The Greenwich judgment removed an artificial restriction on the exercise of parental choice. My right hon. Friend considers that it would be inappropriate to seek a change in the law to overturn its effects.
What advice would my hon. Friend give parents in my constituency who are unable to place their children in the secondary school of their choice because children from the neighbouring boroughs of Ealing, Hertfordshire and Harrow are moving into the first-class secondary schools with grant-maintained status in my constituency? As a consequence, parents cannot even place their children in the third school of their choice. Simply increasing money from the funding agency is no solution because there is an optimum size for secondary schools.
While I recognise my hon. Friend's interest in the problems of his constituents, the exercise of choice by parents outwith the borough must he matched with the concerns that he expressed of his constituents within the borough. We do not believe that an artificial distinction determined by geography is the right way to decide the matter. As my hon. Friend implied, it is open to the schools funding agency, in the case of Hillingdon, to bring forward proposals for the expansion of popular schools—where capacity can be provided.
When will the Minister stop misleading parents into believing that they have a choice of schools? Is not the truth that parents can express a preference but that schools make the choices now? In any case, schools do not have elastic walls. When they are oversubscribed, many parents are left angry and frustrated. Will the Minister start being honest with parents?
As a result of Conservative Government policies, the leader of the hon. Gentleman's party recently exercised his choice as a parent in respect of his own child.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many parents came to live in my constituency of Carshalton and Wallington to take advantage of the excellent education available in the London borough of Sutton provided by grant-maintained schools and local authority schools? Would it not be advantageous and in the interests of local parents if greater weight were given in the school admission procedures of both kinds of schools to parents who live locally?
I recognise my hon. Friend's concern but the funding formula is neutral as between children within and without a borough. We do not feel that it would be appropriate to overturn the Greenwich judgment and to disappoint one set of parents at the expense or preference of another.