Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC Standing Committee [Education (re-committed) Bill]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC Standing Committee A [1-52]
Editorial comments: 1030-1300. First Sitting reproduced in its entirety, MT’s contributions making little sense by themselves. She spoke at cc.8, 13, 17, 47, and 51.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 18881
Themes: Parliament, Secondary education
[column 1]

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Mr. John Brewis (in the Chair)

Armstrong , Mr. Ernest (Durham, North-West)

Bacon , Miss Alice (Minister of State, Dept. of Education and Science)

Boyle , Sir Edward (Birmingham, Handsworth)

Evans , Mr. Fred (Caerphilly)

Eyre , Mr. Reginald (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Hill , Mr. J. E. B. (Norfolk, South)

Lane , Mr. David (Cambridge)

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth (Rutland and Stamford)

Mahon , Mr. Simon (Bootle) [column 2]

Maude , Mr. Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)

Montgomery , Mr. Fergus (Brierley Hill)

Newens , Mr. Stan (Epping)

Oakes , Mr. Gordon (Bolton, West)

Price , Mr. Christopher (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Price , Mr. William (Rugby)

Short , Mr. Edward (Secretary of State for Education and Science)

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret (Finchley)

van Straubenzee , Mr. W. R. (Wokingham)

Wellbeloved , Mr. James (Erith and Crayford)

Woof , Mr. Robert (Blaydon)

Mr. K. A. Bradshaw, Committee Clerk

[column 3]



Tuesday, 28th April, 1970

[Mr. John Brewis in the Chair]

10.30 a.m.

The Chairman

I understand that one or two hon. Members want to raise points of order, and I thank them for giving me notice. Before they speak, it would be convenient if we dealt with the Sittings Motion, which is in the usual form. I shall then ask the Clerk to read the Title of the Bill and the Instruction given by the House. Then I shall make a statement on procedure to be followed.


That during the proceedings on the Education (re-committed) Bill the Committee do meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at half-past Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Edward Short.]

The Chairman

The Committee has been given an Instruction by the House, dated 22nd April, which I shall now ask the Clerk to read:

“That it be an Instruction to Standing Committee A that, notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill, they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect.”

The Chairman

Now that the Committee has been reminded of the terms of the Instruction, it may help the Committee if I straight away indicate the attitude of the Chair towards new Clause No. 1, standing in the name of the Secretary of State, the Amendments to that Clause, and new Clause No. 3 standing in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). As the Committee will be aware, new Clause No. 1 is in the same terms as Clause 1 of the Bill as introduced. New Clause No. 3 is in the same terms as the Clause which the Committee disagreed to on 14th April last.

Notwithstanding the Committee's previous action on Clause 1, the House has now empowered the Committee

“… to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect.”

In other words, the House has enabled the Committee to reconsider the Clause, and [column 4]reconsider it in its entirety. It is therefore open to the Committee now, as it was when the Committee first began to consider the original Clause 1, to amend the Clause in various ways, to agree to the Clause as amended, or to reject it. In selecting Amendments, I shall apply the rules of the House, allowing the Committee the full power over the Clause which the Instruction gives them.

I now propose to call the Secretary of State to move his procedural Motion. When he has done so, I propose to select the hon. Lady's Amendment, because on procedural grounds it seems convenient for the Committee to bring new Clauses Nos. 1 and 3 together on the Amendment Paper. I hope that the Committee can quickly dispose of these procedural points. When this has been done, I shall invite the Secretary of State to move new Clause No. 1, and shall propose that the Committee discuss with it new Clause No. 3, following our usual practice of grouping similar Clauses for purposes of discussion.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

On a point of order Mr. Brewis, I am in some difficulty in proceeding with the Bill this morning, because we seem not to be in possession of the Bill “so far as amended.” The only copies of the Bill available are of the original Bill ordered to be printed on 4th February, 1970, yet we know from our own Official Report that the effective Clause was struck out and the Bill was reported so far as amended to the House. Therefore, I am wondering what the House received.

I think we have some guidance from Mr. Speaker in col. 432 of Hansard of 22nd April, 1970, when he said in his Ruling on the points of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher):

“The phrase, ‘the Education Bill, so far as amended,’ … means the whole Bill, with all the Amendments which the Committee has made, up to the point where it decided not to proceed further with the Bill. The usual phrase is ‘the Bill as amended,’ which the Committee uses when reporting to the House on completing its consideration and amendment of the Bill. But in both instances, the House is put in possession of the entire Bill, with such Amendments as have been made. The only difference is that in the first case the Committee's work is incomplete.” —[Official Report, 22nd April, 1970; Vol. 800, c. 432.]

I should have thought that either immediately after that the Bill should have been reprinted, or at least before this [column 5]morning. It is important, because that was the whole Bill at that stage. Indeed, it was crucially important because, had it not been ruled as being the whole Bill, Standing Order 52 could not have applied, and the debate would have been much wider than was the case.

All the argument leading up to the Instruction which you have read out to us was about how to fill the gap; there was never any question that there was a gap. Therefore, the Bill re-committed to the House was definitely something other than we have in the only copies that are available.

The new Title appears on every other paper connected with the Committee. It is now the “Education (re-committed) Bill.” My attention was attracted to this when I received the notice that the former Committee was to be reconvened, and the old “Education Bill” was amended by hand to make it the “Education (re-committed) Bill.” Likewise the notice Paper of Amendments is headed “Education (re-committed) Bill.” Indeed, the Standing Committee A in respect of the “Education (re-committed) Bill” was reprinted and available at the Vote Office before the weekend with an identical membership. So every document concerning this Bill has been reprinted to take account of what has happened, except the Bill itself.

When one looks at the Public Bills list for Saturday, 25th April, this Measure is said to be re-committed to the Standing Committee on 22nd April. There is no sign of its being reprinted. You will appreciate, Mr. Brewis, that even if the course that the Secretary of State has in mind takes place as he would wish and the identical Clause is restored to the Bill, this Bill, printed on 4th February, would not represent the truth, because in any reprint the Bill is renumbered. This is Bill 91. I submit, therefore, that it should be reprinted with the blank that we seek to fill.

I do not see how one can very well move a new Clause—indeed, you might, perhaps, even have some difficulty in selecting one—if it seeks to insert identical words to those already existing in the only copy of the Bill available.

I can see that it would be all right to go back to the original Bill if there had been some invalidity in our proceedings. Had our decision been defective for lack of a quorum, or something of that sort, one [column 6]could say that that was defective and the Bill was in no way altered. But it is clear beyond doubt that the Bill was altered.

I apprehend that many hon. Members will think that this is a puny point to take up, because those of us who have been so close to the Bill know perfectly well what it is all about. But that, in my respectful submission, is not really the issue. We have, because, if you like, of an accident, had to look closely into all our constitutional and Committee procedures, as a result of which it was decided to evolve an entirely new method of dealing with this situation.

In my opinion, the Government promoted a method which was not in accord with the normal practice of the House. I think that the Bill ought to have been recommitted to a Committee of the whole House. But we have decided to do it in this way, and therefore it behoves us to be punctilious and diligent in observing the conventions and practices of the House in this most unusual situation. Therefore, I ask you, Mr. Brewis, whether we can proceed effectively unless and until we are given copies of the Bill or it has been re-committed to the Committee.

Mr. Angus Maude

On the same point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) has dealt with all the essential points, and there are just two points I should like to make in support. I shall no doubt be told that there are precedents for not reprinting a Bill when it has been amended by a Committee, but I should not have thought that there could have been a precedent for not reprinting a Bill as amended by a Committee when the Amendment was substantial. I do not think that anyone can doubt that the Amendment that this Committee made to the Bill at its last but one sitting was substantial. Of course, the normal form is to present to the House the Bill as amended by Standing Committee A, or whatever it might be.

The second point is that it seems to me to be extremely difficult for us to be dealing with the new Clause to be moved by the Secretary of State when we have not, so to speak, a place in the Bill to put it. The Bill with which we are presented and which we are apparently trying to debate, apart from having the wrong Title, as my hon. Friend pointed out, has already in it a Clause in identical terms to that which we are supposed, after the procedural Motion, if [column 7]the Government win it, to discuss. It is normal, when a new Clause is carried by a Committee—it is normally taken at the end—for that new Clause to be then inserted in the Bill in the most convenient position to make sense of the Bill. But how can it be inserted in this Bill? It is in it already.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis


The Chairman

Is it the same point of order?

Mr. Lewis

Yes, Mr. Brewis. May I just say one thing that is rather different? Assuming that new Clause No. 1 were passed, I suppose that it might be said that, although there was no blank in the Bill, it simply replaced what is already there and therefore there was no problem. But we ought not to anticipate the vote of this Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has put down new Clause No. 3. What would then happen if we, as I hope we should, passed that new Clause? There is no blank in this Bill for it. There would then be in the Bill a Clause No. 1 plus a new Clause No. 3, and the one would contradict the other. We are in the position of requesting ourselves to deal with a Bill which is not the Bill we are considering. This is what all the problem and trouble have been about.

I should, therefore, like you to rule, apart from what my hon. Friends have said, on how we deal with the situation if this Committee passes, not new Clause No. 1 but new Clause No. 3. It seems to me that we are then just not in a situation where we are providing a Bill that can make any sense at all, and until we have a ruling on this difficulty and in some way change our procedure in order to deal with it, I do not see how we can discuss the right hon. Gentleman's Motion.

The Chairman

The short answer to the point of order is that the House did not order the reprinting of the Bill, and therefore it cannot be done. But the Committee copy of the Bill, which is kept by the Clerk, shows the deletion of Clause No. 1 which we decided at our last meeting. I rather agree with the point raised by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) that it may, in certain circumstances, be convenient if we have Clause No. 1 as printed in this Bill when we come on, if we do, to later Clauses. But, as I say, the short answer is [column 8]that, as the House did not order the reprinting of the Bill, there is nothing that we can do about it.

10.45 a.m.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

On the point of order, I would just put this point to you, Mr. Brewis. The Question you would normally put to the Committee—although I realise that might not matter these days so much as it did a few weeks ago—after a new Clause has had a Second reading, whatever the number of that new Clause, is that the new Clause be added to the Bill. The Question would not be that the new Clause be added to the Bill in a specific place. If the Question is to be that the new Clause be added to the Bill, this new Clause, whether No. 1 or No. 3, would become Clause No. 5 of the Bill.

The Chairman

I think, with respect, that the hon. Lady is wrong on that submission; and that the new Clause, when it is passed, is inserted in the most suitable place in the Bill.

Mr. Lewis

Further to that point of order, Mr. Brewis. As you have agreed with what I said about new Clause No. 3, may I ask you whether it would not be better to discuss that Clause quite separately, and even before the right hon. Gentleman's new Clause, since, if we discussed new Clause No. 3 separately, and it were lost, we could then discuss new Clause No. 1. If the Committee passed new Clause No. 3, the right hon. Gentleman would presumably accept that position. He would not go forward and press his own new Clause, and the Committee would not have to discuss it. The right hon. Gentleman would have to accept the Bill on that basis, or would have to go to the House again. It seems to me that the only way to get over what you have accepted as being something of a problem is to reverse the procedure suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.

The Chairman

I think that when we get to that stage, the hon. Gentleman will find it much more convenient to discuss new Clauses Nos. 1 and 3 together. Perhaps we should leave that matter over until we get there.

Mr. Hill

Further to the point of order, Mr. Brewis. I appreciate that, technically, the House can not have ordered the Bill to be reprinted, otherwise we should have [column 9]had a reprinted Bill. But I draw your attention to page 563 in Erskine May, 17th Edition. It states:

“Reprinting of Bills.—A bill amended in committee is, unless the amendments are merely trifling, almost invariably reprinted before the consideration stage on an order made when the bill is reported to the House. This order is formal only and is made as a book entry in the Votes and Proceedings. Occasionally, while a bill has been in progress, the amended clauses, so far as they have been agreed to, or certain specified clauses, have been ordered to be printed.”

It goes on to mention other cases where there has been special reprinting.

My point of order is that this was a very substantial change. No one could call it, in any circumstances, trifling. If one looks at the Public Bill list, one can find plenty of cases of Bills in this Session being reprinted twice—and one Government Bill was reprinted three times—whenever some substantial change is made and the Bill goes either before the House from a Standing Committee or to the House at some other stage.

It may be that, in reporting the Bill, so far as amended, to the House, we did not contrive or ask that it should be reprinted. I am not sure whose responsibility that is, since Standing Order No. 59(7) provides:

“All Standing Committees shall have leave to print and circulate with the Votes the minutes of their proceedings and clauses of bills as amended by them.”

I do not know whether, in sending the Bill to the House, we had power to order it to be reprinted for the convenience of the House and did not do so. That may have been the first occasion when the Bill failed to be reprinted. The second and all-important occasion was when the House decided in what manner it would deal with the future of the Bill namely, by recommitting it to us with the full weight of Mr. Speaker's Ruling as to what constitutes the whole Bill. Plainly, that was an occasion when the Bill should have been reprinted.

I do not know who should take the initiative to set in motion the machinery which enables the House to arrive at this purely formal decision. Where the omission lies I do not know. My point is that there has been an omission. It may be the Government's responsibility to smooth the path of its own legislation. But we must make certain that we are using our procedure correctly. I do not want to postpone the process of consideration of the Bill, because we all want to get on with it, but, [column 10]unfortunately, it has become involved in this procedural difficulty. I should like to know by what means we can, as I think we ought, have the Bill reprinted, whether we should take the decision, or whether it is open to us to request the House, or to request the Government to ask the House, to have the Bill reprinted.

The Chairman

With respect, the hon. Gentleman is making heavy weather of this point. The bill is normally reprinted when it leaves the Committee and goes back to the Floor of the House. At the moment, this Bill is before the same Committee. I must say that, as far as I can see, it would be more convenient to the Committee to leave it as it is and not have it reprinted.

Mr. Maude

Further to that point of order, Mr. Brewis. You ruled earlier that the reason why it had not been reprinted was that the House had not ordered it to be reprinted. As we have already said, it is normal for the House to have presented to it a reprinted Bill, particularly if the Title is being changed, and if it is substantially amended. It would be helpful to us to know from you what form is normally gone through for the House to order, or refuse to order, a Bill to be printed. I am not aware that at any stage any Motion was put before the House that the Bill should not be reprinted and was carried, or that a Motion to print was put and we did not carry it. If, as my hon. Friend says, quoting Erskine May, this is an almost invariable and purely formal procedure, I cannot see how the House could reverse it, or who in the House took the power to do it.

The Chairman

According to Erskine May, it is an almost invariable procedure when a Bill is reported to the House and comes out of Committee. I think that we all appreciate that. As to when the House can order it otherwise, I am afraid I am unable to give the hon. Member that information.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I finally, on that point of order, say that we have the impression that there is far too much slackness all round in the procedure on the whole of this Bill. It will not do. That is all.

The Chairman

I take the hon. Lady's point, without agreeing to it.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery

On a point [column 11]of order, Mr. Brewis. This is on an entirely different matter, and I have given prior notice of it. I refer to the question of the alternative Chairman of this Committee. I have written to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) and told him that I intended to raise this in the Committee this morning.

In the debate in the House on 22nd April, the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West, who is the alternative Chairman of this Committee, intervened as a Chairman of the Committee, made a very partial speech, and then voted on both Motions. You, Mr. Brewis, if I may say so, behaved impeccably. You took no part in the debate and you did not vote on either of the two Motions when they were put. I understand there is a chance that, in the next few weeks, you will be going abroad. I am sure that, in the beginning, you thought that you would be able to see this Bill all the way through, but, due to the incompetence of the Government, we are now to go on much longer than anyone expected.

What happens when you are not here to take the Chair, Mr. Brewis? If the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West is to take the Chair, I object most strongly. I believe that the hon. Member has shown partisanship, and I shall have no faith in his impartiality if he comes back to this Committee as Chairman.

Therefore, Mr. Brewis, I should like to know from you what power hon. Members on this side have to remove a member of the Chairmen's Panel who has foolishly intervened in a debate on legislation on which he himself could well have to be an impartial Chairman at a later date. I have never known this to happen before. I appeal to you to give us a ruling, because I think that all of us on the Opposition side of the Committee have no confidence at all——

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

Order. Absolutely out of order.

Mr. Montgomery

The right hon. Gentleman should remember that he is the Secretary of State for Education, not the Chairman. If I am out of order, I am certain that you, Mr. Brewis, will call me back to order. I say again: what confidence can we have in the impartiality of an hon. Member as Chairman of this Committee when he has already made a [column 12]very partial speech in a debate in the House?

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner), at an early stage in our proceedings, to help me out at a time of great personal inconvenience, took the Chair of this Committee. I wish publicly to thank him for having done so. It helped me considerably. Apart from that, he is not alternative Chairman of this Committee. I am Chairman of the Committee, and I am the sole Chairman.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman voted in the House, but, had I been in the same position as he was, I should have taken exactly the course he did. His impartiality in the Chair of Committees goes back over many years and is quite undoubted. If there is a question of appointing another Chairman of this Committee for some reason, that will be a matter for Mr. Speaker and Mr. Speaker alone.

Mr. Montgomery

Further to that point of order. [Interruption.] I am sorry that there is such a barrage going on opposite. I am pretty sure that if the boot was on the other foot and hon. Members opposite were on these benches, they would be making a great deal more of this.

Is our remedy to contact Mr. Speaker to ask that we have a different alternative Chairman for this Committee?

The Chairman

No, it is a matter entirely for Mr. Speaker. I deprecate the continuation of this point of order.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Brewis. I just want to say, if I may respectfully, that I hope that it is understood that the viewpoint which has been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) is widely shared. I do not for a moment give way to anyone in my personal admiration of the hon. Member under discussion. But it is important to say quite clearly and simply—I hope that this will be taken notice of in the unfortunate event of your not being able to preside over us with your usual charm and firmness—that the view to which my hon. Friend has given voice is a corporate view and not merely the view of one of my hon. Friends. I hope that due notice will be taken of that.

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman [column 13]will remember that all members of the Chairmen's Panel are in considerable difficulty in carrying out their functions in and for the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the consideration of Clauses 2 to 4 be postponed until after consideration of new Clause 1 (Principles affecting provision of secondary education) standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Secretary Short.—[Mr. Edward Short]

Mrs. Thatcher

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Motion, at end add:

“and new Clause 3 (Principles affecting provision of secondary education) standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher.”

When we saw this Motion we were put in some difficulty. Bearing in mind the history of this whole matter, we thought it possible that, if the Motion went unamended, the Edward ShortSecretary of State could quickly move that his new Clause be added to the Bill.

The difficulties which we have had with the Instruction are inherent in the motion. In the House on 22nd April, 1970, Selwyn LloydMr. Speaker said:

“I think that the Committee can interpret that Instruction, if it is given, quite clearly.”

Mr right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) asked him:

“To what does ‘like effect’ refer? Is it Clause 1 as originally in the Bill, or Clause 1 as amended?”

Mr. Speaker replied:

“That will have to be decided by the Committee when it debates Clause 1.” —[Official Report, 22nd April, 1970; Vol. 800. c. 434.]

So Mr. Speaker's Ruling was that it would have to be decided by the Committee. I then turn to the Secretary of State's reply to an intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet about the effect of the Instruction. The right hon. Gentleman said:

“The Committee has not the power to insert an entirely different Clause. It has the power to insert a Clause with like effect, but not a Clause with a different effect. That is perfectly clear.” —[Official Report, 22nd April, 1970; Vol. 800, c. 496.]

11.0 a.m.

We were thus in some difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman says, on his reading, that we have no power to insert a Clause with a different effect, and Clause No. 1 as amended is a Clause with different effect from the new Clause which he has put down.

[column 14]

Mr. Short

On a point of order, Mr. Brewis. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Lady, I know that she wishes to deploy these arguments, and we want to listen; but this Motion is about postponing consideration of Clauses 2 to 4. I deliberately moved it formally and did not go into the content of the Clauses. It is, I suggest, a procedure Motion. Are we to have a general debate on the content of the Clauses now?

Mrs. Thatcher

Further to that point of order. It is a procedure Motion with a specific effect which, unless we debate it, may inhibit debate which follows. If we follow this procedure Motion strictly, without discussing new Clause No. 1, we cannot, I submit, then turn to discuss new Clause No. 3. That is the position with which I was faced when I saw this procedure Motion. May I put this point to you, Mr. Brewis?

The Chairman

Is it still further to the point of order?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Mr. Brewis.

The Chairman

Then I should reply to the point of order raised by the Secretary of State. I think that the hon. Lady is in order in saying why she wants to make the Amendment. I shall, therefore, allow her to continue.

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope that I have made my meaning clear. Our Amendment stems from the interpretation of the Instruction and the effect which that will have upon debates in discussing either new Clause No. 1 or new Clause No. 3. That is why the Amendment is put down.

There is one specific point which I should like to put to you, Mr. Brewis. Being the former Committee, we are in possession of one fact of which Mr. Speaker could not be in possession, namely, that the Clause 1 to which the Committee disagreed was the Clause 1 as amended. Mr. Speaker could not have had cognisance of that fact because it was not apparent on the face of the Motion.

As I understand it from your talk on procedure at the beginning, it may not be necessary for us to have this Amendment in order to get new Clause No. 3 discussed. If that is so, we need not pursue it further. But it must be quite clear that we are fully entitled to put new Clause No. 3 into the Bill, and we are not circumscribed by there being an identical effect [column 15]either to the Government's new Clause No. 1 or to our new Clause No. 3.

When I first looked at the Instruction, it occurred to me that the reason why it was couched in terms of “like effect” was that “identical effect” would have been out of order on grounds of repetition. You have not ruled that. So identical effect must be in order. I hope therefore, that “like effect” will be interpreted wider than either new Clause No. 1 or new Clause No. 3, because it is quite possible that—whichever be agreed on Second Reading—we shall so amend the Clause later as to produce a Clause which has a substantially different effect from either new Clause No. 1 or new Clause No. 3. I think that we might then be in some difficulty.

I hope that I have made the point. I do not want to delay any longer. I also have a great deal to do on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It does not always suit me or the rest of the Committee to be here each morning indefinitely. I have made the point. It seems to me that the Committee is deciding the effect of the Instruction really by virtue of majority and not by virtue of the meaning on the face of the Instruction.

Mr. Maude

My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has referred to the speech which the Secretary of State made interpreting the Instruction which the House was then debating, which the House subsequently carried. I submit that the Instruction does not, and could not, bear the interpretation which the Secretary of State put upon it. It is important that we be clear about this for our own debate and for the powers of this Committee in substituting something for the deleted Clause 1.

I submit that the reason why the House, in an Instruction, gave this Committee power to substitute a Clause of like effect was that otherwise it would have been out of order to substitute a Clause which the Committee had already considered and deleted. But the fact that it gave this Committee power to do something which it could not otherwise have done cannot of itself be held to prevent the Committee from putting back something different instead. If, for example, the Secretary of State's new Clause No. 1 were not passed by the Committee, it would be within the power of the Committee to consider another new Clause in substitution for [column 16]Clause 1 which has been tabled later in our proceedings before we had finished Amendments.

In any case, I submit that my hon. Friend is completely right in her point about the only Clause of genuinely like effect to what in the Instruction is referred to as “Clause 1 of the Education Bill” —

“notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill …” .

The Clause 1 the Committee disagreed to was the Clause as amended by the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). Therefore, what goes back ought to be, according to the Instruction—if we are to say, as the Secretary of State says, that Instructions are mandatory in their effect—the Clause 1 to which the Committee disagreed, which was Clause 1 as amended.

Amendment to the proposed Motion agreed to.


That the consideration of Clauses 2 to 4 be postponed until after consideration of new Clause 1 (Principles affecting provision of secondary education) standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Secretary Short and new Clause 3 (Principles affecting provision of secondary education) standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher.

Mr. Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Brewis. May I please ask you for your guidance on the question of how we vote? As I indicated to you before, we might be in some difficulty if we arrive at the position where we put back two new Clauses—New Clause No. 1 and New Clause No. 3. Therefore, can we accept that, in so far as we are debating these two new Clauses together, at least we will vote so that this does not happen?

The Chairman

We shall be debating new Clause No. 1 in the name of the Secretary of State, and new Clause No. 3 will be taken with it. If new Clause No. 1 is carried, certain consequences follow for new Clause No. 3.

Mrs. Thatcher

On a point of order. If new Clause No. 1 is not carried, we can vote on new Clause No. 3.

The Chairman


Mrs. Thatcher

Anything could happen in the Committee. [column 17]

New Clause No. 1.

Principles affecting provision of secondary education

(1) With a view to the ending of selection of pupils for admission to secondary schools by reference to ability or aptitude, every local education authority, in fulfilling their duties under Section 8 of the Education Act 1944, and in the exercise of any power for the purpose of fulfilling those duties, shall (subject to the following provisions of this section) have regard to the need for securing that secondary education is provided only in schools where the arrangements for the admission of pupils are not based (wholly or partly) on such selection.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this Section shall be construed as affecting—

(a) the provision, whether in special schools or otherwise, of special educational treatment as mentioned in Section 8(2)(c) of the Education Act 1944 (which relates to pupils suffering from a disability of mind or body), or

(b) the provision of education in any sixth form college, or

(c) the provision of education in any school where the arrangements for the admission of pupils to the school are based on selection wholly or mainly by reference to ability in or aptitude for music or dancing or any other art.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this Section the arrangements for the admission of pupils to a school shall not be taken to be based on selection as therein mentioned by reason only that, in the case of pupils admitted to the school for the purpose of entering a sixth form unit comprised in the school, the arrangements for their admission are based on selection by reference to ability or aptitude as well as by reference to age.

(4) In this Section—

(a) “sixth form college” means a school for providing secondary education suitable only to the requirements of pupils who have attained the age of sixteen years and of pupils below that age whom it is expedient to educate together with pupils who have attained that age, and

(b) “sixth form unit” means a separate department or class for providing such secondary education as is mentioned in the preceding paragraph.—[Mr. Edward Short.]

Brought up, and read a First time.

Mr. Short

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have never known the right Edward Shorthon. Gentleman make such a short speech. As we have the opportunity, Mr. Brewis, there are one or two points which we could deploy on the Second Reading of this new Clause which were not adequately deployed formerly in the Committee.

The Chairman

I hope that I have made it abundantly clear that we are also discussing new Clause No. 3: [column 18]

Principles affecting selection for secondary education

(1) With a view to the ending of selection of pupils for admission to secondary schools by reference to ability or aptitude, every local education authority, in fulfilling their duties under Section 8 of the Education Act 1944, and in the exercise of any power for the purpose of fulfilling those duties, shall (subject to the following provisions of this Section) have regard to the need for securing that secondary education is provided only in schools where the arrangements for the admission of pupils are not based (wholly or partly) on such selection.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this Section shall be construed as affecting—

(a) the provision, whether in special schools or otherwise, of special educational treatment as mentioned in Section 8(2)(c) of the Education Act 1944 (which relates to pupils suffering from a disability of mind or body), or

(b) the provision of education in any sixth form college, or

(c) the provision of education in any school where the arrangements for the admission of pupils to the school are based on selection wholly or mainly by reference to ability in or aptitude for music or dancing or any other art, or

(d) such allocation by reference to ability or aptitude of pupils to a particular school as may secure a reasonable balance of ability for each school.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this Section the arrangements for the admission of pupils to a school shall not be taken to be based on selection as therein mentioned by reason only that, in the case of pupils admitted to the school for the purpose of entering a sixth form unit comprised in the school, the arrangements for their admission are based on selection by reference to ability or aptitude as well as by reference to age.

(4) In this Section—

(a) “sixth form college” means a school for providing secondary education suitable only to the requirements of pupils who have attained the age of sixteen years and of pupils below that age whom it is expedient to educate together with pupils who have attained that age, and

(b) “sixth form unit” means a separate department or class for providing such secondary education as is mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

Mrs. Thatcher

Thank you, Mr. Brewis. There are one or two points which should be deployed upon the discussion of both new Clauses, which, perhaps, were not adequately deployed when we discussed the Amendments last time.

One of the difficulties which the country has in trying to assess the effect of the Clause is the difference between the propaganda about them and the reality. A completely different impression has been given as to their effect from that which is plain from the face of the Bill. The propaganda appears to be that selection has been abandoned by virtue [column 19]of these new Clauses, but the reality of the situation is that selection for the first time is enshrined in a Bill concerned with education, albeit not selection at the entry to secondary schools. For the first time, selection as such is enshrined in a Bill in legislative terms. That is the first case where we have the propaganda different from the reality of the situation.

The second point where this position obtains is that the propaganda is that selection for entry to secondary education is abandoned by virtue of either one or other of the new Clauses, but the reality of the situation is that many schemes that have been submitted to the right hon. Gentleman are only partial schemes. Only he knows the latest figures. The figures upon which we have to go are those which appear in page 42 of the Donnison Report, which said that by December, 1969, 129 out of 163 local education authorities' schemes had been approved; 108 for the whole area, or the greater part. That, therefore, left quite a number of schemes which were only for part of the area.

11.15 a.m.

Again, many of the schemes, even those which have been approved, will take a long time to implement, because there is no time limit in this Government new Clause, as we know from our previous debates. Therefore, the propaganda that selection for entry to secondary education is abandoned by virtue of this New Clause is different from the reality. It is not abandoned: it will persist for quite a long time.

There is one point of detail which I might raise with the right hon. Gentleman, who usually tries to answer our detailed points in Committee, and it is this: when has a scheme been approved? I ask this because it seems as though there are two stages: one, approval in principle; two, approval in detail. What to me frequently seems to happen is that authorities submit their schemes in general principle and then submit a scheme in detail. The right hon. Gentleman does not approve the detailed schemes, but leaves them as approved in principle. The second problem which sometimes arises is that the authorities submit their schemes in principle on the understanding that banding can be resorted to, and a number of them are in difficulty, if banding will not be [column 20]permitted, because that alters the whole basis upon which they submitted their original scheme.

The second point on the difference between the propaganda about the Bill and the reality is that a number of the schemes which the right hon. Gentleman has approved, either in principle or in detail, are still being fought very much by parents. Indeed, the other day I had a letter from the Barnet Parents Council, which represents a number of different views, criticising our own Plan C very heavily, and ending up by saying:

“Let everyone realise it—we will have no grammar schools, no good secondary modern schools and above all WE WILL HAVE NO GOOD COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOLS.”

So a number of schemes which have been approved are still being fought by the parents.

The third point on which the propaganda is very different from the reality is that the propaganda is that the new Clause will provide equal educational opportunity for all. The reality, as we all know, is that it will not and cannot provide equal educational opportunity for all, although we all recognise that that is an objective shared by both sides. Indeed, good comprehensive schools will be as different from bad as good grammar were different from bad grammar and good secondary modern different from bad secondary modern, but the position will not be altered by virtue of this Bill, and in respect of the neighbourhood school it may be worsened.

Whatever our theory in this Committee, we all know that in some neighbourhoods there are very substantial problems. Previously, there has been a route out of a neighbourhood by children going outside that neighbourhood to a school based on an ability intake, where all the children in that school outside the neighbourhood can say, “I am as good as you because my ability is as good as yours, otherwise I would not be here.” That gives them an equality they might not otherwise possess. What we fear is that that route is now closed.

We did not fully argue earlier the problems about discipline which occur in some neighbourhood schools. Some neighbourhood schools are obviously extremely good. Indeed, in some areas, people are very anxious to keep the schools as neighbourhood schools so that they keep the area a high class homogeneous [column 21]area. In other areas, we may well have a deprived area, where the last thing we want to do, is to keep the school as a straight neighbourhood school.

I refer, on this point to the report of the London Joint Four on discipline, which had a good deal to say about the disciplinary problems in some large comprehensive schools in some areas. It was sent out with a small covering letter which asked the Press not in any way to sensationalise the findings, and I think that that request was observed. The report is dated January, 1970, and it states:

“The Basic Problem;

There is growing concern amongst teachers about the standards of discipline and work in secondary schools. Even where little would appear to be wrong to the casual visitor, there is evidence that a situation is developing which militates against good teaching. This is due to a slow but certain deterioration in general discipline, which can take the form of chronic class-room misbehaviour, breaches of school rules, challenges to teachers' authority (sometimes amounting to open defiance), disturbance of lessons causing much wastage of time and impeding other children from learning …”

It goes on:

“We are most concerned for all those children who want to work and learn, but who are, for much of the time, frustrated by the troublesome minority.

Furthermore, the strain on teachers is becoming increasingly severe. The temptation is to seek another post in the educational world where the problem is not so acute. In some cases, teachers have suffered nervous breakdowns, or have left the profession altogether.”

The right Alice Baconhon. Lady the Minister of State knows that one of the great differences between good schools and bad schools is the quality of the staff the school can attract, and whether it can retain those staff or whether it has a continuous turnover of staff.

The report goes on:

“Secondary Stage;

There is no doubt that discipline problems are often increased in a large school. Staff and children may not know each other well, and this tends to be particularly so where there is much specialisation. It is difficult to secure a consistent policy throughout the school, since, where authority has to be delegated, staff will naturally differ in their methods…   .” “… There is too little opportunity for the staff in a large school to discuss problems with each other and the head; thus either there is no common school policy, or else it is one laid down by the head but without the whole-hearted support of all the staff…   .”

So there are very considerable problems in some neighbourhood schools, and they can be aggravated if the school is large because one appears to be putting an increasing number of children at risk by [column 22]putting them all together in the same school. One certainly would have had the same problem in a secondary modern school in the same area. I am not certain that by attempting to insist on going comprehensive we do not enlarge the problem to the detriment of more children, thus reducing the opportunity for equal education rather than enhancing it.

The next propaganda argument is that the new Clause will lead to less class distinction. Indeed, the emphasis often seems to have shifted from an educational reason to a social reason.

But the argument is not borne out by the evidence, and one of our tasks in education and elsewhere is always to attempt to look dispassionately at the evidence.

The latest assessment that I know of is a book to which I have referred before, “Social Class and the Comprehensive School” . This is a book which should be read in toto, but on this point, I want to select two parts from it at the moment, perhaps taking the point a little bit wider. The Julienne Fordauthor set out to test five hypotheses about comprehensive schools. She came to conclusions from evidence from a controlled experiment, looking at grammar schools, comprehensive schools and secondary modern schools as to whether those hypotheses were borne out in fact.

The five hypotheses are in page 12:

“1 Comprehensive schools will produce a greater development of talent than tripartite schools.

2 Comprehensive schools will provide greater equality of opportunity for those with equal talent.

3 The occupational horizons of children in comprehensive schools will be widened relative to those of children in tripartite schools.

4 Comprehensive school children will show less tendency to mix only with children of their own social type than will tripartite school children.”

I must say that the expression “tripartite school children” is particularly bad sounding. It sounds a very ugly phrase.

“5 Comprehensive school children will tend to have views of the class system as a flexible hierarchy, while tripartite school children will tend to see this as a rigid dichotomy.”

Those five hypotheses were put to the test, and in the concluding chapter, page 129, “Towards Utopia?” , the author considers how the evidence either supports or negatives those assertions. She says:

“This study of three London schools has failed to produce support for any of the five hypotheses derived from the theory suggested in Chapter 1. [column 23]The so-called educational arguments still rage on; it will take large scale longitudinal research to produce definite answers to the questions of whether comprehensive education will produce a greater development of talent, or even improve the chances of equality of opportunity for those with equal talent …”

She goes on to say:

“… the comprehensive school fails to neutralize the impact of class background and anticipated social class on children's friendship patterns.”

So even the propaganda argument, that this particular new Clause will lead to less class distinction, is not borne out by the evidence which we have so far before us.

There is another new book which, although reviewed in the Press, is not readily available. It is Frances Stevens ' “The New Inheritors” which also has something to say on this. It tells, in the early chapters, of an occasion when some very clean, spick and span grammar school boys were waiting at a bus stop and were tackled by some children who went to a different school. Someone put the question to the headmaster of a comprehensive school, “I suppose your school makes this sort of thing less likely” . This is what he said as reported in page 7:

“The comprehensive school doesn't abolish social conflicts—it internalises them.”

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Alice Bacon)

Is the name of the school given?

Mrs. Thatcher

No. The name of the headmaster of that school is not given. It is a direct quotation. It is in page 7 of that book.

Frances Stevens' “The New Inheritors” is a book which should be read.

I have deliberately not made my own assessment of the situation. I have tried to take the assessment of those whose task it has been to assemble the evidence and dispassionately to deduce their conclusions from the evidence. The evidence is that this particular hope is not borne out, as yet, at any rate, in reality.

The next assertion is that comprehensive education is progressive. The reality of the situation from the new Clause seems to me to be that, if it goes through, the one thing it excludes is adaptation based upon the result of research. If research indicates that some children need to be selected by ability to give them full [column 24]educational opportunity, the Bill will exclude any school based upon that proposition. The new Clause would exclude any results of research which were contrary to the Government's theories. This seems flatly contradictory to progressive.

The next item of propaganda is that academic children will not suffer. There seems to be inadequate evidence on this point. The only evidence I have is from the Stockholm study which was done in the early 1960s and which appeared to yield the interpretation given in Education on 2nd May, 1969, page 593, by Urban Dahlöf, who examined the Stockholm study. He came to this conclusion:

“In the unstreamed, unselective schools the rate of learning was three times lower than in the selective schools, and no allowance had been made in the study for this.”

That is the only piece of evidence of which I know that academically able children are learning at considerably less than their innate pace in that type of school. It seems to me, therefore, that academic children could suffer unless proper provision is made within a comprehensive system to bring them on as fast as their abilities warrant.

11.30 a.m.

The next item of propaganda not borne out in reality is that parental choice is overriding. I accept that for a large number of parents there is little choice. Nevertheless, it should be our policy to extend the area of choice, not to reduce it. The Government's proposals would reduce the area of parental choice. It was put forcibly to me by someone, not in my own constituency but on the other side of the River, who had a very able young daughter. She wanted to send her to the local grammar school. She was surrounded by people who were devotees of the comprehensive theory in principle and who said, “No, send her to the local comprehensive school” . She said, “What right have these politicians to tell me where I should send my child, especially when I see where they send their children?” That seems far more telling than any phrase I could use.

The last fallacy is that education will be easier because there will be a similar system everywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ages of transfer will be as varied under this scheme as they have ever been under other schemes. People [column 25]transferring from Yorkshire to Cornwall, or from Norfolk to London, will be in just as much difficulty because of the differing age of transfers as ever they were under the old scheme. Indeed, the reorganisation plans do not even take into account the Plowden recommendations. It may well be that those who are reorganising on the principle which we are now discussing should take into their plans some of the Plowden recommendations on age of transfer. So much for the difference between the propaganda and the reality.

There are two further points I wish to make. First, many people fear that excellence as an objective in education has been abandoned or sacrificed to other objectives. Second, in so far as the Bill attempts to compel, the Government, although leaving large sums of money to be raised through the rates, will be progressively reducing the policy-making function of local education authorities so that they will have responsibility for the rates which they raise without real power as to how they shall be disposed of. Even though they are operating the highest educational standards for all their children, their policy-making function will be reduced and overridden.

It seems to be thought in some quarters that the best system of education is a total comprehensive system. Other nations have started with a total comprehensive system. They have progressed forward from that system to something else. As so often happens, our American friends who started with a totally comprehensive system say, “Please do not make all the mistakes we did” . But the new Clause, instead of learning from them, is likely to make some of the mistakes of the American system.

I refer to an article in The Times Educational Supplement of 21st February, 1969, entitled “Myth of the comprehensive high school” . America started with a totally comprehensive ideal and found that, in order to give full educational opportunity, it had to have schools with a selective intake. I have been round a big school in San Francisco with about 2,500 children from 14 to 18. When asked what they were going to do, they said that they were all going on to college or university. I said, “My goodness, how extraordinary. What a recommendation for comprehensive education” . I was told, “But this is a selective comprehensive school” . It is rather like that instruction from the Department about sixth form colleges— “They should [column 26]be comprehensive though selective” . The Americans have gone in for a number of selective schools, the reason being that the other system did not give full educational opportunity for all pupils. For a Bill to preclude this possibility is absurd. It will stop us from going forward educationally at the rate which we could without it.

On the other hand, it is possible to say that the Bill is not as compulsive as it would seem on the surface. The Secretary of State may take the view that he has left himself a number of loopholes.

Mr. Maude

I do not want to go back over the ground which was covered on the Second Reading of the Education Bill, which we are, apparently, no longer discussing, but I have a feeling, subject to your ruling, Mr. Brewis, that I should probably be in order to do so, because the Secretary of State has moved the Second Reading of a Clause which contains the principle of the Education (re-committed) Bill. Since we understand from your earlier Rulings that what we are discussing is a Bill with a national blank in it which the Secretary of State is seeking to fill, and since this is a Second Reading debate on a quite new attempt to assert the principles on which the Bill is based, it would be in order to have a Second Reading debate on those principles.

However, like my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), I am not anxious to delay the Committee, so I shall make only one or two points. First—we should consider this when considering new Clauses Nos. 1 and 3—the whole object of the exercise on which the Secretary of State and the Government have embarked is obscure in the extreme. When this Parliament ends, the Secretary of State probably will not have received all his plans from local authorities. If some recalcitrant local authorities have submitted either no plans or plans of which he disapproved, he will have had no time to force on them the alternative which he has drawn up. This Bill is, and, in my view, always was, a purely propaganda exercise designed for electoral purposes. It will have very little effect on the education system of this country, especially after an early general election which the Conservative Party wins, because we are, I believe, officially committed to repealing this Bill if it is passed into law.

It was made abundantly clear, by the Secretary of State and, if my memory [column 27]serves me, by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price), that the main purpose of this Bill is simply to have the Conservative Party on record for propaganda purposes as having done something which can be represented to the public as voting for the retention of the 11-plus. That is the Secretary of State's intention. It has been made abundantly clear by the fact that, at every point during our previous debates when he has had a chance to do so, he has taunted us with a desire to keep selection by the 11-plus procedure, and, when we have rebutted that assertion, he has either laughed in a sinister way or repeated his disbelief.

The fact is—we ought to go on repeating this, because it is true—that nobody in this Committee, so far as I am aware, has ever said that selection for secondary school at 11 by what has become regarded as the 11-plus procedure is either the best way of apportioning children between secondary schools, or, with the higher school-leaving age and the higher average age of leaving that we have, the right way at all. All we have ever said is that there is a big place for selection on grounds of ability and aptitude in the education system in some areas, for some authorities, with some schools, and for some purposes.

One would have thought that the mere exercise of common sense or a voyage of exploration round the country to see the problems of various education authorities and areas would have made that modest proposition self-evidently clear to anybody. Yet the Secretary of State, throughout these proceedings, has flatly refused in the most dogmatic and, one can only say, ideological way to consider any element of selection for any purposes at all; even when, in the case of the Amendment carried by the Committee at the instance of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle)—which, of course, forms part of new Clause No. 3—he admitted in debate that there was a problem here which needed to be dealt with and that banding provided one solution. He said that he would not allow it because it maintained an element of selection which he was not prepared to tolerate.

I have never been able to understand why the Secretary of State should be so rigid about this; nor have I been able to see, for example, why, in respect of maintained, aided, voluntary, and direct grant [column 28]schools, he should be trying to take a line so markedly more rigid and ideological than, for example, the Newsom Commission on the Public Schools took. The Newsom Commission, having considered the problems involved in selection for secondary education, was of opinion that some schools were not large enough to provide an adequate sixth form if they were made wholly comprehensive and recommended that exceptions should be made in the case of some schools to permit a degree of selection down to and including the level of C.S.E. ability, but not below it. If that was good enough for the Newsom Commission which, after all, contained a high enough proportion of members of left-wing or progressive persuasion, it ought to be good enough for the Secretary of State. I am referring, of course, to the Majority Report; we know what the Minority Report said about the whole thing.

Since this Bill cannot be effective before an election, and it is clearly something on which, in certain areas where grammar and direct grant schools are important and are valued, the electorate ought to be allowed to have its say, there can be no purpose in the Secretary of State's new Clause, unless it be a propaganda exercise, which one can only say is a little too obvious to be successful.

11.45 a.m.

Before we pass the new Clause, if we are to do so, and come to Amendments to it, and while we are still dealing with the principle, let us from this side of the Committee make quite clear to hon. Members opposite that not only are we not committed to the retention of the 11-plus procedure but it will be of no effect to continue to taunt us with it; and neither is it a charge, however popular the Government side may think it, which can be made to stick at an election and in the mind of the electorate.

Mr. Lewis

This Bill is supposed to be a Bill against selection. In fact, “selection” is written into the Bill. For the first time in a Bill on education, there is an emphasis on selection. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady opposite are pushing the Bill at all, unless it be for political purposes. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) said, it will not be effective in the country as a whole for a [column 29]number of years; indeed, for decades there will be a sort of go-slow operation. The Secretary of State himself is in no great hurry. He is in a great hurry to have the Bill, but he is not in any great hurry to make it effective.

I think that most of my hon. Friends would accept that, in so far as we now have a mixed education system in this country, there will be a slow movement towards change We see it in London, with the elections that have taken place. There will, obviously, be changes in the way the Inner London Education Authority organises its education: it will be somewhat differently arranged from what it would have been had the political results of the election been different. We do not complain about that. Indeed, our whole argument against the Bill is that it ought to be left to the local authorities.

I am surprised at the Government's obvious disbelief in their ability to gain control of the local authorities. They would not need the Bill if they were going to have their own local authorities. Their local authorities would simply carry out what, apparently, they want in this Bill, though I believe that they would carry it out somewhat modified. They would carry it out in due time. In due time, changes will take place, and we believe that we shall reach a situation where we have a mixture of the academic stream and the comprehensive.

The Secretary of State is trying to make propaganda use of what he believes to be his advantage regarding selection at 11-plus. But the party opposite will not get us on that hook. We have been off it a long time. We were off it at the last election, in our party election manifesto. We have, times without number, in our own constituencies, taken the line that the 11-plus was not something that ought to be maintained by our L.E.A.s.

Mr. Stan Newens

The hon. Gentleman talks about intervention in the affairs of local authorities, but does he not recall that Florence Horsbrugh, when she was the Minister of Education, intervened in the affairs of the old L.C.C.—the predecessor of the I.L.E.A.—to prevent reorganisation along comprehensive lines in Kidbrooke? It was good enough, when the Conservatives were in power, for her to intervene in this way and use the Government against the local authorities, but this [column 30]is what the hon. Gentleman is complaining about.

Mr. Lewis

She did not do it with a Bill.

Mr. Newens

But she intervened.

Mr. Lewis

The hon. Gentleman is making my point in reality, because despite what Florence Hosbrugh did, as a Conservative Minister of Education, over that period of time there has been the development of comprehensive education in London. The truth is——

Mr. Newens

We were right and you were wrong.

Mr. Lewis

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are the dogmatists on this subject. We are not dogmatists. We never have been the dogmatists.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Surely, whatever one's view of comprehensive schooling—I think my own views on this are pretty well known—the lesson in Inner London, or whatever it is now called, is that we have a legacy of very large schools which are now known to have been a mistake. That is not a partisan view, because the Secretary of State agreed with me on this on Second Reading. It was to one aspect of this that Miss Horsbrugh was directing her attention, and she was surely right.

Mr. Lewis

Whichever way it is played, if she was right, in so far as there has been development of comprehensive education, there is a clear case for leaving this to the L.E.A.s.

Mr. Newens

But she did not.

Mr. Lewis

The fact is that in the long run the local authorities know what is best for their areas.

What do we really want out of our education? This is what the right hon. Gentleman has to ask himself. What does the country want? First of all, we want equality of opportunity. There is no difference between the parties on this. We want viable and effective sixth forms. We want economic reality. Very little has been said about economic reality, but we have to consider this in terms of a future education budget. We want opportunity within the economic reality to provide for the high fliers. This may be where there is a certain amount of difference between us. The right hon. Gentleman disregards the high fliers, though it is very doubtful whether the country as a whole would benefit if he [column 31]were to carry his declaration into effect across the educational system.

As to equality of opportunity, I have already said that we are not committee in any way to the 11-plus examination. One has only to look at the Bournemouth situation to realise that a Conservative council has done away with the 11-plus, without going over to comprehensive education. Some hon. Members opposite may say that they do not accept that Bournemouth has done away with the 11-plus, but has simply muddled it. It has escalated selection, and if there is a complaint about that let me remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that there is selection in the Bill.

The interesting thing is that parents in Bournemouth are satisfied with the situation. They accept the move of selection up the scale through the Bournemouth system, and they are not now pressing for comprehensive education. There is, therefore, equal opportunity there, although there is not a comprehensive system. The truth is that we do not need a comprehensive system in order to provide equal opportunity in education. We can do it by making rearrangements in other ways, as has been done in Bournemouth.

The local authorities know what the pressures are much better than we do in this House—and certainly much better than the Minister and his advisers. There is no bigger pressure group than a bunch of parents who feel that their children are not getting the chances that they ought to have. There is no greater pressure group than parents who look at the other town, or the adjoining L.E.A., and see opportunities greater there than are available to them. It is becoming more and more apparent that the parents are now having a say. There are more parents associations in schools in any case.

Miss Bacon

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He probably saw in the newspapers last week what the parents of Sutton were doing.

Mr. Lewis

I have no objection to this. It is right. Why does not the right hon. Lady also leave it to the parents of Sutton and to other parents in the country? Why must she have this Bill? The Bill dictates to the L.E.A.s, and in so far as it dictates to them, it is dictating to the parents. This is a Bill which tells both the local education authorities and [column 32]the parents what is good for them, but the Authorities and the parents will determine what is good for them, and it is right that they should.

Mr. Newens

Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to be saying that he is defending the right of the local authorities—the most reactionary local authorities in the country—to object to the introduction of comprehensive education into their areas completely, and is utterly against any interference from the central Government to assist the interests of the children in having comprehensive education in their areas?

Mr. Lewis

Who is to determine what is reactionary and what is not? I have always understood that there was reaction at two extremes. I repeat what I have said. If there is a reactionary area, and its reaction is against the interests of the people in that area, the people in that area will also react. They will have the say. This is the way which we in the Conservative Party believe that the matter should be handled. If this view is not accepted, the opposite to it is that the Ministry of Education takes over the lot, blankets the policy on L.E.A.s throughout the country, and determines the thing from the centre. We do not agree with this.

In so far as we are going towards the Maud Report and the acceptance of unitary authorities, I should have thought that it was not very clever to put the central Government in the position where in advance of the unitary authorities and in advance of Maud, they were determining the exact pattern of education throughout the country. That is my point on equality of opportunity.

12 noon.

Secondly, we need to get viable and effective sixth forms. It is recognised that a sixth form needs to be a certain size. If it is too small, it will not be a good sixth form. Furthermore, its smallness will have side effects. If the school does not have a sixth form of a sufficient size, teachers of the right quality will not go there. We then have the situation where a sixth form that is already deficient becomes even more deficient, because we do not get the good teachers we need.

In addition, the cost becomes greater. The cost of the range of subjects for a sixth form that is too small becomes too high. It can become unacceptable. I [column 33]believe that in certain instances it will become unacceptable in London. I am quite sure that those concerned will look at this aspect and say, “We must have bigger sixth forms” . The students will probably go to a sixth form college, because otherwise the cost will be too great. If we have to provide a range of subjects for a small sixth form, we shall not be able to afford to pay the bill. We must, therefore, think in terms of viable and effective sixth forms.

The right hon. Gentleman clearly knows this: that is why he put selection in. He did not really want to put selection at sixth form level in the Bill, but he knew that he had to do it because, at the end of the day, when the local authorities begin to work it out, they will realise that they have no option, from the point of view of economy in the use of man power in the teaching profession, and of economy also in money terms, but to recognise the fact that sixth forms must be of sufficient size.

Finally, there is the question of the high flier. The truth is that there are always 2 or 3 per cent. who are high fliers in education. This is just the plain fact of life: herein is ability. Schools, students and pupils recognise it. The high fliers must have the opportunity to expand their ability to the full. It is in their own interests, but it is also in the interest of the country as a whole.

Banding is necessary, because while we have some schools with small sixth forms and others with large sixth forms, clearly we must put the high fliers where their best opportunity lies. It may also happen that it is best for the school. We must have a spread of top ability, but the very top ability—as against top ability—has to be given the maximum opportunity. There is nothing in the Bill that recognises this fact, but despite that I am quite sure that it will be recognised. It is another reason why the Bill is really unnecessary.

The Secretary of State, in so far as he is insisting on this Bill even to the extent of being prepared to bring it back again after he had lost it, has to understand that education is about equal opportunity, but it is also about recognition that there are, at the top level, those who require the greatest range of challenge to themselves within the educational system. Unless the State educational system provides for that range of challenge, both they and the country will suffer.

[column 34]

Mr. Hill

It is quite clear that this Clause had to be put back because, as the Secretary of State so rightly said, it contains the guts of the Bill. Like my hon. Friend, I notice that the comprehensive principle of abolishing selection is not absolute in any way, because there are the very substantial exceptions in subsection (2).

I make the preliminary point that I think it undesirable to lump the exceptions in the same Clause, as the principle. If only the Bill had not done that we would never have got into this difficulty. Personally, I think that it would be better to revise the Clause, so that subsection (1) stood on its own as a separate Clause. I invite the Secretary of State to consider doing that, even at a later stage, because I think that at any stage of considering the Clause as it stands, any right-thinking person, hearing about the realities of education, must want to widen the exceptions in subsection (2).

As to the principle of comprehensive education, I have never dissented from the view that this new system can have very great educational and social advantages, especially under favourable conditions. What is clear beyond any doubt at all, and what we on this side keep reiterating, and have been doing for many years, is that it is entirely wrong to make any final judgement of a child's potential at 11 years old.

There are two very undesirable consequences of any rigid 11-plus selection. The child, if it is impressed with an aura of failure, may write itself off as a serious pupil in the future. This is an individual disaster, to be avoided. So far as the comprehensive system tends to avoid that, it is to be approved and supported.

A second consequence is that many parents—especially middle-class parents—are not willing to have their children, as they think, apparently sorted out at 11, into 20 per cent. sheep and 80 per cent goats. However wrong-headed and unjustified that view of the selection process may be, this is a social and political fact. All educational policy must have regard to it. But it is equally wrong to rush to the other extreme and to abolish, as the Secretary of State appears to wish to do, practically all selection, other than the narrow but important exceptions in subsection (2), within the maintained sector.

Miss Bacon

The hon. Gentleman has [column 35]just said that middle-class parents do not want their children separated into 20 per cent. sheep and 80 per cent. goats. Presumably, by that, he means 20 per cent. to the grammar school and 80 per cent. to the secondary modern school. Was that not the precise point—not expressed in the rather offensive terms in which the hon. Gentleman has expressed it—taken by hon. Members opposite when they attacked my right hon. Friend on Second Reading for talking about first- and second-class children?

Mr. Hill

Yes. I specifically said that this was wrong. I deprecate it, and entirely agree with the Minister of State that this is a very wrong view——

Mr. Short

But the hon. Gentleman attacked me.

Mr. Hill

No. I said that I very much regretted that the Secretary of State, in introducing the Bill, should have referred to secondary modern pupils as failures——

Mr. Short

I did not call them goats. The hon. Gentleman called them goats.

Mr. Hill

No. I said that it was a political and social fact that some parents had that wrong-headed view. One must take account of the view of some parents, even if one thinks that they are wrong. Personally—and the Secretary of State knows it very well—I have the highest regard for secondary modern schools, particularly where they are in purpose-built buildings, with a stable staff who know the local population, and where they are lucky enough to enjoy the amenities which, for example, many secondary modern schools have in Norfolk. They are doing wonderful work. There is no doubt about that.

Educationally, it is the attitude engendered in the child that is most important. He must never feel himself to be a failure or unwanted to the extent of no longer thinking that it is worth trying. This is one of the difficulties about selection. He ought not to feel that any subjects that he genuinely wants to study are closed to him. It is for that reason that the comprehensive system has spread very widely. It will continue to do so, in my view, but as and when it offers a distinct improvement on existing local conditions. I submit that it must very often be a matter of time and judgement in the light of local opinion and circumstances. [column 36]

It is interesting just to reflect on what the children themselves may think of the comprehensive system. It seems reasonably clear that those who are actually in these schools, or have recently left, are far less certain and dogmatic than the Secretary of State or the Labour Party,

Hon. Members may have noticed that on April 10th the Daily Telegraph published a Gallup Poll of the reactions of young persons between 15 and 19 to certain questions relating to their schools. It said:

“Comprehensives are rated best by one in three (34 per cent.), slightly ahead of grammar schools (30 per cent.) with secondary moderns third (23 per cent.). Only 10 per cent. choose public schools.”

In passing, I think that 10 per cent. is a surprisingly high figure.

It is interesting, too, to see that there is some correlation between middle-class aspirations and support for comprehensive system. It is somewhat disquieting that on the next question, that on the raising of the school leaving age, children from working-class families were markedly less enthusiastic than those from middle-class families. That is important, because it bears out one of the important findings of someone like Dr. Douglas, who has been looking at the careers of the children from working-class homes in the comprehensive schools.

A fact that I have already drawn the Secretary of State's attention in an earlier debate, is that there is some evidence that in comprehensive schools children from working-class families are less inclined to stay on, pursue a full educational course, than are their counterparts, again children from working-class homes, in the grammar schools. This point wants watching, because it is very important that we should seek to reverse this tendency to be against the raising of the school leaving age by the children who perhaps most need, and will benefit, from staying on.

Mr. Christopher Price

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that in order to give any meaning whatsoever to those figures, he would also have to find out about the children from secondary modern schools—compare the tendency of children from working-class homes in secondary modern schools to stay on.

Mr. Hill

It may be that Dr. Douglas could help the hon. Gentleman. As he perfectly well knows, Dr. Douglas is carrying out this national survey of the sample [column 37]cohort of 5,000 children born in the first week of March 1946, and this is one of the findings to which he referred. The Gallup Poll shows an interesting corroboration of what Dr. Douglas was saying, to which we should pay attention.

It seems to me that the Government are in two minds about the Bill. We are told it is extremely important and urgent, that we must get it on the Statute Book, which, I take it, is to please certain Labour Party supporters. On the other hand, the Secretary of State said earlier on that the Bill cannot transform the position overnight; that it was not a matter of legal framework but of providing resources. The Minister of State is on record as saying that although agreeing that the criteria of the Bill will technically become law within one month of the passing of the Bill, they will in fact have no more practical immediate effect than “having regard to” various needs that are contained in Section 8 of the 1944 Act, and she specifically mentioned nursery education, county colleges, and so on. This implies a time scale of not less than 10, and up to 25 years.

12.15 p.m.

Miss Bacon

No. The hon. Gentleman is, of course, forgetting that Clause 2 gives the Secretary of State powers with regard to time, according to plan.

Mr. Hill

That is the time within hand, or so it should be called. In any event, Mr. Brewis, I doubt that I ought to pursue discussion of Clause 2 at this stage.

If this is so, why have we had this almost indecent haste—and I say “indecent” advisedly—from the start? The Bill was originally printed on 4th February. It was debated eight days later. What interested me about that was the timing was such that it was impossible for the official comments of the Association of Education Committees to be published in Education. It just could not be done. Education went to press one week with the Bill just published—too soon for comment—and the debate had taken place before the next issue came out. This as an example of partnership seems to me to be very odd, indeed. I am only late in mentioning this point because I failed to catch the Speaker's eye on Second Reading.

I think that this timing shows that from the start there was a very curious rush about this Bill. I believe that the Bill disappointed the A.E.C. because enshrined [column 38]in the Clause, as well as the comprehensive principle, to which we do not object is the element of compulsion on local educational authorities, to which we most strongly object. It is not just a question of coercing the 12 authorities which have either refused to submit or have not yet submitted a plan. It is putting all the plans so far agreed in jeopardy.

I should like to draw the attention of the Secretary of State and the Committee to the note, dated 4th March, 1970, circulated by the Association of Education Committees, criticising the Bill. Paragraph 1 says:

“The Bill is rigidly authoritarian in concept and in application, and is in contradiction of the basic provisions of the Education Act 1944 and recent Government statements about freeing Local Government from meticulous central supervision and direction.”

At this stage, I should simply like to add the second half of paragraph 3:

“The Association does not believe it is incompatible with the general principles of comprehensive education to provide for the education of those who for any reason cannot be sufficiently provided for in a comprehensive school. It is hoped that it will be possible for Clause 1(2) to be amended so as to provide that where the local education authority is satisfied in the case of any particular child that it is not otherwise possible to afford full educational opportunity, special educational arrangements may be made for that child.”

Yet, Mr. Brewis, as the Bill goes on, it seems that the attitude behind it is even more doctrinaire than the Bill itself. The answers that have been given to many points that, at any rate, I and my hon. Friends think are valid, have shown, as we think, a wilful refusal to face the facts. It seems to me to be the occupational disease of doctrinaire Socialism that when theory does not fit reality there is a paralysis of the common sense. It is always the facts that are wrong and never that the theory might better be amended—which would seem both more practical and easier to ordinary people. Therefore I must oppose this Clause for its lack of flexibility, and I and my hon. Friends must continue to try and improve, at later stages, its worst defects.

Nothing is more likely to damage the reputation of the comprehensive system than to make claims for it that are so exaggerated that they are not borne out in practice. Therefore, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) that there is need for much more research findings, especially on organisation within comprehensive schools [column 39]and on the social attitudes in neighbourhood schools, where we see the quite manifest difficulties that exist there, which the banding Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and our new Clause No. 3 attempt to meet. The other field where more research is needed is the treatment of the exceptional children, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) has referred. Conversely, in considering the exceptional child, we must not fail to conduct research into the job that the comprehensive system does for the average child.

Too often in all this educational policy since 1964 we have been in the position of “Leap Before You Look” . That was The Times headline at the time of Circular 10/65, and it is true. We keep on making decisions and then laying on research afterwards. Circular 10/65 can now be seen to be pretty over-confident in assuming that the all-through 11 to 18 school was the best pattern. We now know that it is unlikely to be, and indeed, except in the most favoured areas cannot be, because of sixth form difficulties. It also failed to recognise the crucial significance of the “middle school” development to mitigate the effects of large catchment areas, and to make the best use of existing buildings especially when some distance apart.

Yet as the Bill stands—this headless exhumed corpse—the Secretary of State is depriving himself and the local education authorities of the powers to conduct experiments in future—experiments which may be vital to the strengthening of the comprehensive system, the removing of defects and generally to the continual improvement of our educational service. Again, referring to Dr. Douglas's latest study, “All our Future” —he has a short chapter on comprehensive schools, and points out that it is difficult to make comparisons because the cohort of children moved into secondary education in 1957, which we all realise is a good many years ago.

Dr. Douglas says:

“An opportunity for experiment is needed in which comprehensive education is fostered in some areas and selective education in others, the areas chosen being equivalent in social composition and educational opportunity. It is probably too late now however to set up such experiments; the pace of development and change is too fast.”

As I quote that passage, the word [column 40] “Stockholm” comes into my mind, because my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley has quoted the Stockholm experiment, and that experiment was prayed in aid some years ago in support of the comprehensive system and of various things it appears to do for good. It was only subsequent re-examination of the same facts—the evidence that was the basis of research—that prompted later researchers to come to very different conclusions. This stresses the importance of leaving ourselves elbow-room for experiment.

There are many matters—I would like to mention three—that have had insufficient attention. We seem to have been obsessed by considerations of intelligence, its development, and the range and choice of courses. I think that we have overlooked the enormous importance of pastoral care, which may be for many of the children vital to the development for which we are rightly anxious. Pastoral care, and which school most effectively provides it, may in the end be just as important, perhaps even more important in individual cases, than the particular options which a school can provide. We know not nearly enough about the effectiveness of pastoral care in a large comprehensive school as compared with a smaller school.

There is also the danger that has been stressed in America—in fact, it is the besetting weakness of the comprehensive system which has to be guarded against—that it may lapse into a many-sided mediocrity. One of the problems—as my hon. Friend mentioned—is how to preserve real educational excellence so that the fairly good does not become the enemy of the best? Clearly, the teachers will have a lot to say on this, but we need to know very much more.

My third point is that we have dwelt too much on re-organisation and regrouping of existing institutions and buildings, instead of thinking of comprehensive education as the means of providing an educational environment tailored to suit the individual needs of each child. That means creating many options and many routes in a multiplicity of different institutions. That wider system may prove better and cheaper than a rigid pattern. The test must be whether or not children are making progress on a wide front.

We have spent much time and effort so far on what one of the Secretary of [column 41]State's supporters in the House described as “this puny Bill” . This time might have been better spent in other ways. Instead of requiring plans to be made for future situations in which the facts are not yet ascertainable—we as yet know nothing about the implementation of the recommendations for the reform of local government; we know nothing about the arrangements below the school-leaving age for attendance at further education institutions that have been under discussion with the A.E.C.s—it seems to me that it would have been much better if, as well as or instead of persisting with this Clause, the Secretary of State had called for an immediate review of all the arrangements in different L.E.A.s for the transfer of pupils as between courses, the course options offered to children, and the information services available to them and to parents.

12.30 p.m.

It is one of the defects of the old so-called selective system that its retrieval procedure was not very quick or efficient, and that, if a child was wrongly selected, we were not quick to have that error corrected. I must, in passing, say that we have a good and effective system for doing that in Norfolk. It is not and was not universal. If this needed no legislation, the Parliamentary time that we are giving to this. Second Reading of the Clause could have been used for other, and more productive, purposes. It could have been used for amending the Burnham machinery so as to enable negotiations to be more effective, and to provide powers to discuss some of the matters, such as restructuring, that need to be remitted to it.

But if we are not ready for that, ought we not to have less legislation as a whole? It is generally agreed that we have had far too much legislation in this Parliament. I cannot see that this Clause, on which the Bill depends, is getting us anywhere, and the most telling proof of that is the widespread reluctance of Government supporters to support this legislation by taking part in the necessary legislative processes in Standing Committee.

For those reasons, but also for the much wider reason to which we shall return, of wanting again still to bring in more flexibility to subsection (2), I shall oppose the Clause.

Mr. David Lane

As there seems to be [column 42]no hon. Members opposite anxious to speak in support of new Clause No. 1, I am very glad to have the chance to add a few words of support to what my hon. Friends have already said. What we are really doing is deciding either to put back into the Bill new Clause No. 1, or to put in new Clause No. 3, unless by some mischance there is another accident and we do not put in either. I do not suppose that that will happen.

Frankly, I should have preferred to try to put into the Bill a different new Clause altogether: one which much more honestly reflected the real argument in education today, which is not the argument whether or not we are in favour of comprehensive schools—and I echo what has already been said on that this morning to make it clear. The argument, surely, is about the right pace at which the country should move in the direction of comprehensive education, and the methods that should be followed during that process.

Leaving that argument aside, we have this choice between new Clause No. 1 and new Clause No. 3. I am glad, Mr. Brewis, that you stressed at the beginning that we were free to reconsider the Clause and its implications in its entirety. Without unduly prolonging the debate at all, there are several major points that are worthy of reconsideration before we take this decision, and it is again in line with what Mr. Speaker told us to do, which was to make a choice when we resumed our considerations. Though I am glad of your ruling, and of what Mr. Speaker said in the end in putting the decision back to us, I feel disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman has reproduced an identically worded Clause to the original Clause 1 of the Bill. My reading of the Instruction about provisions of “like effect” would certainly imply provisions which produced broadly the same effect as the original Clause, but not necessarily the identical effect.

I believe that the Secretary of State has lost three opportunities this morning. First of all, he has lost the opportunity to produce a Bill which is really directed to the practical problems of the next five or 10 years in secondary education, not hide-bound, as this one is, by doctrine and dogma. Secondly, he has lost an opportunity to take account of the views and doubts that have already been expressed in this Committee—and not only from this side of the Committee; I shall turn to this in a minute—about the excessive rigidity [column 43]of this Bill. Thirdly, if I may say so, he has lost an opportunity, by confining his speech at the beginning this morning to the pure formality of moving new Clause No. 1, of explaining why he is sticking precisely, 100 per cent., to his original wording.

Reflecting on our debates so far, what are the main lessons that we should learn? I say straight away that we on this side have won most of the arguments but we have lost most, but, fortunately, not all, of the votes. I draw as a second lesson the view that there is no very great enthusiasm for the Bill inside or outside the Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has already pointed out that in some respects it is a bogus Bill because, whatever the disclaimers of the Secretary of State and his right hon. Friend in earlier debates in the House and in Committee, it gives the impression of dramatic and quick changes, when we all know that, whatever its final form, and the timing of its coming into effect, if ever it does, it will not make very much difference to the pace at which comprehensive reorganisation takes place.

I believe that there is no great enthusiasm for the Bill, and that, increasingly, its real, propaganda, purpose is being understood. Further, and this is the point on which I want to concentrate, the Bill's provisions are too rigid and will not achieve the purpose which the Government are setting out to achieve.

We must pay special attention to the longish transitional period, which I think is recognised on both sides of the Committee. That is also apparent from what the Secretary of State himself said at our first sitting on the original Bill. Much has been said on both sides of the Committee about greater quality of opportunity. We have tried to convey to the Government that we should come nearer to the ideal of more equal opportunity if we departed somewhat from the rigid provisions of new Clause No. 1. We have already had several examples of this, and I want to remind the Committee of these, without going into any detail into any single one.

I am pleading that more discretion and more flexibility should be given to the local education authorities, even if we accept and retain the main principle of the ending of selection. So far, we have had total negatives from the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend. In the first [column 44]place, there are the children of particular talent in one field or another. We had a long debate on that subject. It was mentioned briefly this morning by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), and I shall not go over that again, but here is one place in which we need more flexibility than is given in new Clause No. 1.

Again, there is the question of boarding education. I went away dissatisfied after our debate on that at a previous sitting because I thought that the Government were, as always, sticking to their over-rigid view. It seemed to me, though we did not have an opportunity to have it cleared up, that the Government's attitude, enshrined now in new Clause No. 1, would effectively mean the end of the present system of sending pupils to the I.L.E.A. boarding school at Woolverstone Hall.

Third, there is the question of the direct grant schools. I mention this only in passing, because I hope that we shall have opportunity later for discussion about it in the light of the Donnison Report, which was not available to us when we discussed the relevant Amendment earlier.

Fourth, there is the problem of catchment areas, allied with the problem of banding. The other main respect in which I am pleading, even at this stage, for a more flexible wording from the Government is the effect of the Bill, if new Clause No. 1 is passed, on sixth form provision, particularly in the big cities. I hope that the Secretary of State had time to read the leading article in last night's Evening Standard. The Evening Standard has been exceedingly critical of both parties. It tries to take a fair view of large political issues such as education—and economics, the issue on which it was very critical of one of our spokesmen the other day. I commend these words to the Secretary of State, even at this point:

“In no field of London's government did the Labour Party less deserve to achieve victory in the recent G.L.C. elections than in education.

“The brief period of Conservative rule on the Inner London Education Authority was a refreshingly innovative and enlightened one, considering the limitations under which the Authority was operating. And if they fought shy …” —I quote this criticism of my own party also—

“… if they fought shy of taking some tough decisions about the long-term development of the service, at least they did not introduce the political nonsense into the election campaign that Ashley Bramall, the Labour leader, did.

[column 45]

“That nonsense concerned the future of secondary reorganisation in London.”
I stress this last sentence in the quotation:

“This is an issue which, mercifully, has been moving out of the London political arena—despite the efforts of Mr. Edward Short to drag it back at a national level.”

Mr. Short

And the people support it.

Mr. Lane

They will regret that. I shall now quote the final two or three sentences of the article on the question of sixth form colleges, on which the new Clause will have a serious effect:

“London's sixth forms should be concentrated either in special colleges or in units attached to some existing schools. Such a two-tier system operates with considerable success in large numbers of areas throughout the country—long neglected by London educationalists. The London Labour Party may have been pioneers of all-through comprehensive schools, but they seem dogmatically incapable of realising that their blanket introduction will both increase the cost and lower the quality of London education.”

The charge that the Evening Standard has made against Labour policy in Inner London we can make equally against the Government over the country as a whole, for they seem determined to stick to this over-rigid wording of new Clause No. 1.

I now turn to our new Clause No. 3, which I commend to the Committee. This is a preferable Clause, not only because we won the vote two sittings ago and it would be more faithful to put back that version of the Clause, but because it is the most important of the examples of greater flexibility which are needed in Clause 1.

There are powerful arguments for a common-sense modification of banding. This is the one respect in which our new Clause differs from the Governments' new Clause No. 1. I remind the Committee of one or two wise remarks made, when we were debating the question of banding on 24th March, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). In proposing our banding Amendment, he accepted that there were arguments against banding. He said:

“The argument most frequently advanced is that one wants to see which are the most popular schools and then do what one can to improve the least popular. That argument has been advanced, and I know that it is sincerely advanced. It seems to me very much better to prevent these grossest disparities from ever arising. Banding in the Inner London area has, I believe, done a considerable amount to help a number of comprehensive schools, particularly in their early stages. After all, the cost, when a school goes downhill or does not keep up with its rivals, is very considerable.”

If the Committee will allow me, I shall [column 46]quote one more point made by my right hon. Friend, which powerfully supports our new Clause No. 3 as opposed to new Clause No. 1:

“In big cities I believe that the right approach is to accept the need for a combination of methods. In certain types of areas I have no doubt that banding is worthwhile and that it is wrong for banding to be prohibited in the Bill. In other types of area I believe that there is scope for artificial zoning. Therefore, I support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Epping. Giving legal sanction to artificial zoning ought not to be ruled out even if this means a certain amount of bussing. I am not saying that zoning is the right solution everywhere, any more than I think that banding is the right solution everywhere. I simply think there should sometimes be proper scope for artificial zoning in order to try to make the ability intake into a school more balanced.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 24th March, 1970; cc. 210–11.]

12.45 p.m.

At the next sitting, I tried to explain some of the experiences in areas other than Inner London where banding had been applied. I reminded the Committee particularly of the effect in Coventry where, according to the statistics I had been able to discover, the authority had been successful in getting a markedly better reflection in individual schools of the total ability of the children in the area than would have been the case if banding had not been done.

On its own merits, the principle of banding should not be excluded. That is what our new Clause No. 3 is designed to achieve. There are two other reasons in favour of our Clause. One is that we should be more faithful to the wording of the Instruction from the House if we put back a Clause in the form in which it was rejected by this Committee before. It is an “Irish” procedure, but we have gone very Irish over this matter in the last two or three sittings, and we cannot escape it. [Interruption.] Not petrol bombs, I hope, as my hon. Friend reminds me. Let us stop short of that. But let us put back the wording as it was amended after discussion of my right hon. Friend's Amendment.

In addition, if we put back new Clause No. 3 including the banding exception, we shall make certain of a full discussion of this very important matter by the full House of Commons on Report. In view of all that has been said since the House debated the Bill on Second Reading, it is important that this matter should be [column 47]discussed yet further before the Bill leaves the House altogether.

I commend new Clause No. 3 rather than new Clause No. 1. Up to now, I have been disappointed by the Government's replies, not only because they have given no worthwhile concession but because, after long and usually high-quality debate, the replies have been a bit curt in relation to all the arguments adduced. I hope that on this occasion we shall have rather more elucidation of why the Government believe that they must go back 100 per cent. to the precise wording of the original Clause. The Committee is owed an explanation, which we did not have from the Secretary of State at the beginning. I appeal to the Government to come a bit cleaner on their thinking behind the reintroduction of their Clause.

Mr. Short

The difference between new Clause No. 1 and new Clause No. 3 is that new Clause No. 1 omits the banding Amendment. There is no other difference. We have omitted that and put the Clause down in its original form, because, clearly, this was the intention of Government policy. As I see it, it would have been quite wrong for me to have proposed a measure in which I did not believe, and which I knew I should ask the House to change on Report. That is why we put it down in the original form.

The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) made an amazing speech, which seemed to carry Conservative education policy much further to the right than ever before. It will go down as a significant speech as part of the movement to the right of Conservative policy generally. I hope that we shall all read it very carefully. She made an amazing speech, a violent diatribe against comprehensive schools.

Mrs. Thatcher


Mr. Short

I hope that the hon. Lady will read what she said. It was rather like being at a fair. She had a big basket of wooden balls, and she threw them at a whole range of Aunt Sallies which she herself set up, one after another, only to knock them down.

Let me try to reply briefly to the hon. Lady's main points. First, she said that it was an innocuous Bill; it would have no effect; it would not do what we claimed it would do. If that is so, I do not [column 48]understand the vehemence of the Opposition against it. If the Bill is all that weak and innocuous, why bother to oppose it in this way?

The hon. Lady asked about when a scheme is approved. The general scheme with a fair amount of detail is approved, but we often ask for further detail on specific points. The legal approval comes with the Section 13 notices under the 1944 Act. General approval is given, detail is often asked for, but the end-of-the-line approval is given after the local authority publishes notices.

The hon. Lady said that the Bill with our new Clause would not give equality of educational opportunity. I do not think that we shall ever have complete equality of educational opportunity. Obviously, teachers vary, schools vary, areas vary, children vary; but, at any rate, we can work towards that objective. I am sure that it will give us a great deal more towards equality of educational opportunity than a system which closes the option for children at the age of 11 and labels them as failures—or “goats” , as the hon. Member preferred to call them. The 11-plus has been the greatest bar to equality of educational opportunity for many years. I have said before, and I repeat today, that I regard it as one of the great remaining social injustices in this country.

The hon. Lady then talked about neighbourhood schools. She knows quite well that we are on common ground here. We have discussed this before in Committee. In some cases, the ring drawn round the neighbourhood school gives the right kind of social mix; obviously, in others it does not. In these cases we would expect the local authority to have a different admission policy, as I said before, perhaps an elongated catchment area or something of that kind. We would expect—and Circular 10/65 said this in terms—the local authority to try to ensure that the comprehensive school had a social mix.

The hon. Lady then dealt with behavioural problems. I think that she greatly exaggerates this. There are behavioural problems in some schools, of course, but I believe—I see a great many schools; I spend a day a week going round schools—that the discipline in our schools is better than it has ever been. Any authoritarian dictator can make a class of children sit and look as though they are behaving themselves. That is not [column 49]discipline. The only worthwhile kind of discipline is self-discipline, and from this point of view our schools are doing an excellent job. But it is part of the lowest common denominator of the party opposite to try to exaggerate every imagined problem of law and order.

The hon. Lady said that the more able children would suffer. It is extremely difficult to make comparisons. She knows—I do not quite know what the percentage is now—that in 1968 17 per cent. of secondary school children were still in grammar schools, and a great many comprehensive schools are creamed. There are relatively few, though the number is increasing, where the intake is uncreamed. In view of this, it is difficult indeed to compare them, but all the evidence I have seen is that the more able children do not suffer; indeed, they probably do rather better.

Next, the hon. Lady dealt with parental choice. She accepted that there is very little parental choice under the so-called tripartite system. She wanted to extend parental choice, and so do we, but one cannot extend it by having more selective schools, which is what the party opposite wants. Selective schools give less freedom of choice for parents. It is one of the reasons, because we want parents to have more freedom of choice, that we want to reorganise secondary education into large comprehensive schools, where there is the possibility for every child to follow a course which is tailor-made for his pattern of ability.

The hon. Lady then talked about the United States of America. Again, she knows perfectly well, because she has been there and seen schools there, that in America the argument has moved on. In the United States, where over 80 per cent. of children stay on at school after 16, there are arguments about streaming, about the development of special courses for the very able or mixed-ability groups. The argument is now about how to organise schools to meet all the needs of all the children. She mentioned Sweden. As regards Sweden, many now claim that, in mixed-ability groups, grouping is possible without detriment to the progress of the most able. What the hon. Lady did not point out was that the great majority of industrialised countries have moved, or are moving, towards a comprehensive system and away from selection. I pointed out before in the Committee that last Easter [column 50]all the European Ministers of Education met in Paris and passed unanimously a resolution in favour of changing over throughout Europe to comprehensive schools.

The hon. Lady again raised the question, as did other hon. Members opposite, that this would take away freedom from local authorities. What utter nonsense. There is no service in this country in which there is more consultation. We do not do anything in the education service without consulting the other two partners, the teachers and the local authorities. This Bill does not affect that partnership in any way. It has the support of the vast number of local authorities, irrespective of politics. We are asked by Parliament to deal with a small minority of authorities, which still subject their children to the great injustice of the 11-plus. Anyway, if the Bill is as ineffective as the hon. Lady says it is, how can it take away the freedom of local authorities? This is another of the curious illogicalities in the hon. Lady's argument. In opposing the Motion in the House the other day, she displayed the same streak of illogicality. If the Bill is ineffective, how can it take away the power of local authorities?

Mr. Hill

Surely, it puts the local authorities in a state of uncertainty——

Mr. Short

No, I have only a few minutes. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), who has now left us, said it was a propaganda Bill. It is not, of course, but, if he says it is, he is really saying that this is what the people want. If there is electoral advantage in it, and that is why we are passing it, he is saying that this is a Bill that people throughout the country want, and if we pass it, they will vote for us. That is the clear effect of that argument. It is no bad principle to give people what they want, but this Bill is being passed to save thousands of children from the injustice of the 11-plus. The hon. Gentleman was just as ambivalent as his hon. Friends about it. They have said—they have all said—that they want comprehensive schools, but they want grammar schools as well. They want to have it both ways. The hon. Gentleman said—my right hon. Friend wrote it down when I was out— “Let us make clear from this side of the Committee that we are not in favour of retaining selection at 11.” The hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) made the same point, though, as he always does, a bit more reasonably [column 51-52]than the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon. But what utter nonsense it is. The whole consequence of the speeches of the hon. Lady for Finchley, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk, South, the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis), who also has left, and the Member for Stratford-on-Avon is that selection should be retained. If they want to keep selective schools, then they must have selection. The hon. Lady is on record, on Second Reading as saying that she wanted to retain selection.

Mrs. Thatcher

If the parents wanted it.

Mr. Short

She said she wanted to retain selection where the parents wanted it, which is exactly what we had in this country 40 years ago. The parents who wanted it got it, and the rest of the also-rans went to the senior schools.

Ending selection is the same as having comprehensive schools. This is an equation which one cannot avoid. If we have comprehensive schools, we end selection. If we end selection, we have comprehensive schools. It cannot be otherwise.

Those are the main points to be dealt with. I repeat what I said at the outset, that I have put down the Clause in its original form because it would have been wrong and dishonest for me to put it down with the banding Amendment, knowing quite well that on Report I should invite the House to delete it. That is the only difference between the two Clauses. That is what we were debating.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Secretary of State is right in thinking that this will be looked upon as an historic debate. One of the most historic points to which we shall look back is his own understanding of his Bill. We shall have to read carefully the words which he used, but we all heard him, passionate with fervour, say that, if we end selection, we have the comprehensive school; and here he is commending a Clause which enshrines selection.

Mr. Short

Selection at 11.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Now the Secretary of State corrects himself, because he sees how his passionate fervour has misled him. He did not put in that very proper correction when replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). My hon. Friend, in the famous exchange to which frequent reference has been made, was careful not to mention the age of 11 in relation to the point about selection which she made. Perhaps it will be more convenient to take this up on another occasion—

It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Committee adjourned till Thursday, 30th April, 1970, at half-past Ten o'clock

The following Members attended the Committee

Brewis, Mr. John (Chairman)

Armstrong, Mr.

Bacon, Miss

Eyre, Mr.

Hill, Mr. J. E. B.

Lane, Mr.

Lewis, Mr. Kenneth

Mahon, Mr. Simon

Maude, Mr.

Montgomery, Mr.

Newens, Mr.

Oakes, Mr.

Price, Mr. Christopher

Price, Mr. William

Short, Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs.

van Straubenzee, Mr.

Wellbeloved, Mr.

Woof, Mr.