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No, they have listened carefully to the arguments and considered the evidence about the impact of selective admissions policies. What new clause 39 does is to deal simply with the anomaly that is left. If all three parties accept that a return to the universal 11-plus system is not acceptable because of the various disadvantages of which we are all aware and about which I shall say more later, it remains completely inconsistent that we should support that system in the 36 English local education authorities where it still applies. I do not argue that there is a simple solution, and I do not argue that the Government should simply decide to change things overnight. The purpose of my new clause is to suggest a process whereby the remaining anomalies in the 15 wholly selective areas and the 36 areas that contain large elements of selection can be resolved.
At the heart of the issue is the fact that it can be resolved neither by local people alone nor by national Government alone. New clause 39 suggests that the Government establish a clear principle, namely that selection is not a desirable form of admission to secondary education, and that they set an end date beyond which selection will no longer be permitted. It proposes 2010 as the end date. At the same time, it allows the current ballot arrangements to be maintained. Parents would be able to engage in debate locally, consider the alternatives and express their views, and would have the right to vote to reintroduce selection if they were so minded.