When we next have a ballot in the north-west, will my hon. Friend address parents on the very great benefits of grant-maintained schools and invite the Leader of the Opposition to join him on the platform so that the right hon. Gentleman can condemn all the rubbish put out by the Labour party in the north-west?
I sense that if I were to go to a school and speak about the undoubted benefits of GM status during a ballot, I might find subsequently a small problem or two, vis-à-vis legal advice. The serious point that my hon. Friend makes is worth making. It is not that we even know the Opposition policy on opt-out schools. In this month alone, we have been asked to choose between the comments of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), who says that he is in favour of opt-out schools but says nothing specific, and those of the shadow spokesman for Wales, who has said that all the Labour party members in Wales are totally against opt-out schools. Which one speaks for the Labour party?
As my earlier answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) indicated, significant numbers of parents want grant-maintained schools in the north-west. They are enjoying them, and they would enjoy even more of them if the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were not so innately opposed to them.
Does the Minister acknowledge that the Labour-controlled county council in Lancashire has transformed a 1 per cent. real increase in last November's budget into a 5.5 per cent. cut in the county? Does my hon. Friend agree that the only way to get real increased cash resources to schools is to have a much wider provision of grant-maintained schools?
Undoubtedly, one of the many benefits of grant-maintained status is that by devolving control of all the budget to the school governors, one gets better value for money and less need for bureaucracy in town or county hall. My hon. Friend is right.