Investment in Education

Orders of the Day — Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:57 pm on 1st March 1994.

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Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 7:28 pm, 1st March 1994

beg to move, That this House, recognising the importance of high quality education provision to all, regrets that, as a result of the policies of Her Majesty's Government, there is growing chaos and division within the education service; is saddened that one of the many adverse consequences has been reduced morale and increased stress among those working in schools; deplores the growing backlog of repairs and maintenance of educational buildings, the increased drop-out rate of students in higher education and the erosion of democratic accountability for education; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to increase investment in education by at least the equivalent of one penny of income tax, and to reconstruct the partnership of parents, teachers, governors, local education authorities and central government as an essential ingredient in achieving high quality education. This is the second time since Christmas that the Liberal Democrats have initiated a debate on education, and that is a reflection of the importance that we place on it. Investment in the education and training of the nation's citizens is the most important investment that we can make to ensure a successful future for our country. We want an education service that enables each individual to achieve his or her potential, by providing a first-class education for all, in which quality is the key.

To that end my party, despite the accusations in the Government amendment, has a well-developed and well-defined set of education policies, which are to be found in our document, "Excellence for All". Our top priority for additional education spending is a significant expansion of nursery education. As other recent debates have highlighted, investment in nursery education makes sound educational and economic sense.

Our policies cover all aspects of the education service, including, for example, radical policies on the development of a curriculum for people between the ages of 14 and 19, an alternative to the Government's testing and assessment regime, the establishment of a general teaching council, and much more.

The expansion of nursery education will have an initial cost, as will our plans to increase the availability of books and equipment in our schools, and to provide more support for special educational needs. I do not deny—no doubt this will be stated by Conservative Members—that in recent years the Government have increased expenditure on education. However, we believe that much more is needed. That is why my party is pledged to invest an extra penny of income tax on education to pay for our plans. The use of that increased investment will be clear for all to see.

Our policies to ensure excellence for all are in marked contrast to Government policies. Our motion addresses the two key crises facing the education service—the failure to invest sufficient resources in education and the break-up of the partnership established by the Education Act 1944.

I hope that the Secretary of State and other Ministers will wake up and notice what is going on outside their comfy sanctuary in Sanctuary buildings. From those buildings, and from their previous offices in York house, Ministers' actions have led directly to the chaos and division in our education service. The 17 major education reforms that have taken place over the past 15 years—yet another is on its way—coupled with a failure to make the necessary investment, have created a complete mess, for which the Government alone are to blame. That mess has led to the lowering of morale throughout the service, and to a loss of direction.

The House does not have to take my word for it. Last week, a committee member of the Oxford University Conservative association said in a letter to The Daily Telegraph: Mr. Patten's attitude to education has betrayed a staggering capacity for incompetence and ineptitude".

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

Just for the record, I should make it clear that the letter was written by somebody claiming to be a member of the Oxford University Conservative association, but that the chair, chairperson, or chairlady of that organisation and other responsible officers subsequently wrote and corrected the record.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

The letter stands on the record as coming from that individual, and it is known to be well supported by many other people in Oxford university, as demonstrated by recent statements about the Secretary of State's fellowship.

In response to a recent National Association of Head Teachers survey covering almost 200 schools, one head teacher said: resourcing is but one aspect of a deteriorating situation. Teacher morale, public respect, a sense of partnership with DFE, the wondering whether anyone in high places has ever been inside a state school are all major factors which, unless corrected, will see the education system in this country in terminal decline. Let us consider the effects of underfunding. Nearly two years ago, in my maiden speech, I said: Schools must choose between sacking teachers and doing without books, colleges must choose between decent accommodation and up-to-date equipment and universities between overcrowded lecture theatres and empty bank accounts."— [Official Report, 12 May 1992; Vol. 207, c. 522–23.] Since then, much has changed—sadly, for the worse. Never has there been greater need for increased investment in our education service.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

What would the hon. Gentleman say to Dorset county council, whose members said exactly, almost word for word, what he has just said about educational investment'? But as soon as they got into power, they cancelled a new school in Crossways, in my constituency, for which £800,000 had already been found by the Conservative administration, cancelled the expansion of Wey Valley school and of Purbeck school, and broke all their promises to the electorate.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I do not know all the details of Dorset's education policy, but I can be certain that the members of my party on Dorset county council will do everything they can to increase educational provision in that county—unlike the Conservatives in Suffolk, for example, who only last night proposed in their budget debate the abolition of all nursery education and a cut of £1 million in their capital education programme.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris , Birmingham, Yardley

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has already mentioned nursery education three times, and said how much importance he places on it. Does he not agree, however, that the words often uttered by Liberal Democrats in the House are not matched by action in the local authorities that their party controls?

Can he explain why Liberal authorities appear three times in the bottom 18 local authorities for the provision of nursery education, why Gloucestershire, where Liberal Democrats share control with Conservatives, is at the bottom of the table, and why, in the Isle of Wight, which the party has controlled for years, only seven children in every 100 are offered a nursery place?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. There is not a great deal of time left for the debate, and many hon. Members want to catch my eye. Long interventions do not help.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

If the hon. Lady were to examine the press release on nursery education by her party, she might update her figures a little for the past 12 months. If she did that, she would discover that the Liberal Democratic party's position on support for nursery education has changed dramatically. She should also bear in mind the fact that, in many of the authorities to which she has referred, Liberal Democrat influence is relatively recent.

Liberal Democrats have had to pick up a considerable amount of mess and a number of problems. The hon. Lady represents a Birmingham constituency, so it is a bit rich for her to talk about education expenditure, because her local education authority has diverted £40 million from education funding to prestige buildings.

Never mind that; the argument about the need for increased investment has never been more urgent. That was demonstrated only last Friday, when the headline for the front-page story in The Times Educational Supplement was: Schools caught in the jobs-or-pay trap". Even this year's modest teachers' pay award—

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not customary for Members to declare their interests in connection with a subject before launching into their speeches? Is it not remiss of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) not to declare his interest in two specific items that are declared in the Register of Members' Interests but have not been mentioned in the Chamber?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Hon. Members are quite aware of the rules of the House, and that is a matter for them.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

As I did not intend to promote the claims of either of the two teacher unions that I serve as an adviser, and as I have already made clear my involvement with the two unions on previous occasions, I did not think it necessary to restate my interests. However, if it will help the hon. Lady, I am more than happy to put on the record yet again my involvement with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers.

As a result of the Government's unwillingness to fund the latest pay round, The Times Educational Supplement contacted 50 local education authorities. Of those, only four are now able to increase their budgets. Those authorities able to fund the award in full will have to do so by cutting other departments and services, but in many authorities it will be mean cuts to the schools' budget.

For example, in Leicestershire, schools will have to find £1.6 million to meet the pay bill, and in Shropshire they will have to find £200,000. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that another head teacher said recently in the NAHT survey: We are running a medium-sized business on peanuts and goodwill. It is interesting that, when the Government want to find money to suit their own purposes, they are perfectly able to do so. We know about the increased funding to grant-maintained schools, we know about the £200,000 spent, for instance, on advertising grant-maintained status. It is also strange to note that, in February, Buckinghamshire faced cuts of more than £2 million to its education budget, and head teachers were warned to expect cuts of 2 per cent. to their school budgets. Now, the only Tory

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I shall finish the point. Now, the only Tory shire county left since the election in the past May has, surprise, surprise, a better-than-expected spending limit set by ministers.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington , Aylesbury

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept that standard spending assessments in England and Wales are not skewed simply to benefit Buckinghamshire. The county council simulated—prudently, as it does each year—a series of analyses of what grant might be forthcoming from Government, so that it plans for a good outcome and for a bad. It is sensible stewardship—exactly what one would expect from a prudent county council such as Buckinghamshire.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

On the basis of the hon. Gentleman's intervention, Buckinghamshire is also an authority which goes round scaremongering all those involved in the education service—hardly in the best interests of that service.

I have referred twice already, and I shall again, to the NAHT survey, because it brings to light perhaps the most up-to-date evidence of the physical impact of continued underfunding in our schools. Almost 70 per cent. of schools from that survey were planning to set aside less money for capitation in 1993–94, over half were putting off decorating buildings, and two thirds were planning to minimise spending on repair and maintenance. That backlog of repair and maintenance to school buildings across the nation is estimated to be more than £4 billion, with another backlog of £1 billion in further education.

The picture in higher education is especially grim. If one updates the information from the Pearce review for universities and the Hunter report for the former polytechnics, it reveals a need for £2 billion-worth of capital investment in our higher education institutions. There is an urgent need for £400 million to be spent solely on health, safety and legal requirements. That £400 million alone—not the £2 billion—will not be covered by the increased capital expenditure of £322 million announced by the Chancellor for next year.

Even the greater increase of 20 per cent. over the next three years is too little and too late and, of course, does not take into account the capital repair needs in Scotland or Wales. The repair and maintenance backlog seems set to grow.

The House will recall that, in December, the Secretary of State boasted of the expansion of the number of students in higher education. He told us that it was equivalent to 12 new universities. Yet, when pressed to explain whether the equivalent amount of capital investment had been made, answer came there none—hardly surprising when one considers that the expenditure per student in further and higher education has fallen by 22 per cent. since 1979.

The result is clear for all to see—overcrowded lecture theatres, inadequate supplies of books and equipment, a growing backlog of repair and maintenance, falling morale among lecturers and high drop-out rates among students.

As I have said, it is not only the failure to provide sufficient investment that has led to a crisis in education. The Government have systematically torn up the education partnership created by the Education Act 1944, and have put in place the flawed dogma of the free market, setting school against school, teacher against teacher and parent against parent.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds, the Rt. Rev. David Constant, said in a letter to governors of his diocesan-maintained schools in the past month: Sustaining education partnerships at local and national levels is of great importance. At present it is not clear how that can be achieved with the new funding agencies in place of the elected local authorities. Moreover one policy clearly underlying current Government thinking is that market forces are intended to regulate the pattern of education provision. The Bishops' conference has consistently warned against such an emphasis because it considers regulation by market forces to be quite wrong for a service like education…I continue to have certain reservations about GM schools, arising from inequalities of resourcing, from the emergence of a two tier system of schools and from the loss of democratically elected local regulatory and planning bodies. That goes to the heart of Liberal Democrat concern over the break-up of the partnership in the education service. How can there be an effective education service with 24,000 quasi-independent schools all vying with one another in the marketplace?

Liberal Democrats do not accept as the basis for an education service one which has at its heart the assumption that some children will fail. We find it difficult to accept the concept of market forces applying to education, when we know that the practical reality is that the vast majority of children have no choice whatever about the school that they will attend.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington , Aylesbury

The hon. Gentleman is making a serious point. May I take it from his criticism of the operation of market forces in education that his party is committed to getting rid of the policies of open enrolment and local financial management, which, far more than GM schools, have given rise to that operation?

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

We have clearly said, as I shall outline in a little more detail in a second, that we believe that there is a great deal of merit in giving more power and responsibility to individual schools—but not to the point at which all the decisions are made by them. That is why we resent the break-up of local government, which has, and should have, a responsibility in determining strategic planning matters, for example, which would take into account the issue of which pupils go to which school and so on. Those are the issues which should be determined by more people than those at the individual school.

Another aspect of the break-up of the educational partnership is the erosion of democratic accountability, not least through the continued attacks, as I have mentioned, on local government, but through the centralisation of power into the hands of the Secretary of State.

The most obvious manifestation of that is the growing frequency with which it is impossible to find out who is in charge and who should take responsibility. Many hon. Members will be increasingly familiar with the answer to parliamentary questions, in which a Minister replies that the issue is no longer a matter for him, but for some, usually unelected, body. For example, try to get a Minister to answer a question about the Office for Standards in Education.

To give another example, when some lecturers at a further education college in my constituency recently went on strike over new contracts of employment, I asked the Minister to intervene to establish a process of arbitration. He said that he was unable to do so and added: You don't pay a dog and then bark yourself". The Further Education Funding Council also said that it had no powers to intervene. That is strange when one considers that, when it suits him, the Minister can announce a massive holdback of £50 million-worth of grants to colleges, unless they introduce new or flexible contracts for new staff.

In the new mess and uncertainty created by the Government, even the appointment and dismissal of head teachers is confused. School governors have all the power, but no responsibility, while local education authorities have all the responsibility, but no power. More and more power is being delegated to quangos. We all recall the debate a few days ago.

I was able to reveal in the past week that, in the current year, more than 55 per cent. of the Department of Education's spending will be through undemocratic and often remote quangos. That is set to increase at an alarming rate, as the Funding Agency for Schools assumes responsibility for GM schools. All too often, those Government quangos are an opportunity for the Tories to featherbed their friends, as the debate last week showed.

I give the example of the Funding Agency for Schools, whose membership was announced last week. The chairman is Sir Christopher Benson, who will be on a salary of £34,430 for two days a week. Sir Christopher is also the chairman of Sun Alliance, which has reportedly given £280,000 to Tory party funds over the past six years. That is bad enough—I suppose that we are getting used to the Tory party rewarding its friends—but I can also reveal that Sir Christopher's company will benefit from the grant-maintained sector.

Sir Robert Balchin, another member of the Funding Agency for Schools, as well as being the Tory party chairman for south-east England—clearly, he is fond of lost causes—is also the chairman of Grant Maintained Schools Mutual, an insurance scheme for grant-maintained schools. Who will provide the insurance for members of the mutual scheme? None other than Sun Alliance International. Clearly, Sun Alliance's contributions to the Tory party have had the desired effect. The chairman of Sun Alliance has been given a lucrative part-time post on a new quango, and his company is set to make more money.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I shall finish my point and then give way.

That is further evidence of the Government greasing the palms of their friends with taxpayers' money. But Sun Alliance shareholders should be warned, because grant-maintained schools are not a safe bet.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter , Plymouth, Sutton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and for reading the National Union of Teachers briefing note to the House. Does he accept that, with local management of schools, 85 per cent. of budgets are delegated to schools, giving them power and responsibility? Does he accept that, with grant-maintained schools, we are giving power and responsibilities to parents and governors? Perhaps the fact that we have deprived the hon. Gentleman's pet teacher union of power in the past 15 years is making him bitter. Is he bitter because the Government have rightly broken the partnership that existed between teacher unions and the Government when Labour were in government?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I repeat for the last time that there is limited time available. Many hon. Members want to catch my eye, and long interventions do not help.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I shall respond briefly. The hon. Gentleman is incorrect when he quotes the figure of 85 per cent. The Government intend to increase delegation to individual schools to 90 per cent. In response to an intervention by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), I made the point about our view of the role and importance of local democratically accountable bodies—the local education authorities.

As I said, Sun Alliance shareholders should be warned that grant-maintained schools are not a safe bet. That is certainly the case because, as everyone now knows, the policy is failing. The evidence is not simply in the latest opt-out figures which show that, of 13 ballots in the past month, only four schools voted to place themselves in the hands of the Secretary of State and the Funding Agency for Schools.

More immediate evidence can be seen in the wording of the Government's amendment, accusing my party of underhand campaigning against grant-maintained school ballots. The Secretary of State claimed exactly the same thing at the Tory party local government conference at the weekend. He even quoted one of our campaign packs, which said of the campaigns against opting out: "Give open Liberal Democrat support". In accusing us of being underhand, the Secretary of State quoted from a document that clearly contained that phrase. The signs of desperation are everywhere.

As I explained in a letter to the Secretary of State last week, Liberal Democrats do not believe that opposition should be merely party political. The issue not only crosses party lines but involves the whole community. If the Secretary of State wants examples of underhand tactics during a grant-maintained school ballot, perhaps he should consider what happened in my constituency.

During a parents' meeting, a governor in favour of opt-out told the parents that, without grant-maintained status, the school would have to lose three teachers, and he even went on to name them. It was only after the ballot was over—fortunately, with a large no vote—that the governors admitted that they were talking through their hats and that no redundancies would be needed while the school was still within the local education authority.

Clearly, the Government have lost the argument over grant-maintained schools. Despite an expensive advertising campaign, double funding, and an offer of technology status, the Secretary of State is beginning to talk about forcing secondary schools to opt out, even against parental wishes. So much for his much-vaunted parental choice. Frankly, the only person guilty of underhand tactics is the Secretary of State.

I hope that I have demonstrated the way in which Government policies are leading to chaos and division in our education service. I have outlined ways in which Liberal Democrats would set out to reverse the current situation. I have also referred to our belief in the need for increased investment in the education service.

Of course, I have acknowledged that the Government have increased expenditure on education. However, the National Commission on Education agrees that it is not enough. In its final report, the commission said: as a nation we need to spend more on education and training…It is our conviction that in the long term the improvements in education and training that will result from this increase in expenditure will lead to improvements in the economy and benefits to society with consequent improvements in Government finances. Liberal Democrats share that view, and the vision of providing an excellent education service for all.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire 7:55 pm, 1st March 1994

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its far sighted education reforms which are driving up standards and giving more responsibility to schools, more choice to parents and more opportunities to our young people; believes that the Government's commitment to a.high quality education service is further demonstrated by the record sums it is spending; notes that the superficial policies advanced by the Liberal Democratic Party bear remarkable similarity to the policies advanced by Her Majesty's Opposition; further notes that those policies appear to revolve around reversing all the measures taken by Her Majesty's Government to raise standards and increase choice; notes the admission by the Liberal Democratic Party that it is a party committed to raising taxes, yet condemns its inability to demonstrate any clear linkage between a demand for more income tax and a well developed and defined set of educational policies on which additional tax revenues are to be spent; and believes that the Liberal Democrats' commitment to education would be better shown by ceasing its practice of campaigning in an underhand fashion against balllots of parents for grant maintained status, which this House utterly deplores.'. This has been one of those tantalising debates where the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) started with a bit of a flourish—or at least the best flourish that he could manage in the circumstances—and then disappointed the House as he went on because none of the substance that we had eagerly anticipated came into being. The whole structure and edifice is built around the slogan on which the hon. Gentleman's party campaigned in the last election—"A penny on income tax". Incidentally, they lost votes in that election.

One penny on income tax would yield some £1.6 billion. That sounds like a lot of money if one says it quickly or slowly. However, the interesting thing is that that tantalising increase in education expenditure should be set against the fact that in the past few years—to take as an example the period 1991–92 to 1993–94—education spending in England has risen as a matter of fact and history from £24 billion a year to nearly £30 billion a year. In other words, the Government have already presided over an increase of some £6 billion, dwarfing the sort of increase that Liberal Democrats have promised.

Photo of Mr Michael Stephen Mr Michael Stephen , Shoreham

My hon. Friend mentioned the idea of the Liberal Democrats putting one penny on income tax to finance their education expenditure. Does he have any idea how many pennies the Liberal Democrats would have to put on income tax to finance all the other schemes with which they tempted the electorate?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

My hon. Friend tempts me, but I suspect that if I go down that road I will get into some trouble in terms of the subject of the debate. However, it is a fair point which we should all bear in mind when we discuss what the promise may well produce.

Let us examine the context again, because we are up against a background of historical increases in education expenditure of some 18 per cent. in real terms over the period of this Government. Those increases go right across the spectrum to cover school expenditure, higher education expenditure and capital expenditure. All have had real increases. I say that in all humility and against the background that it has not yet been proven that there is any necessary causal connection between an increased level of education expenditure and an increased quality of output. Quality of output is related not to expenditure but to something quite different.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

How do the Government justify spending £750,000 on refurbishing a four-year-old building for the Funding Agency for Schools? That works out at just under £6,000 for each of the 130 people who will work in the building, compared with only £47 in capital expenditure for each child in North Yorkshire schools. Is not it more important to get rid of outside toilets and temporary classrooms? Does not education take place in schools, not in office blocks? Will the Minister do something to stop the profligate waste of £750,000 on a new office block?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

The maintenance of schools is entirely a matter for local education authorities which have responsibility for them. If the hon. Gentleman's education authority is letting its children down, that is very sad, but it is not a matter directly for me. If the hon. Gentleman is criticising the Secretary of State for providing decent working conditions for public employees, I expect that the unions, to which I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman is slavishly adherent, will have a word or two to say about that.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I will not give way again. The hon. Gentleman asked me a question, and I have given him an answer. I am proud that we are providing decent working conditions for public employees, and I hope that we always do that. [Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. No seated interventions, please.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

The hon. Member for Bath did not at any point let us in on the secret of how the £1.6 billion was to be spent. The truth is that if one looks at some of the subject headings on which he touched, but did not elaborate, one will find the reason why he did not go into more detail.

For example, the hon. Gentleman referred to pre-five nursery education. I shall return to that in more detail in a moment, but I shall mention it briefly. Providing nursery education in the full sense of the term for the pre-fives would cost about £1 billion a year.

The replacement of student loans by grants—a subject which the hon. Gentleman did not mention, but I should be surprised if it were far from his mind—and the return to a full-scale, non-means tested grant regime would cost £1 billion a year for the number of students which I am proud are now in higher and further education. The hon. Gentleman mentioned capital and building programmes, and skipped across figures which are not unadjacent to £2 billion in total. I think he mentioned £400 million for one sector alone.

The hon. Gentleman also skipped lightly across the matter of books and equipment, which was mentioned but not in detail, and increased support for special educational needs. I know that it is a long time since the Liberals have been in government, and I know that the value of money has changed since then, but stretching £1.6 billion to cover even a fraction of the headings upon which the hon. Gentleman touched but did not detail is typically and liberally irresponsible.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

The Minister mentioned that it has been long time since the Liberals were in power. Is not it a long time since 1973 when the former Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher, made an unambiguous statement about nursery education and said that it would come along? Is not Britain, 20 years later, almost at the bottom of the league in European terms? Does not the Minister think that that is art example of the Government's hypocrisy and humbug? Should not they do something to assist nursery provision, and to live with the comments that Baroness Thatcher made when she was Minister of Education in 1973?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I have always tried to live by everything that Baroness Thatcher ever said. It has been one of my lifelong aspirations, and it is one which I still strive to achieve.

The hon. Gentleman has led me to the subject of pre-five provision, and it may become one of the great shibboleths of our age if we are not careful. Opposition Members attribute all possibilities and all solutions to the provision of nursery education for those aged three and four years old. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs Taylor) will no doubt do it shortly, and I make that prediction with utter confidence.

The reality is that the value of that provision in education terms has yet to be demonstrated. It has yet to be shown that providing nursery education for three and four-year-olds will advantage those pupils throughout their school careers. I will go further, and say that some of the local education authorities that have a long-established nursery education provision in the present system come out consistently with the worst key stage 1 results, and the worst GCSE results.

The repeated assertions that there is a direct causal connection between the universal provision of nursery education by the taxpayer and an improved educational outcome throughout the mandatory school years has yet to be demonstrated. There may be other advantages, bin that is not necessarily one.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport

Hats the Minister costed the Prime Minister's recent proposal for universal nursery education?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

The Prime Minister made no such proposals. [Interruption.] I have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister, and I will share that conversation with the hon. Gentleman if he will let me. The Prime Minister made clear that he believes that a properly structured pre-five provision is something to which we should be moving when it is justified and when resources allow.

My right hon. Friend has made that perfectly clear and asked the Secretary of State to institute a proper inquiry into the matter. That is now being undertaken, and the results will be available to the Prime Minister in due course.

There are many other issues that that investigation will want to cover. Those issues have not been answered, although the hon. Lady may well do so in a moment. I will look forward to it if she does. Will the pre-five provision for nursery education be mandatory or optional? Would it be all day or part of the day? Would all the teachers who were involved be graduates? What would be the capital and building implications of the provisions? What about the transport provisions? Have those matters been taken into account?

I can tell the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) that we are talking about a figure not unadjacent to £1 billion a year if all those matters are taken into account and the fullest possible provision is made.

Of course, the matter should be considered, and it may well have been, but the hon. Member for Bath did not let us into the secret. The matters must be looked at, as do all others, as matters of priority. If one had £1 billion to spend, which aspect of education would one spend it on? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I am grateful for what the Minister said. There is a clear willingness now from the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to undertake that necessary detailed costing. That gives some encouragement for the future.

The figures to which the Minister refers are similar to those we have suggested. I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that savings would be made in the 40,000 jobs created by the introduction of nursery education for all. Would not that reduce the cost somewhat?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

The hon. Gentleman must take careful account of the relationship that exists between his regime and the successful and flourishing pre-school playgroup movement. That movement does excellent work for the pre-fives and may well be jeopardised by the regime that I suspect the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

The hon. Gentleman made great play during his speech of a concept which he called the break-up of the 1944 partnership. That sounded pretty good and statesmanlike. I suspect however, that he really meant that he regretted the passing of the LEA monopoly grip on education provision, and that he rather regretted the passing of the drab uniformity of comprehensive education provision. I suspect also that he somehow resented the fact that our education system is being increasingly opened up in terms of choice and diversity, as outlined in my right hon. Friend's excellent White Paper two years ago.

The Liberal Democrats may have lost touch with their philosophy and their original intellectual justification and beliefs, because Liberals no longer welcome freedom of choice and diversity in education. They want to hark back to a lack of choice in terms of local education authority monopolies and comprehensive education. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman hinted at this, but he again did not spell it out.

The hon. Gentleman also harked back to the rather incestuous inspection regime that we used to have, under which local education authorities inspected themselves. He went further, and seemed to imply that the excellent new independent Ofsted inspection regime was not to his liking. None of these subjects was detailed in any way, and they were all left hovering in the background. We did have enough of a flavour from what the hon. Gentleman said to realise that he is not in favour of them.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The Minister talks about inspectors inspecting themselves. Does he accept that, in the preparation of the five to 14 curriculum in Scotland, a large part was devised by Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools, which goes into schools to inspect the curriculum which it set for itself. How are the inspectors to come to an objective assessment of whether any shortcomings are due to the failure of teaching or to the failure of their proposals?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

It is not for me to explore the mysteries of the Scottish education system, which is the prerogative of my colleagues in the Scottish Office. I am sure that they will have taken due note of the point made by the hon. Gentleman, and they may well want to get in touch with him. I do not want to stray from my modest responsibilities.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are regularly told by Conservative Members that this is a United Kingdom Parliament, and this is a United Kingdom debate. Is not it common courtesy that a Scottish Office Minister be here to deal with any Scottish matters which might arise?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. That is not a matter for me.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

The hon. Gentleman knows that we are here to answer the terms of the debate which the hon. Member for Bath raised. As far as I can recall, he did not mention a word about Scotland, and I was listening rather carefully. It is a well-known tradition here that Ministers do not even attempt to answer on behalf of their colleagues in other Departments. I have told the hon. Gentleman that his words will have been noted by my colleague in the Scottish Office. I am sure that my colleague will do him the courtesy of reading what he has said, and may well answer him.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point

Could I bring my hon. Friend back to the debate, which is on investment in education? Is he aware that Essex county local education authority, now run by a Liberal-Labour coalition, refuses to spend even to the Government's standing spending assessment set for education? It is putting money collected this year from council tax payers in my constituency into reserves, instead of spending it and investing it in education for our children. What does my hon. Friend think about that? Is not it raw hypocrisy from the Liberal party?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

That excellent example draws to the attention of the House that Opposition Members will find it increasingly difficult, if they even want to attempt to do so, to defend the actions of local education authorities that their friends control. There is an increasingly wide gulf between the promises made in the pre-election frenzy of little more than a year ago and the reality that we are seeing on the ground in local education authorities. That applies equally to authorities that are controlled by the Liberal party or some unholy coalition of Opposition parties. Opposition Members will have to face the increasing embarrassment, if they dare, of attempting to defend what their authorities said.

I shall bring my remarks to a conclusion fairly quickly because I know that others want to speak in this regrettably short debate. A few words were said by the hon. Member for Bath about grant-maintained schools. As usual, Opposition Members do not know whether to be dismissive or fearful of grant-maintained schools. They have never been able to make up their minds whether the growing grant-maintained school sector is something to be ignored because it is irrelevant or an enormous threat which will subvert the whole education system.

We now have a healthy, successful, confident and growing grant-maintained sector powered by parental ballots which, even now, are holding up in terms of voting. Some 70 or 80 per cent. of parents vote yes when the ballot takes place, with excellent turnouts. More than half a million pupils are now educated in grant-maintained schools. More than half a million parents have voted yes in ballots.

If Opposition Members want to threaten the grant-maintained sector, that is a matter for their judgment. Conservative Members are increasingly proud of what grant-maintained schools are achieving in providing real choice for parents about the future of a school and in admissions of their children. We are also proud of the quality of provision that grant-maintained schools have demonstrated that they are capable of making. They have broken out of the drab uniformity to which I referred earlier.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

The Minister justified earlier in his speech the spending of £0.75 million on the office headquarters of the Funding Agency for Schools because there should be good conditions for employees to work in. Does he believe that there should be equally good conditions for children in both grant-maintained and local authority schools?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Yes, of course I do. That is why we make such large capital provision each year and expect local education authorities to play their full part in setting their priorities so that they are able to make proper provision for school buildings. Many local education authorities have demonstrated over the years that they are capable within the budgets that they are given and raise locally of making such provision in both capital and revenue terms.

The interesting thing is that there is no relationship between the amount of money spent per pupil and the educational outcomes in one education authority compared with another. Opposition Members' obsession with the idea that if we simply throw enough money at education all will be well is entirely divorced from the truth. Quality will come from a combination of the national curriculum, objective testing of schools—the hon. Member for Bath hinted that he did not approve of it, but did not elaborate —Ofsted, the independent inspectorate, which we have set up and which has our full and unequivocal support, and the element of competition and choice in education of which the Opposition seem to disapprove so much.

It is a combination of such factors, properly supported by finance, as I outlined at the beginning of my brief remarks, with the full support of the Department for Education and the Government, which will continue to deliver improving and increasing quality in schools. It is not some return to previous regimes. It is not some dropping of all the policies that we have put in place, as the hon. Member for Bath constantly hinted. I suspect that we shall hear some more of that from Opposition Members as the evening proceeds.

I utterly reject all the terms of the motion before the House tonight. I hope that in my few remarks I have persuaded hon. Members to reject the motion when we come to vote on it later.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State 8:14 pm, 1st March 1994

I am pleased that we are having this debate, however brief it may be. For the benefit of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning), I am happy to declare my interest first as a parent—that is the overriding interest that I should declare—and secondly an interest that I share with the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) as an adviser to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

It is interesting that both the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and the Minister spent some time discussing nursery education. The Opposition take it as a mark of success that we have placed nursery education so high up the agenda that the other parties just cannot ignore that vital issue. The Minister is not quite sure which argument to rehearse. He is not sure whether to tell us that nursery education has no educational merit or that the Government will provide it when resources allow. Obviously, his discussions with the Prime Minister have not been completed. I am not sure who will win at the end of the day.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) made many remarks that I welcomed. Indeed, at times I felt that he had been reading the Labour party's green paper on education, with his emphasis on partnership and accountability. I hope that we shall have many other occasions to discuss our proposals.

This evening, I want to take on board some of the important issues that arise from the motion and from the Government's amendment. One of the main problems that we face in education today—apart from the Secretary of State, who I am sorry is not on the Front Bench this evening—

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

He is playing truant.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

He is truanting again.

One of the main problems is the priorities that the Government have set. Government decisions on education seem to have three main themes. The first is that resources are allocated on the basis of Conservative political correctness, not educational need. Time and again, Ministers do not show their interest in the quality of education received by every child in the country. Their obsession with political funding of education is dangerous in a democracy. The second characteristic of recent years is that Government policy is incredibly wasteful in a variety of ways. If Ministers were subject to the same rules as local councillors, they would all be surcharged every year. The third theme that runs through Department for Education policy-making is strange for a party which so often claims to want to get government off our backs. That is the vast increase in centralisation and bureaucracy under the Government.

I shall substantiate those allegations in some detail. I deal first with the Conservative version of political correctness which extends not only to those appointed to quangos, although we have seen that time and again, but, even more worryingly, to the day-to-day funding of every school in Britain.

Ordinary schools which educate the vast majority of our children are being discriminated against because they do not fit the Government's political mould. We should spend a little time this evening considering exactly what are the Government's priorities in education spending.

When the city technology colleges were introduced, we were told two things: first, that private sponsors were keen, eager and waiting to pick up the bill; and, secondly, that the CTCs would be centres of excellence and lights for others to follow. The reality has been so dismal that the Government have abolished and abandoned the policy.

The latest Ofsted report for 1992–93 on standards and quality in education gives Ofsted's view on the success of CTCs. It states: No CTC has yet established itself as a beacon of excellence". But millions of pounds have been poured into the CTCs. They have received £30 million of sponsorship money. The cost to the taxpayer has been £120 million, for just 15,150 pupils—an average cost per pupil of £7,997. Everyone in the House this evening should consider what that money could have been spent on in hard-pressed schools in our constituencies. It could have been used for science laboratories, language facilities, technology blocks or even nursery education. The cost of CTCs in revenue terms has also been great. The average cost has been £4,000 per pupil per year. The average cost per pupil per year in a local education authority school is £2,200. Those are the figures, despite all the assurances given at the time by the then Secretary of State. That project has been scrapped and there are to be no more CTCs. But the taxpayer has had to pay for the Government's folly. Children in other schools are the losers because of the Government's insistence that political correctness and their dogma should come first.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport

Perhaps one reason why the Government scrapped the CTC policy was that the first one at Kingshurst was given a damning report by Her Majesty's inspectorate. Ironically, the most damning comments related to technology.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

My hon. Friend is right—it is worrying that progress has not been made. One would expect the Government to learn from that, but what do they do? They abandon the CTC policy and devise the technology college initiative. They change direction to cover up the fact that their previous initiative has failed.

We were promised in the press release issued yesterday that there would be substantial sponsorship from business. That makes me wonder whether there will be another massive bill for the taxpayer. I do not understand why the Government cannot appreciate what the Confederation of British Industry said: We want all schools to be strong in technology. The CBI does not believe that funding compulsory education should be a business responsibility.

Ministers are breaking faith with all those other schools in the country that need extra resources for technology—the majority of schools—but are not prepared to walk into the Government's trap of grant-maintained status because they value their independence too much. That is a clear example of the way in which Government funding goes according to their version of political correctness.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

Before the hon. Lady leaves the subject, will she comment on the Labour party's proposals to involve private sector money in the public sector? Whatever the views of the CBI on the matter, how does she feel that such private money should be involved? Does she believe that it would be appropriate in the case of the schools sector?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

The Minister, who has some responsibility for higher education, will know that there is a great deal of private money in that sector, which is where I should like to see an expansion of private involvement.

The Government showed their priorities by introducing the assisted places scheme, the cost of which has escalated every year.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

The hon. Lady referred to further education. May I remind her that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), in an interview on the "Today" programme, specifically mentioned schools in that context. Does the hon. Lady endorse the views of the Leader of the Opposition?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

Yes, of course we are considering all ways of obtaining more private money, but not methods that allow the private sector to control what happens inside schools—that is the opposite of what the Government are trying to do. If we can find ways of raising money in the private sector to use on crumbling schools and the backlog of repairs that we are bound to inherit from the Government—through bonds raised at local level or something of that sort—it will be appropriate to consider them. But we do not want control to be imposed on schools in the way that the Government are trying to impose it.

I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) should want to divert attention away from the assisted places scheme and its cost to the taxpayer. I am sure that I have heard him and other Conservative Members talk about the importance of the taxpayer receiving value for money. In 1992–93, the assisted places scheme cost the taxpayer £92.8 million—£3,405 a pupil. That compares with the average figure of £2,200 in other schools—half as much again as the amount received by the typical pupil. Last year, Ministers overspent on their assisted places budget by nearly 20 per cent. I wonder which local education authority is able to overspend its budget on schools by 20 per cent.

We have seen the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools stand in for the Secretary of State on many occasions. He has frequently told us that he is keen to tackle the problem of surplus places. He estimates that there are 1.5 million surplus places, but he is willing to use taxpayers' money to pay for 28,000 places in the private sector. Where is the logic in that and where is the value for money for the taxpayer? That is the price that we as taxpayers are paying for Tory political correctness.

The bribes are running out for grant-maintained schools, but why has the grant-maintained capital budget been ring fenced in the past if not as a reward for political correctness? Why was cash protection rigged—as the Public Accounts Committee has shown—if not for political reasons? I am glad that the bribes are running out. I am glad that all schools, including grant-maintained schools, are realising the consequences of opting in to centralised control under the Secretary of State.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

The hon. Lady says that the bribes are running out and I hope that she is right. But I have a letter from the chairman of governors of Prospect school which is currently contemplating opting out, The letter states that if the school becomes grant maintained, central Government will initially add to this investment £300,000". That is rather a large bribe.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

The example that the hon. Gentleman has just given is similar to the case of St. Thomas high school in Exeter, which voted last week. In that case, such promises were made and, I think, parliamentary questions were asked to find out whether a guarantee had been extracted. The parents had a choice and used it. They smelt a rat and overwhelmingly rejected grant-maintained status. They had no doubt heard of many of the problems facing grant-maintained schools. Those problems included the fact that, last June, 88 per cent. of grant-maintained schools had not received their budget for the current financial year. They also included the fact that many capital bids have been turned down. I read with great interest the Adjournment debate on 18 February this year when the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) talked about the refusal of capital to a grant-maintained school in his constituency. he said: It is with some sadness that I bring to the Minister's attention the fact that the capital grant application that the school was invited to submit for the 1994–95 financial year has been turned down."—[Official Report, 18 February; Vol. 237, c. 1233.] He went on to point out—this may be interesting to the hon. Member for Bath, in view of this question earlier—that he had had assurances from Sir Robert Belchin that that school was high on his agenda for capital in the following year.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Is the hon. Lady complaining that too much capital is available to the grant-maintained sector, or that not enough is available? She seems to be trying to say both.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

What I am trying to tell the Minister is that we will have more Adjournment debates of that kind from conservative Members as grant-maintained schools realise that the bribes are not materialising and as more and more of them run into difficulties.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

My hon. Friend could learn from the experience in Scotland, where Paisley grammar school, in the constituency of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for education in Scotland, was supposedly opting out. The proponents of the opt-out brought up a head teacher from a grant-maintained school in England to make the point that, although the English school had a comparable school population with that of Paisley grammar school, Paisley had 13 more teachers than the English grant-maintained. The Scottish parents, despite the seeming bribes of the Scottish Office, knew that their future lay with a good local education authority. Is not that a lesson for them?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

It is a very important lesson that we should all learn, but we should also bear in mind what happened in the other ballot in Scotland.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Scotland gets a lot of money.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

The Minister is saying from a sedentary position that Scotland gets so much money, but there was one grant-maintained ballot in Scotland that went in his favour and the school decided to opt out, in order to avoid closure. What happened? In contrast to what has happened time and again with English Ministers, the Scottish Conservative Minister turned the school down because, he said, it was only seeking to opt out to avoid closure. So there are quite a few differences between what happens north of the border and what happens south of it.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris , Birmingham, Yardley

Does my hon. Friend agree that perhaps we can understand the Minister's confusion about what he is doing wrong—whether he is spending too much or too little money—because he is guilty on both counts? He is spending too much on capital to bribe schools in the initial years of opt-out and now he is spending too little on capital because he is part of a Government who are not prepared to see an overall increase in the amount of money going to education.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

My hon. Friend is right. Many schools have realised the consequences of going into the grant-maintained net. It is also a problem that has been highlighted by what is happening in some schools at the moment, given the squeeze on cash protection which will be more severe after April.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald , Hertfordshire North

The title of the debate is "Investing in Education". The Liberals are quite clear that they would spend a good deal more on education at a cost to the taxpayer. What would Labour do?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

We would not be wasting the money that, as I have outlined, is being wasted at present.

Let me give the House another example of the difficulties that the Government are causing for grant-maintained schools. Some grant-maintained schools are having to sack teachers and others are facing redundancy. I will watch with interest the outcome of an industrial tribunal which will take place in Carlisle later this week, following the sacking of 10 teachers by Kirkby Kendal grant-maintained school late last year. Some of the teachers are taking the school to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal. Perhaps that is a clear example that not everything in the grant-maintained sector is rosy.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Kirkby Kendal was not among the schools mentioned in the Government's recent advertisements on grant-maintained status. They spent £200,000 trying to persuade other schools to go down that path. I wish that the Minister would tell us whether Hatchford primary school in Solihull, one of the schools featured in the advertisements, gave its consent to being featured in that way before it had heard from the Government that it would not receive one penny of its capital bid for the next year and whether it knew that it would be losing cash protection.

Most schools have understood that there is a great danger in opting into central control and being at the mercy of Ministers. That, no doubt, is why the number of ballots for grant-maintained status has declined significantly, contrary to what the Minister said at Question Time today, and why the percentage of no votes has increased significantly to 38 per cent.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

Does the hon. Lady agree that the yes vote in January was 89 per cent?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

The figures that I have are for the whole of the last term and a half, which is a very good time to look at. I do not have the January figures with me, but there were probably about six ballots in January. In the autumn and spring terms of 1992–93—if the Minister really wants the figures—there were 259 ballots. In the comparable period this year, there were just 53 ballots. The number of yes votes in 1992–93 in that period was 199. In 1993–94, the number of yes votes had declined from 199 to 33. The percentage of no votes in 1992–93 was 23 per cent., whereas in 1993–94 the figure was 38 per cent. If, therefore, we are looking at trends in grant-maintained ballots, the number of ballots is going down and the proportion of no votes is increasing.

The Government's three flagship policies—CTCs, assisted places and grant-maintained status—are all proving extremely costly to the taxpayer. We see that across the board. The hallmarks of the Government are waste, inefficiency and bureaucracy. The costs of centralisation and of running the Department, as well as staffing costs, have gone up. We have had the ridiculous expense of running Sanctuary buildings. The Department for Education told the Select Committee that the increased costs were due primarily to the Government's school reforms. Considering that we are back to the drawing board with the national curriculum, after spending £500 million, and that the Government have overburdened teachers with more administration and more bureaucracy than ever before, that is a very sad picture after so many years of Conservative Administration.

Before I sit down, I should like to mention something that my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Bayley) touched on. I have not much time, because others want to speak, but I just mention it as an example of the stupidity of the Government and of what happens time and again when Ministers refuse to listen. When the Education Act 1988 was going through, Labour called for a joint body on curriculum and assessment. The Government refused. The National Curriculum Council was established in York, the School Examinations and Assessment Council was established in London, and the two went their separate ways.

In introducing the Education Act 1933, the Government accepted that we were right all along and have merged the two bodies into SCAA. The cost of the merger is £4 million, but it leaves the Government with an empty building in York. They have therefore created a new quango—the Funding Agency for Schools—and sent it to York. That is an incredible example of what the Government think it is right for a quango to do and have.

Taxpayer's money is involved in all that. When the National Curriculum Council was established in York it had a budget for fittings and fixtures of £560,000. It actually spent £2.3 million. But when it moved out so that the new quango could come in, there was a refurbishment budget of £763,000—more than three quarters of a million pounds to refurbish a building that is less than four years old. That shows Government priorities and waste on a massive scale.

Ridiculously, the National Curriculum Council had to have a special carpet with the letters "NCC" interwoven throughout. Less than four years later, it must be thrown away and a new carpet must be laid for the Funding Agency for Schools.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

No, I have nearly finished my speech.

All that adds insult to injury for schools, which face a massive backlog of repairs and a massive shortage of resources. It is an insult to the pupils who are trying to learn in leaking classrooms and crumbling schools and to the teachers who are trying to teach without enough books to go round the class. The Government have shown by their actions that they are not interested in the education of every child. Just before Christmas, the Prime Minister said that 15 per cent. of children in this country got an education equal to anywhere in the world, but that, unfortunately, the rest did not. That is a damning indictment of 15 years of Conservative Government.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton 8:42 pm, 1st March 1994

In opening the debate, the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) was quick to flag up the additional 1p in the pound to which the Liberal Democrats committed themselves before the last election, and to outline what that would provide in educational improvements. We are familiar with such traditional ruses from the Liberal Democrats. They blithely go around the country telling people on doorsteps that putting just a penny, which sounds fairly innocuous, on income tax will provide any education item chosen from a menu according to the person interviewed. That has a certain appeal, but it is totally dishonest.

According to the Liberal Democrats' own document, "Excellence for All", 1p in the pound on income tax would provide £1·75 billion extra over five years for the repair of school buildings and for nursery education. Tonight, the hon. Member for Bath agreed with my hon. Friend the Minister that that is likely to cost nearly £1 billion, although it is costed in his party's document at £525 million. He said that the shortfall would be covered by a saving on jobs created. That spurious argument does not stand up to close investigation.

The document also says that the penny would pay for the fact that no class would contain more than 30 pupils. That is set against rising school rolls in primary education, contrary to the trend in recent years. It would also pay for a significant increase in funding for local management of schools, which would mean more money for the budget of any school represented by the person to whom the Liberal Democrats were talking on the doorstep.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter , Plymouth, Sutton

Is not my hon. Friend being a little harsh on the Liberal Democrats? After all, would they not save money by dramatically cutting the defence budget, thus throwing many of her constituents and mine on to the unemployed list?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

My hon. Friend makes a good point. But the Liberal Democrats do not intend to use savings made through defence expenditure cuts on education. They say categorically that 1p on income tax will pay for all that. Perhaps they should get back to basic sums.

The 1p is also supposed to pay for reimbursing governors for earnings lost in the course of their duties"; to increase funding for in-service training for teachers; and to establish an adult education and training unit with its own budget in the Department for Education. As if that were not enough, that penny is stretched to the smallest decimal point in further education, where the Liberal Democrats would abandon the student loans system. The document says that all students would be eligible for a "fixed grant" to cover "specific additional costs" incurred as a result of their studies. A means-tested benefit would also be given to students, based not on their parents' income but on their own. The cost of that would be enormous.

All those measures already exceed £2 billion expenditure. Are those further education pledges to be funded also by 1p on the social security budget? They take us into the realms of a lot of money.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald , Hertfordshire North

Has my hon. Friend also considered the cost that would be involved in reorganising every educational institution in the country? Those would include education departments where once there were local education authorities, a student council organisation in every school, a single Ministry reorganised for education and training, a new pay review body, a new national qualifications council and a new general training council. What would all that cost?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

It would cost considerably more money—certainly well in excess of 1p on income tax.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

My hon. Friend may not be entirely fair to the proposers of the motion. Has she noticed that the original pledge of 1p on income tax has been transformed in the motion to a reference to increase investment in education by at least the equivalent of one penny of income tax"? In proposing all those measures, might they not put much more on income tax than they have yet admitted?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The wording, at least the equivalent of one penny means that, on the doorstep, Liberal Democrats can pick any one of the items mentioned by hon. Members tonight and say, "If this is what you want, we'll deliver it and it will cost you only 1p on income tax". It is nothing but a device for the doorstep and has nothing to do with increasing standards in education. It is a dishonest proposal.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris , Birmingham, Yardley

The hon. Lady is right to say that what the Liberal Democrats promise on the doorstep is not what they deliver when they are in control in local authorities. But will she accept responsibility for what Conservative local authorities do? Will she explain why Devon county council, when it was Tory controlled before last April, managed to put only 11 per cent. of its children through nursery education comparied with Labour-controlled Newham, which managed to put 64 per cent. through nursery education?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

I have great pleasure in providing that explanation. When the Conservatives were in control of Devon county council before the county council elections, it cut its cloth accordingly. Labour and Liberal Democrat local education authorities throughout the country choose their priorities. If they choose to prioritize nursery education, it is inevitably at the loss of other areas of education that are just as, if not more, important.

The motion talks of "growing chaos and division" in education. We have certainly had growing chaos and division in education in the county of Devon since the county council control went to the Liberal Democrats, particularly surrounding those schools seeking grant-maintained status.

Before Liberal Democrat control, I was asked on several occasions by schools that were considering grant-maintained status whether I would speak in support of it. I told them categorically that if they wanted specific information I would do all that I could to assist them, but I did not feel that it was a matter for politicians and refused on each occasion. In recent weeks, however, the way in which the Liberal Democrat council and the LEA in Devon have behaved has been quite disgraceful.

Earlier today during Education Question Time my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) drew attention to the way in which the grant-maintained status ballots for St. Thomas high school in Exeter were conducted, and reference has been made to those ballots tonight. I informed my hon. Friend that I would be mentioning the subject because at the same time as St. Thomas was balloting, so was Ottery St. Mary primary school in my constituency. I have referred to my hon. Friend the official complaint by the governing body about how the LEA conducted the negotiations and the public meetings with parents.

The figures for insurance costs that were given to parents were not quoted on the basis of a primary school in Devon. The LEA quoted insurance costs for a secondary school in the midlands, thus worrying parents about the additional costs if the school became grant maintained. In addition, a member of the governing body who did not support grant-maintained status was able to conduct detailed negotiations with the LEA about the financial running of the school. That information was given to the newspaper so that the chairman and governing body had to read the details concerning their school in the public press. In other words they—the official body—had been sidelined so that the LEA could continue to conduct the way in which information was given to parents—through the newspapers instead of through the governing body.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I shall attempt to be brief. The hon. Lady raises many interesting points. First, I am not sure whether she was congratulating the Liberal Democrats on keeping their promises about grant-maintained schools. In view of what she has said, does she believe that it would be wrong for Members of Parliament to write to parents involved in grant-maintained school ballots? Does she believe that insurance for grant-maintained schools is easy to come by, or would she confirm my understanding that many are having considerable difficulties in getting insurance?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

Whether hon. Members wish to be involved is a matter for them, as is whether they wish to put a party political slant on the subject or choose to do as I did and seek specific pieces of information. I have had no difficulty in obtaining insurance quotations, so I see no reason why a governing body should not obtain them.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport

Surely the hon. Lady must be aware that the only information put out by Devon county council was approved both by Local Schools Information and by the Grant-Maintained Schools Trust.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

The hon. Gentleman is speaking about a matter in my constituency and I resent the fact that he has not done his homework. If he has an interest in what went on at the Ottery St. Mary primary school in my constituency, I hope that he will do his homework and find out the information.

The LEA responded to one governor and not the governing body. The chairman and the rest of the governing body read that information in the press. When they tried to correspond with the LEA and negotiate directly with them, they were denied that opportunity. That is an improper way for any LEA to communicate with a governing body.

If the hon. Gentleman has such an interest in my constituency, perhaps he will write to me privately and explain just what he knows about the way in which the discussions and ballot took place. It is no coincendence that there is a great deal of overlap of interest. When the local newspaper, the Exeter Express and Echo, printed a photograph of one of the meetings at St. Thomas high school, the audience included people from the Ottery St. Mary primary school which, to my certain knowledge, had absolutely no interest in St. Thomas high school.

Under the Liberal Democrats in Devon, the LEA will disclose information to anybody and leave the governing body last, until they have to ask for the information. We also seem to be in the area of flying pickets who go from meeting to meeting, regardless of whether they have an interest in the particular school. That is not how the grant-maintained status option should be considered. It should be considered rationally and impartially—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. There is now so much noise that I can scarcely hear the hon. Lady. Will hon. Members keep rather quieter?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

Such discussions, particularly with parents, should be considered impartially and with full information on both sides. There are obviously two sides to the argument; none the less, the democratic process set up by the Government has been subjugated by the Liberal Democrat council in Devon and the National Union of Teachers and others who have a vested interest in making sure that it does not happen and who are making sure that parents are not given access to full and impartial information.

I close with a quotation from Devon county council's chief education officer, following the St. Thomas high school vote. He said: The vote is particularly significant as it keeps the authority well below the 10 per cent. threshold for secondary school pupils attending opted out schools. Beyond that level, Devon has to share responsibility for planning the provision of secondary schools with the Funding Agency for Schools…A yes vote would have taken the percentage of secondary pupils in Devon to 9·95 per cent. It is not in the interests of fairness and impartiality or a matter for the judgment of parents and governors; it is a matter of sustaining an LEA department that is at the fore of the activities perpetrated by the Liberal Democrats in Devon—[Interruption.] Will the hon. Gentleman put that away. I do not want to see rude pictures across the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting 8:56 pm, 1st March 1994

Tempting though it is to comment on some of the points raised earlier, in fairness to hon. Members and the requests from the Chair for short speeches, I intend to concentrate solely on one issue. As a Member representing inner London, I raise an issue that is causing enormous concern to schools throughout London —the future of section 11 funding.

In London at the present time, some 650 teaching posts are funded under section 11. In my constituency, 48 full-time teaching posts are funded under section 11, and 21 schools benefit from it. The grant paid to the London borough of Wandsworth—I am a Member for that borough—is well over £1 million a year. Those figures result from a series of questions that I have asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department over the past two weeks in the House.

Under section 11 funding, the present percentage-75 per cent.—will, in April, be reduced to 57 per cent. It is already clear what the effects of that cut will be, not only in my constituency but in many boroughs throughout inner and outer London. As a result of that reduction, London will lose some £16 million. It will affect many schools in boroughs such as Brent, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hackney, Ealing and Islington. No hon. Member, on either side of the Chamber, who represents a constituency in those boroughs can be unaware of the effects that it will have on schools in their constituencies unless there is a drastic reappraisal of the cuts.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald , Hertfordshire North

Is it official Labour party policy to reinstate any cuts that are made in section 11 funding, as we have not heard about that from the hon. Member's hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench?

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting

I would expect that every Labour authority will do all that it can to reimpose section 11 funding. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman goes through the Lobbies as Lobby fodder on the many occasions on which we see cuts being made in local authority funding, in whatever sector that funding may be spent. In the light of the hon. Gentleman's question, he may be interested to know that the borough of Wandsworth, which makes great play of having the lowest council tax in the country, has clearly said that it will only keep section 11 funding until the summer, and will give no guarantees that, for the rest of the year, or future years, it will pick up any of that funding. This issue goes to the heart of the argument that I am seeking to present, not only for my constituency but for constituencies that are represented by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

I confirm that when the Government announced the cuts in section 11 funding, although it is a Home Office matter, my hon. Friends the shadow Secretary of State for Education and the shadow Home Secretary, jointly made it clear that it would have a serious adverse impact on the education of children who benefited from the funding and for whom English was not their first language. We would restore those cuts.

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting

In the schools in my constituency, I have found that section 11 funding benefits the whole school, not just part of it. If no teachers in the school are employed under section 11 funding, because schools often manage their own budgets they do not have the resources to pick up the staffing levels that section 11 funding allows them to have, the whole school will suffer. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) may be interested to know that the funding next year will be reduced still further to 50 per cent. At the moment, it is 75 per cent.

In the past three weeks, I have visited five schools throughout my constituency, not just in certain areas. Not one head teacher or member of staff, when we have talked about this issue, has said to me that they are in a position to pick up the funding out of their existing budgets to make up for the loss of money that they will soon experience. That is what is so crucial to us in London, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) said, the whole role of the school will start to suffer. No school in inner London—or, I suspect, anywhere in the country —can say, "We are lucky. We have surplus teachers. If we lose a teacher because of funding withdrawals, we have the additional staff to make up the loss." From the visits that I have made in my constituency and the detailed discussions that I have had with head teachers and staff, I can say that not one of them said that they could pick up that funding and therefore keep staff now employed under section 11. What they do say is that they are enormously fearful about the effect on their schools. The cuts will not only affect teachers' morale, although that is crucial; they will affect parents' trust in schools and the standards in schools.

As we all know, whatever the difficulties—and there are some difficult schools in London, as there may be in many other parts of the country—it is to teachers' credit that they do everything possible to raise standards, and often succeed. I am convinced, however, that that can be done only when staffing levels are adequate: without adequate staffing levels, classes become larger and problems arise. Those of us who visit schools, and talk to heads and other teachers, know that when enough staff are available they can move the youngsters with problems, and continue to pursue the standards that schools are working to achieve.

This is a crucial issue, for London and for Members of Parliament. I know that it is primarily a Home Office issue, but I beg the Minister to consult his Home Office colleagues and try to readjust the cuts that are threatened for April. Otherwise, we shall undoubtedly experience enormous problems as a result of the breakdown of morale and loss of hope—and, above all, the loss of the expectations felt by many youngsters, and especially by their parents.

The Minister may say that this is indeed a Home Office matter, but the issues are intimately linked. As I have said, the funding for schools is due to fall from 75 to 50 per cent. next year; councils will be stretched to the limit. It will be a disaster for London schools in areas such as mine, whose authorities refuse to compensate for the loss of funds.

I do not believe much of what we hear from Ministers; I take far more notice of what I am told by heads and other teachers. But if the Minister who opened the debate really believes what he said about the progress that had been made, he really should consider section 11 funding. If the cuts proceed, how will progress be made? Sadly, we shall see the reverse of progress—loss of morale and hope, and a loss to the communities in which the schools exist. Surely, no hon.. Member on either side of the House can condone such behaviour.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth 9:07 pm, 1st March 1994

Let me declare an interest immediately: like the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), I am a consultant with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

I hope that the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) will forgive me if I do not follow his lead on section 11 funding. I was interested by what the hon. Member for Dewsbury said—or, rather, what she did not say; I thought it significant that, in a speech lasting some 28 minutes, she did not set out the Labour party's programme. She seemed more than content to attack grant-maintained schools—yet, if they are failing, why should she spend so much time attacking them? As Shakespeare said, methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

I will in a moment. Let me get into my speech first.

The motion strikes me as somewhat contrived. Of course education requires investment: that is why the Government spend more per child, in real terms, than was spent in 1979. We spend more on pre-school education, we spend more on children in school and we spend more on our young people in advanced education.

We have invested in the nation's teachers with pay increases that better reflect the importance of the work that they do. I have argued in the House over a long period that the overwhelming majority of the nation's teachers are dedicated to their profession and to the children in their charge. It is, therefore, right that they now receive a salary which is more commensurate with their responsibilities and duties.

In education, as in life, however, money is not everything. Ideas and policies are even more important. There is little doubt that new ideas and policies have come from the Conservative party and from the Government.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

On the subject of new policies and what the hon. Member was saying earlier about my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), may I point out that my hon. Friend was attacking not grant-maintained schools, but the policies of the Government that created such a cockeyed and wasteful system?

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

I found that to be genuinely an extraordinary intervention. As the hon. Gentleman is not now attacking grant-maintained schools, and if the Labour party is not now attacking grant-maintained schools, let me hear him say, in simple words of one syllable, that under any regime of which he is a member, grant-maintained schools will remain. Of course they will not. Of course his hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury and other Opposition Members continue their spiteful action against the grant-maintained schools, a matter to which I will refer later.

I say that the new ideas and policies come from the Government and from the Conservative party. We have sought genuinely to improve the quality and standard of state education by introducing the national curriculum and testing, grant-maintained schools, city technology colleges and national targets for education and training, and by substantially increasing the number of students in advanced education. In 1979, only one in eight of the target group was in advanced education. Today, the figure is one in three—an unprecedented increase.

That increase emphasises two things—first, that the nation's schools are producing substantial numbers of young people well able to take advantage of advanced education and, secondly, that resources have been increased in the universities, enabling them to take more students.

I will now turn to the subject of local education authorities. We have endeavoured to reduce the monopoly; indeed, the LEA monopoly has been increasingly challenged by the emergence of grant-maintained schools. Grant-maintained schools build on the success of local management of schools—yet another of the Government's initiatives. LMS ensures that more funding—or, as the motion puts it, more investment—reaches the individual school and reaches down to the individual classroom, to the individual pupil. That must be to the benefit of the nation's children.

I understand why local education authorities dislike grant-maintained schools. They are, after all, a challenge not only to the established bureaucracy and empire of the LEA but to the policies and the ethos of the LEA. In spite of the opposition, however, 814 grant-maintained schools have so far emerged, with another 67 in the immediate pipeline, which makes a total of 881. In addition, a further 118 have voted yes.

Grant-maintained status introduces diversity into the nation's education system. Where there was one single basic school, the neighbourhood comprehensives, there is now real choice for children and for parents, and that choice will grow because of GMS and because the Government are allowing those schools to change their character.

Parents like choice, a point emphasised by the fact that, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools pointed out, more than half a million pupils are now being taught in grant-maintained schools —schools which have cut the apron strings that once secured them to the local education authority.

Yet another initiative introduced by the present Government was the introduction of the Office for Standards in Education, which ensures that every school will be inspected at least once every four years—a substantial improvement on what went before. I recall that when the measure was introduced, it was thought that it would be the end of inspection as we knew it. The reverse is true. Ofsted is a success story. It is accepted and working well and its inspectors go into the nation's schools and make a positive contribution to improving the quality and standard of state education.

The initiatives that I have so far described are only some of the ideas that the Government and the Conservative party have introduced, but it is instructive to compare our policies with those of the Opposition. Inasmuch as the Labour party has a policy, it is simple and single: one policy, one choice, one school. In Labour's view, bureaucracy is best and the man in shire hall has all the answers.

Opposition Members oppose tests, league tables and anything that smacks of independence. Opposition Members have become not so much the party of Opposition, more the party of obstruction; or, perhaps more accurately, the party of abolition. Opposition Members would abolish grammar schools, grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) is applauding and I have a longer catalogue to give him, so he will be able also to applaud the abolition of the assisted places scheme and, according to the hon. Member for Dewsbury, independent schools.

Opposition Members march under a slogan of "Back to the 1960s", and they want to return to the trendy fashions that did so much to destroy British education. Theirs remains a true policy of envy—a policy displayed and re-emphasised last week by the hon. Member for Dewsbury. In an interview given in the magazine of the Independent Schools Information Service, she reaffirmed her party's opposition to independent schools and her desire to abolish the assisted places scheme, which provides places to about 30,000 children from low-income families.

I noted, almost with incredulity, the intention of the hon. Member for Dewsbury to reopen the issue of charitable status for independent schools, thereby reversing the policy of her predecessor, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). I wonder what the Leader of the Opposition, in his quest for respectability, makes of the albatross that she has hung around his neck and that of the Labour party?

I shall turn to the policy of the mover of the motion —the Liberal Democrat party, or whatever it is called this week. I do not accuse the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) of being two-faced, for if he had two faces he would not be wearing the one that he is wearing today. I. accuse him, however, of facing two ways. After all, on testing the Liberal Democrats said: very little information of use to parents has ever been produced. They went on to say that they would have a system of tests based entirely on continuous assessment.

The hon. Member for Bath appears to disagree with his party—he shows the independence of mind for which he is rightly becoming famous. In a report in The Times he states: the issue is not about the fundamental principle of testing and assessment". It is, however, true that, from time to time and when it suits his party, it attacks the fundamental principle of setting each child the same objective test at a given time. Naturally, the Liberal Democrats would abolish most formal examinations, including the GCSE, the national vocational qualification and A-levels. They would be replaced by qualifications modelled on—this will amuse the House—the piano exams principle. That is the best that they can come up with.

The debate has provided Conservative Members with an opportunity—albeit very brief—to highlight some of the Government's initiatives and expose the paucity of thought among the Opposition parties. We now require a period in which schools can digest the reforms that have been introduced. I have no doubt that the past six years will be seen as a time of great change and challenge and that from that challenge will emerge an education system well suited to the needs of the next century.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport 9:20 pm, 1st March 1994

It is always a pleasure to follow a peroration from the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) whose speech was, as always, lively although it owed more to rhetoric than to fact—it improves every time I hear it. I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate and I shall make my contribution brief as I know that other hon. Members wish to participate.

There are many stresses on schools today, mainly due to the myriad innovations of the past few years, such as LMS —the local management of schools—a concept that I broadly welcome. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth mentioned it but I must point out that it was pioneered by Labour authorities and copied—sensibly—by the Government. The national curriculum and the constant chopping and changing have also placed stresses on our schools. There have been many U-turns and only last week the common funding formula was announced.

Last week the Select Committee on Education took evidence. The Government spokesman on education in another place said that one essential fact about the common funding formula was that it had to be transparent and easily understandable. The Committee heard from the head teacher of a grant-maintained school who was asked whether he understood how the figure for his school's budget was arrived at. It was most revealing that he replied: I have to confess that I do not understand how the figure was arrived at". I liked his next comment which was: I also understand why I do not understand. Clearly, more chaos and confusion will enter the education system if we have a common funding formula that head teachers, directors of education and treasurers do not understand. The real test will come tomorrow when a Minister from the Department for Education comes before the Committee and we find out whether he understands the common funding formula.

We have heard tonight that many schools have been disrupted by the ballots for grant-maintained status. The Education Act 1993 guarantees that every year governors have to consider the disruption of their school because they have to vote on whether to have a ballot. It is simply a one-way track to Government control—schools have to keep on balloting until they have made the "right" decision.

Reference has been made to a ballot that took place at St. Thomas' high school last week, the result of which was announced on Thursday. It is yet another example of disruption. The school is an excellent comprehensive school with 1,200 pupils. It has a good reputation and high standards but found itself holding a ballot on grant-maintained status.

What happened in the balloting process? The head teacher held only one meeting, at which he did not allow any contrary view to be expressed. The only way in which the contrary view could be expressed to the head teacher and the governors who wanted to opt out was for a group of parents to hire a hall some distance from the school and to advertise a meeting. The 650 parents who turned up, with an independent person chairing the meeting, heard both sides of the argument clearly put forward.

What the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning) said tonight was totally wrong. I repeat to her that the information put out by the local education authority in Devon was similar to that put out when it was under Conservative control. That information was approved both by Local Schools Information and the Grant-Maintained Schools Trust. What went wrong with the ballots at St. Thomas' high school and at Ottery St. Mary was that the parents did not make what Conservative Members thought was the right choice.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

It is amazing, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport —a seat more than 60 miles from Ottery St. Mary—has such detailed knowledge that he professes to know far more than the local Member of Parliament does about how the matter was conducted with the governing body, which has been in correspondence and communication with me on the subject for the past three weeks. If the hon. Gentleman knew so much about those events I wonder why he did not raise with me the fact that he intended to trespass on my constituency over a matter affecting Ottery St. Mary.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport

If an hon. Member raises a matter in debate in the Chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker, surely it is in order for another Member to speak about the substance of what has been said. The hon. Member for Tiverton is attacking me for coming to the Chamber well informed. I shall always accept such an attack from her, or from any other Conservative Member. I shall come to the Chamber well informed. The hon. Lady does not like what she is hearing, and most of all she does not like what the parents in her area—perhaps voters or former voters of hers —said in the ballot, not what the parents sad at St. Thomas' high school.

So espoused are Conservative Members to parental choice that when the ballot goes against them they come to the Chamber whingeing and complaining about information not being presented clearly and fairly. I should have thought that the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannarn)—he might have attended the debate tonight, such was his concern about the outcome of the ballot—would say that what is needed in those schools now is a period in which the wounds caused by the ballot can heal, and the school and the teachers can get on with the job of educating children rather than having to go through politically motivated ballots.

There has been some talk about capital expenditure on schools tonight. At one time, that was used as a part bribe to grant-maintained schools, to entice schools to opt out. I am sure that the hon. Member for Tiverton will have done her homework, and like me will have noted that six grant-maintained schools in Devon put in a bid for a total of £2·85 million for capital works in 1994–95. Although those are the so-called flagships of Tory policy, what were those schools actually offered? I hope that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) is listening, too, because he has a particular interest in one of the schools. Of the £2·85 million that the grant-maintained schools in Devon bid for, the Government, with all their generosity to grant-maintained schools, offered them a mere £23,000. They must now be reflecting on whether they would have been better off staying with the local education authority, because then they would probably have received substantially more.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport

I shall certainly give way if the hon. Gentleman will explain why the grant-maintained school in Plymouth did not get its £750,000 bid. In that case I shall be pleased to hear from him.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter , Plymouth, Sutton

The hon. Gentleman is extremely hostile to grant-maintained schools, but why does he not join me in congratulating the headmaster and staff of an excellent grant-maintained school in his own constituency—St. Boniface college, which this year achieved far better exam results than the comprehensive school just along the road, of which he used to be deputy headmaster?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is an absolutely absurd idea. He may answer the question why he does not send his own children to the school in his constituency. Since the school in Plymouth went comprehensive and we got rid of part of the system of secondary moderns and some of the selection, we have seen standards improve more and more in the city. If the hon. Gentleman had done his homework, he would also know that.

One other matter that I shall raise concerns the fact that many of the children in my constituency are children of service families. Since the parents are serving abroad, sometimes in war zones, their children attend private schools through the boarding schools allowance scheme. Those schools are mainly private schools and an answer given by the Minister shows that, in total, £120 million per year is spent on that scheme. I am not opposed to the scheme, but to what degree is that huge investment of public money checked? So few of those schools receive an inspection, which was talked of by the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey)—the four-yearly Ofsted inspection. Inspections are not made of those private schools, yet they receive large sums of public money. I have examples of some of the few schools which have been inspected by Her Majesty's inspectorate and Ofsted. Those schools receive respectively a quarter, one half and two thirds of their money from the taxpayer, but they have the most damning HMI reports.

I have written to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, who has replied. I asked him if those reports had been made known to all the parents and children in the school. He said that the school is supplied with copies of the published report and that it can distribute as it sees fit". If there is a good report, it is sent to all the parents, but if, like those schools, it is a bad report, it is not. The Minister's letter continued: The onus is on the school to distribute the report to interested parties or to advise them where reports can be obtained. Needless to say, in the case of those schools, the reports never found their way into the hands of the parents. I look forward to hearing answers to some of the points that I have raised. In particular, I should like to hear what the Minister intends to do to ensure that children of service men and women get a decent education in those private schools which at present are not inspected by Ofsted.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland 9:32 pm, 1st March 1994

I confess that I went too far earlier when I protested about the total absence of Scottish Ministers on the Government Front Bench. It is fair to say that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) had indicated that he would not be able to attend the debate because of the Standing Committee. It is also fair to say that at least one member of the Scottish Office, the Secretary of State, is not so committed. In the United Kingdom Parliament, dealing with the subject of education which affects people north and south of the border, while the Labour party Scottish spokesman has been present for a good part of the debate, there has not been a single Scottish Conservative Member present. That reflects the attitude of the Conservative party to an important matter such as education north of the border.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

What about the Scottish Nationalists?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I am not here to defend the Scottish Nationalists.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

Would the hon. Gentleman like to remind the House how many members of the Liberal Democrat party were present during the extremely important debate before Christmas on the national education and training targets?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

It was a far larger percentage than that of Scottish Conservative Members present during tonight's debate, since anything is greater than zero.

To add to the injury that -I felt when the Minister said that he could not reply to my intervention, I was asked by the Scottish Office to indicate some of the matters that would be raised. Perhaps I had overestimated the Minister's speed learning on issues as complex as those relating to Scotland, notwithstanding his background.

It is a pity that there are no Scottish Office Ministers here because there are one or two kind things that we would have said—for example, about the early introduction of the five to 14-year-olds curriculum in Scotland. It is fair to say that the curriculum has been introduced in Scotland with greater public and professional acceptance and willingness to make it work than has been the case south of the border. However, aspects of the national curriculum have been changed even before some parts of it have been implemented.

In testing, we have seen the Government's willingness to back down to a considerable extent under joint pressure from teachers and parents. Now, instead of imposing an ideological position, local authority staff are agreeing that teachers will be free to determine whether it is appropriate to test and, if so, when. The fact that there have been relatively few tests has not brought the huge outcry from parents that Tory Members lead us to expect. In Scotland, we have not the product of this Government but an inheritance of a much broader-based approach to secondary education and the examinations at the end of it.

It is understood that perhaps tomorrow we will get the Government's response to Professor Howie's report. While there is general consensus that Professor Howie has identified a weakness in a system which has served Scotland well for many years, I hope that the Government will not go down the road of having a two-tier system of examinations at the end of secondary education.

I was not allowed to intervene in what is substantially a debate dominated by English Members. The debate has had its moments. We enjoyed the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning) describing the advertisement displayed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) as "rude". In case there is any doubt in the minds of those who read the record later, I hasten to add that the advertisement on the advantages of grant-maintained schools that the hon. Lady described as "rude" was placed in the Radio Times by the Department for Education.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning , Tiverton

As hon. Members will observe, I have now put on my glasses. I tend not to wear them in the Chamber—that way, Opposition Members remain a blur to me. When the picture was suddenly flashed at me across the Chamber, without my glasses on it looked like a rather rude picture and I did not want to have anything to do with it.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Hon. Members on this side of the House would perhaps think it was rude in other respects, but I do not think that anyone could say that it offended public decency.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

No. The hon. Member for Tiverton made two criticisms: first, having campaigned in the county council elections in opposition to grant-maintained schools, the Liberal Democrats maintained their election promise when they swept aside the Tories in Devon; and, secondly, she seemed to have an aversion to open government and to be frightened that too much information was getting into the public domain. Undoubtedly, the fact that there was that amount of information led to the voters and parents taking the decision which they did in the ballots that have been referred to.

Much of this debate has rightly concentrated on the need for investment in education and the question of resources. When one looks at the developments in places such as south-east Asia and the changes that will come from eastern Europe, it is clear that we must invest in our young people if we are to be able to compete economically in an ever more competitive global market.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point

The hon. Gentleman will be happy to congratulate the Government on their investment in education since 1979. They increased by 50 per cent. in real terms the total amount that is spent on education, by 19 per cent. the amount that they spend per pupil on capital, by 47 per cent. the amount that they spend per pupil in education and by 31 per cent. the amount that they spend on books and equipment in education.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The hon. Gentleman could not have teed up my next point better if he had tried. My hon. Friend the Member for Bath referred to the brief from the Library for the debate on the Budget resolutions and the economic situation on 6 December. He pointed out that if one takes account of the appropriate education price deflators and the changes in pupil numbers, the increases in resources is not about 40 per cent., but just 2 per cent. That reveals a fall in real terms in spending on secondary education, and spending on further education has fallen by 22 per cent.

The report by the National Commission on Education shows that spending on books per pupil has fallen by 17 per cent. and expenditure per pupil was no higher in volume terms in 1990–91 than it was in 1980–81. At 1991–92 prices, capital expenditure in schools in Scotland when the Government came to power was £149 million. In 1991–92, it was £72·5 million, having fallen in one year to as low as £63 million.

Many of the figures are far from accurate. There has been a fall in investment in education if one takes into account all the relevant factors. It is not just a question of money and resources. The motion makes it clear that there must also be investment in goodwill and people, and an investment in the partnership described in the motion between all the main players.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

No, I will not give way. I have been generous in giving way, and I am speaking against the clock.

The Government have been weak. There has been a negative investment in terms of goodwill at all stages, and the alienation of many of those employed in the education service has led to a staggering loss of morale. Looking north of the border, we can see the reasons behind the campaigns that the teaching unions have been mounting about the greater work loads, or overloads, which have been placed on them.

We need only to look at an assortment of the 24 Government initiatives since the 1987 election. There has been a new initiative every three and a half months. Most of those are not trifling, and some are welcome. They include school boards; the five to 14 programme; performance indicators; devolved school management; modern language teaching in primary schools; formal development planning; action against bullying; national teating; computers in the classroom; case conference machinery; regulations recording truancy; staff development and appraisal; enhanced school inspection; self-governing schools legislation—one could go on.

Those are important developments, but, taken as a whole, they give a strong impression that the Government have substituted vision and strategy for a policy of change for change's sake. The policy lacks coherence. On the one hand, there is the promotion of decentralisation, and on the other the imposition of central control.

The Association of Head Teachers of Scotland prepared a report which was sent to the Under-Secretary at the Scottish Office last year. The report said: If there is any underlying consistency to this catalogue of reforms, it certainly escapes casual scrutiny. People know it is not possible to travel in different directions at the same time. The problem is overcome…by the use of phrases familiar to headteachers, for example:—'Emphasis on…should not be to the exclusion of…without losing sight of the need of and the like. What this kind of language amounts to is a belief that by uttering a few well-chosen words, the laws which usually govern human affairs will somehow be suspended. There are two unifying factors. Most, if not all, are time-consuming and require extensive work over and above the basic function of the teacher—teaching children and young people in a classroom.

When the AHTS named the report to which I referred, it was no coincidence that it called it "Children Incidentally". The report said: The title chosen…reflects our view of the way in which the immediate needs of children are being pushed to the periphery as all attention is concentrated on change as a process, and, seemingly, an end in itself. There is stress and low morale, and that affects teachers and inevitably has an effect on the children they teach. It cannot be conducive to creating a proper educational environment in which the highest standards are achieved.

The staff of Inchmore primary school wrote to the Scottish Educational Journal—the journal of the Educational Institute of Scotland. They said: In the primary sector we, as individual teachers, have to address all curricular areas not just one subject. If the Government want quality then they must pay for it by ensuring that our children, in Scotland, are being taught by teachers who are not suffering from the stress of implementation. When well-documented cases are presented to the Scottish Office, it appears that only lip-service is paid to the problem. The remedies that are put forward make no impact on the work load of the teacher in the classroom, and they fuel further the suspicion that officialdom at the highest level has no real concept of what it takes to teach children in the classroom of the 1990s.

We should not lose sight of the people who matter. They are the children in the classroom and the young people in our colleges and universities. At nursery, primary and secondary level and in further and higher education there have been tremendous pressures.

In Scotland, the proportion of three and four-year-olds who attend nursery education is lower than even the United Kingdom average, which does not always bear worthy comparison with other countries. I have mentioned some of the problems in primary schools with the introduction of curriculum change. In further education, the important link between local communities and further education colleges has been broken as the Government pursue centralising tendencies.

While the Government boast about the increase in student numbers in our universities—a worthy achievement—they say little about the strain that additional numbers place on lecture theatres, laboratory equipment and tutorial sizes. Little is heard about the significant drop-out rate among students and the financial hardship that many of them face.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools asked what evidence there was that increased resources led to better standards in education. I know that it is not a very good authority, but perhaps I could quote from the Government's amendment to our motion. It suggests that the House believes that the Government's commitment to a high quality education service is further demonstrated by the record sums it is spending". We have challenged whether those sums are as great in real terms as the Government claim.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

The hon. Gentleman mentions the sums that have been spent, but he knows as well as I do that in Scotland we are going through local government reorganisation—not reform—which the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have estimated will cost £720 million. Given that the reorganisation is being put in place against a backdrop of reducing public expenditure, does the hon. Gentleman feel that the schoolchildren of Scotland in the future will be less well off than they have been up to now?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The current generation will be very much affected by those changes, on top of all the other matters to which I have referred.

It is clear from the agonised protests of the hon. Member for Tiverton that the policy commitment made by the Liberal Democrats—

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I have only one minute left. The policy commitment of increased resources amounting to 1p on income tax is a popular policy. It gives substance to what we have argued. It is more convincing than the promise by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). She said that Labour's commitments would be met by tackling waste and not having so many carpets in the office of the National Curriculum Council. That lacked a certain degree of credibility.

We have costed our programme. It was put to accountants before the last election. We argue that our sums add up a lot better than those of the Conservative party, given the public sector borrowing requirement that it has created compared with the false prospectus that it put to the electorate at the general election.

Education is an investment that we cannot afford not to make. By souring the relationships that are vital for creating a partnership to deliver a high-quality education service, and failing to invest the necessary resources, the Government are in danger of failing a generation. Glossy pamphlets and league tables will never be a substitute for the dedication and professionalism of the teaching profession. Our young people deserve far better than they have received after 15 years of Tory rule. Our motion makes it clear that we are the party which has the commitment.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science) 9:47 pm, 1st March 1994

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) at least paid my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State the compliment of picking up on the most interesting remark of the evening, which my hon. Friend made at the beginning of the debate. He properly made the point that there was no direct correlation between the total expenditure and the success of a particular school system. The Government's amendment makes it clear that we have a commitment which is evidenced by the high and rising level of provision of finances for education.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland referred inaccurately to the drop-out rate. He spoke as though it had increased. The Liberal motion also says that the drop-out rate has increased. He referred to spending on further education and deplored the breaking of the link with local education authorities. I thought that exactly that decentralising of power and empowerment of the local community was a Liberal priority. The hon. Gentleman also warned us, in a number of windy phrases, that we should not lose sight of children in the classroom—I agree. He said that we should make a heavy investment in education, which we have also done.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The annunciator is referring to the Minister as Mr. Baldry—it has just been corrected.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

What a splendid waste of time.

Let us now consider the facts. When I consider the debate I am reminded of the famous old remark about the Opposition Benches reflecting a row of extinct volcanoes. It is clear that the explosive force of the Labour party's spending pledges has been effectively, if temporarily, plugged by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), who is sitting on the core. Nevertheless, in those places that I believe are known in the trade as round the back and out of sight, at the sides of the volcano of explosive spending, are pyroclastic flows. They appear at local gatherings such as teachers' conferences, where idle spending pledges are made. I anticipate that the plug will be removed from the central core and we shall see a return of the characteristic Labour habit of showering pledges all over the place in an uncontrolled manner.

To pursue the analogy, the Liberal Democrats, who tabled the motion, have seemed much more like the tail end of volcanic activity. They are gently rounded, non-threatening and entirely non-intrusive grassy mounds, but if one moves close to them one can observe the outcrops of volcanic pumice. If one moves closer still one finds that the stuff is abrasive, but essentially lightweight. That has been well evinced in the debate.

The substantial part of the contribution of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has already been dealt with and I shall respond to the issues raised by the Liberal Democrats later.

I shall deal first with the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). She offered her familiar litany of grouses, although she set them out more elegantly than she sometimes does. She referred in an almost thoughtful way to political correctness. If she wants to look for examples of political correctness in action she should look at local education authorities.

The hon. Lady referred to the alleged wastefulness of Government policies. It was conceded that there were well over 1 million empty places in schools. Those places have not been under the direct control of the Government—it is important to deal with that issue at a local level.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

Will the Minister give a guarantee that no school will be allowed to opt out to avoid closure as part of a plan to reorganise and to get rid of surplus places, as has happened?

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

The hon. Lady has made such assertions, but my brief experience and the experience of my colleagues has shown that we always turn our attention to potential problems such as that. We have not allowed it to occur.

The hon. Lady also spoke of centralisation. The number of school governors with a proper job to do in the local management of schools and grant-maintained schools is about 250,000. That is a huge increase in the number of people with a practical job to do on behalf of their schools and it is very much to be welcomed.

The hon. Lady was on familiar territory when she spoke about grant-maintained schools. She neglected to say that the great majority of parents, pupils and staff of grant-maintained schools are delighted at the provisions that have been obtained and the improvements in standards.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

My hon. Friend has mentioned grant-maintained schools and the effect of local education authorities. Does he deprecate the fact that Bedfordshire county council has withdrawn library services from grant-maintained schools? Does he also deprecate the fact that Kent and Essex have withdrawn repairs and maintenance from school budgets? Does he particularly deprecate the fact that, in Cornwall, potential school governors apparently have to take an oath of allegiance against grant-maintained schools? Does he agree that we do not want placemen as school governors, but people who want to contribute to the school?

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Education and Science)

Time is short—the answers are yes, yes and yes.

The hon. Lady referred to the assisted places scheme without referring to its policy. I noticed, as did my hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, that in her speech there was no reference at all to policies for education and no reference to a concern for the quality of education, except obliquely. Those are the reasons why we need to innovate and to make changes in educational policy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning) spoke with great passion. She analysed and destroyed the Liberal Democrat case for the one extra penny, but I will return to that myself because I will enjoy doing it as well. My hon. Friend then referred to a particular school and a complaint about a ballot which I think she has referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I remind the House that the Government believe in democracy and in the right of parents to choose the best future for their schools. If, where cases are brought to my right hon. Friend's attention, he judges that an LEA or anyone else has engaged in activities which have prejudiced the outcome of the ballot, he has the power to void the ballot, and he would use that power if it were justified. I think that I should not comment beyond that.

The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) spoke with some force about his concerns over section 11 funding. He rightly anticipated that this is primarily a matter for the Home Office and we can draw his remarks to the Home Office's attention, but I should remind him for the record —it is an important point —that the needs of children in that category are not catered for solely by section 11 but are also reflected in the standard spending assessment formula.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) spoke with this characteristic force about what was going on and he pointed to the weaknesses of Labour policy. He referred, for example—as a higher education Minister, I should do so, too—to the remarkable achievement that we have produced in empowering young people and in expanding student numbers so that we now have more than 1 million students in this country. He also referred to the importance of challenging the settled monopoly of local education authorities and of increasing choice and he is entirely right about that, too.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) wound up the Back-Bench contribution with his characteristic whingeing about this and that, his dislike of certain grant-maintained schools, and his concern about the common funding formula, on which we have consulted fully and which is no more complicated than LMS standards of devolution. I had thought that the hon. Gentleman was a mathematician, but I could be wrong about that. He exemplifies one of the essential problems about the attitude of the Labour party, which is that nothing must ever be changed, and every innovation that we make is automatically rubbished because they have nothing to offer instead of it.

If I may return to the motion itself, I remind the hon. Member for Bath—I hope that I have not besmirched him, but I have it on the record—that he once said that his party would be very keen to see the benefits of grant-maintained status being passed to all schools. It is a sort of vicarious GM, no doubt including the LEA in the case of the Liberal Democrats.

I must return to the central point of the debate, which is the one penny. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton destroyed the case for one penny because she made the point that it had been amply recycled into a range of provision from nursery books to student loans. We have been told that it is "at least" one penny, but the Liberal Democrats have spent their penny in such a way that it is even more recycled than Thames water is.

I notice also that the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), in the kind of debate that is never noticed because it happens on a Friday, referred to a visit to Hong Kong, where the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland may also have gone. He reported to the House on 14 January: There is no doubt that it is easier to do business where tax has a ceiling rate of 15 per cent.—[Official Report, 14 January 1994; Vol. 235, c. 443.] One or two extra on top of what we have, and what is the price of that?

In the middle of all these false trails, false complaints and false nostrums, the Government are getting on with the job of improving the nations's education. We should record that on the schools side alone, through the revenue support grant provided by the Department of the Environment, we are spending £17·1 billion directly into local education authorities. At the same time, we are asserting choice and diversity. We are driving forward, through performance indicators, higher standards. That is not divisive, but is what parents want. We shall continue to do that and to raise educational standards.

For that reason, I invite the House to reject the motion and to support my right hon. Friend's amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 30, Noes 282.

Division No. 150][9.59 pm
AYES
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Alton, DavidJones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Barnes, HarryKennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Beggs, RoyLewis, Terry
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Lynne, Ms Liz
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Maclennan, Robert
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Maddock, Mrs Diana
Canavan, DennisSkinner, Dennis
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Cohen, HarryTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Corbyn, JeremyTyler, Paul
Cryer, BobWalker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Etherington, BillWallace, James
Foster, Don (Bath)Welsh, Andrew
Harvey, Nick
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Tellers for the Ayes:
Johnston, Sir RussellMr. Archy Kirkwood,
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Ashby, David
Aitken, JonathanAspinwall, Jack
Alexander, RichardAtkins, Robert
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Amess, DavidAtkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Ancram, MichaelBaker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Arbuthnot, JamesBaker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Baldry, Tony
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Bates, MichaelGillan, Cheryl
Batiste, SpencerGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bellingham, HenryGorman, Mrs Teresa
Bendall, VivianGorst, John
Beresford, Sir PaulGrant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Blackburn, Dr John G.Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Body, Sir RichardGrylls, Sir Michael
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Booth, HartleyHague, William
Boswell, TimHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bowis, JohnHampson, Dr Keith
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesHanley, Jeremy
Brandreth, GylesHannam, Sir John
Brazier, JulianHargreaves, Andrew
Bright, GrahamHarris, David
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Haselhurst, Alan
Browning, Mrs. AngelaHawkins, Nick
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Hawksley, Warren
Burns, SimonHayes, Jerry
Burt, AlistairHeald, Oliver
Butcher, JohnHendry, Charles
Butler, PeterHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Hicks, Robert
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Carrington, MatthewHoram, John
Carttiss, MichaelHordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cash, WilliamHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Clappison, JamesHowarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coe, SebastianHunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Colvin, MichaelHunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Congdon, DavidHunter, Andrew
Conway, DerekJack, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Jenkin, Bernard
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnJessel, Toby
Couchman, JamesJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cran, JamesJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Davis, David (Boothferry)Kilfedder, Sir James
Day, StephenKirkhope, Timothy
Deva, Nirj JosephKnapman, Roger
Devlin, TimKnight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Dorrell, StephenKnight, Greg (Derby N)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKnight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dover, DenKnox, Sir David
Duncan, AlanKynoch, George (Kincardine)
Duncan-Smith, IainLait, Mrs Jacqui
Dunn, BobLawrence, Sir Ivan
Durant, Sir AnthonyLegg, Barry
Dykes, HughLennox-Boyd, Mark
Eggar, TimLidington, David
Elletson, HaroldLightbown, David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterLilley, Rt Hon Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)Lord, Michael
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)Luff, Peter
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Faber, DavidMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fabricant, MichaelMacKay, Andrew
Fairbairn, Sir NicholasMaclean, David
Fenner, Dame PeggyMcLoughlin, Patrick
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fishburn, DudleyMaitland, Lady Olga
Forman, NigelMans, Keith
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Marland, Paul
Forth, EricMarlow, Tony
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Freeman, Rt Hon RogerMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
French, DouglasMates, Michael
Gale, RogerMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Gallie, PhilMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeMerchant, Piers
Garnier, EdwardMills, Iain
Gill, ChristopherMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Moate, Sir RogerSpink, Dr Robert
Monro, Sir HectorSpring, Richard
Montgomery, Sir FergusStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Moss, MalcolmStephen, Michael
Needham, RichardStern, Michael
Nelson, AnthonyStewart, Allan
Neubert, Sir MichaelStreeter, Gary
Newton, Rt Hon TonySumberg, David
Nicholls, PatrickSweeney, Walter
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Sykes, John
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Norris, SteveTaylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir CranleyTaylor, John M. (Solihull)
Oppenheim, PhillipTaylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Ottaway, RichardTemple-Morris, Peter
Page, RichardThomason, Roy
Paice, JamesThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Patnick, IrvineThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Patten, Rt Hon JohnThornton, Sir Malcolm
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyThurnham, Peter
Pawsey, JamesTownend, John (Bridlington)
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Pickles, EricTracey, Richard
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Tredinnick, David
Porter, David (Waveney)Trend, Michael
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelTrotter, Neville
Rathbone, TimTwinn, Dr Ian
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnVaughan, Sir Gerard
Richards, RodViggers, Peter
Riddick, GrahamWalden, George
Rifkind, Rt Hon. MalcolmWalker, Bill (N Tayside)
Robathan, AndrewWaller, Gary
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)Waterson, Nigel
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)Watts, John
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Wells, Bowen
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)Whitney, Ray
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame AngelaWhittingdale, John
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardWiddecombe, Ann
Sackville, TomWiggin, Sir Jerry
Scott, Rt Hon NicholasWilkinson, John
Shaw, David (Dover)Willetts, David
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Wilshire, David
Shephard, Rt Hon GillianWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Shersby, MichaelWolfson, Mark
Sims, RogerYeo, Tim
Skeet, Sir TrevorYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Soames, NicholasTellers for the Noes:
Speed, Sir KeithMr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Timothy Wood.
Spencer, Sir Derek
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments): —

The House divided: Ayes 276, Noes 121.

Division No. 151][10.13 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Aitken, JonathanBates, Michael
Alexander, RichardBatiste, Spencer
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Bellingham, Henry
Amess, DavidBendall, Vivian
Ancram, MichaelBeresford, Sir Paul
Arbuthnot, JamesBiffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Blackburn, Dr John G.
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Body, Sir Richard
Ashby, DavidBonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aspinwall, JackBooth, Hartley
Atkins, RobertBoswell, Tim
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Bowis, John
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Baldry, TonyBrandreth, Gyles
Brazier, JulianHannam, Sir John
Bright, GrahamHargreaves, Andrew
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Harris, David
Browning, Mrs. AngelaHaselhurst, Alan
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Hawkins, Nick
Burns, SimonHawksley, Warren
Burt, AlistairHayes, Jerry
Butcher, JohnHeald, Oliver
Butler, PeterHendry, Charles
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hicks, Robert
Carrington, MatthewHill, James (Southampton Test)
Carttiss, MichaelHordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cash, WilliamHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, SydneyHowarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Clappison, JamesHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Coe, SebastianHunter, Andrew
Colvin, MichaelJack, Michael
Congdon, DavidJackson, Robert (Wantage)
Conway, DerekJenkin, Bernard
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Jessel, Toby
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Couchman, JamesJones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Cran, JamesKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Kilfedder, Sir James
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Kirkhope, Timothy
Davis, David (Boothferry)Knapman, Roger
Day, StephenKnight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Deva, Nirj JosephKnight, Greg (Derby N)
Devlin, TimKnight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dorrell, StephenKnox, Sir David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKynoch, George (Kincardine)
Dover, DenLait, Mrs Jacqui
Duncan, AlanLawrence, Sir Ivan
Duncan-Smith, IainLegg, Barry
Dunn, BobLeigh, Edward
Durant, Sir AnthonyLennox-Boyd, Mark
Dykes, HughLidington, David
Eggar, TimLightbown, David
Elletson, HaroldLilley, Rt Hon Peter
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterLloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Luff, Peter
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)MacKay, Andrew
Faber, DavidMaclean, David
Fabricant, MichaelMcLoughlin, Patrick
Fairbairn, Sir NicholasMcNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fenner, Dame PeggyMaitland, Lady Olga
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Malone, Gerald
Fishburn, DudleyMans, Keith
Forman, NigelMarland, Paul
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Marlow, Tony
Forth, EricMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Freeman, Rt Hon RogerMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
French, DouglasMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Gale, RogerMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gallie, PhilMerchant, Piers
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeMills, Iain
Garnier, EdwardMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gill, ChristopherMitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Gillan, CherylMoate, Sir Roger
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMonro, Sir Hector
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Gorst, JohnMoss, Malcolm
Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)Needham, Richard
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Nelson, Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Neubert, Sir Michael
Grylls, Sir MichaelNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynNicholls, Patrick
Hague, WilliamNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Norris, Steve
Hampson, Dr KeithOppenheim, Phillip
Hanley, JeremyOttaway, Richard
Page, RichardSweeney, Walter
Paice, JamesSykes, John
Patnick, IrvineTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Patten, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyTaylor, John M. (Solihull)
Pawsey, JamesTaylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethTemple-Morris, Peter
Pickles, EricThomason, Roy
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Potter, David (Waveney)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelThornton, Sir Malcolm
Rathbone, TimThurnham, Peter
Richards, RodTownend, John (Bridlington)
Riddick, GrahamTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Rifkind, Rt Hon. MalcolmTracey, Richard
Robathan, AndrewTredinnick, David
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynTrend, Michael
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)Trotter, Neville
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)Twinn, Dr Ian
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)Viggers, Peter
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame AngelaWalden, George
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardWalker, Bill (N Tayside)
Sackville, TomWaller, Gary
Scott, Rt Hon NicholasWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Shaw, David (Dover)Waterson, Nigel
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Watts, John
Shephard, Rt Hon GillianWells, Bowen
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Whitney, Ray
Shersby, MichaelWhittingdale, John
Sims, RogerWiddecombe, Ann
Skeet, Sir TrevorWiggin, Sir Jerry
Soames, NicholasWilkinson, John
Spencer, Sir DerekWilletts, David
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)Wilshire, David
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Spink, Dr RobertWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Spring, RichardWolfson, Mark
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir JohnYeo, Tim
Stephen, MichaelYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Stern, Michael
Stewart, AllanTellers for the Ayes:
Streeter, GaryMr. Timothy Wood and Mr. Robert G. Hughes.
Sumberg, David
NOES
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Alton, DavidEagle, Ms Angela
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Eastham, Ken
Barnes, HarryEtherington, Bill
Bayley, HughEvans, John (St Helens N)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Fatchett, Derek
Bermingham, GeraldFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Betts, CliveFoster, Don (Bath)
Blunkett, DavidFoulkes, George
Boyes, RolandGarrett, John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)George, Bruce
Caborn, RichardGodman, Dr Norman A.
Callaghan, JimGodsiff, Roger
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Graham, Thomas
Canavan, DennisGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Chisholm, MalcolmGrocott, Bruce
Clapham, MichaelGunnell, John
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Hall, Mike
Coffey, AnnHarman, Ms Harriet
Cohen, HarryHarvey, Nick
Corbyn, JeremyHeppell, John
Corston, Ms JeanHill, Keith (Streatham)
Cox, TomHinchliffe, David
Cryer, BobHogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Home Robertson, John
Dalyell, TamHood, Jimmy
Darling, AlistairHoon, Geoffrey
Davidson, IanHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Dixon, DonHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Donohoe, Brian H.Hutton, John
Dunnachie, JimmyIllsley, Eric
Jamieson, DavidMiller, Andrew
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Pike, Peter L.
Jowell, TessaPope, Greg
Kennedy, Charles (Ross.C & S)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Kilfoyle, PeterPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Lewis, TerryPrimarolo, Dawn
Loyden, EddieRedmond, Martin
Lynne, Ms LizRooker, Jeff
McAllion, JohnShort, Clare
McAvoy, ThomasSimpson, Alan
McCartney, IanSkinner, Dennis
Macdonald, CalumSnape, Peter
McFall, JohnSpearing, Nigel
McLeish, HenrySpellar, John
Maclennan, RobertSteinberg, Gerry
McMaster, GordonTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Madden, MaxTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maddock, Mrs DianaThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mahon, AliceTyler, Paul
Marek, Dr JohnWallace, James
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)Wilson, Brian
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Wray, Jimmy
Martlew, Eric
Meale, AlanTellers for the Noes:
Michael, AlunMr. Simon Hughes and Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)

Question accordingly agreed to.

MADAM SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its far sighted education reforms which are driving up standards and giving more responsibility to schools, more choice to parents and more opportunities to our young people; believes that the Government's commitment to a high quality education service is further demonstrated by the record sums it is spending; notes that the superficial policies advanced by the Liberal Democratic Party bear remarkable similarity to the policies advanced by Her Majesty's Opposition; further notes that those policies appear to revolve around reversing all the measures taken by Her Majesty's Government to raise standards and increase choice; notes the admission by the Liberal Democratic Party that it is a party committed to raising taxes, yet condemns its inability to demonstrate any clear linkage between a demand for more income tax and a well developed and defined set of educational policies on which additional tax revenues are to be spent; and believes that the Liberal Democrats' commitment to education would be better shown by ceasing its practice of campaigning in an underhand fashion against ballots of parents for grant maintained status, which the House utterly deplores.