless, this is an important and significant, if somewhat varied, order and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Mr Roger Stott Mr Roger Stott , Wigan 7:34 pm, 26th October 1993

On behalf of, I hope, everyone in the House, I should like to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on a personal milestone. Fifteen years ago today you entered the House as the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford. I offer you my sincere congratulations on staying the pace and I wish you a happy anniversary as a Member of Parliament—I hope that will ensure that I am called again.

The order contains no fewer than 54 articles and five schedules. To describe this legislation as wide ranging would be an understatement. The Government appear to have cobbled together a series of individually important education changes and thrown them all into a general document, and allowed very little time in which the provisions could be comprehensively scrutinised or debated.

Many Members from Northern Ireland make a point consistently about the awful practice of using Orders in Council. We are not allowed to amend the order. As on most other occasions, it is rather like the curate's egg—in some parts it is good and in other parts it is very bad. Under those constraints, I shall attempt to highlight some of the Labour party's concerns about the Government's proposals. There are many concerns, but I have time to highlight only a few.

I am told that the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), the Under-Secretary of State, is building a reputation as a listening Minister. Only last week during Question Time, the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) said:

The Minister is establishing a reputation already as a listener".—[Official Report, 21 October 1993; Vol. 230, c. 376.] The Minister needs to work harder on that image because, although he may have listened to the disquiet expressed during the consultation period on the draft order, he has paid scant attention to the many contributions that his Department has received. It has received contributions from organisations such as the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, the Irish National Teachers Organisation, the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers and the Northern Ireland Council of Trade Unions. Each of those organisations, which represent those working day to day in Northern Ireland schools and colleges, have expressed serious reservations about the Government's proposals.

The Minister has refused to heed the warnings from the professionals in favour of pursuing his Government's rigid dogma. Instead of attempting to tackle the crisis of confidence in the Government's botched education reforms, he has decided to implement compulsory competitive tendering, a move opposed by all the organisations to which I referred.

Part II of the order makes provision for the contracting out of public services. These are measures which have already been introduced in other parts of the United Kingdom, as we know to our cost, and they have had disastrous consequences for those working in the public sector. The experience of compulsory competitive tendering in the rest of the United Kingdom has meant that in the past year alone 49,000 men and women have lost their jobs in local government. Under the compulsory competitive tendering regime, many now have poorer conditions of employment and, for the second year running, they have had no pay increase. To repeat such an abysmal experience of job losses and worsening conditions of employment in Northern Ireland, a region already seriously trailing the rest of the United Kingdom, would be nothing short of a disaster.

The Opposition want to see efficiency in those defined activities contained in part II of the order. That includes the cleaning of buildings, catering and the maintenance of grounds and vehicles. Improved efficiency means maintaining value for money and a high-quality service which is often best provided directly. However, for those services which are eventually provided, it should be for the relevant board to make the decision.

The Labour party does not want Northern Ireland's schools to experience the corner-cutting, slap-dash decline in quality of service and working conditions and, worse, the decline in jobs, that is all too familiar under compulsory competitive tendering.

I wish to ask the Minister some questions. Will he give further details of how contracts will be handled under the new arrangements? Will contracts be phased, and, will all the services listed in part II under article 4 be tendered for on the same day, or will boards be given different commencement dates? What procedures will the listening Minister establish to ensure that full consultation takes place as to the way in which contracts will eventually be phased?

Included in the restrictions and conditions in part II is the requirement for a board to invite tenders. Will the Minister confirm that when the required number of invitations to tender has been issued the board will be under no further obligation to invite other contractors to tender?

Most important, the Minister will be aware that by putting previously public services out to tender in Northern Ireland he leaves the process open to particular and sinister abuse by organisations seeking to extend their influence into the listed activities contained in part II. Will the Minister assure the House that if a board has major reservations about a particular contractor, it will be able to exercise total discretion and use such reservations as a relevant factor in the evaluation of that contractor's tender?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I will try to answer the hon. Gentleman's question more fully at the end of the debate. In my opening remarks I mentioned that three of the boards were already substantially contracting out, and that there were savings of £1£ ·2 million last year. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that some of the fears and accusations that he has expressed have been realised during that voluntary contracting-out period?

Photo of Mr Roger Stott Mr Roger Stott , Wigan

Our experience of compulsory competitive tendering in Great Britain is that it is bad in principle. It has led to many local government workers losing their jobs, and people employed by the organisations that win the contracts find that their terms of employment are worse than they were hitherto.

Will the Minister ensure that during the tendering process his Department will require that a board must insist on obtaining information about potential employees—including their previous work history and national insurance status—as already happens in Northern Ireland during compulsory tendering for local authority work?

Part III of the order applies restrictions to the scope of the factors that boards can consider when awarding contracts. By prohibiting a board from asking detailed questions about the terms and conditions of employment of a competitor's employees, the Government are removing a board's capacity to maintain high standards in employment and working conditions, a theme to which I continually return. Yet again, the Government are content to reduce working standards. Instead of looking at the overall picture, they are merely looking at the figures which the Minister outlined. That kind of attitude results in reduced employment protection and leaves the United Kingdom with the lowest paid work force in Europe and a high level of unemployment.

I fear that the Government's plans will be all the more devastating for Northern Ireland, which has traditionally relied on the public sector for employment. I warn the Minister that Northern Ireland cannot afford an increase in the only figure with which I am concerned—the unemployment figure—which is already obscenely high.

Part IV of the order provides for the amalgamation of two or more institutions of further education; it does not provide for any significant consultation process before such an amalgamation. Surely the listening Minister will wish to hear from those who work in the colleges, the parents of those who attend those colleges and the wider community, all of whom share a stake in their local institutions of further education. Will the Minister ensure that provision is made for a concerned party to make known its anxieties prior to any amalgamation?

To achieve the required standards and implement change, the education service ultimately depends on the quality of its teachers and lecturers. Although many such people have already positively responded to the added pressures of education reform, the onslaught of Government legislation is demanding so much of their energy and commitment that the quality of provision for pupils and students in schools and colleges is in danger of being lowered. If that is to be avoided, it will be necessary not only to employ the most effective forms of in-service training, advisory and support services to assist teachers in implementing change, but to win the vital endorsement and support of parents, teachers, employers and members of the local community.

It is regrettable that the order does nothing to bridge the ever-widening gap between the Government and those who work in and use the education service. Instead, the Minister and his colleagues are intent on selling our schools in the marketplace. The Minister should concentrate on supporting teachers and freeing them from the bureaucracy of previous reforms. Instead, the Government, through the order, consider that it is more important to give the education and library boards in Northern Ireland a lesson in free market philosophy.

I said earlier that the order is like the curate's egg. It is unfortunate that we do not have a proper procedure whereby we can amend it and fashion a better one. The problems contained in the order outweigh its benefits, and I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 7:46 pm, 26th October 1993

One of the great problems that faces Northern Ireland is the way in which legislation passes through the House. Here we have this massive order—77 pages of it—so how can we possibly deal with it in one and a half hours, particularly when no one is permitted to table an amendment to it?

Consultation is all very well, but we were elected to the House and we have the final responsibility for scrutinising legislation and seeking to amend it. This huge order has many ramifications, as outlined by the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) and by other hon. Members in their interventions in the Minister's speech. The order should be subject to a great deal of care and attention, because parts of it disturb us and because it is difficult to understand the real meaning of other parts. I had great difficulty understanding it.

The order consists of 57 pages dealing with 50 articles, and another 20 pages dealing with schedules. The schedules repeal parts of many Acts, but they also significantly amend many others. It seems that the new way of passing legislation is to introduce a schedule to a particular order, and then to make some vast change to a previous Order in Council. Anyone who wishes to take part in the debate will find it difficult to deal adequately with what is before us tonight.

A provision in the order states that a maintained school can return to the voluntary sector. I shall ask the Minister again, how many schools qualify for that option? It has been mentioned that if a school were a voluntary school in 1967 it would qualify, but how many such schools in the Province are in that category and could take that option? How many are Roman Catholic maintained schools and how many are now generally called state schools? How many schools belong to some Protestant body and could be named as Protestant? We need to know who can opt out. and how far that net could be cast.

I shall not deal with the issue of compulsory competitive tendering because I largely agree with what has been said. I know that CCT meant large redundancies in the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland; now we see that the Housing Executive is not capable of dealing with matters on its new basis, about which I am especially worried.

I should like to address some religious aspects of the order. The hon. Member for North Down (Sir J. Kilfedder) asked how much of the order was opposed by the Protestant Churches—the Church of Ireland, the Irish Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church. The Minister said that some parts of the order were opposed by those Churches. Will he be more forthcoming and tell us exactly which parts?

Article 47 deals with collective worship and complaints about religious education, which is of grave importance in Northern Ireland. Do parents still have the right to make a complaint about the type of religious education that their child is offered? Do parents have the right to withdraw their child from that sector of religious education? Will the Minister give us a categorical assurance that practices that have arisen in some schools, whereby teachers tell children that when they get home they should not tell their parents where they were taken that day and then take the children to religious services other than their own religious services, will no longer occur?

I am absolutely opposed to that practice. Parents have the right to decide what religious service their children attend and they have the right to withdraw their children, from religious instruction, education or whatever it is called—even if it is for mutual understanding, which think is the correct term—if they so desire. That principle should be upheld. I want the Minister to tell the parents of Northern Ireland whether that principle will continue to be upheld because I anticipate great dangers in that matter.

I believe in a non-sectarian school system and believe that there should be a one-school system in Northern Ireland that is supported by the public purse and that should not be tied to any religious denomination. However, ministers of the various Churches whose children also attend school should have the right of access at certain times to the desired type of religious instruction for their children. If we began to move towards that approach, there would be a great difference in our education system. I want the Minister to explain what the amendments in article 47 mean and what their practical effect will be.

Will the Minister also tell us about the disciplinary procedures which are suggested in the order that concern those who attend various schools? Article 39 outlines the requirement to set up disciplinary arrangements in schools. Will the disciplinary arrangements that are to be made by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools give the children in those schools the right of appeal to a tribunal which, it is suggested, is to be set up by the board?

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools wanted to close one school in north Antrim, but the parents of the children at the school wanted to keep it open. When it came to a decision, the CCMS closed the school in opposition to all the families. When the families tried to lodge an appeal, the Minister concerned said that the council had made the decision, that was that and the school had to close.

That example covers one aspect of the right of appeal, but I am concerned about the idea of expelling children from the school. I understand from the order that if a child is expelled, the parents will have the right to appeal to a tribunal set up by the board. Will that right also cover the schools that come within the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools? I cannot find reference to that in the order. Perhaps I have read it incorrectly, but it seems that the appeals systems should be the same in both areas of education, especially when the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools moves towards full Government payment for all the services that it is to provide. If it is to be responsible for the entire subsidising and payment of all Catholic schools that opt out for this approach, surely the schools should come under the same tribunal disciplinary board. Will the Minister help me on that issue so that I can understand the order correctly and exactly determine what will happen?

Will the Minister also further explain how much schools will have to pay for library services? I fear that we are in an era leading to schools that were previously serviced by libraries having to pay in future, and that could be a heavy expenditure. I do not know how the system worked before, but I should like to know how the Minister envisages it will work in future and what price will have to be paid by individual schools for the service. On such serious matters of administration, and knowing the Government's attitude towards demanding payment, I should like to know how heavy that expenditure will be.

Will compulsory competitive tendering as it applies to the obligations entered into for the building and re-equipping of schools be applied to schools under the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools? Does it cover both sections or do the Catholic maintained schools not have to enter CCT? The Minister needs to make that point absolutely clear.

I know that many hon. Members want to take part in the debate. I have already made my protest about the shortness of the time available. I shall conclude because I do not want to prevent any Northern Ireland Member from having the opportunity to speak. I hope that if the Minister does not have time to reply fully at the end of the debate, he will promise to answer our questions by letter so that we have a firm answer to our queries.

8 pm

Photo of Mr Ken Maginnis Mr Ken Maginnis , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

The Minister will be aware of my reservations about participating in debates on Orders in Council. I shall not repeat what I have said on many occasions. Suffice it to say that I hope that we are getting to the stage when my protestations and those of my colleagues about Orders in Council will no longer be necessary. In the light of the present situation in Northern Ireland, it is especially important that those who are being asked to eschew political violence and to adhere to the democratic path should not find anything in the procedures of this House that will disillusion them or make that plea seem meaningless.

Part II deals with competition. Article 4 defines the activities currently carried out by the education and library boards in Northern Ireland that the Government have initially earmarked for compulsory competitive tendering—cleaning, catering, ground maintenance, and the repair and maintenance of vehicles. Can the Minister elaborate on paragraph (2) and tell us which other activities are likely to be added to the list for CCT and what he envisages the time scale to be?

Will the Minister accept that the added burden of responsibility on the boards for managing changes in the education service is such that they would benefit from more time to phase in and monitor CCT, bearing in mind the restrictions and conditions with which the boards must comply in respect of those activities?

Article 7 requires boards to publish in at least two local newspapers and at least one trade publication a notice giving details of functional work that they intend to carry out. In the absence of any suitable widely circulating trade-related journal in Northern Ireland, would it not be more effective to require publication in all three Northern Ireland daily newspapers?

Articles 9 to 11 deal with accounts, financial objectives and reports for the financial year in respect of defined activities. Are the accounting arrangements outlined compatible with the current basis on which board accounts are prepared—that is, on the basis of receipts and payments rather than on income and expenditure—or will alternative accounting procedures be required as a result of CCT?

I note that under article 11 a board will be required to publish a report for the financial year by the following 30 September and that a copy must reach the Department by 31 October, after which an auditor will be appointed by the Department and will give his written opinion both to the Department and to the board. The financial report will be open to public scrutiny on request at a time and place published by the board, and copies will be available on request—and on payment, I believe. That is welcome and is a further step in public accountability, as is the requirement that a copy of functional work specifications within a defined activity, whether the work is being carried out by the board or not, will be made available to interested parties.

I welcome the statement in article 16(3) that before making an order under article 16 the Department "shall consult the boards". But that statement will be taken with a pinch of salt and would be more welcome if it could be guaranteed that the Department would engage in meaningful consultation. We have had many examples of fairly meaningless consultation—on health matters and planning, for example—in which representations to departmental officials have too often been ignored.

There is no reference in the order to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981, although CCT will almost certainly have serious implications in terms of the continuity and security of employment of board personnel. Difficulties will arise in the event of boards' bids being undercut and awarded to those who win contracts by engaging staff under poorer conditions of employment and at lower wages than those currently enjoyed by board employees.

What checks and balances can the Minister offer in the likely event of unscrupulous contractors having the opportunity to cut corners in a way that may bring the most undesirable people into close contact with vulnerable young children? The boards know what is required, but by maintaining their standards they will end up competing on an uneven playing field.

Part IV deals with amalgamations of institutions of further education. It has already been recognised that the Department of Education has the power to determine which institutions should be amalgamated, and progress on that issue has been made by voluntary arrangement and agreement between the boards of governors and the education and library boards. The Department should seek to ensure—this is especially important in a constituency such as mine—that students in rural areas do not become further disadvantaged by finding themselves at too great a distance from the institutions at which further education courses are provided.

It must be nonsense to propose that any new centre of higher education planned for Northern Ireland should be situated where it would almost certainly fail to attract the widest possible cross-community student enrolment. One hopes that the Minister will look carefully at the implications of some of the proposals being made in that respect.

On compensation costs for premature retirements, with the proviso: Where there appears to a board to be good reason", the board or the Department in certain circumstances may direct that

  1. "(a) a specified amount shall be deducted from the budget share of the school in any single specified financial year; or
  2. (b) a specified amount shall be deducted from the budget share of a school in each financial year for such period (not exceeding 10 years) as may be specified, in respect of premature retirement compensation costs of the board in relation to a member of the staff of the school."
I do not know what that means. Will the Minister elaborate on that and give us an example of a good reason for deducting such costs from the budget of a school or a college?

On article 33, new article 119A is to be inserted in the 1989 order about the formation of companies in connection with institutions of further education. Can the Minister advise whether there are any restrictions on the period for which loans can be granted before repayment is required? Is the governing body or company when formed permitted to seek external finance in the commercial market, or will loans be restricted to a governing body to company arrangement?

Will the proposed changes in article 36 to article 6 of the 1986 order mean that boards will be committed to providing home tuition immediately a child ceases to attend achool? Will the proposed changes make it more difficult to get a child back to school, where that is a better option?

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) earlier intervened in respect of the change to article 12 of the 1986 order reducing the number of boards of governors on which members can sit from five to three. The restriction will, I fear, cause difficulty in arranging for each school and college governing body to have a serving board member, thereby providing a direct link between the board and its schools and colleges—a retrograde step.

Will the Minister clearly indicate that there will be flexibility on that issue and that there is no hidden agenda to limit further the direct representation by board members on behalf of schools and colleges? The order seems to be full of ambiguities and there are many matters that are not clear. I hope that the Minister will realise that, if we had a Bill passing through the House, we would have had a much fuller opportunity to clarify the situation and perhaps put right any deficiencies.

In conclusion, I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that, through the order, he is taking the opportunity in schedules 4 and 5 to correct a deficiency in the Education Reform Order 1989 relating to grant-maintained integrated schools. We have had that deficiency for four years. I think that the Minister will agree that that is not good enough. I hope that, in future, Bills will be introduced so that such things do not occur.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 8:12 pm, 26th October 1993

Everyone is supposed to be interested in Northern Ireland at the moment. The media, newspapers and television are full of Northern Ireland concerns. Northern Ireland politicians and anybody who has a word of interest to speak on Northern Ireland are eagerly being interviewed.

Education is supposed to be a matter of major concern. Many people in the Labour party have educational backgrounds. When I came to the House, I found that, initially, it was impossible to get on the Education Reform Bill Committee, because there were so many hon. Members with educational backgrounds from which to pick. We are now dealing with Northern Ireland and education issues. We should have a massive concern for those matters, as they are not issues of minor significance. We are dealing with competitive arrangements, education' and libraries, the issuing of contracts and funding arrangements, some of which arise from earlier legislation that has passed through the House. There are many items with which we should concern ourselves.

Some hon. Members present tonight represent constituencies in Northern Ireland. Other hon. Members are here on duty. They are doing their duty well, from the Front Benches and other positions, but Back Benchers are absent. Some hon. Members are here as Whips. There are hon. Members here as Parliamentary Private Secretaries. There is only one hon. Member present, as far as I can see, from the Back Benches who is not associated with Northern Ireland. We are supposed to be in a situation where Northern Ireland is of overwhelming consideration.

We have seen 100 per cent. attendance from the Democratic Unionist party. We have had the entire Popular Unionist party here—we always have 0 per cent. or 100 per cent. We have seen nearly half of the Ulster Unionist party. We have not seen anybody from the Social Democratic Labour party—my sister party. It is supposed to be involved with social and economic affairs, but it is not here on this occasion.

I attempted to speak in last Friday's debate on Northern Ireland issues. I had to settle for three interventions and a point of order. I have come tonight to listen to what is taking place. I am no expert in terms of all the details that are contained in the measure. I came to find things out, because I have an interest in education and Northern Ireland. The opportunity is here for me to speak, whereas there was no opportunity on Friday. We are in a quite disgraceful situation as far as Northern Ireland is concerned. We should be concerned about the issues.

The procedures of the House, in which Northern Ireland issues are marginalised—the Order in Council procedure—means that we do not deal with the matters properly. There is no encouragement for people to be here. Should not people be here to try to change the situation and push for changes because they have an interest in Northern Ireland and educational matters?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson , Belfast East

As the hon. Gentleman wants to change things for the better in terms of the way that legislation and other matters relating to Northern Ireland are dealt with, would he support the introduction of a Select Committee for Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

I certainly would. If the Labour party was seeking not to involve itself in that, I would offer myself as someone who could be involved in that Committee. I should say to the Democratic Unionist party, and to other Ulster Unionists, that I should like to see their involvement in the British-Irish parliamentary body, because we would then have a cross-fertilisation on education in matters dealt with by that body and matters that could be dealt with by the Select Committee.

Education could not be a more important matter for us to discuss in the context of the situation in Ireland. The problems within Ireland—for example, the role of the Catholic Church in education—spill over into Northern Ireland. Teacher training colleges do not have a fair share of the communities because there is a Catholic teacher training college, and the state provision tends to be Protestant. Those are matters with which we should concern ourselves.

The leader of the DUP concentrated some of his remarks on article 47 which was about complaints relating to religious education and collective worship. In so doing, he mentioned the position of education for mutual understanding in Northern Ireland.

Perhaps I need more information about education for mutual understanding, but it seems to me that the Government are attempting a fruitful and worthwhile activity in that area so that there is understanding in education about the two traditions that exist, which spill over a great deal into education matters. But the hon. Gentleman suggested that the opt-out should apply also to education for mutual understanding. As I see it, education for mutual understanding is not just a matter of religious education; it concerns the cultural traditions that exist in Northern Ireland and is a matter of great social importance. Such education should be opted into rather than opted out of, because if it is conducted correctly, people will begin to understand each other's traditions and wish to share in and draw from them. I hope that the Minister will elaborate on that matter in his reply and help me to understand the hon. Gentleman's position.

Education and Northern Ireland are both matters with which we should concern ourselves. I hope that the message will percolate beyond these Benches and beyond the pages of Hansard and will be heard by hon. Members who are not present tonight, some of whom have very high profiles on Northern Ireland issues and some of whom were here last Friday. I will not mention their names, because I did not put letters on the board asking them to be here, but I hope that in future they will attend debates such as this. I am talking about people who have ideas about the role of Gerry Adams, about talks and other issues and who should have been here tonight to contribute, in interventions if the opportunity did not arise for them to do so in speeches.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 8:22 pm, 26th October 1993

I suspect that I shall not often find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), but I agree with him that it is sad that not many mainland Members are present tonight. During my shortish period as a Northern Ireland Minister, it has struck me that the more our parliamentary colleagues who are not from Northern Ireland know about the life of the Province and its difficulties, the more understanding there will be of the major problems that exist there. I hope that, in the coming weeks and months, the hon. Gentleman and I will be able to encourage more of our colleagues to attend debates such as this.

It is a matter of some disappointment to me that, on this occasion, we have not heard anything from the Liberal Benches. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who has been in his place throughout, is not usually a reticent man and I should have thought that he would have much to say on the subject of education in Northern Ireland in particular.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I see that I have tempted the hon. Gentleman to his feet.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Only yesterday, I had the opportunity to pay my first visit to Northern Ireland and to have a look at its education system. I knew that a number of Northern Ireland Members wished to speak and felt that on this occasion it would be somewhat impertinent of me to speak in the debate. A number of questions that I would have asked have been asked by other hon. Members.

Incidentally, I was delighted to see that only yesterday, in an interview in the Belfast Telegraph, the Minister pointed out that he recognised the considerable overload being experienced by teachers in Northern Ireland and expressed his willingness to slow down the pace of reform. I only wish that the Secretary of State for Education in England would follow similar advice.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

The hon. Gentleman is being a little disingenuous. He knows that the Dearing report has made certain recommendations as regards the curriculum in England and Wales, and that that report does not apply to Northern Ireland. That is why I, as Minister responsible for education in Northern Ireland, have had to take decisions. If the hon. Gentleman reads carefully the words that I used, rather than those attributed to me in the first paragraph of the article, he will see that I said that there "could be" serious problems of overload and that because that suggestion had been made I had asked the Curriculum Council to look into the primary curriculum and, following consultation with schools and teachers, to make representations to me in April so that if there are problems, they can be resolved. I have made it clear all along that there is no difference between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and myself in this and that we are both looking for a system that works.

Inevitably, many hon. Members have commented on the procedures by which we take orders such as this through the House. I repeat that the Government are always willing to listen to suggestions for improving legislative procedures, but there are good reasons—and hon. Members know them—why Orders in Council are used for Northern Ireland, and any changes would have substantial implications, not least for the House of Commons. I think that it can be said in general—and this has also been said before—that direct rule, under which the present system has grown up, was introduced as a temporary measure and that we would all wish to see responsibility devolved back to Northern Ireland in matters such as education. That is what we are all striving for, in different ways and from different directions.

Unfortunately, by the very nature of the order, which is detailed and technical, it is difficult to get a theme running through my reply. A number of specific and detailed questions have been asked and I will try to respond to them. If I fail to respond to any tonight, I will try to answer them in correspondence once I have had time to reflect on what hon. Members have said. I give that undertaking to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who was right to see me nodding when he made that suggestion.

It was something of a disappointment to me, given that this is a major order covering many areas of education in Northern Ireland and matters of great importance to schools and children in Northern Ireland, that the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) should have majored on the whole question of compulsory competitive tendering. His speech was a little off target because what we propose in the order is already being done by a number of the boards, without any of the fearful consequences that the hon. Gentleman predicted would follow from the proposals. There are dangers in going over the top, which I suggest the hon. Gentleman did this evening, without having closely examined what is happening.

The hon. Gentleman asked me a number of specific and serious questions and I will answer them as best I can. First, he asked whether all contracts will be phased. It will be necessary to consult boards before drafting regulations, so that proper account can be taken of the expiry dates of contracts that have already been competitively tendered. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that full consultation will take place with each board to ensure that the competitive tendering programme is practicable and in the best interests of the education service.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the services listed in schedule 1 would become subject to competitive tendering as soon as the order became effective. The answer to that is no, because the Department intends that competitive tendering should be phased in over time. As I said, boards have already competitively tendered a significant proportion of the four defined services and, for that reason, the phasing arrangements will need to take account of the expiry of existing contracts. I repeat that the boards will be consulted fully on this matter.

The hon. Gentleman asked a serious question about whether the process might be open to paramilitary influence. Part III of the order contains important provisions, which will bring the education and library boards into line with the operation of competitive tendering in district councils in Northern Ireland. In particular, article 22 will allow my Department to specify information that contractors will be required to provide if they wish to tender for work. That provision is specifically designed to counter the possibility of fraudulent exploitation of the tendering process and to act as a filter for any attempts by non bona fide contractors to win contracts. That safeguard will be available as required to meet any such threat. We are conscious of the danger, but I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it is met in the order.

Photo of Mr Roger Stott Mr Roger Stott , Wigan

indicated assent.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for nodding his assent.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether provision would be made for any concerned parties to make known their concerns before amalgamations of colleges take place. Article 26 requires the Department to carry out wide consultation before making a determination that two or more colleges should be amalgamated. The bodies to be consulted include the governing bodies of the colleges, the education and library board that manages the colleges and the staff and students of the colleges. The hon. Gentleman will accept that most of the bodies to which he referred are covered. But if any other bodies or individuals wished to express any views about any proposed amalgamation of colleges, I should be happy to take them on board before any decisions were made. As I said in my opening remarks, however, we have extended consultation to the staff and students of the colleges and I hope that that will be welcomed.

The hon. Member for Wigan asked about the low pay of staff involved in contracts. The interests of the education service are being assisted by the savings that are being generated by the boards in the competitive tendering of the four defined services. Savings of £1·2 million a year are retained by the boards for use in enhancing education services. The boards are satisfied about the financial benefits and other advantages that CCT will bring, especially where there are real pressures on available sources. Moneys saved by the boards will be used in improving the funding of schools, colleges, libraries and youth clubs. The hon. Gentleman spoke of value for money, which I hope he will accept is one of the major purposes of the order.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether, during the tendering process, boards will be allowed to ask about the terms and conditions of employers' staff. The answer is no. Article 20 deals specifically with non-commercial issues that cannot be raised by boards in considering contracts for defined services. It is specifically designed to prevent discrimination against employers and to ensure a level playing field for all those who are interested in competing for this work. Efficiency, effectiveness and quality of service demand that this provision be applied on grounds of equity.

The hon. Gentleman asked a number of other questions, not least about the political affiliation of potential employers who might contract. I refer him to article 20(5) (6), which deals with the political, industrial or sectarian affiliations of contractors or their employees.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North made a number of significant and important points and asked a number of specific questions. He asked about maintained schools that might opt for voluntary status. No maintained schools have opted back to voluntary status and it is not likely that any will. The provision may be otiose, but it is appropriate to make it available until consultation has taken place with interested parties.

The hon. Gentleman asked how many schools might opt for 100 per cent. grant. Some 600 voluntary schools are potentially eligible for the new 100 per cent. arrangements. Of course, not all will necessarily decide to opt in this way. Existing schools can retain existing management arrangements, and if they do so they will still be entitled to only the capital grant rate of 85 per cent.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North asked about the new provision on appeals against expulsion applying to pupils in all schools. I can tell him that it does, including maintained schools, and I hope that that will reassure him.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

I appreciate the Minister giving way on that point. Is he aware of the concern about children who have been suspended but not expelled? They have not been receiving an education, although it was suggested that they would receive home tuition, and, because they have not been expelled from school, they cannot attend another school. Has that been covered, because I have raised the issue with boards several times but have not received satisfactory answers?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

The main concern has arisen in connection with maintained schools, but the appeal provision applies to all schools, including maintained schools. Article 49(2), as revised by the draft order, requires the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools to prepare schemes for suspensions and expulsions in maintained schools.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

Does that remove responsibility from the board? In future, will the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools be responsible?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

The appeal provision is being applied even handedly across all areas of education. I understood that to be the main complaint, but I shall study what the hon. Member said and if there are any differences of emphasis I shall write to him.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

The point that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) is raising is important. Will maintained schools, including Roman Catholic schools, and state schools appeal to the same body?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I have made it clear that the draft order requires the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools to prepare schemes for suspension and expulsions in maintained schools. I hope that hon. Members will write to me about their specific concerns, which I shall try to deal with.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

The Minister does not get the point. Under article 49, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools shall prepare a scheme specifying the procedure to be followed in relation to the suspension or expulsion of pupils from Catholic maintained schools. It further says that every board shall make arrangements for an appeal system. Does that appeal system cover the Catholic maintained schools or only state schools?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

It covers both. I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman's earlier point.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North asked whether a parent has a right to complain about the type of religious education and to withdraw a child from attendance at a religious service. The answer to both questions is yes.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) asked about education for mutual understanding. Is that covered by religious education, or by some other heading?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

I should like, if I may, to write to the hon. Gentleman about that point. I should like to check before giving an answer, but I can confirm the categorical assurance that I have given on the two points asked by the hon. Member for Antrim, North.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North asked about the closure of schools. There are well-established procedures for the closure of schools, including maintained schools, which require full public consultation and any objections are carefully considered before a final decision is taken by the Northern Ireland Office and myself. I hope that that will reassure the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) made a detailed and thoughtful speech. He is not in his place, for which he offered his apologies and I understand why he cannot be here. I undertook to write to him to answer the questions that I could not answer tonight. He asked whether competitive tendering would be extended to other professional services, as envisaged in Great Britain in the Local Government Act 1992. He asked me to identify such services. I refer him to the White Paper, "Competing for Quality", which sets out the framework for the development of competitive tendering within the public sector, including professional or white collar services. The policy applies equally to the education service in Northern Ireland and we shall consider the scope for extending the present programme in the light of a recent study by consultants. Of course, we shall consult the boards fully before embarking on this course.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the boards' present accounting arrangements would be adequate for the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering. Boards will be required to maintain detailed trading accounts in respect of all competitive tendering contracts. The Department will consult boards on the nature of those accounts and any changes required to present board financial accounts as a result of these provisions.

The hon. Gentleman went on to ask whether there would be a level playing field for all contenders in the compulsory competitive tendering process. The answer again is yes. Safeguards are built into the legislation to ensure that the private sector and boards' direct labour organisations are treated fairly and even handedly, which is important in any such system.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the limitation on membership of boards of governors, which several other hon. Members also mentioned. It might be helpful if I were to outline the type of exception that I have in mind. The first point to emphasise is that I would expect to make such exceptions only rarely. The purpose of the provision is not to provide a back door for making wholesale exceptions, which would merely make a well-balanced policy ineffective. However, I accept that there may be exceptional categories, individuals or circumstances which would warrant approval.

For example, one category that I shall be prepared to approve is where a school's instrument of governance specifies the holder of a particular office as a governor and where such an appointment could be made only by appointing a person to more than three boards of govenors. Similar problems may arise in schools where individuals are nominated from among the transferor interests on the board of governors of contributory primary schools. There may be individuals for whom it would entail serving on more than three boards of governors. A case might be made for an individual with particular expertise and the time available to share it with a number of schools.

Those examples make it clear that I expect the exceptions to relate to the particular circumstances and needs of the schools, and I would need to be convinced that the needs cannot otherwise be met. The important point is that the power to make exceptions exists, and I would exercise that power if a justifiable case were made.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone also asked me to ensure that amalgamations of colleges do not result in students in rural areas having to travel too far to receive further education. He made the valid point that were that to be the case, there would in fact be discrimination against such students. The amalgamations which have been announced and which are already proceeding will not result in the closure of any existing sites for the provision of further education. That should ensure that students in rural areas continue to enjoy easy access to further education. However, I shall certainly bear the hon. Gentleman's comments in mind.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned retirement compensation and asked what would be deemed a good reason to recoup it, as the provision allows. As I said in my opening remarks, the situation arises because of the concerns expressed by the Public Accounts Committee about the high cost of operating the scheme. A number of measures had to be taken to increase cost consciousness. They include placing a limit on the number of added years to be awarded and cash limits on awards for efficient discharge grounds. A board of governors that ignores such limits would give an education and library board good reason, as defined, to recoup excessive awards from the school budget. I hope that that example is of some help to the hon. Gentleman in understanding how what I admit is a somewhat obtuse provision will work.

At the end of his speech, the hon. Gentleman also asked about the provision of a university site at Springvale and pondered whether it would further sectarianise higher education in Northern Ireland. I must point out that higher and further education in Northern Ireland has an outstanding record for providing facilities that attract students from all sides of the community. The Government would not want that tradition altered, and cross-community support must be an important criterion in any analysis. Any facility would have to be accessible to all communities in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

I thank the Minister for giving way again. I agree that there has been a mix at that level of education, but the Minister's remit also includes sport. Does he accept that to do away with Paisley park, a recreational area which has produced many outstanding athletes and sportsmen, would not only be detrimental to that part of the city but would not enhance sporting provision?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

That is not a matter currently before me, but I shall look into what the hon. Gentleman said and write to him.

The only outstanding question asked by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone dealt with exemptions for board members. He asked why the exemption would not extend to board members themselves. Each case will be considered on its merits, but it is not essential for the education and library board representatives on boards of governors to be board members. They will have commitments to the board and its committees as well as up to three boards of governors. That is a heavy commitment at a time when the responsibilities of boards of governors have already increased. It is therefore reasonable to exclude them.

We have had a very full debate, but I appreciate the fact that hon. Members may have wished to deal with many other details. If they care to write to me about any matters that have not been raised, I shall try to give them a full reply.

It is an important order because—

It being one and a half hours after commencement of proceedings on the motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [22 October]:

The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 180.

Division No. 369][8.45 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Bowis, John
Alexander, RichardBoyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Brandreth, Gyles
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Brazier, Julian
Amess, DavidBright, Graham
Ancram, MichaelBrown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Aspinwall, JackBrowning, Mrs. Angela
Atkins, RobertBurns, Simon
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)Burt, Alistair
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Butler, Peter
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Butterfill, John
Baldry, TonyCarlisle, John (Luton North)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Carrington, Matthew
Bates, MichaelCarttiss, Michael
Bellingham, HenryCash, William
Beresford, Sir PaulChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Blackburn, Dr John G.Clappison, James
Bonsor, Sir NicholasClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Booth, HartleyCoe, Sebastian
Boswell, TimColvin, Michael
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Congdon, David
Conway, DerekKnapman, Roger
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnKnox, Sir David
Couchman, JamesLait, Mrs Jacqui
Cran, JamesLang, Rt Hon Ian
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Legg, Barry
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Leigh, Edward
Day, StephenLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Devlin, TimLidington, David
Dicks, TerryLightbown, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Dover, DenLord, Michael
Duncan, AlanLuff, Peter
Duncan-Smith, IainLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Dunn, BobMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Durant, Sir AnthonyMacKay, Andrew
Eggar, TimMcNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Elletson, HaroldMadel, David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterMalone, Gerald
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Mans, Keith
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)Marland, Paul
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)Marlow, Tony
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Evennett, DavidMates, Michael
Faber, DavidMawhinney, Dr Brian
Fabricant, MichaelMellor, Rt Hon David
Fenner, Dame PeggyMerchant, Piers
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Milligan, Stephen
Fishburn, DudleyMills, Iain
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Forth, EricMitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanMonro, Sir Hector
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)Moss, Malcolm
Freeman, Rt Hon RogerNeedham, Richard
French, DouglasNeubert, Sir Michael
Gale, RogerNicholls, Patrick
Gallie, PhilNicholson, David (Taunton)
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeNorris, Steve
Gill, ChristopherOnslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Gorman, Mrs TeresaOppenheim, Phillip
Gorst, JohnPage, Richard
Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)Paice, James
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Patnick, Irvine
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Pawsey, James
Grylls, Sir MichaelPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hague, WilliamPickles, Eric
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)Porter, David (Waveney)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hannam, Sir JohnRichards, Rod
Hargreaves, AndrewRiddick, Graham
Haselhurst, AlanRobathan, Andrew
Hawkins, NickRoberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Hawksley, WarrenRobinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hayes, JerryRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Heald, OliverRumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Hendry, CharlesRyder, Rt Hon Richard
Hill, James (Southampton Test)Sackville, Tom
Horam, JohnScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir PeterShaw, David (Dover)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)Shersby, Michael
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Sims, Roger
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Hunter, AndrewSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Jack, MichaelSoames, Nicholas
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Speed, Sir Keith
Jenkin, BernardSpencer, Sir Derek
Jessel, TobySpicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Jones, Gwilym(Cardiff N)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)Spink, Dr Robert
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineSpring, Richard
Key, RobertSproat, Iain
King, Rt Hon TomSquire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Kirkhope, TimothyStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Stephen, MichaelWaller, Gary
Stern, MichaelWard, John
Streeter, GaryWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sumberg, DavidWaterson, Nigel
Sykes, JohnWatts, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Whitney, Ray
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)Whittingdale, John
Temple-Morris, PeterWiddecombe, Ann
Thomason, RoyWiggin, Sir Jerry
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)Wilkinson, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Willetts, David
Thornton, Sir MalcolmWilshire, David
Thurnham, PeterWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Townend, John (Bridlington)Wolfson, Mark
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)Wood, Timothy
Tredinnick, DavidYeo, Tim
Trend, Michael
Twinn, Dr IanTellers for the Ayes:
Viggers, PeterMr. Sydney Chapman and
Walden, GeorgeMr. James Arbuthnot.
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
NOES
Adams, Mrs IreneFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Ainger, NickFoster, Don (Bath)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Foulkes, George
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Fyfe, Maria
Ashton, JoeGapes, Mike
Austin-Walker, JohnGerrard, Neil
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Godman, Dr Norman A.
Barnes, HarryGodsiff, Roger
Battle, JohnGolding, Mrs Llin
Bayley, HughGraham, Thomas
Beckett, Rt Hon MargaretGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Bell, StuartGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bennett, Andrew F.Grocott, Bruce
Benton, JoeGunnell, John
Bermingham, GeraldHanson, David
Berry, Dr. RogerHardy, Peter
Betts, CliveHarman, Ms Harriet
Blunkett, DavidHeppell, John
Boateng, PaulHill, Keith (Streatham)
Boyce, JimmyHinchliffe, David
Boyes, RolandHome Robertson, John
Bradley, KeithHood, Jimmy
Byers, StephenHoon, Geoffrey
Caborn, RichardHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Callaghan, JimIllsley, Eric
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Canavan, DennisJamieson, David
Cann, JamieJones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Chisholm, MalcolmJones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Clapham, MichaelJowell, Tessa
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Khabra, Piara S.
Clelland, DavidKilfedder, Sir James
Clwyd, Mrs AnnKilfoyle, Peter
Coffey, AnnKinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Connarty, MichaelLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Lewis, Terry
Corston, Ms JeanLivingstone, Ken
Cousins, JimLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cryer, BobLoyden, Eddie
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)McAllion, John
Davidson, IanMcAvoy, Thomas
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McCartney, Ian
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)McCrea, Rev William
Denham, JohnMacdonald, Calum
Dixon, DonMcFall, John
Donohoe, Brian H.Mackinlay, Andrew
Dowd, JimMcMaster, Gordon
Dunnachie, JimmyMcNamara, Kevin
Eagle, Ms AngelaMcWilliam, John
Eastham, KenMadden, Max
Etherington, BillMahon, Alice
Evans, John (St Helens N)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Fatchett, DerekMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Martlew, Eric
Fisher, MarkMaxton, John
Flynn, PaulMichael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Rowlands, Ted
Milburn, AlanSedgemore, Brian
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)Simpson, Alan
Molyneaux, Rt Hon JamesSkinner, Dennis
Morgan, RhodriSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Morley, ElliotSmith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mudie, GeorgeSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Mullin, ChrisSnape, Peter
Murphy, PaulSoley, Clive
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonSpearing, Nigel
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)Spellar, John
O'Brien, William (Normanton)Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
O'Hara, EdwardSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
Olner, WilliamSteinberg, Gerry
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyStevenson, George
Paisley, Rev IanStott, Roger
Parry, RobertTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Patchett, TerryTaylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Pickthall, ColinThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Pike, Peter L.Tipping, Paddy
Pope, GregTurner, Dennis
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Tyler, Paul
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)Wallace, James
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Walley, Joan
Prescott, JohnWatson, Mike
Purchase, KenWicks, Malcolm
Quin, Ms JoyceWilson, Brian
Raynsford, NickWorthington, Tony
Redmond, MartinWray, Jimmy
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Rooker, JeffTellers for the Noes:
Rooney, TerryMr. Alan Meale and
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Mr. Jon Owen Jones.

Question accordingly agreed to

Resolved,That the draft Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1993, which was laid before this House on 18 October, be approved.