Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 5th February 1997.
I must inform the House that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
I beg to move.
That this House believes that the Government has consistently failed to invest sufficient resources in schools to ensure a high-quality education service; and believes that any incoming Government should make a commitment to increase spending on education — if necessary by increased taxation — to pay for high-quality early-years education for all three and four year olds whose parents want it, extra resources for schools to invest in books and equipment and continuing professional development for teachers, a reduction in class sizes and extra support for pupils with special educational needs and to tackle the backlog of repairs to school buildings.
It has become somewhat of a cliché for politicians to declare that education is their first priority, but for Liberal Democrats that has not suddenly become a priority; it always has been. Liberal Democrats seek a society made up of self-reliant individuals who are able to take control of their own lives, to make their own choices and to fulfil their own potential. We seek a society in which each person is valued, each person is different, each person is respectful of others and each person is entitled to be heard. We seek a society in which each person accepts responsibility for his or her actions and each person contributes to the nation's worth, self-confidence and success.
We believe that it is to education that we must turn for the key, because education equips all people with the knowledge and skills that they need to live free and fulfilling lives and to escape from poverty, ignorance and conformity. It must be admitted, however, that, with the mystic milepost of the millennium just three years away, we have a great deal to do.
The forthcoming general election, whenever the Prime Minister has the courage to call it, will provide the people of this country with the opportunity to make choices about the way forward. They will, for example, be able to choose which view to support—that of the Home Secretary, which is that prisons work; or that of Stephen Tumim, which is that the solution to prisons lies in pre-school education. They will have the opportunity to choose which is more important: a genuinely critical thought in each child's head, or a grammar school in every town; a computer for every child, or an income tax cut; an education system based on partnership and co-operation, or one based on competition and market forces.
Despite the excellent work in many of our schools, much more needs to be done. In Germany and France respectively, 62 per cent. and 66 per cent. of young people achieve the equivalent of grades A to C at GCSE in mathematics, the national language and one science subject. Sadly, the figure for Britain is 27 per cent. English pupils are often two years behind their Swiss and German peers at number work by the time they leave primary school. Our national targets for education and training for 2000—which many of us believe we are unlikely to meet—have already been surpassed by Germany and Japan. Standards must rise if we, as a nation, are to have any chance of competing internationally in the 21st century.
Against that background, it is hardly surprising that, as Nigel de Gruchy of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers said recently, people throw up their hands in despair when politicians propose merely a string of education gimmicks designed to produce media soundbites rather than to address the real issues that confront the education service. There is perhaps one advantage of some of the gimmicks that have been announced. Sometimes they show politicians' willingness to change their minds.
The House will be aware that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) recently made a pronouncement on the importance of school uniform. The House may be further interested to know that a motion was passed by Sheffield city council on 7 October 1981, which was supported by the hon. Gentleman. It banned all Sheffield schools from punishing, suspending or barring from school any pupil for not wearing school uniform. I hope that he will apply the same willingness to change his mind on the issue of increased funding for education.
Improving standards in our schools is not merely about increased investment. We should also recognise that raising standards depends on high-quality teachers. We could begin to increase teachers' enthusiasm and raise their morale as well as their school's level of achievement if we dropped the blame and shame approach, or the three-course diet for teachers of criticism, criticism and criticism, as the chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency recently described it. We could certainly make better use of existing resources.
As the recent Audit Commission's report "Trading Places" showed, the Government's education policies—particularly their reliance on market forces—have led to millions of pounds being wasted, and thousands of parents being denied their first choice of schools. The nursery voucher scheme is bureaucracy gone mad: the Conservative party would have been breathing hellfire had it been proposed by Brussels. According to local authorities, nursery voucher administration alone is estimated to cost about £43 million a year.
More and more power has been handed to educational quangos. More than 50 per cent. of the Department's educational expenditure is now administered by one or other of them. The average expenditure on salaries and benefits to the chief executives and the chairmen of those quangos has rocketed since 1987.
The hon. Gentleman knows that two of the larger quangos are the Further Education Funding Council and the Higher Education Funding Council. The logic of what he says is that they should be funded directly by Government. Is that really what he means?
No. The Minister should look at our policy documents, because we have made it clear that the work of the Higher Education Funding Council is vital. We have, however, called into question the work of the Further Education Funding Council. We have proposed a different mechanism for the funding of further education, which would enable strategic planning to take place locally. Sadly, strategic planning has now disappeared, which has led to much duplication and a waste of money in the FE sector.
The Minister did not refer to the Funding Agency for Schools. We would definitely abolish that quango and save the administrative costs. I am sure that the Minister would be interested to see the figures that I recently received on the cost of education quangos, particularly the cost of their senior employees. The annual payment to the chief executives of education quangos has risen by a staggering 165 per cent. since 1987: they now receive £1,451 a week on average. The payments to the chairmen of those quangos have risen by 146 per cent. during that period to £452 a week for an average week of only 1.6 days. If we want to find further questionable rises in central expenditure, we have only to look at the Department's education publicity and advertising expenditure. From 1987 to 1994–95, it rose from only £1.7 million to £11.1 million.
Notwithstanding the better use of resources, if educational standards are to improve significantly—as I believe that they must if we are to compete in the increasingly global market—we must increase our investment in schools. The Government will no doubt argue that they have increased investment. If we take into account changes in legislation and increasing pupil numbers, such a claim falls far short of reality.
On the ground, parents, teachers and governors see no evidence of improved funding. Even if the Cabinet failed to hear her words, parents, teachers and governors agreed with the leaked memorandum from the Secretary of State in September 1995, in which she said:
Insufficient resources now threaten the provision of education in the state school sector".
In recent years, those people on the ground have seen a massive rise in class sizes. The number of primary pupils in classes of 31 or more has risen to more than 1.28 million, which is an increase of 9.1 per cent. Almost six out of every 10 local education authorities experienced a rise in the number of pupils in classes of 37 or more in just one year—1995–95. In more than one in 10 local authorities—which is 14 per cent.—there was a rise in the number of classes of 41 or more.
Teachers, parents and governors have seen evidence of a shortage of books and equipment. They do not even have to take my word for it. The chief inspector's annual report, which was published yesterday, shows that one in four secondary schools and one in eight primary schools
have shortages of books which adversely affect teaching and make the setting of homework difficult.
He went on to point to the one in six schools that have
insufficient books to meet the needs of the curriculum.
Increasingly, school buildings are crumbling and overcrowded. The chief inspector's report identified that almost one in five secondary schools have significant weaknesses in some aspects of accommodation, and that, in one in six of those schools, it has a direct impact on specialist teaching, especially in science, design, technology and art. He also pointed to the one in seven schools that have difficulties with accommodation, which he says has
a detrimental effect on teaching and learning.
He also says that the shortage of space is a feature of almost one in three schools.
I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman says about the desirability of extra investment in our schools, particularly those catering for the younger end of the age range. Does he agree, however, that it is equally important to ensure that the money is spent to best effect? The management of local education authorities, and the way in which they handle such matters as admissions policy, are important in that context.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware, for instance, of Barrow Hedges primary school in my constituency, which comes under local management of schools in a Liberal-controlled authority? Many parents are worried about the fact that their children, having been allocated places in the nursery class, are now being excluded from the reception class in the primary phase. Will the hon. Gentleman convey a message to his colleagues in local government—that they should sort out those problems as well?
That is an interesting point, which was the subject of some debate today. The Select Committee was discussing the problems caused by the nursery voucher scheme, and the way in which some schools are changing their admissions policies. The hon. Gentleman, however, makes an even more significant point about the crucial importance of efficient use of existing resources. I entirely agree with him about that. He may be surprised to learn that all the surveys that have been conducted show that Liberal Democrat-run local education authorities use resources most efficiently, and have the smallest amount of money held back centrally. They delegate the most to individual schools.
I am rather perplexed about the Liberal Democrats' claims about extra resources for education. They talk of crumbling schools, the need for more books and the desirability of smaller class sizes, but a total of more than £4 billion would have to be spent to deal with the problems, and I cannot equate that with the imposition of just 1p on the basic rate of income tax. Will the hon. Gentleman please tell us where the money will come from?
I am delighted to learn that the figure on the hon. Gentleman's briefing note, calculated by his friends in Conservative central office, has dropped so dramatically from the £7 billion to which they referred on a similar briefing note only a year ago. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, by the time of the general election, he will have sight of the detailed costings for our education proposals, as, indeed, will the whole country. The fundamental difference between the Liberal Democrats and the other political parties is that we believe in being honest with the electorate—telling them what our policies will cost, and where the money will come from. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) will contain himself for a moment, I may touch on a few of the issues that interest him.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not. I want to make a little more progress; I will happily give way to him later. He cannot deny the problems that exist in our schools, and the cuts that we have seen—and I hope that he would not deny the comments of the chief inspector of schools.
Having drawn attention to the deficiencies in school premises, the chief inspector would presumably accept that other figures show capital expenditure on schools to be around half what it was 20 years ago. More than 600 primary schools still have outside loos, and two fifths operate in temporary buildings: three quarters of a million pupils are educated in such buildings. The backlog of repair and maintenance that is needed just to make our schools safe amounts to some £3.2 billion.
Why is that? First, despite their claims to have improved education spending, the Government should acknowledge that, according to their own figures, the percentage of gross domestic product spent on education since the last general election had fallen from 5.3 per cent. to 5.1 per cent. by 1995–96. Secondly, if we look at the figure that the Government believe local authorities need to spend on primary and secondary education, the standard spending assessment—I refer to figures provided by the Library—we see that the primary SSA per pupil fell by 0.4 per cent. between 1992–93 and 1996–97, while the cut in the secondary SSA has been a staggering 9 per cent.
If the Minister and other Conservative Members are not happy to use the SSA—they acknowledge that it is not necessarily the same as the amount actually spent in schools—they may wish to look at the most reliable estimate of what is actually spent "on the ground" by LEAs—the potential schools budget. According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, over that same post-election period—1992 to 1996—the primary PSB per pupil in England and Wales fell by around 3 per cent. in real terms, while the secondary PSB fell by 9 per cent.
When, 14 months ago, the Chancellor announced his Budget for the present year, I warned that tax cuts would mean school cuts. Sadly, I was proved right. Despite all the gloss from the Government, there was no extra money for our schools, and many had to make significant budget cuts. The Government have tried the same con trick this year. It is all very well to announce that SSAs are to be increased, but if there is no real-terms growth in Government funding for local authorities, and if local education authorities are spending above SSA—as almost all are doing already—the only way in which to avoid cuts is to impose a massive hike in council tax, which is often prevented by the capping regime, or a disproportionate cut in other council services which have already been cut to the bone. In many cases, both will be necessary.
The effect is clear: there is no such thing as a free income tax cut. The latest income tax cut will mean further cuts in our schools. In my constituency, Bath and North East Somerset council has no choice but to make savings of £10.4 million, and, even with such cuts, the council tax will have to rise well above the rate of inflation. Education must inevitably take its share of the cuts. Plans for cuts in music provision, discretionary awards, information technology support, school meals and other support services are being considered, alongside a cut in the schools budget of 4.1 per cent. this year and 7 per cent. in a full year. Plans for a major literacy programme may well have to be put on hold, as may plans to raise the quality of education for under-fives.
Not surprisingly, my postbag has been full of letters expressing concern about the proposed cuts. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis of Combe Down in Bath recently wrote to me:
We were appalled to learn of the proposed cuts to the Education budget for 1997–98",
cuts which they found "totally unacceptable". They argued for increased spending to ensure that
our schools can continue to function without having to resort to drastic measures which would jeopardise the education of our children, and lead to blight in the economy of our country in future years.
Another of my constituents, Mr. Tim Heiden, wrote to the Prime Minister:
Your Government maintains that education is a high priority and that standards must improve. How can this be when schools are faced with further cuts in their finances?
On Monday night, a packed public meeting in Bath started what the local media described as
a crusade for education, rallying opposition against proposed swingeing … cuts.
At that meeting Annita Wright, head teacher of Culverhay school, warned that some schools could face cuts of up to £100,000 in their budgets, which would have a direct impact on staffing levels. She said:
Any cuts to teaching and teaching staff are going to impact in the classroom. There is no way to avoid that.
As a report about the meeting in my local newspaper, The Bath Chronicle, made clear, all present knew where the blame lay. The report stated:
Last Friday Education Secretary Gillian Shephard washed her hands of the cash crisis, claiming the local authority had 'perfectly adequate and substantial funds' to spend on schools.
But people at last night's meeting laid the blame for the crisis squarely at the Government's door.
St. Gregory's headteacher David Byrne said: 'Take no notice of what Gillian Shephard said. Right from the start this authority has been under-funded.'
Bath and North-East Somerset's budget, he said,
has not increased in line with its responsibility.
No wonder an action group, Parents Against Cuts in Education, has now been formed in my constituency.
The situation in Bath is replicated across the nation, but the people of the nation know who is to blame. They will have listened with incredulity to the Secretary of State for the Environment when he told the House that if
council tax bills increase, it will be because Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors choose to increase them. If services are cut, it will be because Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors choose to cut them. No one is forcing them to increase council tax bills or to cut services."—[Official Report, 3 February 1997; Vol. 289, c. 682.]
Like the burglar caught red-handed with the stolen goods, the cry, "Not me, guv," goes up. That, however, is nowhere near the mark. The people know that that will not wash. They know that further cuts in education are the price to be paid for the Tory's cynical attempt to buy votes at the general election. When they come to vote, they will know to avoid any candidates with the word "Con" written after their names.
The electorate will be looking with caution at the Labour party, which has announced no change to the Government's figures. Further, it refuses to join the Liberal Democrats in voting against an income tax cut that will lead to school cuts. It will be difficult for Labour activists to campaign against education cuts when Labour Members fail to vote against the very measure that will give rise to them.
It is remarkably generous of the hon. Gentleman to give way, bearing in mind that he has been talking about the need to spend more money. Will he explain why Liberal councils spend much less than Conservative councils on education?
My hon. Friend makes the point from a sedentary position that we are not sure which Conservative council is being used to judge us, given the few Conservative councils that now exist. People know that education in the areas that the Conservative party used to control was extremely badly damaged.
Unlike the Conservative party, which starved education of the money that it needed, and unlike the Labour party, which was too timid to promise more, the Liberal Democrat position on funding is clear, simple and unchanged. An under-funded education service is a false economy. That is why Liberal Democrats remain committed to increased investment in education and training. If necessary, we shall increase the level of taxation by 1p in the pound to pay for that increased investment. That is the equivalent of half a pint of beer a week for the average taxpayer.
That is hardly too much to ask for the future prosperity of our nation, especially when that increase in taxation can fund increased investment to provide high quality early-years education for all three and four-year-olds without using a cumbersome and bureaucratic scheme. It will fund more books and equipment, smaller class sizes and effective support for children with special education needs. It will also provide increased investment for decent buildings.
Unlike politicians of other parties, Liberal Democrats believe that those who will the ends must also will the means. The gimmicks and the soundbites are not for us. Only the Liberal Democrats offer radical policies backed by clear funding proposals. Under-investment in education is tantamount to condemning future generations to the scrapheap, along with this failing Government. Education is vital and increased investment is essential. If we fail to meet the challenge, we fail the nation.
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
welcomes the substantial extra investment which the Government has made, and continues to make, in early years, primary and secondary education, the reforms that the Government has introduced to allow that investment to be used to maximum effect and the improvement in standards in schools which has been the result.
I judge that the debate is about resources for education and standards. I shall show that the Government have invested heavily in education and that, as a direct result of our policies, standards are rising across education.
It is especially disappointing that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who moved the motion, is not ready to recognise increased spending on this occasion, bearing in mind that he has done so in the past. He told the House in 1994:
I do not deny … that in recent years the Government have increased expenditure on education."—[Official Report, 1 March 1994; Vol. 238, c. 848.]
His speech this evening was the predictable gloom and doom that we have come to expect, wrapped up with his famous promise that there will be a penny on income tax for education.
Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman says, that is soundbite politics, not serious policy. Let us consider the commitments that the hon. Gentleman's penny is expected to pay for. Some have been mentioned by him this evening and others have been mentioned in Liberal Democrat documents.
The list is virtually endless. The commitments include providing pre-school education for every three and four-year-old, education or training for 16 to 19-year-olds in work, retraining and education for adults, £500 million of capital expenditure on schools, unstated additional resources for higher education, increasing funding for all schools, abolition of student loans, extra funding for pupils with special education needs in addition to the delegated schools' budget, the reduction of all primary school class sizes to no more than 30, investment in new equipment and teaching aids, including information technology, increasing funding for in-service training for teachers and giving all students, full time and part time, entitlement to social security throughout the year.
The Liberal Democrats claim that that amazing list of pledges could be paid for by a 1p rise in the rate of income tax. That is unutterable nonsense. To coin a phrase, based on audience observation:
Never was a penny spent more often than during a Liberal Democrat speech.
Let us not just say a penny, for that sounds nice and small. The average family, which earns £21,400 a year, would find itself paying £18 extra tax every month as a result of the penny increase.
Even that is not the end of the story. The House may recall that the Liberal Democrats have been promising their 1p for at least a couple of years. In November 1996, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer again reduced the standard rate of income tax by a further 1p. I assume, therefore, that the logic of the position of the hon. Member for Bath is that his party now supports a 2p increase in the standard rate of income tax. That helps a bit with the arithmetic of the pledges, but it increases the pain, especially for those on below average earnings. I judge that the hon. Gentleman's party is rather coy on this issue, and coyness is a rather unnatural position for the hon. Gentleman to adopt.
We know, of course, that the hon. Gentleman could spend money, given the chance. After all, anyone can spend money. Even the Liberal Democrats concede that
point. I quote from the internal Liberal Democrat document entitled "Towards 1996—Ideas for Research and Campaigning", which was no doubt given a wide circulation. Within it is the statement:
Lib-Dems just want to throw money at education.
The real point is to spend money wisely, as the Government have done and will continue to do.
The prescriptions of the hon. Member for Bath are pure fantasy politics and, of course, are based on the assumption of a Liberal Democrat Government—more fantasy politics. Let us turn to the real world in which the Government have been investing in education.
Two months ago, in his Budget statement, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced £129 million more for nursery vouchers, £15 million more for grant-maintained schools and £22 million more for the assisted places scheme—all investment in education. Of course, the Liberal Democrats would abolish nursery vouchers, destroy GM schools and deny to bright children from poorer families the opportunity to be educated in some of our best schools by eliminating the assisted places scheme. Here, as in virtually every other aspect of education, they are "little Sir echoes" of the main Opposition party.
How much money would be saved by abolishing the assisted places scheme, and how many teachers would that abolition put into other schools?
My hon. Friend raises an interesting question. For the moment, I shall base my response on the Labour party pledge, for reasons to which I have already alluded. The Labour party has made it clear that it is talking of a phasing out of the assisted places scheme. I judge that, as a result, there will be less than £5 million available in the first year of the assisted places scheme. Frankly, that will provide 100 or so primary school teachers. Compare that £5 million with an estimated cost of meeting Labour's pledge on class size—which is possibly what my hon. Friend was alluding to—of approaching £200 million. The House and the country should be aware of that discrepancy.
Also on Monday, as the hon. Member for Bath mentioned, the House debated the local government finance settlement. It allows £633 million more for local authority spending on schools—a 3.6 per cent. increase. That makes £1.7 billion more for schools in just two years. That is investment in education, and it is not a one-off.
In 1979, the start of the Conservative Governments, £515 was spent per pupil. In 1994, that figure had grown to £1,890. In real terms, after adjusting for inflation, that is half as much again. In real terms, per pupil, spending on books and equipment has risen by 56 per cent. and spending on support staff by 156 per cent. Perhaps that, above all, finally sets the record straight. Despite all the hand wringing, the reality is that actual spending per pupil has increased by almost 50 per cent. in real terms since 1979.
I have to confess that I listened to such mathematics under the previous Labour Government as well as under this one. If the number of school pupils declines in a school, spending per pupil inevitably rises without extra expenditure, because structural, cleaning and other costs remain constant, whatever happens. As a result, total spending is divided among a smaller number of pupils. That is how the Minister arrives at the increases per pupil.
To a very small extent, the hon. Gentleman's point is valid, but he cannot seriously be suggesting that that accounts for a virtual 50 per cent. increase in real terms. It does not, and I urge him to recognise that the prime factor is that we have been prepared to continue to fund education.
We have heard nothing from the hon. Member for Bath about what other countries spend on education. Perhaps we should consider a couple of facts. Although international comparisons can be difficult to make, we know for certain that public expenditure on education in the UK, which, as he said, is 5.1 per cent. of gross domestic product, is higher than in Germany or Japan; that public spending in the UK on primary and secondary education, as a proportion of GDP, is among the highest in Europe; and that the UK spends more per pupil on pre-primary education than France, Japan and most other countries. Whichever way hon. Members examine it, the Government have been investing in education. We have a record of which we can be proud.
As I have said, however, investing in education is not about throwing public money around indiscriminately; it is about spending more, as the Government have done. However, if it were only or even primarily a question of more money, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth and Hackney would be achieving among the best examination results in the UK. All are in the top 12 local education authorities for spending per pupil, but all are in the bottom 12 in terms of GCSE results.
If that sounds a little distant for most Liberal Democrats, let me take East Sussex and West Sussex. Both are controlled by Liberal Democrat and Labour coalitions—the old one-two, as we have come to describe them. East Sussex spends more per pupil at both primary and secondary level, yet when we turn to the latest GCSE performance tables, we find that West Sussex is just in the top 10, while higher-spending East Sussex is some 40 places lower.
In truth, it is more about efficiency, effectiveness and value for money. The Government's record of encouraging greater value for money is second to none—so substantial that I have time to cover only some of the highlights.
As all hon. Members will recall, we introduced local management of schools, allowing schools themselves to decide where their money is best spent, not some bureaucrat sitting in town hall or county hall. Schools have found that, having acquired that freedom, they want to keep it. Few, if any, want to go back to pre-LMS days. After all, why should they? Now, they spend their money on the services they want; they buy goods from the suppliers they trust. The supplier is often their LEA; but now, rather than saying, "This is what you get—take it or leave it," the LEA has to offer what the school wants, so the school can obtain the best deal around and the best use can be made of our education investment.
Before the Minister leaves local management of schools, which Liberal Democrats pioneered in some regions and which I strongly support, I hope that he will recognise that the picture he has painted would simply not be recognised by many school governors. In my county of Northumberland, they talk about mass resignation, not because they do not like the freedom to choose where the school's money goes, but because they cannot make the budget work on the figures available to them. The job of being a school governor has become burdensome because it is a job of managing cuts.
I join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the role and work of governors throughout the UK. All hon. Members on both sides of the House would do that, but, as it happens, today, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) and I met a deputation of head teachers from the right hon. Gentleman's local education authority. I listened patiently to what they said, but in the end I had to say that I still could not understand how an above average SSA increase for next year in their LEA—from memory, it is some 4.2 per cent.—was translated into a projected 2 per cent. cut in school budgets. However, I suggested that some of the answer lay in county hall. Most right hon. and hon. Members would be pleased to receive a 4.2 per cent. increase.
I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but this is important. Does he not understand that the SSA increases, however large they might be, are not related to the amount of money that is provided by the Government? The Chancellor's Red Book for the last Budget makes it clear that the amount in real terms made available to local government this year is exactly the same as the amount in the forthcoming year. There is no real-terms increase in the money. In effect, the Government can say to LEAs, "Spend as much as you like," but if the Government do not give them the resources, and if they then put a capping limit on LEAs as well, the LEAs simply cannot do it. The Minister surely understands that.
The hon. Gentleman must recognise that the extra millions and millions of pounds that I am describing and that go into SSAs—not just education SSAs—are being met by taxpayers. He also knows—I am happy to have a separate seminar on local government finance, but possibly on another occasion, lest I incur your wrath, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that the freedom that local authorities rightly enjoy to determine how they use that money and at what level they spend, allows them either to continue to give priority to education or, in a few cases, not to do so.
We have also introduced greater parental choice, so that parents have a better say on which school they want their child to go to. Under LMS, popular schools attract more money as they become more popular. That is the market mechanism which, on other occasions, the hon. Member for Bath has accused us of being obsessed with, but I am not shamed by that accusation. Why be ashamed of the market, which rewards good, popular schools and provides an incentive for all schools to improve their performance? It is another way of ensuring that the Government's investment in education leads to the high standards that parents demand.
I have mentioned the assisted places scheme and I do not intend to return to the subject in detail, beyond confirming that, last summer, assisted pupils recorded pass rates of nearly 97 per cent. at GCSE grades A* to C. Independent research shows that assisted pupils do better than those of similar ability in maintained schools. They take more A and AS-levels and achieve better grades. That is another example of our wise investment in education.
The next step on from LMS is allowing schools that choose it to opt for grant-maintained status. That means additional freedom to run themselves, to own their buildings, to control their admissions and to manage the whole of their budget—not just the proportion that the LEA delegates to its own schools. With this margin of flexibility—money for the school to spend itself rather than for the LEA to spend on its behalf—GM schools do wonders. The key point is that, when schools are given responsibility for their own destiny, their energy and imagination are released. They start to look afresh at what they do with their resources—money, staff, buildings—and they target their resources where they will have most effect.
The system works. GM schools get results—look at the performance tables. Look at any list of top schools. Listen to what the schools say themselves. They say that they have been able to put more money into staff, buildings and books since going GM. They say that staff morale has improved and applications per place have gone up. Their truancy levels are half the national average.
The GM route taps schools' energy and imagination to make our investment in education work harder. So too does the private finance initiative. On top of the £700 million that we have allocated from public funds for capital projects in 1997–98, schools and LEAs can now use the expertise, efficiency and investment strength of the private sector. This Government have given them both the freedom to do so and direct help—more than £50 million of additional revenue support.
This represents more wise investment in education—the money to do the job, and the freedom to do it efficiently. It has been a real success: in Dorset, where the LEA is using the PFI to replace Colfox school; in Manchester, where Temple primary school is to be rebuilt using the PFI; in Norfolk and Shropshire, where LEAs are considering how the PFI can help them increase the number of nursery units; and in Lewisham and Ealing, where the PFI is being used to improve catering facilities. Many other LEAs and schools are working with the private sector on PFI projects. They mean more wise investment, and real benefits for schools.
Over the next three years, we will be investing some £435 million more in nursery education. Through the introduction of nursery education vouchers, parents will gain the opportunity better to choose the right pre-school education for their child. The inspection regime will guarantee that, in the public or the private sector, children will be receiving high-quality nursery education. That means that our investment will once more be going to where it does the most good.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in the past two years, Government spending on schools has increased by £1.8 billion, which represents 1p in terms of income tax? Have we not therefore already achieved what the Liberal Democrats are calling for?
My hon. Friend is spot on. We intend to continue that record during the next Parliament, when we are returned at the forthcoming election.
Finally, the Education Bill currently before Parliament and the other measures outlined in our White Paper build on the success of LMS and the GM programme by offering schools even greater freedom.
Of course, success is also a question of school effectiveness. That is why we have introduced a system of rigorous inspection. As the House is well aware, Her Majesty's chief inspector published his annual report yesterday. I very much welcome the report. It contains much that schools can be proud of—especially the 167 schools that are commended as excellent. Teaching is satisfactory or better in the majority of lessons, and the proportion of poor-quality lessons has declined.
It was not as large an improvement as I would have liked, and more remains to be done; on literacy and numeracy; on improving the quality of the minority of lessons which are not satisfactory; and in information technology. Overall, the report is good news, and if the Labour party were in power we would still have only 100 inspections a year—rather less than the 12,000 that have now been carried out.
Throughout its programme of reform, the Government's strategy has been to concentrate on the outputs—higher standards, better qualifications. I should like, for instance, to take this opportunity to welcome the splendid news that Phoenix high school in Hammersmith and Fulham has today joined the number of failing schools that have been turned around and are now certified as delivering a good education. I pay tribute to the LEA, which has supported the school, to the Office for Standards in Education for its regular and thorough monitoring, and above all to the school—the head teacher, governors, staff, parents and pupils who have worked so hard to achieve this improvement.
By concentrating on the essentials, we are sticking to the big issues, not on arbitrary limits to class size, meaningless minimums for homework or even parental ballots on school uniform. If that latest wheeze from the Labour party truly meant that it was listening to parents' views, Labour would drop its proposals to destroy GM schools, where parents—having voted for freedom from their LEA—would find that freedom lost without any question of a second ballot: "So parents, you can have the consolation of a vote on school uniform if you like—but we're taking back your school." By contrast, our strategy has worked. The facts clearly demonstrate that standards have been rising. That is corroborated by HMCI.
To sum up, the Government have invested money in education: 48 per cent. more, in real terms, per pupil, since we took office. We have allowed schools to make the best use of that investment, through LMS, through GM status and in early years education funding; and we have ensured that schools will make the best use of the investment: through inspection and through greater parental choice, much as that discomfits Opposition Members.
The result has been rising standards across education—a record of which any Government would be justly proud. I therefore support the amendment and oppose the main motion.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) on persuading his party to give an Opposition day to the subject of education. I notice that the motion is couched mainly in terms of investment, which is of course important, but I want to start by talking about what I might crudely term output—the word the Minister used.
I recognise, as did the Minister, the many achievements of our young people, schools and teachers; and I add my congratulations to the others offered to the Phoenix school in Hammersmith. I also congratulate the eight schools described in the Ofsted report as having been taken out of "special measures" over the past 12 months. That is a major achievement—a great recognition of their efforts. We wish them even greater success in the future.
I do not think that there is any doubt that our young people who achieve at the highest level are comparable with those anywhere else in the world; yet, over the past 18 years the Government have failed to tackle the continuing and growing problem of under-achievement. The result is that, as we approach the millennium, we are failing to reach even the modest targets that we have set ourselves as a nation.
Let us look at the evidence. This year's results showed that about 45 per cent. of pupils gained five or more GCSE passes at grade C and above. That falls well below the target of 55 per cent. of young people achieving that much by the year 2000. The proportion of young people gaining advanced-level qualifications is smaller in the UK than it is in our competitor nations: 80 per cent. of young people in Japan qualify to university entrance level, and in Germany, 75 per cent. of 25 to 28-year-olds have an advanced-level qualification. A smaller proportion of our population qualifies at level two or above in vocational skills than in countries that compete with us.
This under-achievement at 16 and into adulthood must be a cause for concern, but perhaps of greater concern is the fact that, lower down the age range in the years of compulsory school, it looks as though we are not likely to catch up with our competitors before 2000 or even beyond it. Yesterday's Ofsted report pointed out that, in the schools inspected this year, literacy rates at key stage 1 were lower than they were in the schools inspected last year. I agree that the sample of schools was different, but we tend to draw conclusions from chief inspector's reports.
We have known for a while that the number of 11-year-olds not achieving the literacy skills that could be expected of them is above 40 per cent. It is thus not surprising that among 16-year-olds there is still a long tail of under-achievement. One in 12 young people did not gain a single GCSE pass in last year's examinations—the figures for boys are worse than for girls. So the problem we face amounts to a pattern of poor literacy at seven and 11, no examination passes at 16, and a failure to stay in education and training beyond the years of compulsory schooling.
I do not want to take away from pupils' excellence and achievements or from the percentage rise in last year's GCSE passes, but, as a country, we have a cultural problem because the divide between achievers and under-achievers is greater than in other countries. That must be a great concern. Let us encourage excellence, and let us look for it in every child and in every school. But that excellence must include higher attainment levels for all pupils and all young people. In recent years, the divide between achievers and under-achievers has grown so much that it is becoming not only an educational problem but a social problem.
In this country we have somehow to create a culture in which young people know that to earn they have to learn. To achieve that, however, we will need a Government who understand that we must invest to succeed. I do not think that money is the answer to all our difficulties in the education service, and I do not think that the hon. Member for Bath or any Opposition Member thinks or would suggest that, but money is important, and it is a crucial element. We have a Government who claim, on the one hand, that money is not important; but, on the other, they try to claim credit for increasing expenditure. They are wrong on both counts. Yes, money is important; and, no, the Government have not increased expenditure in recent years.
The hon. Member for Bath quoted some figures from the Library, according to which, since 1992–93, the standard spending assessment has fallen in real terms in both the primary and, more particularly, in the secondary sector. That is what the officials say; but the Government claim otherwise. This financial year, Ministers claim to have invested an additional £878 million in schools. They also said that they were making available an extra 4.5 per cent. In the overall settlement for local authorities, however, there was no real increase over the previous year.
The truth is that, if local authorities managed to protect or increase their education budget this year, as many did, they did so at the expense of other services. They juggled the money in the bank, but the money in the bank did not increase by one jot.
Is the hon. Lady aware—I learned of it today, on a visit to the Wirral—that, next year, Labour-controlled Wirral council is planning an education cut of £1.2 million, but that, if it chose to, it could spend that money? It is planning a budget for next year which, unlike those of most authorities, will be £4 million under cap.
The Liberal Democrats are beginning to sound a little like the party in government, because, when they attempt to fight Labour at the local level, they manage to find imagined money in the budget to spend on education. They do exactly the same thing in Birmingham. I do not know the exact breakdown of expenditure in Wirral, South, although I thought that there was an agreement between the hon. Member for Bath, who leads on education for the Liberal Democrats, and the Labour Front Bench that there is no extra money for education. I cannot imagine how on earth the hon. Member for Newbury supposes that Wirral, South has somehow—above and beyond every other local education authority in the United Kingdom—managed to make available extra money, unless it has something to do with a forthcoming parliamentary by-election.
This year the Government have tried the same trick on expenditure as they tried last year. They claimed in the Budget that an extra £830 million would be made available for education—but where is it? Where is the cash? Where is the money? When Ministers talk about an increase, they are not talking about real pounds and pence or about real money; they are talking about the standard spending assessment, which is the amount that they think that local authorities should spend. So it is all words. It is not cash, but words, and it is certainly not an increase in grant. It is a con trick. It is also a rather silly con trick, because, from current budgets, councils would have to cut spending by £41 per pupil if they were to spend at the level advised by the Government.
So there we have it there is no extra 4.5 per cent. for education next financial year, and local authority associations have estimated that the grant appears set to rise, in real terms, by as little as 0.5 per cent. I do not know whether Ministers believe what they say about expenditure, but I can assure them that no one in the real world believes a word they say about increased education expenditure.
Parents do not believe the Government, because they can see class sizes rising. In the past four years, the percentage of children in classes of more than 30 pupils has risen from 24.9 per cent. to 31 per cent. Teachers do not believe that there is an increase in expenditure, because they know that there is comparatively less money for books and equipment. Local governments do not believe that there is more money for education expenditure, because they know that there is less money for capital expenditure and repairs.
What about the great Conservative conversion to nursery education and the great flagship policy—the "clear blue water"—of nursery vouchers? The scheme has not even got off the ground, and £56 million has already been cut from the Budget. The same difficulties exist in further education.
After the hon. Lady's repeated comments, I should say that the figures that she has quoted are the result of updated estimates on four-year-olds. Not a single parent will be denied their voucher or the opportunity to use it.
They may not be denied their voucher, but they will be denied their place, and I think that they will be far more concerned about places than about vouchers. I am always staggered that the number of four-year-olds changes as they change from being three years old to four years old. I do not know where they have all come from—perhaps they are born rather late in life. However, if the Minister has managed to secure sufficient places for four-year-olds within the current Budget, why did he not use £50 million to extend nursery provision to three-year-olds rather than cutting it from the Budget?
The simple answer—although I do not think that the hon. Lady will discover it for herself in the next few years—is that, when the Government present their Budget each year, they make their best estimates for the subsequent two years. Those estimates are invariably updated, in many ways. That figure is simply one example, which she has latched on to.
I am still staggered to think where all the four-year-olds have gone to. However, the Minister did not answer the question that I asked. As he has been able to cost the policy at less money, perhaps his commitment to nursery education would be more credible if he had transferred that money to expanding nursery provision for three-year-olds.
Further education has been badly treated in recent weeks. It has been thrown into confusion and chaos by the Government's refusal to meet the Further Education Funding Council's claim for demand-led student enrolments beyond the end of last term. No commitment will be made to fund the demand-led element in the remainder of this year, or in 1997–98. That is a clear breach of promise. Those enrolments have been used to stimulate growth in further education, and at comparatively low cost. However, now the Government refuse to pay, and thousands of students across the country are likely to be affected.
I am intrigued by this passage on funding, because presumably—if the hon. Lady is upset about it—she will make a spending pledge to make that funding available, which she says is not there.
The hon. Gentleman is anticipating comments that I will make later in my speech. Perhaps he will wait, and I will make those comments.
Ministers have not only failed to invest sufficiently in education, but they have wasted some of the resources that they have spent. Millions of pounds were wasted because the Government got the national curriculum wrong; £220 million has been spent on propping up the assisted places scheme; £3 million has been wasted on advertising the nursery voucher scheme; and £10 million has been wasted on administering that scheme. Millions of pounds have been spent on wrong priorities or on waste, and that money could have been spent on raising standards for children in our schools.
We need to invest more money in our education service—but we need more than money: we need to invest in people. We need to ensure at that all our head teachers have appropriate qualifications so that schools get the leadership that they need and deserve. We need to invest in our children under five, so that they get the benefit of nursery education. We need to concentrate and target early literacy, so that children do not transfer to secondary schools without the levels of literacy necessary to cope with a secondary school curriculum.
The hon. Member for Bath was honest enough to say that his party wishes to increase income tax by 1p to cover increased spending plans. The only problem with that is that it is the Liberal Democrats' solution to everything. They make more uncosted pledges than the Home Secretary has court judgments against him. Education, health, you name it—they put a penny on income tax to pay for it. In fact, the cost of some of their major pledges would mean increasing income tax by 5p in the pound. Were the Liberal Democrats ever in a position to set the level of taxation, they might reflect that it would be wholly irresponsible to increase income tax by that amount.
Does the hon. Lady believe that it would be irresponsible to increase it by just 1p?
The hon. Gentleman cannot change his policy in an intervention—[Interruption.] But then again, he is a Liberal Democrat. His party's policy is to increase income tax not by lp but by 5p in the pound. If we are to have a bargain basement in which I have persuaded the hon. Gentleman to drop his proposed income tax increase by 4p, let him produce new policy documents so that we can have another debate. But I am happy to argue with the Liberal Democrats about their costings and their commitment to increase taxes by 5p in the pound.
The hon. Member for Bath knows that people are taxed more heavily now than in 1979, and that 22 new taxes in the lifetime of this Government is enough. To them, however, he proposes to add a Lib-Dem special tax. That is easy to say, but when people are already reeling from the Tory tax increases of the past five years, it does not make sense to suggest another. The public would not buy it.
I share the hon. Gentleman's wish for more resources to be spent on priorities on which I suspect he and I agree, but the first course of action must be to use the existing money, and to use it more wisely. Switching money from the assisted places scheme and using it to reduce class sizes to no more than 30 for five and seven-year-olds will give a better start to thousands of primary school children. By using the money spent on nursery voucher bureaucracy, we can make sure—this is the Government's own costing—that every four-year-old has a pre-school place. By taxing the excessive profits of the privatised utilities, we can provide employment and training to 250,000 young people who are currently unemployed and claiming benefit.
We will invest in people by making sure that all heads are appropriately qualified; we will invest in school buildings by bringing together the public and private sectors; we will invest in the under-fives and in the primary years; we will invest in out-of-school learning and in education and training—
I have just explained where it will come from.
We can make a difference by changing priorities and cutting waste. Over the lifetime of a Parliament, we will make a further difference by getting people back to work and reinvesting the money that is currently paid in benefits.
I have given way several times already and I am keen to make progress. I have nearly finished, so I will not give way now.
The Government insult people by pretending that they have invested more in education. The Liberal Democrats make extravagant, uncosted promises in the sure and certain knowledge that they will not be called on to implement them. What we need, however, is a switch in resources to benefit the many, not the few, and to create an economy that uses the skills and talents of our people and gets everyone off benefit and back to work. That is what will make the difference in education standards, and it is exactly what a Labour Government will do.
I rise to speak a few minutes earlier than I had expected as I was waiting for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) to say what Labour party policy was. However, like my hon. Friend the Minister, she dealt very effectively with the Liberal Democrat policy of putting an extra 1p on income tax. It is worth pointing out in passing that the justification for the tartan tax in Scotland is extra expenditure on education. In other words, under the Liberal Democrats, the poor Scots would pay twice as much as the English and Welsh.
Almost certainly, but I wish to give the Liberal Democrats the benefit of the doubt on this point.
It has rightly been said that education standards are not dependent on money alone—that is common ground between the parties—but it is worth noting some of the figures for Scotland as well as those south of the border.
Between the period just before the Conservatives came to power and 1993–94—the last year for which the figures are available—expenditure per primary pupil in Scotland rose in real terms by 50 per cent. That is a measure of the Government's commitment to improving standards, although people such as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) might argue otherwise. My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the levels of achievement in England and Wales. In Scotland, the comparable figure is three or more highers. The percentage of pupils obtaining that number rose from 18 per cent. in 1979–80 to 29 per cent. recently. That is proof of a real improvement in standards under the Conservatives.
Why is it that any improvements in education in Scotland are down to this Government even though education in Scotland is run almost entirely by Labour-controlled authorities? When any blame comes to be apportioned, it rests on those authorities. Will the hon. Gentleman be a little more even-handed?
On education matters, I always listen to an expert such as the hon. Gentleman, especially as, earlier in his career, he exercised his choice to teach in a Scottish school in the private sector. It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman's party wishes to deny many parents in Scotland the ability to choose to send their children to such a school.
The Government have set an effective framework within which those who deliver education in Scotland and across the country are able to improve standards. I wish to tackle the three controversial aspects of education policy in Scotland: total expenditure, the assisted places scheme, and nursery vouchers.
From the hon. Member for Yardley we heard cries about the lack of expenditure and the need for more investment. On hearing those cries, it is not unreasonable for people to say, "Well, the Labour party claims that it will be in government in a few weeks' time; what would it do about expenditure?" I asked that question on Monday in Selkirk at a meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee. I asked whether a Labour Government would increase the aggregate external finance or the capping limits or do something about distribution, as they are the only options. I received no answer.
The question has been asked not only by Tories but by teachers and local authorities across the country. Perhaps the answer has wended its way to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson)? Has Labour told him what it would do? Answer comes there none.
Reference was rightly made to the assisted places scheme. The hon. Member for Yardley suggested that abolishing the scheme would in itself provide the resources for nirvana in education. Of course, the Labour party is against the assisted places scheme because it provides choice. Labour was also against the right-to-buy scheme for council house tenants. The scheme works in Scotland. Let me give the House an example of a Glasgow boy whose mother worked as a domestic cleaner. He has represented Scottish schools in sport. He got six highers and two A-levels. He is studying law and French at university. That outstanding achievement was made possible by the assisted places scheme. It is important to retain and develop such opportunities.
Labour Members have talked about phasing out the assisted places scheme and the resources that that would release for reducing class sizes. Of course, reducing class sizes does not guarantee an improved education. As the House knows, classes in the London borough of Islington are smaller than at the London Oratory. Abolishing the assisted places scheme—I am indebted to the Scottish National party for this analysis, which has not been challenged by the Labour party—would provide less than one thousandth of Scotland's total education expenditure, corresponding to about one teacher per school. Leaving aside the merits of the scheme and the philosophy, the idea that abolition would release resources that would enable anything significant to be done for the rest of Scottish education or for education south of the border is nonsense.
The hon. Member for Yardley referred to nursery education vouchers. The position in my constituency is clear. Under Labour-held Strathclyde regional council, we were deprived of resources. There was a huge unmet demand for nursery education in my constituency. It is now a pilot area for the vouchers, and everyone who wants a nursery place has one.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is in danger of appearing in "The Guinness Book of Records". He has introduced a major Government initiative in my constituency and no one has complained. Everyone is happy. I hope that any nonsense peddled by the Opposition parties that the scheme does not work will be firmly sat on. It works in practice. It has brought about an increase in local authority provision, in private provision and in voluntary provision in my constituency. The authority is Labour-held, but the scheme works.
My constituents would like to know what would happen if there were a Labour Government. I have asked on many occasions and there has been no answer. What would a Labour Government do? Labour Front Benchers told us on Monday at the Scottish Grand Committee that "in the medium term" there would be places for all four-year-olds. What about the short term? There are nursery education places now under the Conservatives for everyone in my constituency who wants one, but Labour would abolish the scheme. Ordinary people in Eastwood want to know what would happen. The Labour party cannot get away with ignoring the detailed questions while claiming to be an alternative Government.
The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) sat down without any real ending to his speech, so I was taken slightly by surprise. I do not intend to follow his arguments, except to say that I know his constituency and in my view it was relatively easy to introduce the nursery voucher scheme there. In other parts of Scotland, particularly rural areas, people will be wandering round with a voucher in hand, but no nursery to spend it in. That will not give four-year-olds the necessary nursery provision. Money must be spent in specific areas, to ensure that nursery schools are available.
I do not want to spend much time talking about what is happening in Glasgow, because I know that this will be an English-dominated debate, even though the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), is winding up and the hon. Member for Eastwood has just spoken. I was proud to be part of the recent 20,000-strong demonstration of teachers, parents, local government workers and Members of Parliament in Glasgow against the cuts in education that are happening not just in Glasgow but throughout Scotland. They are real cuts. I was talking to teachers on that demonstration who have already been given their notice of redundancy, which is a statutory right, by the local authority, because it has no choice but to reduce the number of teachers.
When the hon. Gentleman intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), he asked for credit to be given to Labour local authorities. Will he now give the same credit to those Labour local authorities? It is Labour local authorities that are making cuts in education. The Conservative Government have passed on more money for education for next year than last year. If the hon. Gentleman wants Labour authorities to get the credit, they must also take the stick when they make the cuts.
As I tried to say this afternoon during Scottish questions, the local elected councillors are not alone in saying that there is a crisis in education in Scotland—they are joined by the director of education, his deputy and the head teachers. Everyone involved in running education in Glasgow is telling us that there is insufficient money. The Minister may be calling them all liars, but I know whom the people of Glasgow will believe when the election comes. They know that there has been a real-terms cut in the money for education in Glasgow.
However, that is not the main point of my speech. I have put on record my feelings about what is happening to education in Glasgow. What depresses me—it depressed me when I chaired the Scottish Grand Committee on Monday in Selkirk; it depressed me when we considered education during the debate on the Loyal Address last November; and it depresses me tonight—is how little attention is paid to new technology in education.
I am the fifth Member to speak in this debate. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) mentioned the idea of a computer for every child. I thought, "Good, at last someone will talk about new technology in education." But that was it. The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, who has now disappeared, made passing reference to the inspector's report on information technology. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) did not mention the subject, and neither did the hon. Member for Eastwood.
In the rest of the world, a learning and information revolution is taking place, of which we in education seem unaware and which we are ignoring completely. No office—not even those of most Members of Parliament, who are not the most technologically minded people in the world—lacks a computer. Our researchers use them; the Table Office uses them; the Department of the Serjeant at Arms uses them; every solicitor's office uses them; and in the supermarket, every item that is bought is scanned, not just to show the price on the till, but to help with stock control by telling the supermarket that it has to order more produce.
The world is becoming computerised, but when I went into a school in my constituency recently to take a modern studies class, the classroom could have been the same one that I sat in when I was at school, or one that I went into in the 1970s, when I was in teacher training, or one that I taught in at a school—yes, a private school—in Glasgow. There was one 1980s BBC computer at the back. Of course, upstairs there was a computer room with up-to-date networked computers, but computing is considered a separate subject. It is still taught as if it were somehow different from everything else. Surely, in this day and age, it is time that we appreciated that the computer is not separate from the rest of education. It should be as much a tool for every child as books, pens or any other learning device.
I shall be interested in the hon. Gentleman's answer to my question, as he is an educationist. Earlier today, I was discussing a similar matter with an educationist, who drew my attention to a table showing that the United Kingdom was about three quarters of the way down the list in mathematics and science, yet we were virtually at the top in respect of computer provision per child. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that more computers should be provided. Perhaps he can explain the reason for that imbalance.
I also fail to understand that. A recent "Newsnight" programme covered education in Minnesota. It was not about computers, but was about the organisation of schools in Minnesota. Every shot showed children sitting at computers. They were not learning about computers, but using them to learn. We need a major shift in education, from learning about computers to using them to learn. Unless we do that, we shall be way behind other countries.
There are several reasons why we need a simple education policy—a computer on every child's desk within the next five years. First, we need it as a country. The United Kingdom will fall behind economically if we do not have a computer-literate population that understands computers—in every walk of life.
Secondly, for the first time ever, we could switch our education system from one where the teacher teaches, to one where children learn. Children would be able to learn at their own speed, depending on their ability. As anyone who teaches knows, that does not happen in the classroom. When one teaches a class of 30 kids, one has to aim at the norm. Bright pupils fall behind and so do poorer ones, because none of them is getting what is needed. With a computer-led system, at last children could learn at their own pace. If they could not do something, they could try again. Brighter children could move ahead faster, learning more and developing at their own speed. Surely that is what is required.
Such a system would also help children with learning difficulties. My son is dyslexic and it would have made a great difference to him to have a voice-activated computer, so that he did not have to worry about spelling or writing. It would have been a great boon and he would have done so much better at school if he had not had to toil with what I would term the mechanics and the tools of learning rather than learning itself.
Equally, such an approach would be a great incentive to children and would solve some of, but not all, the problems of discipline and truancy in schools. The evidence in the States, particularly in Los Angeles, where universities have adopted sink schools and given every child a computer, is that truancy rates have fallen and the indiscipline problem has almost disappeared. Kids want to go to school.
There are three reasons why children learn in school. First, parents give them the incentive and motivation to learn. Secondly, in the 1950s and 1960s, we could all get jobs when we left school, so the motivation was to do well and get a better job. Thirdly, education can be made into something that children actually want. They want to go to school because they want to learn. Surely that is what education ought to be about. For the first time, we can achieve that by giving children computers.
What about the cost? I have done a quick sum in respect of Scotland. I appreciate that it refers only to Scotland. A new wave of computers is coming in the next few months. They will be linked to a network. It will not be necessary to buy big boxes costing £2,000 or £3,000; the computers will be in the computer stores for £250 each. There are 750,000 pupils in Scotland, so it would cost £187 million to provide each pupil with a computer. That is 8 per cent. of the total Scottish education budget. Of course, if we were buying 750,000 computers, the price would be considerably less. If we could do it at half price, it would cost 4 per cent. of the total education budget in Scotland. It would be a one-off purchase as the computers do not need upgrading; the upgrading is done at source.
I know that some of my colleagues think that I am obsessive about new technology. Sometimes it seems to me that I am the only person in the House who is prepared to stand up and talk about what really matters in education—children learning—and how we can best improve the way in which they learn. I feel that that can be achieved by ensuring that everyone has access to modern technology.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) on the timing of today's debate, which enables us to draw attention to the report of the chief inspector of schools, which has shown that more lessons are good, there are fewer poor teachers and head teachers and there has been a significant improvement in standards in the past 12 months.
Listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Bath and the frequency with which he spent that famous penny, I could only surmise that he must be rather incontinent. Listening to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris), I decided that the Brown straitjacket did not fit her either. She seemed to want to spend the £5 million saving from the phasing out of the assisted places scheme many times over.
No, many times over.
As the House knows, I have twice introduced Adjournment debates over the past 10 months on standards in education, and I make no apology for concentrating on that subject again. Education is the escalator of opportunity, which provides poor children from inner cities and children living in squalor on some of our rundown council estates with the chance to escape from that background and make full use of their skills and opportunities.
One of the tragedies in the United Kingdom is the way in which local education authorities, such as the late and unlamented Inner London education authority and Islington council, have failed entire generations of children. They have condemned them to life in squalor because they have not allowed them to leave school with a full and complete education. That is a scandal. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) is not here in sackcloth and ashes to apologise for her record as leader of Islington council.
I have expressed my fear in many speeches that standards have dropped over the past 30 years. If we look for the reasons, we can see them. They include the abolition of many grammar schools, the decline of traditional teaching methods, the refusal to stream and set in comprehensive schools, and calculators taking the place of mental arithmetic. Some schools do not believe in homework. I met a headmistress who said that she did not believe in setting homework, because it was unfair on the children who were not given it, as they did not have the opportunity to benefit from it.
Why then does the hon. Gentleman not support homework for everyone, which is the Labour party's policy?
I have only a few minutes, so I am not giving way.
We have seen a decline in discipline as a result of the abolition of corporal punishment We need a drastic rethink in the way in which some of our comprehensive schools work, because they have failed many of the bright pupils and certainly many of the not-so-bright pupils, who want not necessarily an academic education, but an education that will fit them for life outside school.
I always remember going to a school in Israel, where children were being taught hairdressing and how to become a motor mechanic. The head of the school said, "You may wonder why we are teaching those skills, but we can guarantee that every child who leaves this school will have a job," and pointed out that nearly all the small garages in Jerusalem were owned by graduates of the school. We fail some of the less bright children by saying that they need an academic education, when in fact a practical education would be much more suitable.
It is important to emphasise the role of grant-maintained schools, which have had a tremendous record in increasing staffing and spending on books and teaching equipment, and in widening the curriculum on offer. Hendon school, one of the first grant-maintained schools in London, has become a language academy and now offers a much wider choice to its pupils. Indeed. 60 per cent. of schools have improved their position in the league tables since they became grant-maintained. The reason why they have done so is that, instead of spending 12 per cent. of their budgets on administration, as local authority schools do, they spend only 6 per cent. Less administration is good for education. That is where grant-maintained schools have succeeded and local authority schools have failed.
Why is the Labour party opposed to such schools? It is because it puts dogma before democracy and socialism before standards. The sheer hypocrisy of the Labour party sticks in the gullet of the people of this country. The leader of the Labour party sends his children away from Islington to a grant-maintained school, yet seeks to deny that freedom to others. Those are double standards. When one hears the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) say that the education of Southwark local education authority is suitable for her constituents but not for herself and her children, one believes that double standards are alive and kicking in the Labour party today.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is currently considering applications from three schools in my constituency for grant-maintained status: from Pardes House, Menorah Foundation and Torah Teminah, all of which teach the children of many parents in my constituency. I hope that he will listen to what I say and grant those applications in the very near future. I have been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to look favourably on an application for a voluntary aided school in Hertsmere that is sponsored by the most excellent and go-ahead Rabbi Plancey.
I am surprised at the Labour party's opposition to the assisted places scheme. I suppose that one needs only to have a party led by an old Fettesian to prevent poor children enjoying the same benefits as he did. It is surely wrong that bright children of low-income parents should be denied the opportunity that the Leader of the Opposition was given by his parents. I suppose that that is called socialism today, but most of us call it humbug and hypocrisy of the worst sort.
We have seen the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) rush around the Wirral saying that the Labour party is interested in standards. Let him visit Wirral grammar school again and remind those there that the only reason why it is still a grammar school is that my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Thatcher saved grammar schools in 1979. If she had lost the election that year, there would not be a grammar school left in the country for the Conservative party to defend. Whatever the hon. Gentleman may say now about standards to the parents of Wirral, South, he should say that Labour local authority after Labour local authority has shown itself to be quite indifferent to standards.
There is only one party committed to standards, and that is the Conservative party. Every measure that the Government have introduced to improve standards has been opposed by both main Opposition parties. The Opposition prattle on about spending more money, but have done nothing to improve education standards one jot or tittle.
How distant all the talk of grammar schools, opting out and grant-maintained schools seems to the majority of my constituents. I live in and represent a constituency in which the schools, for the most part, went comprehensive under a Conservative Government and a then Conservative-controlled local authority. There is only one grant-maintained school in the entire constituency, and that became grant-maintained because the Labour-controlled county council threatened to close it. In other schools where the grant-maintained issue has been raised, the proposal has been heavily defeated. The assisted places scheme, too, has a limited impact in the area, and what the vast majority of parents want to know is how the schools to which they send their children can be enabled to do an adequate job.
I shall talk about the situation in Northumberland in particular because, as the Minister will be aware from his meeting earlier today and from many other representations, people are greatly concerned about it. However much he may disagree with them on the implications of the figures, he must know how great that concern is.
I must declare an interest, in that my wife is employed by Northumberland education authority as a teacher, and both my children are in further education in Northumberland, having received the whole of their previous education in the county's schools.
Northumberland has particular difficulties, because it is such a thinly populated county. It has the smallest population, yet the largest area, of any mainland county in England. That creates serious problems, because of the number of schools that need to be maintained in remoter communities and the transport costs of getting children to school, especially if some schools are closed as an economy measure.
Northumberland has also had problems with education settlements over the years. It lost about £7 million when the standard spending assessment replaced the previous scheme of education funding. The authority was especially disadvantaged by two factors.
First, the additional educational needs factor cost the county £5 million. It was a big factor in the standard spending assessment formula, and reflected needs different from the main needs in Northumberland. For example, it stressed needs connected with ethnic minorities, but not those connected with sparsity or with some of the social problems of the county.
Secondly, the area cost adjustment was increased substantially when the SSAs were introduced, and that affected Northumberland badly, too. The problem has continued, and as a result there have been cuts year after year in Northumberland schools and in the overall education budget. The cuts have been mitigated to some extent by making savings in other parts of the county's budget and in central education administration costs, and by drawing on reserves. But one cannot go on drawing on reserves, as has happened in recent years.
The way in which the Government discuss the figures has a fairyland quality. They talk about additional money, when all they mean is permission for local authorities to spend more, whether through their SSAs or their capping figures. They refer to substantial increases this year compared with last year, although last year's figure was so much higher than the SSA that this year's "increase" does not even completely cover it.
That is a factor common to many local authorities. Were the authority to spend next year what the Government now, with a great flourish, say that it can spend, it would be spending only what it actually spent in the current year. That has been the problem for Northumberland, as for several other authorities, and, for the reasons that I have given, it has been especially acute there.
Far from providing for a 3.4 per cent. increase, Northumberland's SSA for the coming year represents no more than current spending. The cap allows an increase of only 2.4 per cent., whereas even a standstill budget would have required 5 per cent. That means a £10 million gap. So schools face a possible 2.5 per cent. budget cut, and central services a much bigger one.
Year on year, the county has drawn heavily on central services for cuts, to try to protect school budgets.
I understand the problems that Northumberland faces because of its sparsity, but does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, nevertheless, the county has the highest SSA, and the highest capping level, per head of population of any shire county? It gets the largest grant per head of population of any shire county, too.
There might be greater sympathy for Northumberland county council if it were not, for example, wasting £1 million fighting the Army, and wanting to hold a public inquiry into the plans for Otterburn training area. If it had withdrawn its objections, it could have saved £1 million, which would have meant much more money for schools.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will explain to his constituents in Ponteland his view that they cannot have a public inquiry into the substantial increase in traffic through the town, which they are concerned about, because to do so would impair the education budget. That is not the way in which we are supposed to run the local government system.
Public inquiries into major planning decisions are held if there are legitimate objections and matters of concern that have not been resolved by negotiation beforehand. The county should not be told that it has to choose either education or democracy in planning but cannot have both. That is not the way in which the local government system is run.
The hon. Member for Hexham must be well aware that the Conservatives on the county council share the concern about the current and previous settlements, and have been involved in regular representations to Ministers on the issue.
The Secretary of State wrote to me before Christmas;
Northumberland does not get as much as some other authorities, because it does not serve an area of high socio-economic deprivation and it is not a high cost area in which to work.
I think that she is wrong on both counts. There are areas of very high deprivation in Northumberland, some of which are in my constituency. Some of the wards in Berwick and Alnwick have the highest socio-economic deprivation in the county, and rate high by national standards. It is also a high-cost area in which to run an education system because of the high cost of sparsity, involving the school size issues and transport costs that I have mentioned.
These are well-trodden paths, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to put it on record that sparsity is the only element within the entire SSA system which includes what I think is called a judgmental uplift—in other words, a greater value is applied to it than the evidence alone would suggest was justified. That, in part, recognises the sort of difficulties that he is outlining.
We could get into a complex statistical argument about whether there is such a thing as super-sparsity, and whether the sparsity factor fails to reflect the extent of sparsity in Northumberland. Sparsity is a significant problem in the education system in Northumberland. It makes it difficult for the authority to meet some of the obligations that the Department seeks to impose on it in terms of reducing surplus places, for example. Normally, the surplus places in a remote rural school cannot be removed without taking the school away from the area altogether.
The end results of the budget cuts that we have had in recent years—and which we look likely to face this year—are serious for the schools. There will be cuts in staff numbers, and senior staff will be retired to enable the recruitment of cheaper, more junior staff.
Much of the pressure which fuels the problem of early retirement that the Secretary of State is seeking to address—in an unsatisfactory way, in my opinion, although they need to be addressed—arises because schools cannot afford their present staff structure, and have too many good experienced teachers. The schools have to let some of those teachers go by early retirement so as to get people straight out of college who are lower on the salary scale.
When new appointments are made, governing bodies have to look at staff from the standpoint of what they will cost. It is not a case of whether this is the right person to fill the particular vacancy, but whether this is a cheaper teacher—that is to say, someone at the bottom of the salary scale. That cannot be good for the schools.
In addition, spending on books, equipment and maintenance is being abandoned. Educationally important activities are being curtailed, and there is an excessive dependence on business sponsorship and parents for the basic essentials. Clearly, the involvement of parents in fund raising is enormously valuable, and we want to encourage it by giving charitable status to schools—such as the private sector already enjoys. But when that becomes necessary for the basic essentials in schools, something has gone wrong with the funding system. All of this has gone on year after year, and schools as well as authorities have drawn on their reserves.
Northumberland is seeking to make bigger cuts in its central education expenditure to try to protect the schools budget, but the threat is significant. Facilities such as Ford Castle in my constituency—which provides residential environmental education—are now threatened. I hope that there will be a way around this, so that the institution can be floated off. But that will work only if schools can continue to make use of the facilities it provides. It would be a failure if the very facilities that it provides cannot be used by schools in the future, and if a new system for running it cannot be set up with reasonable starting finance.
The learning support team for first schools provided by Northumberland is one of the items that may be removed entirely under the current cuts. Small schools cannot expect to have all the expertise required for special needs purposes, and the support provided by this team is enormously valuable in those schools. To quote St. John's Roman Catholic first school in Alnwick:
Prior to our recent inspection by OFSTED invaluable advice and support had been given to the staff and, as a result, this was recognised in the report for the provision of SEN pupils in the school. For some schools post inspection assistance has also been given. This help can only lead to more successful schools in the authority who are working with the 'Code of Practice for Special Education Needs' outlined by the LEA, which has been approved by OFSTED. However, if such important services are not maintained, then working with the 'Code of Practice' becomes increasingly difficult.
In addition to those problems, we have the funding problems in further education, to which hon. Members have referred. Kirkley Hall college, which many of my constituents, including my son, attend, has been badly hit by what has happened over the demand-led element, which was introduced to encourage colleges to grow on a marginal cost basis, improving efficiency and increasing the number of students benefiting. The FE sector was led to believe that DLE funding was uncapped.
Now colleges have been told that they are unlikely to get that funding even for the spring and summer terms this year. That places them in an impossible position. In contractual and staff terms, they planned to provide training services, for which they will not now be funded. That poses severe dangers to the further education of many of my constituents.
I argue for an improved system of distributing funds in education, but I also strongly support the case for additional funding made by my hon. Friend the Member
for Bath (Mr. Foster). I can tell the Labour Members who are present that the argument that we have been putting forward has been supported by the Labour party in Northumberland. The Labour-controlled county council passed a resolution just before the Budget statement, which said:
this County Council believes that safeguarding the quality of the Education and Community Care services should take priority over tax cuts in the forthcoming national Budget, and urges the Chancellor of the Exchequer to protect these services by … investing at least the equivalent of 1p on income tax for Education".
Labour county councillors voted for that. Labour Members should therefore support our motion tonight.
When the debate started, the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) rightly outlined some of the principles or objectives of education in terms of wanting to ensure that all youngsters who came out of education were valued, respected and able to contribute to our society in its various forms. All parties would, in general, echo those principles. We all recognise the need for a well-educated work force.
A lot has been said this evening about the need for high standards in education. I would certainly agree, as would all hon. Members, I am sure. The problem is that higher standards in education cannot merely be wished. They have to be achieved by having the measures in force that will enable those standards to be delivered. As the Ofsted inspectors' report outlined, the challenge is to ensure that all schools come up to the level of the best, and deliver a first-class education for the children in them.
There are too many poor lessons—too many lessons in which teachers are unprepared and unsure of what they are trying to achieve. The real task is to ensure that those lessons are improved. Indeed, if teachers do not deliver over a certain period, they should be rooted out of the profession. No one should shy away from that. Children get only one chance in education.
It is crucial that we ask why, in the 1950s, our inner-city schools were apparently able to achieve a great deal more for some of the children of lower ability than similar schools today. Was it to do with the organisation, particularly in primary schools? Was it to do with the teaching methods used? We do not hear much of that sort of talk. We heard nothing about the Leeds report, which showed how much time was wasted in primary schools with children sitting around in clusters trying to work out what to do in their lessons. We have all visited primary classes and seen evidence of far too much noise, and a lack of purposeful work.
Once and for all, we need to nail the excuse that any failure in education is to do with funding, which appears to be the thesis of both Opposition parties. If that were the case, why was education able to deliver as much as it did in the 1950s?
My hon. Friend the Minister was right to mention the increase in funding per pupil since 1978–79 of about 50 per cent. in real terms. It is also significant, although it is not often appreciated, even by hon. Members, that, in the coming years, we as a nation will spend £38 billion on education. I mention that because I was amazed a couple of weeks ago to hear a couple of Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen alleging that this country now spent more on unemployment than on education.
I thought about that, and was sure that it could not be right. I now realise what trap they had fallen into: they had looked at the Red Book and seen only what central Government spend on education, without taking into account the vast amounts spent by local education authorities, which of course appear on another page. Let us nail that once and for all. We spend £38 billion a year on education, and that spending has reached 5.2 per cent. of gross domestic product. I welcome that.
The evidence from schools throughout the country is that there is no correlation whatever between spending and results. My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned Islington—a favourite borough these days—with its high expenditure and poor results. There are many other examples. There were problems at Hackney Downs school, but investigations showed that there was one teacher to every eight pupils there; that was hardly a funding problem.
We have heard many arguments about standard spending assessments. I served on the local education authority for most of my 16 years on Croydon council. It is fair to say that, when considering spending on particular services, most council committees consider the needs, rather than simply deciding to spend to the limit of the SSA; the SSA is completely irrelevant. That canard is mentioned too often in the House. Local authorities do not work like that. Of course the authorities have to take into account their capping limits—that is only right—but we have not heard how much more the Opposition, and especially the Labour party, would make available for education.
One of the most interesting things about the funding of education in this country is the significant difference in funding per pupil in local authorities throughout the land. There are bound to be differences, because some areas have greater social problems and some schools have more pupils who are statemented, but the scale of difference between some authorities that spend a small amount per pupil and others that spend a large amount is excessive.
I looked for the lowest and the highest spending in the 1994–95 figures. Gloucester—I apologise for mentioning Gloucester—spent £1,305 per pupil in primary schools; Doncaster spent £1,478; and Lambeth £2,635. It is also interesting to note that results were in directly inverse relation to those figures. The difference of more than £1,300 per pupil between the lowest and highest figure for a typical two-form entry primary school would mean that one of the schools would get just over £500,000 and the other just over £1 million.
In the longer term, we must consider, as is being done in the case of grant-maintained schools, some form of common funding to iron out some of those disparities, because in my view they are too great. If authorities such as Gloucester can deliver a first-class education on £1,305, why cannot others, especially when they spend £2,635? Funding is a red herring in terms of education.
We have heard about all sorts of funny ways in which the money can be spent; it is important to come to grips with standards and to be prepared to use the published results and inspection reports to drive up standards in both primary and secondary schools.
I look forward eagerly to seeing the results of the standard assessment tasks for 11-year-olds, which I understand are due to be published on a school-by-school basis next month, despite great opposition from teacher unions and educationists. There was opposition throughout the 1980s to the publication of results in any shape or form.
I strongly believe that it is only by publishing results that we can put a spotlight on low standards and force schools to improve them. I urge the Government to resist any and every attempt to prevent publication of results, which is one of the best ways to drive up standards.
I have an excellent 20-minute speech, and a less good six-minute speech However, beggars cannot be choosers, and not even a penny on income tax will buy me the extra time that I need to make all my points.
I speak as a former councillor, and chairman of a governing body. I know the excellent work of our teachers and governors, who give up their time to help youngsters and ensure that they get good-quality education. I am grateful for the extra money that the Government have provided, especially in Lancashire. I plead with Labour-controlled Lancashire county council to ensure that all the money gets through to the schools, and that none is retained at the centre for bureaucracy, which does not benefit youngsters.
I represent a rural area with some good small rural schools. One such school, Brennans endowed school in Slaidburn, is under great pressure. It has two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher. It risks losing the part-time teacher this year, because it is already using its reserves. All the reserves will have gone. We must pay more heed to ensuring that our small rural schools get the resources they need to provide the necessary teaching staff. In such schools, classes must be larger, and they contain more than one age group, so they need extra attention. I hope that we can pay more attention to them.
Ribble Valley is particularly blessed with excellent schools, whether in the state sector or outside it. I want to discuss the assisted places scheme, so I shall mention one or two schools in the private sector.
One such school is Queen Elizabeth's grammar school, a quarter of whose youngsters benefit from the scheme. At Stonyhurst college, 35 youngsters are on it. If the scheme was abolished, youngsters from the poorest backgrounds, and others from not so well-off backgrounds, would miss the life chance of going to such schools. We know from the educational standards they attain that they do better than some children from wealthier backgrounds. We must not deny them that life chance.
My constituency includes Clitheroe royal grammar school, a grant-maintained school with 1,100 youngsters. It was three times over-subscribed this year, because parents want their youngsters to go there, and the youngsters want to go, too. The school would dearly like to expand, but the Opposition parties have denied it that opportunity. I hope that we will address the problem of popular schools that should be allowed to expand. Less popular schools should be punished.
Parental choice is important, and not only in my constituency. For some reason, Wirral, South has been mentioned during the debate. I shall mention it, too. It has two grammar schools, the Wirral grammar school for girls, a county local education authority school, and the Wirral grammar school for boys, a grant-maintained school.
Of course, had it been up to the Opposition parties, those schools would have lost their grammar school status years ago. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) said, it was the intervention of Margaret Thatcher that allowed them to keep their status, by ensuring that parents were consulted. They said, time and again, that they wished to retain that status.
The future of both schools is now in jeopardy. Already, the chairman of the council's education committee has stated:
I hope that in time we'll see the end of selection. There are already murmurings here, and I think it is only a matter of time before this leads to action.
The writing is on the wall for those schools. I hope that the parents and the electorate of Wirral, South make their voice heard when the by-election is held. It is not just there are good grammar schools in Wirral, South; there are good comprehensive and secondary modern schools there that are to be commended. We should remember the old adage: if something is not broken, why fix it?
There are many issues that I should like to have spoken about this evening if I had had the time. Such issues include new technology in schools, in which I have a great belief. British Aerospace in my constituency is assisting some schools in a partnership to ensure that youngsters have an opportunity to use the state-of-the art technology they desperately need. As has been said, computers can be used not just in computer classes, but throughout the curriculum and in all lessons.
I cannot overstate the importance of ensuring that our youngsters are taught about the dangers of all sorts of drugs, particularly so-called designer drugs such as Ecstasy. They should be taught at an early age, not just about the dangers, and the fact that one pill can kill, but of the long-term damage that such drugs can cause.
I am proud of our contribution and commitment to education in this country. Expenditure is an investment in education, not merely a means of spending money. The Liberal Democrats have not learnt the lesson. One penny can buy many things; it can even buy thoughts. But we need a massive investment in maths education in our schools, because there are Liberal Democrats in this country who believe that 1p can buy £4.4 billion-worth of expenditure in our schools. It simply cannot.
I do not know whether it can be described as common ground, but, at some time or another in recent months, all the parties have suggested that education is their priority. This has been a useful debate to measure the degree of commitment of the respective parties, with the obvious exception of the Scottish National party, none of whose members has been present for any of the debate.
The motion contains an element of common ground. All parties would subscribe to the principle of the importance of quality early-years education. It is interesting to consider what commitments the various parties have made in terms of implementing that principle. Most educationists talk of the value of early-years education. We are all familiar with studies from the United States that show that $1 spent on pre-school education saves $7 in later life.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such provision is more important in the poorest and most deprived areas, where the need is greatest? Some of us were brought up on the great book of Peter Townsend, "Born to Fail", which was so true. Such provision is necessary for children from deprived areas, rather than those from the leafy suburbs of the constituency of the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart).
All pupils can benefit. I would hate to say that some children should be deprived of nursery education, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point—such provision is particularly important in areas of deprivation.
Early-years education also provides an important opportunity to pick up at an early stage learning difficulties and other special needs. If those problems are tackled early, the pupil involved often has much greater chances later in life.
The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) referred to commitments made by the Labour party at the Scottish Grand Committee on Monday, when the hon. Member for Monklands, East (Mrs. Liddell) said:
In the medium term, we would seek to extend that provision to every four-year-old, and in the longer term to three-year-olds."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 3 February 1997; c. 19.]
The hon. Member for Eastwood said that that did not seem to be much of a commitment. Perhaps I can give him an explanation.
On my calculation—which will depend on the quality of the education system in the 1960s when I was learning arithmetic—in Scotland it would cost an additional £90 million above the sum invested before the voucher scheme to implement nursery education for every three and four-year-old. When challenged in the Scottish Grand Committee, the hon. Member for Monklands, East was able to find only £30 million, the money used for funding the nursery voucher scheme, so the Labour party is still a long way short in terms of that funding commitment.
I take issue with the Government over nursery vouchers. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), will wax lyrical about that subject when he replies to the debate, as he did on Monday. The scheme has many deficiencies. The commitment is only to four-year-olds. In some areas, three-year-olds may lose out as four-year-olds take their places.
There is no provision for capital build in the local authority sector. If new capital units are to be built, they must be paid for through private sources. The budget set by the Scottish Office does not allow for the training of nursery teachers. When the Secretary of State was challenged about that a year ago, he said that he did not think that high-quality trained teachers were necessarily required to implement the nursery voucher scheme.
The value of the vouchers will be inadequate, and the scheme will be bureaucratic. In Scotland, we are about to have an expensive advertising campaign. The Secretary of State justified the higher cost pro rata than in England by saying that perhaps the Scottish media charged a bit more, but he was not very convincing. More significantly, I challenged the Secretary of State at Scottish Question Time today to explain to parents who see the adverts that tell them that they will receive a £1,100 voucher why there is nowhere to cash them in. It is important to make the point that the voucher will have a value only if a nursery place is available for which it can be cashed in.
Rather than asking my right hon. Friend that question, has the hon. Gentleman asked his hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) how the parents in her constituency, which is one of the pilot areas, are coping, because 97 per cent. of them are using vouchers?
I have indeed asked her that same question. Even if there is provision, there is no choice, and we are told that choice is the key. Many parts of Scotland will not have provision. We still have not received an answer to our question: the Minister cannot answer it by asking another question.
There is a growing body of evidence from the pilot schemes south of the border that the voucher system neither expands provision nor extends choice. In some areas south of the border, local education authorities try to retain the money by encouraging early entry into reception classes. That is not what was intended, but that is what has happened.
The Select Committee on Education and Employment has had evidence that, in Norfolk, eight playgroups closed in November, and six more are expected to close by the end of March. Some playgroups have had their numbers reduced due to the local authority's policy of taking children into school early. We do not believe that that is the way forward.
The report of the Commission on Scottish Education, which was published last year, concluded:
If the monies the Scottish Office intend to devote to the voucher scheme were allocated to local authorities instead—with an obligation to deploy them in the pre-five sector in conjunction with the other partners—a planned expansion which took account of the wishes of parents could more readily and fairly be achieved.
It remains my party's position that the first claim on the revenue raised by the 1p increase in income tax would be for high-quality education for early years.
Even where we had high-quality education, it is essential to build on what has been achieved. The quality of schools varies, but generally it is right to say that inspectors have praised the quality in many of Scotland's schools. A recent inspectors' report says:
The picture is one of schools which are performing effectively overall. Much that we report is of high quality and justifies a continuing pride in the Scottish education system".
We do not want to throw away that achievement, but we are concerned that we are in danger of doing so because of the cuts that are being imposed on many local authorities. It is no use Ministers talking about standard spending assessments, or saying, as the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said when he intervened on the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), that the
Government have passed on more money for education. In the global budgets—the money allocated to local authorities—once inflation has been taken into account, and even before all the other responsibilities of local authorities are taken into account, less money is available.
Across Scotland—it was obvious from the debate that it applies to England as well—concern is growing about the effect of the cuts. Catalogues of concerns were expressed when we debated this issue on Monday in the Scottish Grand Committee held in Selkirk. My concern is that the Government will start to believe their own propaganda that there are no cuts, until the cuts that were very real in 1996–97 become even more real in 1997–98.
As many as 1,500 teaching posts could go, on top of the 1,200 that have been lost this year. That will lead to bigger class sizes. There will be less support for children with special needs and less breadth in the curriculum, and the delivery of highers will be even more difficult. The number of peripatetic teachers will be cut. Spending on books and equipment will also be cut. An average of £35 per primary school pupil is spent on books and equipment, but reading schemes can cost £28 per pupil, and it is therefore almost impossible for a school to change its reading scheme in one year. The hon. Member for Cathcart spoke of the importance of using information technology in education, and of using computers as a learning rather than a teaching tool, but it is clearly not possible to embark on any such provision with budgets that have been cut rather than increased.
The lack of repair and maintenance is causing more and more difficulties. An average of £15,000 per school is available for repair and maintenance in Scotland, but, in 1995, the Public Accounts Commission reported that an average of £150,000 per primary school and £350,000 per secondary school was necessary to bring those schools up to scratch. That does not take into account the upgrading that was necessary as part of curriculum development, or the cost of replacing old, battered accommodation.
Charges will be made where they do not currently exist. There will be charges for music tuition—if, indeed, such tuition continues in some parts of our country. There will be charges for transport. At present, councils are sometimes generous in providing free bus transport for pupils who live within a statutory distance. In return for the 1p cut in income tax which the Conservatives supported—while Labour Members sat on their hands and acquiesced—many parents will be faced with increased costs. They will pay higher council taxes, and receive fewer education services.
The hon. Member for Eastwood had some fun at the expense of the hon. Member for Monklands, East. He recited a penetrating question that he had asked in the Scottish Grand Committee, which elicited no answer. He asked whether Labour would spend one penny more in the aggregate external finance for local authorities in Scotland. He received no answer because the Labour party has no answer, but he himself has not said how he would deal with the concerns of those who campaign in Selkirk, the 20,000 who marched in Glasgow the other weekend and the 40,000 who marched through Edinburgh last year to complain about education cuts.
Much of the debate has come down to the basic question of finance. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) pointed out, it is all very well to talk about standard spending assessments, but this year's SSA for Northumberland is no higher than spending was in the year that has just passed.
It has not always been like that. The SSAs are lower today than they were at the time of the 1992 general election. While I believe that there is a good deal of agreement on the fact that money is not the whole answer, I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman honestly believes that things were so much better in the 1950s than they are today. In the 1950s, many children who were branded as failures after failing the 11-plus were denied achievements that would have been possible if they were being educated now. The number of people proceeding to further and higher education was much lower then than it is today We have moved forward immeasurably in the past 40 years, but that also costs money.
The Labour party has accepted the Government's expenditure plans. I think it rather odd that a party whose members were saying, "Enough is enough," in November should now be saying, "Two more years of the same." It does not really stand up.
When the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) berated my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and the Liberal Democrats, she sounded like an aspiring Conservative junior Minister. Her figures were even more inflated than those of the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans). Oddly enough, in the earlier debate on health, my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) said the same about the hon. Member for Dulwich (Ms Jowell). It is like Tweedledum and Tweedledee: there is no difference.
Perhaps the only difference that we shall see as we go into the next general election will come in the form of a party that is prepared and bold enough to say that it will make a difference, and is prepared to say that, by investing an extra 1p on the standard rate of income tax in education, there will be the necessary investment for our country's future and for the aspirations and opportunities of our young generation.
I am glad to have the opportunity to respond to the debate. In opening on behalf of the Government, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment clearly set out the Government's position. We fully recognise the importance of education. We are committed to ensuring school education of the highest quality, and we are making resources available to achieve that. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary set out the Government's plans and priorities for England and Wales. In summing up, it is my intention to show how that same commitment is taking effect in Scotland.
The Government's amendment draws the attention of the House to the investment that we have made, and continue to make, in early-years primary and secondary education, and to the reforms that we have introduced that ensure that available resources are used to the best effect.
I take particular pride in the evidence of those commitments in Scotland, and I wish to set them out clearly. The House well knows how we in Scotland pride
ourselves on our education system. It knows that we are not shy of blowing our own trumpet when it comes to education achievements. The House knows also that we have good schools, a highly proficient teaching force and a proud record. It knows further the priority that the Government have attached to education in Scotland. The House will share my surprise, therefore, at the speeches of the hon. Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). Members from south of the border may be asking:
Stands Scotland where it did?
I am glad to reassure the House that a system described as in collapse and bled dry is nothing more than a travesty. The House may find it helpful if I remind it of a situation that will be found if it focuses on the good work that is going on in schools throughout the country. If the hon. Gentleman did so, he would find evidence of the additional resources that have been made available and the achievements and the progress that they are bringing. The Government's reforms have stimulated quality, diversity and choice in our system, and some simple facts might help the hon. Gentleman.
The problem with the Minister reading his prepared speech is that he fails to take account of the fact that I quoted from a recent report of the inspectorate that praised the quality of Scottish schools and acknowledged it. We must build on that quality and not destroy it through spending cuts.
The hon. Gentleman spent 30 seconds praising that quality and about 14 minutes running it down, as anyone who listened to his speech will know.
Spending per pupil in Scotland is over 50 per cent. higher in real terms than in 1979. That is hardly a system being bled dry. Class sizes are smaller and teachers' salaries are higher in real terms than in 1979. The hon. Gentleman will be well aware of how favourable spending figures are in Scotland when compared with those in England. Again, it is hardly a system being bled dry. There is more and better equipment in schools, despite what the hon. Member for Cathcart said.
The growth in information technology equipment has been especially impressive. The number of computers in primary schools has tripled over the past seven years and has quadrupled in Scotland's secondary schools. In real terms, more has been spent on books and capital maintenance. Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools commented positively on resources available in schools for learning in his report entitled "Standards and Quality", which was published last year.
I am not making a casual observation but producing hard evidence that has been gathered during many school inspections throughout Scotland. Local authorities have more resources available to them next year, and our investment is huge and growing.
Last Friday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I, together with my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, launched a White Paper on education entitled "Education—Raising the Standard". The title of the document was chosen carefully. The paper sets out clearly where our priorities have been and where they must remain. It sets out also the true measures of our achievement since 1979, and the achievements of the education system in Scotland.
Opposition Members have said that they are concerned with standards and quality. They will find in the White Paper evidence of just how far we have come and where we intend to go. "Education—Raising the Standard" reflects rising achievement. Examination results have improved. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) said, 35 per cent. of school leavers gained five or more ordinary grades in 1980, and in 1995 more than 50 per cent. of pupils were awarded five or more standard grades. The percentage of pupils who left school with three or more highers increased from 18 per cent. in 1980 to 29 per cent. in 1995. In 1995, 8 per cent. of school leavers left with no Scottish certificate of education qualification; in 1980, the figure was 31 per cent.
I understand that the Minister is talking about the Scottish system, but the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment made similar points about the English system, and the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) spent the whole of his time talking about declining standards in schools. Will the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland perhaps explain that dichotomy?
I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that we are talking about different time scales. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) was talking about a time scale of 30 years. I have been going over the past 18 years, which coincidentally coincides exactly with the Government's period in office.
Between 1979–80 and 1995–96, the number of pupils in nursery schools increased by 55 per cent. Many more young people stay on in full-time education post-16—82 per cent. in 1994 compared with 60 per cent. in 1980. In higher education, between 1980 and 1993, the total number of students increased by 64 per cent. and we have one of the highest participation rates in higher education anywhere in Europe.
Choice has increased. Eleven thousand children have benefited from assisted places, and nearly 27,000 placing requests were granted last year. We are modernising all stages of the school curriculum through the five-to-14 programme standard grade and the higher still development programme.
We have focused on quality and the need for schools to take responsibility for improving their performance. That has been recognised internationally. We ask schools to look carefully at themselves, to ask, "How good is our school?" and to set out the way in which they will improve.
Devolved school management has put decisions on the use of resources where it should be—at school level and not at town hall by bureaucrats. People who run the school on a day-to-day basis know what its needs are and they should be allowed to decide its spending priorities. As a result, resources are being used more effectively. They can be targeted to where they will deliver most for an individual school's performance.
Self-governing schools have even more ability to make the best of their resources. Our White Paper gives the example of Dornoch academy, Scotland's first self-governing school, which managed to save £10,000 on its heating bill, which it could then spend on classroom equipment. We shall make further progress on those initiatives to put control into the hands of the people who know best how to use the resources.
We have opened up the education system to give parents much more information about schools and their performance. We have introduced a better and more open school inspection system. We have given parents the opportunity to participate through school boards or by seeking self-governing status.
I shall deal with some of the more far-reaching of our proposals, but let me first address some of the particular points that have arisen. Quality is central and I have illustrated our approach in Scotland through our quality initiative and the drive to self-evaluation and improvement, but we can go further. Her Majesty's inspectorate are closely engaged with schools to assist them, to identify good practice and to ensure that it is shared.
We propose to increase the focus on quality through a new excellent schools award. Schools that perform well should be recognised as such and all aspects of performance will be relevant. What will be of most importance is the drive to improve and the planning and monitoring for improvement. We are not frightened to look for excellence or to reward it. Our programme of change has been guided by a radical vision of an education system in which schools, colleges, universities and teachers focus on quality and standards; a system where schools and colleges are responsive to the needs and wishes of the society and the individuals they serve.
The demands of international competitiveness mean that we must continue to raise achievement levels to ensure that our young people are able to take their rightful place in the world. The principles in the vision that I have outlined will remain valid and increasingly so. "Raising the Standard" shows how we can take that vision forward to continue the remarkable progress that has been made and to meet the major challenges that lie ahead.
In winding up, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland made much of the level of resources that he thinks are required, but he has not said how he would spend the money or what his party's priorities would be. He conveniently forgets that the White Paper sets out proposals that carry additional money and that will contribute directly to the continued improvement in performance that we seek and require. They include extension of the nursery voucher scheme, bringing £30 million of new money year on year; a new £9 million programme on early intervention; a new £3 million programme on alternatives to exclusion; the doubling of the assisted places scheme; and making £25 million available for the improvement of school security to ensure that our pupils learn in as safe and secure an environment as possible.
That is hardly a system that is being bled dry or run down. As I have said, our highly successful pre-school voucher scheme will be extended to the whole of Scotland from August 1997. Parents will be looking forward to 27 February, the date when application forms will begin to be issued.
The pilots that are under way in four authorities show the success and popularity of the scheme. Ninety-seven per cent. of eligible parents applied for vouchers; 93 per cent. of parents with vouchers have been using them. Parents actually like having the ability to make the choice of what facility their child will attend.
Many new centres are coming into being. The number of local authority centres has multiplied, from 21 to 63. Eighty-seven private nurseries and playgroups have had their educational quality endorsed by HMI for the first time ever.
The pilots also prove that vouchers are a convenient way of arranging for pre-school education. I have had not one representation from parents or from providers in the pilots complaining about the mechanics of the voucher system. As I have said, 97 per cent. of parents have applied for vouchers, and 93 per cent. have used them.
Moreover, the issue and redemption of vouchers cost less than 1 per cent. of the cost of the entire scheme, so where is the elaborate bureaucracy that we keep hearing about? It is in imagination of Opposition Members. Vouchers are efficient and simple to use. The reality of the growth of provision that vouchers can offer is clear enough from the pilot areas. It is a growth right across the board, and the pilot authorities deserve credit for the part that they have played in encouraging it both in their own provision and elsewhere.
The best opportunities have been offered to parents. In an area of traditionally low provision, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood, East Renfrewshire was able to claim even before the beginning of the first term that a place was available for every eligible child for the first time ever. The vouchers have had a startling effect in the other pilot areas, and from August they go nationwide.
I have dwelt on pre-school vouchers because they are such a major development in our education service, but many of the other proposals in the White Paper are equally innovative. The importance of teachers in securing higher levels of achievement is fully recognised. We have a high-quality teaching profession which we are committed to continuing and improving. We therefore made a number of proposals designed to improve their status.
We shall remove the statutory basis of the Scottish joint negotiating committee and design legislative proposals to establish a teachers' pay review body. Teachers are respected members of the community and undertake a highly professional job. They deserve to have their pay professionally determined in the same way as doctors, dentists and other professionals. A pay review body is the answer.
I have set out clearly the progress that our focus on standards has brought us in Scotland. I have shown how we have funded it over many years and how we propose to increase funding to develop certain initiatives. However, what has been missing from Opposition contributions to this debate has been any recognition of the generous extent to which Scottish local government is financed. Therefore, in closing, I must make the position clear.
We are used at this time of the year to all sorts of scaremongering from authorities and teachers' unions, and parents rightly get very concerned—but they are being misled. Let me set the record straight. Contrary to all the talk of cuts, the local government settlement in Scotland provides for an increase in expenditure next year. That increase is £132 million, before any account is taken of the scope for efficiency savings across the full range of council services.
The level of Government support for this expenditure has also been increased by over £60 million. For the second successive year we have, in determining the local government finance settlement, improved on the plans that we announced in the preceding year. Yet we continue to hear that councils are facing a budgetary crisis and are having to make massive cuts in education. I find that scaremongering irresponsible. Let me make it clear that no council in Scotland has a lower spending limit for next year than it has for the current year.
Parents must therefore ask authorities what their priorities are. We have made ours clear; progress is being made. We have set out our proposals for maintaining that progress. The Government's commitment to investment in early, primary and secondary education is clear and unequivocal. We are investing in quality, we are investing in people, and we are investing in equipment and buildings. We are raising opportunities, we are widening choice and we are improving levels of achievement. In every way, as the title of our White Paper puts it, we are "Raising the Standard". I therefore ask the House to reject the motion.
|Division No. 71]||[9.59 pm|
|Alton, David||Kennedy, Charles (Ross C & S)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Beith, A J||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Maddock, Mrs Diana|
|Carlile, Alex (Montgomery)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)|
|Chidgey, David||Nicholson, Miss Emma (W Devon)|
|Cunningham, Ms R (Perth Kinross)||Salmond, Alex|
|Dafis, Cynog||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Davies, Chris (Littleborough)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Tyler, Paul|
|Harvey, Nick||Welsh, Andrew|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Jones, Dr L (B'ham Selly Oak)||Mr. Don Foster and|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Mr. James Wallace.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bates, Michael|
|Alexander, Richard||Batiste, Spencer|
|Alison, Michael (Selby)||Bellingham, Henry|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Bendall, Vivian|
|Amess, David||Beresford, Sir Paul|
|Ancram, Michael||Biffen, John|
|Arbuthnot, James||Body, Sir Richard|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel G)||Booth, Hartley|
|Ashby, David||Boswell, Tim|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Bottomley, Mrs Virginia|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Bowden, Sir Andrew|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole V)||Bowis, John|
|Baldry, Tony||Boyson, Sir Rhodes|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Brandreth, Gyles|
|Brazier, Julian||Gorst, Sir John|
|Bright, Sir Graham||Grant, Sir Anthony (SW Cambs)|
|Brooke, Peter||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg Cl'thorpes)||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Grylls, Sir Michael|
|Burns, Simon||Hague, William|
|Burt, Alistair||Hamilton, Sir Archibald|
|Butler, Peter||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Butterfill, John||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Linc'n)||Hannam, Sir John|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Carttiss, Michael||Haselhurst, Sir Alan|
|Cash, William||Hawkins, Nick|
|Channon, Paul||Hawksley, Warren|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Hayes, Jerry|
|Clappison, James||Heald, Oliver|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochf'd)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hendry, Charles|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Heseltine, Michael|
|Coe, Sebastian||Hicks, Sir Robert|
|Colvin, Michael||Higgins, Sir Terence|
|Congdon, David||Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test)|
|Conway, Derek||Hogg, Douglas (Grantham)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F)||Horam, John|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Cope, Sir John||Howard, Michael|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Howell, David (Guildf'd)|
|Couchman, James||Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Cran, James||Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd)||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensb'ne)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Day, Stephen||Hurd, Douglas|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Jack, Michael|
|Devlin, Tim||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Jenkin, Bernard (Colchester N)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Jessel, Toby|
|Dover, Den||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Duncan, Alan||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Jones, Robert B (W Herts)|
|Dunn, Bob||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Key, Robert|
|Dykes, Hugh||King, Tom|
|Eggar, Tim||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Elletson, Harold||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld)||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Knox, Sir David|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)||Kynoch, George|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Evennett, David||Lamont, Norman|
|Faber, David||Lang, Ian|
|Fabricant, Michael||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Legg, Barry|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Leigh, Edward|
|Fishburn, Dudley||Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark|
|Forman, Nigel||Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lidington, David|
|Forth, Eric||Lilley, Peter|
|Fowler, Sir Norman||Lloyd, Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Lord, Michael|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||Luff, Peter|
|Freeman, Roger||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|French, Douglas||MacGregor, John|
|Fry, Sir Peter||MacKay, Andrew|
|Gale, Roger||Maclean, David|
|Gallie, Phil||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Garnier, Edward||Madel, Sir David|
|Gill, Christopher||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Major, John|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Malone, Gerald|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Mans, Keith|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Marland, Paul|
|Marlow, Tony||Speed, Sir Keith|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mates, Michael||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Spring, Richard|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Sproat, Iain|
|Mellor, David||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Merchant, Piers||Steen, Anthony|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Stephen, Michael|
|Moate, Sir Roger||Stern, Michael|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Stewart, Allan|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Streeter, Gary|
|Needham, Richard||Sweeney, Walter|
|Nelson, Anthony||Sykes, John|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Newton, Tony||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Norris, Steve||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Onslow, Sir Cranley||Thomason, Roy|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Thompson, Sir Donald (Calder V)|
|Ottaway, Richard||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Page, Richard||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Paice, James||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Patnick, Sir Irvine||Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Patten, John||Tracey, Richard|
|Pattie, Sir Geoffrey||Tredinnick, David|
|Pawsey, James||Trend, Michael|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Trotter, Neville|
|Pickles, Eric||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Porter, David||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Portillo, Michael||Viggers, Peter|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Waldegrave, William|
|Rathbone, Tim||Walden, George|
|Redwood, John||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Renton, Tim||Waller, Gary|
|Richards, Rod||Ward, John|
|Riddick, Graham||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Waterson, Nigel|
|Robathan, Andrew||Watts, John|
|Roberts, Sir Wyn||Wells, Bowen|
|Robertson, Raymond S (Ab'd'n S)||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Whittingdale, John|
|Rowe, Andrew||Widdecombe, Miss Ann|
|Rumbold, Dame Angela||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Ryder, Richard||Wilkinson, John|
|Sackville, Tom||Willetts, David|
|Sainsbury, Sir Timothy||Wilshire, David|
|Scott, Sir Nicholas||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesf'ld)|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Shephard, Mrs Gillian||Yeo, Tim|
|Shersby, Sir Michael||Young, Sir George|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsf'ld)||Mr. Timothy Wood and|
|Soames, Nicholas||Mr. Roger Knapman.|
|Division No. 72]||[10.14 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Amess, David|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Ancram, Michael|
|Alexander, Richard||Arbuthnot, James|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)|
|Alison, Michael (Selby)||Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel G)|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Ashby, David|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fabricant, Michael|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole V)||Fishburn, Dudley|
|Baldry, Tony||Forman, Nigel|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Forth, Eric|
|Bates, Michael||Fowler, Sir Norman|
|Batiste, Spencer||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Freeman, Roger|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||French, Douglas|
|Biffen, John||Fry, Sir Peter|
|Body, Sir Richard||Gale, Roger|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Gallie, Phil|
|Booth, Hartley||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Boswell, Tim||Garnier, Edward|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Gill, Christopher|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gillan, Mrs Cheryl|
|Bowden, Sir Andrew||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bowis, John||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Boyson, Sir Rhodes||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Gorst, Sir John|
|Brazier, Julian||Grant, Sir Anthony (SW Cambs)|
|Bright, Sir Graham||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Brooke, Peter||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg Cl'thorpes)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Grylls, Sir Michael|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Hague, William|
|Burns, Simon||Hamilton, Sir Archibald|
|Burt, Alistair||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Butler, Peter||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Butterfill, John||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Hannam, Sir John|
|Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Linc'n)||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Carrington, Matthew||Haselhurst, Sir Alan|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hawkins, Nick|
|Cash, William||Hawksley, Warren|
|Channon, Paul||Hayes, Jerry|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Heald, Oliver|
|Clappison, James||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochf'd)||Hendry, Charles|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Heseltine, Michael|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Hicks, Sir Robert|
|Coe, Sebastian||Higgins, Sir Terence|
|Colvin, Michael||Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test)|
|Congdon, David||Hogg, Douglas (Grantham)|
|Conway, Derek||Horam, John|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Howard, Michael|
|Cope, Sir John||Howell, David (Guildf'd)|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Couchman, James||Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)|
|Cran, James||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensb'ne)|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Day, Stephen||Hurd, Douglas|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Jack, Michael|
|Devlin, Tim||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Jenkin, Bernard (Colchester N)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Jessel, Toby|
|Dover, Den||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Duncan, Alan||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Jones, Robert B (W Herts)|
|Dunn, Bob||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Key, Robert|
|Dykes, Hugh||King, Tom|
|Eggar, Tim||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Elletson, Harold||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld)||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Knox, Sir David|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)||Kynoch, George|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Evennett, David||Lamont, Norman|
|Faber, David||Lang, Ian|
|Lawrence, Sir Ivan||Sackville, Tom|
|Legg, Barry||Sainsbury, Sir Timothy|
|Leigh, Edward||Scott, Sir Nicholas|
|Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lidington, David||Shephard, Mrs Gillian|
|Lilley, Peter||Shersby, Sir Michael|
|Lloyd, Sir Peter (Fareham)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Lord, Michael||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Luff, Peter||Smith, Tim (Beaconsf'ld)|
|Lyell, Sir Nicholas||Soames, Nicholas|
|MacGregor, John||Speed, Sir Keith|
|MacKay, Andrew||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Maclean, David||Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset)|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Madel, Sir David||Spring, Richard|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Sproat Iain|
|Major, John||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Malone, Gerald||Steen, Anthony|
|Mans, Keith||Stephen, Michael|
|Marland, Paul||Stern, Michael|
|Marlow, Tony||Stewart, Allan|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Streeter, Gary|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Sweeney, Walter|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Sykes, John|
|Mates, Michael||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Mellor, David||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Merchant, Piers||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Thomason, Roy|
|Moate, Sir Roger||Thompson, Sir Donald (Calder V)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Needham, Richard||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Tracey, Richard|
|Newton, Tony||Tredinnick, David|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Trend, Michael|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Trotter, Neville|
|Norris, Steve||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Onslow, Sir Cranley||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Viggers, Peter|
|Ottaway, Richard||Waldegrave, William|
|Page, Richard||Walden, George|
|Paice, James||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Patnick, Sir Irvine||Waller, Gary|
|Patten, John||Ward, John|
|Pattie, Sir Geoffrey||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Pawsey, James||Waterson, Nigel|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Watts, John|
|Pickles, Eric||Wells, Bowen|
|Porter, David||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Portillo, Michael||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Whittingdale, John|
|Rathbone, Tim||Widdecombe, Miss Ann|
|Redwood, John||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Renton, Tim||Wilkinson, John|
|Richards, Rod||Willetts, David|
|Riddick, Graham||Wilshire, David|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Robathan, Andrew||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesf'ld)|
|Roberts, Sir Wyn||Wolfson, Mark|
|Robertson, Raymond S (Ab'd'n S)||Yeo, Tim|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)||Young, Sir George|
|Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Rowe, Andrew||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Rumbold, Dame Angela||Mr. Timothy Wood and|
|Ryder, Richard||Mr. Roger Knapman.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Alton, David|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)|
|Allen, Graham||Armstrong, Ms Hilary|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Ashton, Joseph||Foulkes, George|
|Austin-Walker, John||Fraser, John|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Fyfe, Mrs Maria|
|Barnes, Harry||Galbraith, Sam|
|Barron, Kevin||Galloway, George|
|Battle, John||George, Bruce|
|Bayley, Hugh||Gerrard, Neil|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Gilbert, Dr John|
|Beith, A J||Godman, Dr Norman A|
|Bell, Stuart||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Benn, Tony||Gordon, Ms Mildred|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Benton, Joe||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Grocott, Bruce|
|Berry, Roger||Gunnell, John|
|Betts, Clive||Hain, Peter|
|Blair, Tony||Hall, Mike|
|Blunkett David||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Boateng, Paul||Harvey, Nick|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hattersley, Roy|
|Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Henderson, Doug|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Heppell, John|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Hill, Keith (Streatham)|
|Burden, Richard||Hinchliffe, David|
|Byers, Stephen||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Caborn, Richard||Hoey, Kate|
|Callaghan, Jim||Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Home Robertson, John|
|Campbell-Savours, D N||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Cann, Jamie||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Carlile, Alex (Montgomery)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Chidgey, David||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hoyle, Doug|
|Church, Ms Judith||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Clapham, Michael||Hughes, Robert (Ab'd'n N)|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hutton, John|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Illsley, Eric|
|Cohen, Harry||Ingram, Adam|
|Connarty, Michael||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Corbett, Robin||Jamieson, David|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Janner, Greville|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Jenkins, Brian D (SE Staffs)|
|Cousins, Jim||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Cox, Tom||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Cummings, John||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Jones, Dr L (B'ham Selly Oak)|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try SE)||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Jowell, Ms Tessa|
|Cunningham, Ms R (Perth Kinross)||Keen, Alan|
|Dafis, Cynog||Kennedy, Charles (Ross C & S)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kennedy, Mrs Jane (Broadgreen)|
|Darling, Alistair||Khabra, Piara S|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C)||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Davies, Chris (Littleborough)||Liddell, Mrs Helen|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Litherland, Robert|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)||Livingstone, Ken|
|Denham, John||Lloyd, Tony (Stretf'd)|
|Dewar, Donald||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Dixon, Don||Loyden, Eddie|
|Dobson, Frank||McAllion, John|
|Donohoe, Brian H||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Dowd, Jim||McCartney, Robert (N Down)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Macdonald, Calum|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||McFall, John|
|Eastham, Ken||McKelvey, William|
|Ennis, Jeff||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||McNamara, Kevin|
|Fatchett, Derek||MacShane, Denis|
|Faulds, Andrew||McWilliam, John|
|Fisher, Mark||Madden, Max|
|Flynn, Paul||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Mandelson, Peter||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Short, Clare|
|Martlew, Eric||Simpson, Alan|
|Maxton, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Meacher, Michael||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Meale, Alan||Smith, Chris (Islington S)|
|Michael, Alun||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Snape, Peter|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)||Soley, Clive|
|Milburn, Alan||Spearing, Nigel|
|Miller, Andrew||Spellar, John|
|Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)||Squire, Ms R (Dunfermline W)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Stevenson, George|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Stott, Roger|
|Morley, Elliot||Strang, Dr Gavin|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Straw, Jack|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Mowlam, Ms Marjorie||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Mudie, George||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Nicholson, Miss Emma (W Devon)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Thurnham, Peter|
|O'Hara, Edward||Timms, Stephen|
|Olner, Bill||Tipping, Paddy|
|O'Neill, Martin||Trickett, Jon|
|Orme, Stanley||Turner, Dennis|
|Pearson, Ian||Tyler, Paul|
|Pickthall, Colin||Vaz, Keith|
|Pike, Peter L||Walker, Sir Harold|
|Pope, Greg||Wallace, James|
|Powell, Sir Raymond (Ogmore)||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Prentice, Mrs B (Lewisham E)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Watson, Mike|
|Prescott, John||Welsh, Andrew|
|Primarolo, Ms Dawn||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Radice, Giles||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Randall, Stuart||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Raynsford, Nick||Wilson, Brian|
|Reid, Dr John||Winnick, David|
|Rendel, David||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)||Worthington, Tony|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)||Wray, Jimmy|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Ruddock, Ms Joan||Mr. Archy Kirkwood and|
|Salmond, Alex||Mrs. Diana Maddock.|
That this House welcomes the substantial extra investment which the Government has made, and continues to make, in early years, primary and secondary education, the reforms that the Government has introduced to allow that investment to be used to maximum effect and the improvement in standards in schools which has been the result.