HC Deb 08 June 1976 vol 912 cc1225-79

The appointment of teachers by a local education authority under section 24(1) of the Education Act 1944 to a proposed new school or to a school to be altered in accordance with proposals made under section 13 of the said Act, shall be considered provisional until the establishment of the new school or changed school; and such contracts as may be prepared in anticipation of such future appointments shall be considered null and void in the event of the new school, or the school changed under proposals made under section 13, not being established'.—[Mr. St. John-Stevas.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

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

I shall explain to the House the technicalities of this new clause, but it is not wholly technical. It has contemporary relevance and would have, in certain circumstances, far-reaching effects. The appointment of teachers is, of course, a power within the scope of local education authorities, and that power of appointment is part of the idea of diarchy which runs throughout our educational system—or which did run through it until this Bill appeared to strike a note of discord. It has been a fundamental principle of our system under the Education Acts from 1944 onwards that there has been not one power but two; indeed, one could say three, because the powers of the Secretary of State have been very carefully balanced against those of local education authorities, and the powers of both those persons or groups of persons have been balanced against the rights and powers of the voluntary schools.

The whole educational system has grown up gradually and organically. It has been essentially an evolutionary system, not a manufactured one. It has grown up over a very long period and has adapted itself according to circumstances. It has not been modelled on a kind of Benthamite blueprint, thought up in the mind of some super-Secretary of State. It is important to note the position of the voluntary schools, to which we shall come back in other new clauses and amendments, because those schools were first on the educational scene. Long before the State took an interest in educational matters the Churches were in the field, doing their educational work.

It is not the intention of this new clause to interfere in any way with that balance and harmony. With regard to voluntary schools of the aided variety, the appointment of teachers is in the first place a matter for the governors, and that is an extremely vital power to them. But it is for the local education authorities to determine the number to be employed, and they have eventual powers of dismissal. Section 24 of the 1944 Act, to which this new clause refers, ends with provisions for the protection of women that are, happily, no longer necessary, saying that no person shall be disqualified from holding a teaching position merely because she is a woman, and that no one is to be dismissed because of marriage. Those provisions may well have been necessary in 1944, but I hope that they are no longer necessary to have in law, though the principle is correct today.

The powers of local educational authorities to employ teachers should be retained. The frequently-expressed fear under the various proposals for reform of the rate is that local education authorities would lose control, because they would have no direct financial responsibility for the education service. As long as local education authorities continue to employ teachers and as long as there is co-operation between them and the governors of voluntary schools, those fears, I believe, need not be taken too seriously, because independence will be preserved through that mechanism rather than a financial mechanism, as such.

4.45 p.m.

This amendment can be considered in relation not only to Section 24 of the Education Act 1944 but to Section 13 of that Act, perhaps the most celebrated section of the whole Act, with which generations of Ministers have struggled and moved into travail at various points.

It is precisely in a situation that would be created by proposals put forward under the Section 13 procedure that this amendment would come into operation. Perhaps I may briefly remind the House of the provisions of that section. Where it is desired to establish a new school, to maintain a school that was not previously maintained, or to cease to maintain a school, or where it is thought desirable to make a significant change in the character of a school by way of enlargement or otherwise, recourse must be had to the very detailed procedures laid down by Section 13.

I do not believe that hon. Members at the present moment—at any rate those on the Opposition side of the House—are likely to make the mistake of underestimating the importance of procedure, because we have no constitution, and if we disregard procedure our system, far from being the guarantor of liberty, is in fact a system under which there can be more tyrannous oppression than under any other democratic system so designed. That is why, in recent days, the Opposition have attached such importance to the preservation of the due procedures of this House; because the preservation of those procedures as laid down by law is as much a protection of the liberty of the subject and a protection of freedom in education as it is a protection in wider spheres.

Section 13 provides that proposals must be submitted to the Secretary of State if any of the changes that I have detailed are to be made. The same goes for voluntary schools if there are to be changes in their status. Subsection (3) makes quite clear what those procedures are—public notice, two months for objection, and numerous other important procedures that are laid down. The courts have been zealous in enforcing these procedures and making sure that they were followed in every case, both in the spirit and in the letter.

There is one important point that applies to this new clause, as I shall hope to show, namely, the difference in the status of proposals in relation to new schools and alterations to existing schools. If proposals for a new school are approved by the Secretary of State it becomes the duty of the authority that has put forward the proposals to give effect to them in accordance with the specifications and plans so approved, but that provision does not apply to proposals for the alteration of an existing school.

This point will recur throughout our debates. Once the Section 13 procedure is started, an element of uncertainty is automatically introduced into the position of schools. Once the proposals are put forward, they are subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State. There is the possibility of revised proposals being pit forward by the local education authority and there is also the possibility of an overriding change of circumstances, which may well cause a local education authority to change its mind and not wish to go ahead with plans and proposals. That may happen because those plans are no longer appropriate in the changed conditions of the time, or there may be a political change in the weather—a change that will alter totally the policy followed in a particular area. This is not an academic disquisition, because we are faced with exactly that decision in what has been going on in the borough of Tameside since the local elections took place. There was a political change in that instance.

I shall be as objective as I can in describing the situation for which this clause is designed. I applaud the Secretary of State, who has been so judicious in his observations so far.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Frederick Malley)

Does not the hon. Gentleman mean "judicial"?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I mean "judicious", although the right hon. Gentleman may well have to exercise a judicial rôle. That is the distinction that I make. I choose my words carefully, although I do not possess a first-class degree of the kind about which we hear so much from the Secretary of State.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

My hon. Friend has an even better degree.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I possess another first-class degree, although not of the same kind. Because of his judicial capacity, the right hon. Gentleman may be called on to exercise his powers under Section 68 of the 1944 Act, which enables him to direct a local education authority if he comes to the conclusion that it is making unreasonable use of its functions. He should be careful in every word he utters. Indeed, we should all be careful, but I am not under the same degree of restraint as is the Secretary of State. In the Tameside situation, with which this amendment is specifically designed to deal, there are two important principles at stake. One cannot really judge a situation fairly or objectively unless one gives full weight to both.

First, there is a matter of paramount importance, which was referred to at Question Time, namely, that those who are elected on an explicit manifesto should fulfil the promises made therein.

Mr. Mike Noble (Rossendale)

Will the hon. Gentleman describe, for the benefit of the House, exactly what he means by an explicit manifesto, and particularly in circumstances dealing with education matters? Will he comment on the situation in which a Conservative candidate in the Tameside elections suggested changes in the education system but could not spell the word "policy" or write a grammatical letter that the parents could understand?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The first thing I did when this matter came to my attention—the Secretary of State was "resting" at the time—was to ask to see the manifesto. My apprenticeship was served under my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in that notable period at the Department of Education and Science which has become colloquially known as "the glorious reign"—a phrase invented by a Minister of State.

In these controversial public issues, one must check the facts before one says or does anything. I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) that I checked the exact words in the general manifesto issued on behalf of the Conservative Group. That said quite explicitly: The present comprehensive system will not be implemented.

Mr. Noble

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read the rest of that passage.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not wish to go on reading extracts—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] I think the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. He has mixed up two documents and is referring to another document, of which I have a copy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] It is issued by an individual councillor and was not a group manifesto. I am not trying to catch out the hon. Gentleman. That is the situation. I have a copy of that document, and it contains a spelling mistake. We do not know whether it is a spelling mistake by the printers or by the author. I remember saying in the House not so long ago that I was not responsible for the orthography of Press notices. That word appeared in Hansard as "authography". Even the hon. Member for Rossendale could not hold me responsible for that. It is the group manifesto that is important.

The second point is that the education of children should not be disturbed. Unfortunately, we are in a political situation in which the education of children is frequently disturbed, but that is not of our choosing. That is why I have continually made the point to the right hon. Gentleman that the Opposition would be willing to reach a reasonable agreement on these problems if the Secretary of State would allow a dialogue to be initiated on the subject of selection. We cannot have a dialogue if we regard selection in itself as an ultimate and absolute evil. One can only have an unconditional surrender one way or the other. If one looked at the question rationally and said that there might be a place for selection in a mainly comprehensive system, one would be in business, and would not face this kind of confrontation, which is not of our choosing. But if the alternative is to abandon all variety in schools and to commit ourselves wholly and totally to a system that is now subject to widespread criticism, we can only continue our battle.

It is important to examine the situation at Tameside in greater detail in order to grasp the need for this new clause. The situation there was that under the previous Labour administration proposals were prepared to go comprehensive. The five existing grammar schools were to go, two sixth-form colleges were to be set up, and 11 to 16 all-through comprehensive schools were to be established in the existing secondary modern schools and in certain grammar schools. That is where the first fault occurred.

That scheme was pushed forward by the then administration with undue haste, in the knowledge that an election was in the offing and that there might well be a change of administration. They were perfectly entitled to take that view and to act upon it, but it would have been a more reasonable attitude to say "We know there is this likelihood of a change. We know that it is a central plank in the platform of the alternative administration not to implement the comprehensive proposals, and we shall therefore wait to see what is the verdict of the electorate before we seek to push ahead with these proposals." That is a reasonable point to make. I make it because too often in the Press the Conservative administration there has been represented as irresponsibly overturning an established system. That is not the case, because a blueprint for a system was pushed forward with a measure of irresponsibility by the previous administration.

5.0 p.m.

When the change of control took place, naturally the Conservative council stuck to its election pledge. I have heard it is said in all seriousness that the council was behaving dishonourably in so doing because no one expected it to fulfil that election pledge. That is an extraordinary point to make. I hope that the vocation of politics—which is the highest vocation a person can fill—has not reached such a point of degradation that people feel that election pledges can be totally unobserved.

Mr. Noble

Would not the hon. Member agree that, as well as putting forward a negative proposal not to do something, a political party has the responsibility to put forward a positive proposal and to say that it will do something? In these circumstances, it would appear that the Conservative administration did not do this in Tameside because it had not discussed any proposals in council. It had never discussed any long-term proposals. Its short-term proposals were not to implement the comprehensive scheme. Surely it is political dishonesty not to put forward an alternative.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

A pledge not to implement the comprehensive proposals implied a system of maintaining selective schools, but it was right for the council not to commit itself at that point to any particular method of selection. It was right that the council should have freedom to manoeuvre and to examine the situation when it got into office. The council has been faced with continual difficulties in fulfilling its pledge although it has been very flexible in its approach. The hon. Member for Rossendale laughs, but the council's first reaction was to introduce an 11-plus examination at short notice. When members of the council approached me, I pointed out to them that as far as the Conservative Party nationally was concerned the restoration of an 11-plus examination was not an essential part of our education policy. The hon. Gentleman has heard this often enough in Committee. We are not tied to any particular method of selection any more than we are tied to a general system of selection. We believe in a system of progressive selection—that is, selection at 11, 12, 13 and 14 by a diversity of methods. We believe that examinations, reports of teachers and guided parental choice all have their part to play in this process.

The Tameside council showed its flexibility in that it was prepared to say that the 11-plus was not an essential part of its policy and it was prepared to abandon it and come up with an alternative scheme. There were local problems involved in the situation, which the new clause is designed to deal with specifically. Notably among these problems is the position of teachers.

Arrangements and contracts had been made with the teachers which guaranteed them a certain increase in salary because of the positions they were taking up in comprehensive schools. There would have been problems of breach of contract if those undertakings had not been fulfilled. It was the council's decision to honour the contracts with the teachers, because just as it is wrong for children to suffer, it is also wrong for teachers to suffer because of political changes. Therefore, it was right that in the new situation the contracts should be honoured.

However, a situation of doubt is created by this kind of thing, and it is that situation which the new clause is intended to remedy. It provides that in circumstances such as those which arose in Tameside, where contracts were arranged on the basis of a situation which had totally changed by the time the contracts were due to come into operation, legal liability should cease. This is a perfectly reasonable change to make in the law. It would be unreasonable to make its operation in any way retrospective, but to create a new contractural situation in which the parties know their legal rights and obligations is something which is in a quite different category.

The purpose of the new clause is precisely to resolve that dilemma. I hope that, although it cannot help directly in the present situation because it is not retrospective, it will help in situations in the future, and it will help in Tameside to resolve the dispute in an amicable and reasonable way. One must recognise that if this dispute develops into a major confrontation there is only one certain result—that the education of the children will suffffer. That is why the rôle of the Secretary of State is so important, because he has the opportunity, when he sees the representatives of Tameside, to act as a peacemaker. He can put his political and doctrinal views to one side and seek a solution which is in the best interests of everyone there—the councillors with their election pledges, the teachers with their proper concern for educational values, and, above all, the children. The exact proposals put forward by the Tameside authority seem to me to provide the basis for a reasonable settlement.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

How does the new clause affect the position concerning the appointment of teachers? Suppose that I had applied for a teaching position in one of the new comprehensive schools when the previous authority was in office. I would have to hand in my notice, at my present employment in another school or with another authority. The new clause says that a new appointment to a new authority is not valid until the proposals under Section 13 and the rest have been established. How would I get on? Would I have to leave my previous employer in limbo and say that I might have a new job but that I could not be quite sure because it would depend on what happened?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If the new clause is passed, it will create a new situation.

Mr. Mulley

indicated assent.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful for the Secretary of State's Pauline conversion.

Mr. Mulley

We want to mark our appreciation of the hon. Member's touch of modesty.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I probably contracted it from looking at the right hon. Gentleman.

A new situation would be created, because there would be new rules. It would be an elementary rule of common sense that one did not give up one's existing appointment until the new appointment had been confirmed. It would be the same situation as that which faces any hon. Member seeking a safer seat. He would be unwise to renounce his present seat until he had been adopted in the new constituency. That is an elementary rule of self-preservation and common sense.

The Tameside authority has proposed that the existing status of all secondary schools would be temporarily maintained, whether those schools were comprehensive, secondary modern or grammar. This is not therefore an anti-comprehensive proposal. Sixth form colleges would not be established, but the five grammar schools would continue to cater for children aged between 11 and 18.

Children in their final year at primary school, who had already been allocated a place at secondary school, would go to that school subject only to the eception that new allocations would be required to provide an intake of children in the Ashton and Hyde grammar schools, which would be done away with under the proposals put forward by the previous administration. That would therefore be an increase in opportunity, and more grammar school places would be available. Allocation of these places would be on the basis not of examination but of professional guidance and parental choice. An appeals procedure would be established for parents dissatisfied with their child's original or new allocation. For those where no new allocation would be possible the original allocation would be honoured.

The Tameside proposal would mean that no child's education need be disturbed unless at the wish of the parent or child concerned, so the proposals do not create any kind of educational chaos. They provide a revised opportunity to parents who are dissatisfied with the existing allocation to have a fresh allocation, and they seek to provide extra grammar school places.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

What would be the benefit to children to be taught by an insecure gang of provisionally appointed teachers?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not think that that situation would confer much advantage on anyone. It has no application to this case. The security of both teachers and children is taken care of. The hon. Member's nightmare vision is confined to his fevered fantasies.

I come to the question of those who have been offered places at sixth form colleges. This is an important consideration, which the Secretary of State will be thinking about tomorrow. First, existing grammar school pupils would remain at their present schools, so that they would not have to change schools or go to sixth form colleges. There would be less disturbance for them, because they could continue at those schools. Existing secondary modern pupils seeking A-level courses would be offered equivalent courses in the sixth forms of existing grammar schools, so that their position would be protected.

The existing secondary modern pupil seeking O levels or CSE levels would re- main at their present schools or be offered places at the existing grammar schools. I think that shows that many of the fears that have been expressed have been based on false assumptions and false premises. It is right to have these fears, and I make no accusation about those who are concerned because I, too, was most anxious.

Under the revised scheme, subject to modifications that the Secretary of State may suggest, there is room for a reasonable settlement that would protect not the rights of the councillors but the rights of the electorate and the duties of the councillors to abide by the pledge which they made and the platform on which they were elected. It is a settlement that would safeguard the educational future of the children concerned because everyone in this House is obviously deeply concerned on that score. It would also protect the position of the teachers.

I saw the teachers when I went to Tameside. Like other groups, they are divided on this issue. Some of the teachers' unions support the council, while others do not. I am sure that the teachers would agree that the determination of policy must rest with the authority. Of course it is right that the teachers should express their views on educational matters that are within their competence, but in the last analysis responsibility for the decision and the right to make a decision must be with the local education authority. If it is not we shall have a system of anarchy in the schools, where teachers would supplant the local education authorities. There must be a balance in this matter, and the purpose of the clause is to achieve a better balance.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Mulley

I appreciate that my remarks may not end this discussion, but it may be convenient if I put some thoughts before the House at this point. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) raised a number of aspects that I cannot pursue. For example, it would be wrong for me to express views about the efforts of Conservatives who seek to switch their seats to safer constituencies. That is a field in which I have no knowledge or experience, but they are ethics that I would not want to export into other fields of activity.

The other aspect that I should resist the temptation to say much about is the situation that has inspired or at least had some part to play in the drafting of this new clause. I refer to the situation in the metropolitan district of Tameside. Obviously, whatever view the House may take of this clause it would not be relevant to the current situation of the contracts that that authority has made with teachers unless we were to seek to give retrospective effect to it. That is not something that I could recommend to the House.

We could, perhaps, rush the Bill through so that it could have a relevance in the Tameside situation. That is a proposition that I should be willing to examine with some sympathy.

There are problems in the current operation of the Section 13 procedure. Quite obviously the council does not seek new appointments or make them until its proposals for a new school or for a significant change in a school that require Section 13 approval have actually received that approval. But under the present arrangements councils are not obliged to give effect to proposals that they or their predecessors have made.

That is clearly a problem and that is why we are seeking in the Bill to remedy the situation. Clause 4 requires councils to carry out such proposals as have been approved by the Secretary of State. In that way we seek to remedy the difficulty to which the hon. Member for Chelmsford rightly drew attention. I hope that when we discuss Clause 4 we shall have the Opposition's support.

Dr. Hampson

How does the Secretary of State square that remark with the many times that his party has justified its Left-wing programme of nationalisation on the grounds that it was in its manifesto? Such proposals were different from those which the previous Tory Government were to pursue.

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) should try to contain himself. I have not yet come to the subject of manifestos or anything of that kind. I am trying to point out that we are closing the gap between seeking proposals for a new school, or a change of status of a school, and the present situation, in which a council can decline to carry out the powers for which it has sought authority. That gap will be closed by Clause 4.

I do not wish to give a view on the merits of the Tameside situation until the Tameside council, which is meeting this afternoon, has expressed its views to me. I hope that it will do that tomorrow. I am sure that it will wish to put me in the picture about its teachers' contracts.

Dr. Hampson rose

Mr. Mulley

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Ripon but it will only prolong the debate if hon. Members try to make speeches when I am in the middle of mine.

Dr. Hampson

Even if Clause 4 were implemented, it is not right to say that it would close the gap. At most it would only reduce or narrow it.

Mr. Mulley

We can discuss that subject later. We can effectively deal with the difficulty to which the new clause is directed—namely, that staff can be appointed when the school is not in a position to employ staff.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford said that the period from 11th November, when the approval was given to the Tameside scheme, to the beginning of May, when the elections were held, was so short as to justify a criticism that the council acted with undue haste. I take his point. The matter has been raised in discussion about the decision of the present council. I also take note of the hon. Gentleman's recommendation of the council for its flexibility. I take particular note of that commendation, because it comes from a master of intellectual gymnastics and therefore it has weight.

New Clause 26, about transport, surprised me because it was in the name of the hon. Member for Chelmsford and tabled after he sought assurances that any new arrangements for transport would not penalise parents sending their children to denominational schools. That clause would put the whole burden on those parents. The hon. Member has obviously had second thoughts, and I accept his flexibility.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman, but the matter has nothing to do with my intellectual flexibility; it has to do with the rigidity of the rules of the House. The clause, as originally drafted, was out of order. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in his speculation, and I recommend him to stick closely to the amendment under discussion.

Mr. Mulley

It is the oldest political trick in the game to say "do not do as I do, but do as I say". However, I stand corrected. I am sad that the hon. Gentleman thinks it right that additional burdens should be placed on parents who seek to send their children to denominational schools.

The House should reject the new clause on the grounds of principle and practice. The hon. Member for Chelmsford spoke of tyranny and freedom. I have always believed that freedom of contract was a vital part of our English law and liberty. Equally, I have always believed that local education authorities and teacher associations and trade unions should be able to make contracts without those contracts being prescribed especially for teachers by an Act of Parliament.

Without any amendment of the law it is open to an employer and prospective employee to make a provisional contract, or agree to any other conditions in the normal way. It would be repugnant to write a provision of that kind into our law. In practice it would create chaos.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) said, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to persuade teachers with established posts in one authority or school to seek other appointments or promotion, if such appointments could be cancelled at short notice. A teacher who had only a provisional agreement or contract to move to a new post in a new school would not feel able to do other than give provisional notice of his intention to quit his present post. That situation would create a chain reaction throughout the education system. It would be prejudicial to young prospective teachers in training colleges, because authorities would not know whether teachers were to leave and they would therefore not know whether there would be vacancies. That would be an appalling provision to put on to the statute book.

If that is to be the new workers' charter that the Opposition have in mind I hope that it will be given the widest possible publicity. It is repugnant to anyone who believes in the freedom of contract and in negotiations between trade unions and employers. Such contracts should not be interfered with by an Act of Parliament. The Opposition's doctrine deserves wide publicity, and teacher's associations should be fully aware of the Opposition's policy. I am sure that all of them would wish to express strong objections to it.

Opposition Members have wept crocodile tears about the powers of local authorities and local democracy, yet they propose this unwarranted interference with the rights of local authorities in terms of the type of contracts that they can make. The proposal is preposterous. It is typical of the Opposition's attitude to the Bill that we should begin the afternoon with a proposition of that character.

There is no reason in principle or practice to commend the clause, and I hope that the House will reject it.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)

It lies ill in the right hon. Gentleman's mouth to castigate my hon. Friend on those grounds when the whole Bill is a dictation to local authorities.

Mr. Mulley

I admit that this is a new relationship between central and local government, but the proposals in the Bill are a mere molehill of interference with local authorities compared with the mountain of proposals to interfere with them contained in the numerous new clauses and amendments, totalling about 250. Not one of them is a Government amendment or new clause. If we accepted many of them, there would be no freedom for local education authorities.

On those grounds, I ask the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I hope that the teachers' organisations to which the Secretary of State obviously addressed some of his remarks will note the very bad attendance on the Government Benches.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

There are only seven Labour Back Benchers present.

Mr. Montgomery

A party that will have people believe that it is the only party to care about education has no more than 13 Members present. I am curious to know where the hon. Members representing Tameside are.

Mr. Mulley

Three of my hon. Friends representing Tameside constituencies are Ministers, and therefore cannot take part in this debate. One of them is here. I have received representations from my hon. Friends concerned on behalf of their constituents, but one of them is engaged in the Finance Bill Committee upstairs.

Mr. Montgomery

We realise that Ministers from other Departments cannot take part in the debate, but as the new clause was specifically directed to the Tameside problem, they could at least have listened to the views of the House on this important issue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) deployed a very good, logical case. He made it clear that the reason for the new clause is largely the disgraceful behaviour of the previous local council in Tame-side. With a piece of typical skulduggery, when it realised that it would lose the local elections in May it produced new contracts for teachers before the current contracts had expired. That was unreasonable behaviour—a deliberate attempt to make life as difficult as possible for the newly-elected Conservative council.

Listening to some of the Socialists in Tameside, one might feel that the newly-elected council was behaving outrageously. One might get the impression that as a result of their action children are being uprooted from their schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. The previous council rushed through a plan for comprehensive education that had been approved by the Secretary of State but not implemented. When the local elections were fought on Tameside on 6th May, the Conservatives fought on a clear manifesto that if they gained control they would not continue with the plans for compulsory reorganisation. Their actions so far are perfectly justified. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) wants to interrupt, I am prepared to give way.

Mr. Noble

I cannot bear to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. His pedagogic gems are leaving us all agog.

Mr. Montgomery

If that is so, I cannot see how the hon. Gentleman has time to chat to his neighbour so much. I am surprised that he is not hanging on my every word, as he did in Committee. Obviously, he did not learn very much there.

The importance of the clause is that it would ensure that the actions of the previous Labour council could not be repeated. It would make a new teacher contract provisional upon the creation of a new post to which it applied, and in the event of that new post or school not materialising the new contract would be null and void.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford was right to underline the fact that a local council has the right to decide what its policy should be. That is what local and central government are all about. What would happen if the Government decided to do something and the unions then said that they would not implement the policy that the Government were putting through in Westminster? The Government's attitude would he very different from their attitude on Tameside.

People have different views, but nobody will convince me that every teacher in Tameside is opposed to what the new Conservative council is doing. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman watched last week's edition of the TV programme "This Week", in which we had some marvellous shots of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) addressing a meeting of parents in the Tameside area. There was also a startling confession by a headmaster who was violently opposed to what the Conservative council was doing. When my hon. Friend interrupted him to ask what he thought about the way in which parents had voted in the local elections, the worthy headmaster said that he was not interested in how they voted. That was seen by millions of people. It is disgraceful that the wishes of parents should be summarily dismissed in that way by that headmaster because the views of a majority of parents on education in Tame-side did not coincide with his.

I hope that when the Secretary of State meets the representatives from Tameside tomorrow he will uphold local democracy and adhere to the view that what people decide in local elections should be upheld by the central Government. Otherwise, there is no point in having any more local elections. We may as well sit back and let this Government decide everything that happens in local authorities throughout the country.

I was not particularly disappointed by the Secretary of State's speech. It was the sort of speech I thought we should hear from him. I am sorry that, having listened only to my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, the Secretary of State is asking the House to reject the clause. Although my hon. Friend made a very convincing speech, I am sure that there will be other convincing speeches from the Opposition Benches. I hope that as the debate continues more and more of my hon. Friends will make an extremely good case for the clause, and that we shall have a change of heart by the Government.

Mr. Noble

It has been very interesting to listen to the contributions of Conservative Members. I understand that the Opposition's leading spokesman, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), unfortunately does not have experience as a parent or experience in local authority affairs, and perhaps does not quite understand the significance of all the pressures and tensions that the wrecking activities of his party colleagues in Tameside have caused in that area. Perhaps the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) suffers from some of the same disabilities, though at least he does not lack the experience of being deeply involved in the affairs of an education committee.

Perhaps we can bring some sense to the debate. I should like first to state my interest as a parent. I have a child in a grammar school—[Interruption.]the last intake before reorganisation. I have a younger child in a comprehensive school and another child in a primary school. Having been the chairman of an education committee. I can understand some of the problems faced by parents and teachers in Tameside.

Mr. Peter Morrison (City of Chester)

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Noble

Not yet.

Mr. Peter Morrison rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. If the hon. Member does not wish to give way, he must not be pressed.

Mr. Noble

Let us dispel the argument that a majority of parents voted in favour of this piece of Tory skulduggery. The turnout in the election was only about 35 per cent. and the overall majority was only about 18 votes. The Tories can hardly claim that as an overwhelming victory. There were other issues in the election. I think that the key issue was green belt policy. Hon. Members who know only a little about Tameside may not be aware that the green belt policy is a burning issue in the area. That determined people's votes. If hon. Members opposite had attended the number of meetings that I have attended in Tameside and had talked to parents in the area, they would know that there would not be a majority even of 18 if the elections were held again today and the Tory plans were known. In fact, those plans are still not really known, because they are still being debated, weeks after the election.

Mr. Peter Morrison

If the hon. Member advocates comprehensive education to the extent that we heard in Committee, why does he send his child to a grammar school? He states that the overall majority for the Conservatives was 18 votes, but his Government say they have a majority in the House despite receiving the votes of only 29 per cent. of the electorate at the last General Election. The hon. Gentleman is contradicting himself again.

Mr. Noble

My daughter attends a senior high school in a comprehensive system. She just happened to be in the last selective intake. That disposes of that point.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford seemed obsessed with "due procedures". The due procedures in Tameside are that the chairman of the education committee and one of his colleagues are sending letters to parents on unofficial paper from an estate agent's office because there has not yet been a meeting of the committee. The authority by which he is acting may be somewhat doubtful.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Noble

I have already given way. I want to finish this point.

I have seen the uncertainty being caused by the present situation. I have seen a child crying because she did not know which school she was going to. I have seen childden told that they are to take the 11 plus one week and then told that it will be the following week, and then told that the exam is off. If that is the kind of progress that this wafer-thin majority is bringing from the Conservative Party, the parents of Tameside do not want to know it.

Many technical problems are being caused in Tameside. What will be done about the allocation of children to Ashton and Hyde Grammar Schools, where I understand there are 180 places for boys but only 60 places for girls?

Are the Opposition happy with a situation in which the parents of an 11year-old girl in Tameside will not be able to secure a place for her? Is that the kind of system of which they approve? Is that what this great advance in education proposed by the Tories means?

This new clause is about relations with the teachers. I discovered that one of the most arduous and difficult jobs on an education committee was to recruit high-quality teachers. What will be the position of an education authority trying to recruit high-quality teachers whose contracts may be declared null and void? It will not be possible to attract the necessary quality of teachers, especially when schools are changing their character.

5.45 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) referred to the problems of authorities employing teachers now. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Chelmsford to say that teachers should not cancel their contracts with one authority until they have another job, but those authorities will be wanting to replace those teachers. The Opposition are creating a bureaucratic nightmare.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford admitted in Committee that education was for the benefit of children but that high morale among teachers was essential if children were to receive any benefit. What kind of morale will there be if teachers have no guarantee that their contracts will be honoured?

We understand the Tory attitude to trade unions. Tories do not understand what the trade union movement stands for, particularly among teachers. If the amendment is passed, the effect on relations between employing authorities and the NUT and other unions will be disastrous.

I accept the Opposition's claim that not all teachers are in favour of our proposals, but late last month the National Association of Head Teachers described the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) in colourful terms, as a morbid misdiagnoser of education ills.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

My hon. Friend got jolly good results as a headmaster.

Mr. Noble

The hon. Lady knows her hon. Friend so well that she must have gone to one of his schools.

The National Association of Head Teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters, the Union of Women Teachers and the NUT all support the proposals of the labour administration. They have made it clear that they regard it as being far too late to reverse the procedures of secondary reorganisation.

I asked the hon. Member for Brent, North in Committee at what stage he would draw the line and say it was too late to unscramble a scheme for reorganisation. Would it be when 1,000 teachers had been appointed and schools allocated in circumstances where about 90 per cent. of parents got their first choice and 96 per cent. their first or second choice? We had to conclude that the hon. Gentleman might say it was too late, at two or three minutes to 9 o'clock on the day that the children were due to start school under the new system.

The hon. Member is nodding his head. He admits it. The Opposition have no concern for the welfare of children. They are concerned simply with the maintenance of an elitist system, and their argument about parental choice falls to the ground in circumstances like those in Tameside, where more parents are satisfied with the choice of their children's school than would be possible under any system of selection—which is not parental choice, but teacher or examination selection.

Dr. Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

I tell the hon. Member for Rossendale, Mr. Noble), whose speech I am privileged to follow, that I am also a parent. I also tell the hon. Gentleman that I was the head of a school in the area that he represents. There was a queue to get into that school, although at the time, strangely enough, it was not selective. On the Opposition side of the House there is plenty of experience of selective and non-selective schools, in one way and another.

It seems that to an extent Tameside holds the interest of the House this afternoon, but the clause could affect other matters outside the Tameside situation. If a good comprehensive school system is to be introduced, it needs long planning; it is not the sort of thing that can be rushed through. Where possible, it should be done with the general agreement of all parties in the area concerned. If that is not done, someone is always forced to give way. The more that one party tries to drive through such a measure the more likely it is that there will be a backlash the other way. Labour Members may say that the present situation is a backlash, but others may consider it a return to sanity. However, if one party tries to drive through such a measure, irrespective of the views of others, there is bound to be a blacklash, unless, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said, there is unconditional surrender by one side.

I believe that Questions were asked this afternoon about teacher unemployment. That is something that concerns both sides of the House. Unlike the hon. Member for Rossendale, I do not believe that concern and compassion exist on only me side of the House. It is a shortsighted view that the recognition of full truth and morality exists only on the Labour Benches, and that those on the Conservative Benches are not privileged to experience in any way a degree of concern. It is fair to say that we argue about what we think is best for children, but it is not fair to say that we are not concerned about children, that we are child beaters and wife beaters with demoniac memories and a total lack of compassion.

If there is a plan that is it to continue over five years, a falling birth rate can cause a change that may make it necessary to retract contracts. We sympathise to an extent with the Secretary of State for Education and Science for having to deal with teacher unemployment, although we should like him to do rather more about it. The present situation arose because over four or five years there has been a change in the birth rate. The questions of teacher recruitment and teacher training have followed.

If, over five years of an original plan, or three years after consultation first took place, there is a falling birth rate, the plans that were set up will have to be changed, otherwise there will be empty places in the schools. In those circumstances it would be sensible to take back the Section 13 plans and to say "The circumstances have changed; we must do something about it".

Perhaps I should mention, for the sake of those who do not know, that Tameside is near Manchester, and on the Cheshire side. It does not help matters to call the area Tameside as many think that it is an area south of the Thames. That is thought to be the case by many who were not privileged to be born in the North. In fact, it is on the outskirts of Manchester. The direct grant schools in Manchester face the decision whether to go into the State system completely or to stay separate and independent. It is a decision that will affect a number of children entering schools in that area. It may well mean an alteration in the Section 13 plans.

Similarly, the movement or non-movement provisions—this is something that we shall discuss at a later stage—that allow or do not allow parents to move their children across boundaries, can affect recruitment. That is not a matter that concerns only Tameside, with which the hon. Member for Rossendale appears to be obsessed. My hon. Friends and I recognise that there are other issues. We have put forward the clause to try to help authorities, to enable them to adjust their Section 13 plans according to the circumstances, which may well change from the time that the plans were made.

Perhaps I should take up what the hon. Member for Tameside said about the Tameside situation. I had not intended to deal specifically with Tameside. Another matter that required a change in the Section 13 plans was political control. Before the change in political control it was the intention of the Conservatives to hold back the comprehensive scheme due to take place in September. The people in the area, including members of the Labour Party, knew that that was the Conservative plan. Could those concerned not have waited to see what the electorate thought about their plans? Was it that the Labour Party feared the result?

From some of the statements that I have read it seemed that the intention was to get the scheme through before the electorate could comment. After all, it was only last November that the Section 13 notice was accepted. It was known that an election was approaching and that the majority was narrow.

It seems that one of the main planks in local democracy is participation. It is a concept that Labour Members talk about and sometimes froth about. If participation means something, surely the election was an opportunity to ask the electorate "Do you want the Section 13 notice implemented?". That should have been done, if local democracy meant anything. Are the people allowed to vote only on issues that do not really matter? Perhaps dustbins do matter—indeed, my wife takes the view that it matters if they are not collected—but are people to be allowed to vote only on sanitation and parks, for example? Are they not allowed to vote on issues such as the education of children, the sale of council housing and other matters that involve general participation? It is the control of personal life that concerns the ordinary person.

However, the election was held. The information came to me—I have checked my letters this afternoon—that some of the notices of the allocation of pupils went out two days before the municipal election. Similarly, I believe that in some areas certain authorities controlled by different parties sent out rate demands either before or after the elections, according to the effect that they would have on the voting. That is a terrible state of affairs, and one that I must speak against wherever it takes place. The fact is that the notices of allocation went out only two days before the elections. It was not a matter of the Joint Four not being warned.

The professional body of teachers in the area was warned in January that the scheme was being rushed through and that there should be a delay only until the decision was announced.

Mr. Cormack

Is my hon. Friend aware that if the letters went second-class they probably did not arrive after two days?

Dr. Boyson

The depth of thought of my hon. Friend's intervention has quite staggered me. What if they were posted on Saturday, after the lunch time post? If that happened, perhaps some are still being delivered. However, I was told that the notices went out only two days before the election was held. The result of the election was that a Conservative majority was elected in Tameside.

Surprise, surprise, the Conservative majority intended to carry out its manifesto. The general public complain that both major parties sometimes do not carry out their manifestos. It is said that they change them immediately on taking office. The belief in politicians has apparently declined because of that attitude on the part of the general public. Surely the Conservative majority should receive the acclaim of Labour as well as Conservative Members in its determination to carry out its manifesto and to make local democracy a reality. There had been consultation and acceptance, and the Conservative majority intended to honour its manifesto, as I honour my own pledges.

Surely the Labour representatives should have taken the view "We have lost. That is it. We shall come back next year. That is the game." The whistle had been blown, as it blew for Manchester United. I was at the stadium, as were many others. Surely, Labour representatives should have recognised that the whistle had blown and that they would have to wait for another year, just like Manchester United. Indeed, there was better behaviour at the stadium than was displayed by Labour representatives in Tameside.

6.0 p.m.

They suggested flexibility. At the beginning they said that they would put back the 11-plus test. That is probably one of the most effective tests ever known. Most people do not like it. It is a test to which I do not want to return. But it cannot be faulted compared with other tests for choosing people for jobs.

The teachers would not co-operate. They are presumably local authority employees. We were told by the Secretary of State at Question Time, I think, about the great glory of the freedom of local authorities to decide how many teachers they should employ.

Where was the flexibility? Was any flexibility shown by the teachers? Did they say "We realise that you have won the election. We do not want the 11-plus back. Surely we can do it in some other way, so that you can fulfil your mandate." It would have been honourable to say "The 11-plus is out. We do not like it. We shall do it if we must, but we prefer some form of guided choice." There was no stonewalling on one side, but there was complete stonewalling on the other side.

The Conservative council decided to offer the 240 places in the grammar schools to the 3,000 children in the area, through their parents. That seemed sensible. It could have been done in a week. The teachers were asked to cooperate, but they refused.

I wonder whether we have local government or workers soviets ruling in Tameside. I am sure that the view of hon. Members on the Government Benches would have been different if a Labour council had been elected. But if the bell tolls for one side, it also tolls for the other. The teachers said that they would not co-operate.

If any offer had been made, saying, in effect "If you had called your council meeting and then said either that the 11-plus is back or guided parental choice is back and that a letter would be sent out immediately," the whole attitude would have been different. But that, to my knowledge, has never been said. It was not indicated to me when I met certain teachers' leaders at that time.

Mr. Mulley

This is an important point. I am merely seeking information. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that this issue was of concern at the time of the election. Was a commitment made to restore the 11-plus or guided parental choice? There is a vast difference between the two, as I suspect the hon. Gentleman knows from his background in education.

Dr. Boyson

That is a fair question. If it helps the information not only of the Secretary of State, but of the House, I must give it. I hope that certain Members already have the information. The commitment was to keep the grammar schools without saying how selection was to take place. One way was the 11-plus. Another way was guided parental choice, or parents applying and the heads of the schools selecting the children. That has been done in other grammar schools. Again, there was no co-operation. There was a refusal by NALGO to send out the letters. The leader of the council had to pay £300 in sending out the letters.

Were the parents indignant? Did they put the letters in the dustbin, or did they reply? There was to be genuine participation of the kind that the Tribune Group would like from what I hear of the mutterings opposite.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Will the hon. Gentleman, as a former headmaster, tell us what participation he had in his school during his term of office? My guess is that he had absolutely none.

Dr. Boyson

I should like to tell the hon. Gentleman, but it would take an hour or two. If there were the same degree of participation by the Labour Party, it might be a better party. I recommend a book which, by accident, I have with me. That will tell the hon. Gentleman in detail what he wants to know, and I am sure that he will gain a great deal from it. However, I must not be led astray.

About £300 was spent in sending out the letters. What did the parents do? This is what participation is about. Did they reject those letters, or did they do something about them? Within two days of the 3,000 letters being sent out, there were 700 replies. The letters did not say "Tell us whether you like what we are doing." They said "If you do not like the school to which your child has been allocated and you would like another school, either a grammar school place or transfer to another secondary modern school or transfer from one grammar school to another, send back the details to us." The replies were to go to a private house. They could not be sent to the town hall. There were 700 replies within two days.

We talk about parental choice. If these things give bureaucrats nightmares, I like giving them nightmares. I am concerned about personal participation. It was said that 82 per cent. of people got their first choice. Of course they did if they were told that the local school was the only school available. But when it came to genuine parental choice, 700 parents replied within two days. It is interesting that letters came back asking for transfers from one secondary modern school to another, because of certain specialities in those schools.

I must not go further into the Tameside situation, except to say that I believe that the Conservative council has been as reasonable as it could be—it has certainly been more flexible than I should have been—in changing the system. If it is not successful in keeping its schools, having been elected on that mandate so recently, local democracy will suffer a defeat.

There is pressure from the power groups. This year it is the trade unions; next year it may be the employers; the year after that it may be another group. The hon. Member for Rossendale said that some people do not know the trade unions. My father was a trade union secretary and my grandfather was blackballed for setting up a union in the mills in Rossendale. I am sure that he would never have been in favour of closed shops. That is the issue on Tameside.

I think that the situation would have been made easier if teachers' contracts had been provisional until the schools opened. Most teachers worked in the area. Not many were brought in from outside. Most of them had new contracts and were guaranteed their jobs.

The new clause does not fire the anger of the Tameside situation one way or the other. Here is a triumph of decocracy which we should all cheer and possibly sing about. If there had been provisional contracts the situation might have been easier. I am glad that the Conservative council is fully pledged to fulfil the present contracts. At least 20,000 teachers were on safeguarded contracts after reorganisation. There is no difference between teachers in Tameside remaining on safeguarded contracts and others elsewhere doing so.

Mr. Freud

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the speed with which we are galloping on, will you now tell us at what time we are likely to get your second selection of amendments, which was promised at 6 o'clock?

Mr. Speaker

I have been working on that selection since the House saw me last. The list will be put up, although incomplete, in a short while. There will be enough to keep the House going for the time being.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Having gone into the "No" Lobby, I found that there were no copies of your original list of selection. They seem to be very popular. I wonder whether you can arrange for further copies to be placed in the "No" Lobby.

Mr. Speaker

I am pleased to be able to say "Yes, certainly."

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

The imagination boggles, Mr. Speaker, at the task with which you have been confronted in selecting the new clauses and amendments. The Opposition have bombarded us with so many amendments that they have flung the printers and the House into considerable confusion, as was evidenced earlier. As there are so many amendments—

Mr. Cormack rose

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman is an inveterate interrupter. It would be more helpful if he prepared a speech instead of interrupting. In view of the fact that there are so many amendments, Mr. Speaker, I shall speak briefly, and I hope that the Opposition will emulate my example.

Talking about confusion, I have the general impression that the Opposition's colleagues in Tameside seem to have flung education into some confusion there and that the Tories in general are acutely embarrassed by what their colleagues have done. In fact, the Press seems to have indicated that there was an all-out row between the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), and the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). I am sure that it is not true, but it is possible. The hon. Member for Brent, North underestimates his capacity.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford enmeshed his argumentation in such a web of verbiage that it was very difficult to understand the point of the new clause. We were told repeatedly in Committee by the hon. Member for Chelmsford and his colleagues that they believed in comprehensive education. It was a very long Committee stage, as befits the most important Education Bill ever to come before this House. That is why it has been opposed so strongly by the Opposition. We were told in Committee that the Tories believed in comprehensive education. Over and over again, when baited in Committee by Members on the Government side, the hon. Member for Chelmsford said "We believe in comprehensive education."'

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I did not.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Member for Chelmsford repeatedly made that point.

Mr. St. John-Stevas rose

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I wish only to inquire whether the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is giving way.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman at this moment is not giving way. If the hon. Member for Chelmsford is to deny what he said in Committee—that the Tories now believe in comprehensive education—I shall give way.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I take that offer to give way unconditionally, without the proviso. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to mislead the House, but the attitude of the official Opposition—although there are varieties of view within the party on this matter —is that we are in favour of a variety of schools and that we are in no way against comprehensive schools. What we are against is their imposition everywhere without regard to educational situations, financial resources or parental wishes.

Mr. Flannery

I deliberately put the Gentleman on the horns of a dilemma. Despite what he has just said, I say again that repeatedly he left us with the impression that the Conservative Party had now changed its attitude and was in favour of comprehensive education. If that is so, the Tories on Tameside seem to have reverted to the viewpoint to which the hon. Gentleman himself seems to have reverted since the Committee stage of the Bill. Surely the conduct of the Tories on Tameside is worthy of examination in view of the embarrassment they have caused to the Opposition Front Bench.

6.15 p.m.

When the Tories are defeated on the question of the 11-plus—they are being defeated on it and will be increasingly defeated as the British people realise the value of comprehensive education—they try other methods. They become desperate and, therefore, they thrash around wildly. They try any method whatsoever, such as, for instance, the reintroduction of selection in places where it has ceased to operate.

The Bill is an attempt to democratise education. It is not doctrinaire, despite the accusation which has been made It is the Opposition, who fight against comprehensive education under any terms whatsoever, who are doctrinaire.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford said in his opening speech that education in our country had grown organically. But I am sure the hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit that within the framework of organic growth there are on occasion leaps forward, and that those leaps forward take place when a Bill on education is passed. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but they will laugh on the other side of their faces when the Bill is passed, as it will be, and their defeat is complete.

The hon. Gentleman said that the voluntary schools were the first on the scene. Many of us recall that the so-called public schools came very early. They were not public schools then and they are not now. They were charitable foundations and, like all charitable foundations, they have been taken over by the wealthy and the privileged, who will fight to the death to preserve them. They know that comprehensive education as it develops will bring into question those bastions of privilege, owned basically by the Conservative Party.

The hon. Gentleman said that the education of children should not be disturbed. As an ex-teacher and head teacher, I ask in all conscience whether there is any more dreadful disturbance for the education system than the 11-plus examination. Surely there is no greater disturbance in the system to any child than that examination. The 11-plus hangs like a cloud over children and parents.

The new clause talks about the contracts of teachers and says that they should be provisional. The word "provisional" these days has a certain connotation, and it is almost as wrecking as those other Provisionals.

What would this provisional contract mean for teachers? If a teacher had a contract which was provisional on the setting up of a building, it would throw the security of the teaching profession, the security of the parents and, therefore, the security of the whole education system into question. Everyone within the education system would be full of worry and fear that it would be disrupted, in precisely the same way as the Tame-side Tories are disrupting the education system there.

I think that centrally the Tories are acutely embarrassed by the conduct of their colleagues at Tameside, who are doing something against the wishes of the parents, against the wishes of the children and against the wishes of the entire educational set-up.

I have just been reading part of the discussions. Incidentally, when the plans were made the Labour Party was not in a majority in the education committee. However, do hon. Members know that out of 1,000 teachers with 1,000 contracts in that general area, 890 have got new contracts? Therefore, 890 lives were in question in terms of their security of tenure. That is the position of the Tameside Tories regarding the children taught by the 890 teachers, their security of tenure, and the parents who have bought school uniforms. Their security of tenure was all in question. That, for doctrinaire reasons, was the position into which the Tameside Tories, backed up by the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench, who now want to push through this ridiculous new clause, pushed the people of Tameside.

I need say no more than that the clause should be thrown out for the disruptive and disturbing proposal that it is.

Mr. Cormack

The House has listened to an impassioned and, I suggest, very stupid speech. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends says "From a stupid headmaster". All I would say is that perhaps the electors' loss is the children's gain.

We are debating an unnecessary proposal, because the Bill is unnecessary. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) talked about the vast number of amendments on the Notice Paper and castigated the Opposition for tabling them. He talked about the new clause in vitriolic terms. However, there would be no need for any new clauses or amendments, and no need to have this debate and to detain the House, had not the Government adopted the most doctrinaire attitude towards education that we have ever seen.

The hon. Gentleman talked of the Bill being a great Education Bill. It is the worst disservice to education ever perpetrated by legislators anywhere.

Mr. Flannery

Bad for the elitists.

Mr. Cormack

It is bad for quality. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues who wax eloquent about their defence of democracy do not defend democracy at all. Their attitude is a positive disservice to democracy. When they stand up, as did the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble), and talk as though they have the prerogative of right and compassion and the monopoly of wisdom, what sort of service to democracy are they performing? When they attempt to subvert the due processes of democracy—which is what this debate is all about—what sort of service to democracy are they performing?

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

We have just seen it.

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend intervenes eloquently. We have indeed seen it. We have seen it in many guises in recent weeks, in relation to the aircraft and shipbuilding industry—but I must not disgress because Mr. Speaker might rule me out of order. However, what we have seen in this instance is a group of democratically-elected local representatives presenting a programme to the people and saying to them "We wish to retain the grammar schools in Tameside".

Mr. Noble

They did not.

Mr. Cormack

Oh, yes, they did. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that they did. That was one of the main planks in their platform. They went to the electorate and said "We do not like what is being done, and we are offering you a constructive alternative". The electorate opted for the constructive alternative. The electorate returned to power a group of men and women who were dedicated to a particular policy. The hon. Member for Rossendale talked about the number of people who voted. I hope that all of us, in every part of the House, regret the low percentage turn-out at local government elections. Tameside was certainly not bottom of the list this year in the percentage of people who went to the polls—far from it. The percentage of people who voted in Tameside was infinitely greater than the percentage of people who take part in most union elections. One does not hear turn-outs for union elections castigated by those on Government Benches.

The Government are putting before the House of Commons and the people of Britain a highly contentious measure. They did not have the support of the majority of the people in Britain. They claim—it is a valid democratic claim in this regard—that more people voted for their policies than for any others and that, therefore, they have a right to promote the Bill. Therefore, let not the hon. Member for Rossendale and his hon. Friends pretend that we are being undemocratic or that the councillors and the electorate of Tameside are being undemocratic, because if they do that they will be guilty of a gross distortion of the facts.

Mr. Noble

I was previously replying to a claim made by one of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues that a majority of parents in Tameside had expressed their wishes. That was not so. Even if more than half of the electorate had voted, and voted in favour, we would still not know, as the ballot was secret, whether a majority of parents had stated their wishes. I was simply replying to that point.

Mr. Cormack

I do not think that there is a qualitative franchise in this country and that one would have to say whether or not one was a parent, any more than there is such a thing in the House of Commons. Every person who voted in Tameside had a right to take part in the election. Most of the electors voted for a party which has a policy that we are now discussing, which has provoked my hon. Friends into putting forward the new clause.

It is a great sadness to be in the House of Commons when people are accusing locally, democratically-elected councillors of being undemocratic for doing what they are doing.

Mr. Noble


Mr. Cormack

No, not unreasonably at all. It is far more unreasonable to say "You shall have a comprehensive school and no other school". It is far more unreasonable to take that line than to take the line that we take—that in diversity and variety there is richness and strength.

That is the line that we on the Conservative Benches have taken throughout. It has been the consistent policy of the Conservative Party. There have been Conservative authorities, including a former Conservative authority in my county, Staffordshire, which have proposed and implemented comprehensive schemes. Some of us may not altogether have agreed with or liked what they did, but they did it. We did not question their democratic credentials. Nor did we, as a party, say that every local authority should or should not take a particular line. That is what the Bill is all about, and that is why the new clause is of particular significance and importance.

Dr. Hampson

My hon. Friend might be interested in the fact that it was a Conservative-controlled West Riding authority which after 1945, under a Labour Minister, resisted a circular demanding a tripartite system and opted for a multilateral system, which in turn evolved into a middle system. This matter therefore relates to the freedom of local authorities to act against the diktats of the central Government, allowing experimentation and a flexibility that has been so productive.

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am grateful for his intervention. It is a proper constructive regard for local circumstances that is absolutely basic to a good education system. Who can have that proper constructive regard for local circumstances better than people who live in the locality concerned? This mucking around with buildings and the artificial creation of entities is a most terrible disservice to the education ideal and a disservice to quality.

The hon. Member for Rossendale was good enough to tell us where his children went to school. I do not blame him for having a daughter at a grammar school. Indeed, I congratulate him.

Mr. Noble

There was no choice.

Mr. Cormack

If the hon. Gentleman has a daughter at a grammar school and another child at a comprehensive school, presumably he could have opted for both of them to go to the comprehensive school. He has a choice, and I welcome it.

Mr. Noble

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not present earlier. The point I made was that my daughter was the last in a selective intake, because there was no option then, and she is now attending a senior comprehensive high school.

Mr. Cormack

I should have thought that, as the other child was at a comprehensive school, there was probably an option. But it does not matter. Many Labour Members have had the privilege of sending their children to grammar schools. That is a very good thing.

Mr. Flannery

Did the hon. Gentleman take the 11-plus?

Mr. Cormack

Yes, indeed, and I was educated in the State system—and I have taught, just as the hon. Gentleman has done. If one looks through the list of worthy Cabinet Ministers and members of the present Government, one is surprised to see how many of them derived great benefit from the richness and diversity of our education system. I took the trouble today to look them all up. Perhaps at a later stage my colleagues might be interested in a breakdown of the educational background of all the members of the Government, because we have a long night ahead of us.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (Lichfield and Tam-worth)

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be aware that two-thirds of his colleagues had the benefit of private education. One is therefore a little concerned about the competence with which they manage to speak on matters of public education bearing in mind that they did not opt for the public system.

Mr. Cormack

What an entirely irrelevant and stupid intervention.

Mr. Flannery

It has upset the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Cormack

It has not upset me at all. I happen to be in the one-third which is obviously entitled to wear the halo. But I really fail to see what relevance this has.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman fails to see the relevance of the very relevant contribution which my hon. Friend made. That is what I am saying.

Mr. Cormack

It is no wonder that the hon. Gentleman has an Irish name. It is a pity that the rules of the House—

Mr. Flannery

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman, whose constituency I forget, has referred to the fact that I have an Irish name. I must confess that I have, but I did not expect it to be referred to.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Not everyone can have a Welsh name.

Mr. Cormack

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure we all stand suitably rebuked and deeply envious.

To return to the main point of the debate—

Mr. Flannery


Mr. Cormack

I cannot withdraw the hon. Gentleman's name, although he could do so by deed poll if he chose to do so.

We believe in quality, and we are attempting to salvage from this destructive and damaging Bill a few vestiges of quality. There would be no need for this new clause and this long night of debate had not the Government behaved with such doctrinaire intolerance. That is what this is all about. The Government have said to the people of the country, be they teachers, parents or children, "One form of secondary education you shall have and no other". But before the Bill has passed into law, and because one local authority has had the guts and the gumption to stand up for its rights and the rights of its electors, parents and children, the Government are resisting an entirely sensible new clause.

If the Minister had said that he did not like the drafting and that he would like to take the clause away and improve upon it with the help of the parliamentary draftsmen, that would have been a constructive reply and the debate could have ended over an hour ago. But he did not say that. He pretended that we were the ones who were subverting democracy and attacking local authority freedom and undermining the rights and privileges of parents and teachers and all the rest. That is not the case.

The Bill is destructive and damaging. I hope that, as the night progresses, we shall fight it to the bitter end and that the Government will at least have the grace and the good sense to give proper Government time to debate it. To give one day to debate a measure like this on Report is the grossest insult to parliamentary democracy that I can imagine.

Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)

I was interested in some of the comments made from the Conservative Benches in regard to the new clause, because there is a lot of history on the subject of comprehensive education. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) referred to the right of the local education authority to determine policy. He made a particularly strong point about teachers not usurping the authority of the local education committee. That is absolutely right.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's conversion to that approach. I say "conversion" because I am reminded that he was a Minister in the Government of 1970 to 1974 in regard to education, and I am reminded of some of the statements he made during that period. I remember, sometimes with bitter experience, being involved as Chairman of the Liverpool Secondary Reorganisation Committee and Deputy-Chairman of the Liverpool Education Committee, coming to London on a deputation to make representations to the then Conservative Secretary of State, now Leader of the Conservative Opposition, in regard to Liverpool Education Committee's plans for comprehensive secondary reorganisation.

We were told then that, although the Labour Party was elected as the majority party in the city council, it was not possible for it to claim that it had a a mandate to pursue a policy of comprehensive reorganisation. We were told that because there was a parents' protest committee in Liverpool—a background or "front" for the Conservative Party—and because of the existence of several thousands of signatures on petitions and anxiety among teachers, we could not claim that we had the right to pursue the policy upon which we were elected. However, we are now in a different situation.

Tameside has the right to carry out the policies it is pursuing because, miraculously, the position has changed. It has a mandate from the electorate. That reminds me of the arguments in which the Conservative Party has been involved witht two voices over a period in regard to the participation of teachers in reorganisation plans within local authorities. At one stage it was argued by Conservatives Members that the teachers must be heard. That was during a situation when quite a number of teachers' organisations in various parts of the country were raising doubts about the change to comprehensive schools. However, because of the passage of time, that is not now the case. The majority of teachers' organisations in most of the larger city areas are in favour of reorganisation on comprehensive lines. We do not hear any more clamour about seeking to hear the teachers on this particular subject.

I think it was the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) who made some mocking comments about participation. The one thing we are not seeking any longer is the participation of teachers in regard to the whole problem of comprehensive reorganisation. If we were interested in hearing the teachers, we would realise how absurd the new clause is. In most reorganisation schemes that local education authorities have, one of the things for which the teachers have argued forcibly is co-operation and collaboration between the teachers' unions and the education authorities in regard to the staffing of the schools which are to be set up under reorganisation.

Dr. Hampson rose

Mr. Thorne

When it comes to determining the appointment of headmasters and deputy headmasters, heads of department and teachers, any local education authority worth its salt will set up a working party with the teachers' unions to discuss how the local teachers will get priority in the filling of posts. Naturally reorganisation is likely to bring shifts in specialisms and needs, and possibly, therefore, redundancy among teachers. The whole matter is therefore discussed by the LEA and the various teachers' organisations.

Dr. Hampson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Thorne

Therefore, there is absolutely no necessity for this kind of clause. On the contrary, it is absolutely necessary to establish the right sort of involvement in regard to putting into practice the policy of the Bill. The right sort of involvement is a continuous dialogue between the LEAs and the teachers' unions.

Dr. Hampson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Thorne

I shall not give way. For the last hour and a half, on this one clause, Tory Members have made all the points that they now seem to want to make in my speech. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you are anxious to see me finish this speech with no interruptions. Hon. Members opposite can make their own speeches. Some of them make abysmal speeches, but that is a matter for them. I am not prepared to hear any interruptions of my speech. The points of hon. Members opposite have been summed up already ad nauseam.

Following Tameside, the Tory Party is now anxious for us to accept that a local authority when elected has the right to carry out a policy irrespective of the teachers, the parents or the children, who will now be subjected to the same system of selection as they completely rejected 10 years ago, saying that LEAs which have been elected to bring in comprehensive education should tone down their activities, listen to parents, teachers and others and delay implementation of the system.

That is what the new clause and 100 other clauses and amendments are about. Even if we do not finish until 1.30 p.m. tomorrow, I hope that we shall reject them all and get on with introducing real comprehensive education.

Mr. Angus Maude (S tratford-on-Avon)

During the few minutes for which I wish to detain the House, I shall try, unlike many hon. Members who have preceded me, to stick as far as possible to the new clause under discussion.

The debate has covered a wide area, with a number of hon. Members getting off their chests a number of ancient war cries and flaunting a few flags. The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne), for example, would not permit my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) to correct him on a point of fact—a fairly typical method of behaviour. The hon. Member was talking about consultation. In the case of Tame-side, the Joint Four was perfectly willing to discuss and work out a solution and discussions took place, but the NUT, backed by NALGO, refused any form of discussion. It is therefore absurd to talk about consultation, participation and continuous dialogue with people who will not talk.

6.45 p.m.

The Secretary of State began by saying that the new clause was repugnant to him and his hon. Friends in principle and practice, and then he diverged a little to try to persuade us that it was in any case unnecessary because, he said, by the time Clause 4 was in operation the gap would have been closed and cases like Tameside would not arise again. We do not believe that that is so. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept that there is at least an argument that it will not be so.

The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that there will be elections next year for various local authorities which are local education authorities. He surely cannot say now that by the time the Bill has become law, when local authorities begin to submit proposals to him, every set of proposals will have been accepted and will be operative by the time of the next county council elections. He would be very unwise to say so.

Suppose that a local authority submits proposals to the Secretary of State. Without rejecting them out of hand, he comments on them and sends them back. It would be a strange Government Department which returned the proposals within a week. Therefore, time will elapse. The right hon. Gentleman's comments have then to go through the whole procedure of an education committee and the full council and have to be returned to him. It is therefore possible—this is the hypothesis on which the new clause is based—that the Tameside situation could arise again next year in the local elections.

Mr. Mulley

This is a very important point. If the House will agree, it might be more convenient for me to reply when the hon. Gentleman has finished developing it.

Mr. Maude

If that is possible, even in theory, it is not logical to say that our new clause must be unnecessary and is not needed.

The new clause is needed if there is the slightest chance that the Tameside situation will arise again. Let us not lose sight of the fact of what actually happened on Tameside. We are not discussing whether comprehensive education is good or bad, whether one side or the other has a monopoly of virtue. I have noticed that Labour Members, as is so often the case when they discuss polemical politics, say that the Conservative Party, whether nationally or locally, is behaving in a doctrinaire fashion if it endeavours to ensure a variety of schools throughout the country and in each area but that the Labour Party is not behaving in a doctrinaire fashion if it seeks to impose one kind of school on every area. This selective use of the word "doctrinaire" reminds me of the bishop who said to one of his colleagues, "Orthodoxy, my Lord, is my doxy; heterodoxy is someone else's doxy".

The Labour Party uses the word "doctrinaire" in precisely that way. It is noticeable that when a Labour Government or a Labour council seek to reverse everything that a Conservative Government or a Conservative council have done, that is regarded as a perfectly logical, moral and undoctrinaire process. A Conservative Government or Conservative council are expected to swallow, absorb and continue to operate every Socialist measure of its predecessor. If that were to happen, there would be a continual trend to the Left until we were left with a totally Socialist society.

It must be recognised that in a democracy there will be times when each side will want either to reverse or to modify the actions, proposals and institutions set up by their predecessors. The Secretary of State waxed extraordinarily indignant on a high moral tone. He said that the new clause was repugnant to the freedom of the individual and to the freedom of contract. We find it repugnant to the spirit of democracy that a local authority faced with defeat should try to outwit the electorate and thwart the electorate's will. We propose to shut one door in the face of those who are trying to thwart the democratic will of the electorate in some areas. Some hon. Gentlemen find that strange and wicked.

Let us not forget the events at Tameside. A few days before the local government elections took place, the Labour-controlled council—clearly recognising that it was in danger of losing an election which the Conservatives fought on a policy of preserving the grammar schools in the area—sent out new contracts to teachers, involving, in some cases, upgrading their status and remuneration, to try to outflank the Conservative-controlled council which was about to succeed it and to prevent the Conservatives from carrying out the commitments on which they fought the election. With those events behind us, is it any wonder that we want to prevent that kind of blackmail—it was cheating, if not blackmail—taking place next year in the local government elections? That is the reason for the new clause.

In seeking to persuade us that we should not press the new clause to a Division, the Government spokesman who replies must persuade us that that situation cannot arise before the Secretary of State has succeeded in imposing his will on every council in the country. The new clause is justified if there is any risk of its happening. It may happen again next year, before all the proposals have been studied and approved. If that is so, on past form there is every likelihood that a Labour-controlled authority somewhere will try the same trick. While that possibility exists, the new clause is needed and we shall press it to a Division.

Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

The Bill was described by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) as a leap forward in a framework of organic growth. That is a strange concept. I do not think, if it is described in such graphic, if unliterary form, that it is likely to attract many members of the Opposition or the public. However, it raises questions—whether relating to leaps forward or leaps backward—which go well beyond education. Many people who will look with interest at the way in which Parliament determines the question on this new clause are concerned not primarily with education but with democracy and the way in which democratic procedures work in our country. The new clause is a means of protecting the exercise of democracy against the intrusion of fundamentally undemocratic procedures which are designed to impede the operation of the wish of the people expressed at a recent election.

In support of thwarting the will of the people we listened to some of the most specious and dubious constitutional doctrine that we have heard for a long time. I thought it little short of ludicrous —were it not tragic—that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) should say that there was justification for the obstruction of the policy of the newly elected Tameside council. He told the House solemnly—or with as much solemnity as he could muster for so ludicrous a point—that the election was fought on the issue of the green belt. Whether or not it was fought on that issue, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will win many black belts for intellectual judo, although he may well reach the heights in respect of the accolades that are available for tiresome gymnastics.

Dr. Hampson

The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) said time and again that if the Tories won in Tameside it would be as a result of the education policy they were putting to the electorate.

Mr. Brittan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that assistance. That was apparent to the people concerned, even without the helpful confession to that effect by the hon. Member for Rossendale.

In Tameside we are faced with an example of a trend that I should have thought was worrying to the people concerned with matters well beyond educa- tion. I refer to the tendency of bodies other than elected bodies to regard it as being their right to prevent the policy of an elected body being implemented. I regard that as a highly dangerous trend, to be resisted at all costs, whether the threat comes from a trade union, a group of teachers, an employers' organisation or a local crysanthemum society.

If democracy is to be preserved, we must remember what it is. An election takes place, and the party that wins the election is entitled to carry out the policies that led to its electoral success. If that party is wise—and if it wishes to win not just one election but future elections—it will adopt a reasonable posture, to seek consultations and to follow a policy that accords with its ideological propensities and takes account of the practicalities of the situation. Although the elected body fails to follow that wise course, it still surely has the constitutional right to put forward the policy for which it is elected without being impeded by outside bodies. That is why we object to what took place at Tameside.

Reference was made to trade unions and the trade union movement. I do not believe that those who seek to defend, on the part of those opposing the newly elected authority, what happened in Tameside, do a service to the trade union movement by involving it or referring to it in this argument. The rôle of the trade union movement, when it does its best for its members, is to engage in hard-fought negotiations—backed up, if we like, by the strike weapon—but not to seek to blackmail an elected body by the threat or exercise of industrial action against the wishes of the people expressed in an election. That is the central point, but there are several red herrings, to which I shall refer briefly.

7.0 p.m.

One red herring is that the authority is not obliged to carry out proposals that have been approved; there is the possibility that the proposals will lie on the stocks for a long time and there will be a gap. The Minister said that we need not deal with that by introducing the new clause, because it is covered by Clause 4.

Clause 4 imposes a duty on a local authority to implement the proposals which have been approved by the Secretary of State, but no time limit is stated in the clause. All it provides is that if the local authority wilfully indicates that it has no intention of implementing the scheme that the Secretary of State has approved, the Secretary of State may take action either under Section 68 or through the courts to prevent that situation continuing. But there is no time limit.

If the local authority, for prudential, arguable and justifiable reasons, even after the passage of the Bill, delays implementing the Secretary of State's proposals, the Secretary of State can do nothing unless the local authority has wilfully indicated that it is not doing what he wants. After all the sittings of the Committee, the Secretary of State still has not got his Bill right, and it is no argument to say that Clause 4 deals with the problem.

The next red herring—an even redder and more tasty morsel than the one to which I have just referred—is the claim that the clause interferes with the freedom of contract, and that that is repugnant. Repugnant to what, we are not told. The word "repugnant" occurred twice in the Secretary of State's speech, but it was not related to any clear principle of law that even so uninitiated a lawyer as I have ever learnt.

From the most cursory glance at the clause it is apparent beyond misrepresentation that all that is said is that the contract will be provisional. There is no interference with the freedom of contract in saying that. Every teacher who enters into a contract on that basis knows what he is entering into.

There are thousands of ways in which contracts can be provisional. They can be stated to be provisional by agreement of the parties. They can be affected by frustration of contract under the 1943 Act. In a whole variety of ways the legislature has interfered, for good reasons or bad, in the concept of freedom of contract.

The Conservatives are accused of being an old-fashioned, traditional party. Perhaps we should be more traditional, but I hardly believe that we shall ever seek to emulate the love of tradition of the Secretary of State, who would drag us back to a primitive, nineteenth-century view of the freedom of contract which even politicians of a far less radical hue than he felt should be mitigated from time to time in the light of modern conditions. Let us hear no more about freedom of contract. In any future reference to it, I suggest that there should be substituted the phrase "freedom of humbug".

The Secretary of State came to the moment of truth when he said that the Bill introduced a new relationship between Government and local authorities. There he is dead right, but he has done that at the expense of the welfare of the children on whose behalf he is charged statutorily to act, and at the risk of destroying democracy and the principle of the rule of law.

Mr. Mulley

With the leave of the House, I should like to reply to the arguments put forward, particularly by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) referred to a local chrysanthemum society which would have difficulty in arranging its affairs if it could make only provisional contracts that could be cancelled unilaterally by the other party. I realise the hon. Gentleman's distinguished legal background, but what seems to have escaped the notice of Opposition Members is that the clause seeks to impose on local education authorities and teachers a restriction that would prevent them, and them alone, from making binding contracts as to future conditions of employment. That is my reading of the clause. It would be wrong in any event to impose any such arrangements without consultation with all the trade unions concerned.

The hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) referred to the views of the Joint Four in Tameside, but he did not go so far as to say that the Joint Four would approve of legislation of this character which provided only for provisional contracts which, in the circumstances here envisaged, could by a process of law be declared null and void, with consequential effects on the individual teachers concerned and on the filling of vacancies, with all the uncertainty that would cause throughout the educational system.

The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) said that perhaps I was a little hasty in advising the House to reject the clause. I certainly have not prejudged the Tameside situation. Perhaps I did jump to a conclusion on this new clause but no arguments have been put which persuade me to change my mind. The only way in which I might be able to achieve popularity with teachers would be if the clause were inserted in the Bill at the instance of the Conservative Opposition, because the teachers would be united in being totally opposed to it.

The most remarkable comment I have ever heard in the House was made by the hon. Member for Brent, North. He said that he had been at Wembley Stadium watching Manchester United and that other people were present. That he could conceive of Manchester United playing at Wembley for his sole personal gratification shows an imagination which will no doubt lead people in the North to discount some of his other colourful utterances.

Nothing that has been said in the debate has persuaded me to change my mind.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. On the question of provisional or conditional contract, can he say what is wrong in principle with saying "If we build this school we will give you a job in it, but if we do not build this school we are unable to give you a job in it"? That is precisely the point behind the clause.

Mr. Mulley

I was coming to that point, raised by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, in connection with Clause 4. There is nothing in the law of the land as it stands at present to prevent such authorities and teachers as wish to do so from making provisional contracts, just as in the ordinary way of business one makes provisional arrangements. If it is freely agreed by both sides that it should be provisional, there is no harm in it and we do not need the new clause. It would prevent authorities and teachers from making binding arrangements in these circumstances.

With great respect to the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, the point of Clause 4 is not what inevitably it will mean next year, when further elections are held—and I might say that the metropolitan borough of Tameside, prior to the Labour council seeking Section 13 approval for its comprehensive proposals, was elected on a similar commitment and a similar manifesto. Next year in the counties there will be further elections. Under Clause 4, where a scheme has actually been approved there will be a duty to carry it through. In that sense, while the Bill, when it has become law, remains the law of the land, there will be a duty on the authority, and in that sense there will not be the difficulty which arises in present circumstances.

Surely no authority, having put forward plans, would advertise posts for headmasters or specialist teachers or whatever else in a school which was to be built or reorganised until it had Section 13 approval. To do so would be irresponsible. Only after it had that approval could an authority make contracts of that kind. If Clause 4 goes through, as I hope, it would in those circumstances place a duty on the authority properly to carry out and implement Section 13.

Mr. Maude

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I do not think he has yet made good his point that the operation of Clause 4 could prevent a situation such as took place at Tameside happening in another local authority before the operation of the Bill has become universal. There must be a time lag while proposals are being considered, and it may very well be that another local authority, fearing to lose control, might take precisely the same steps as Tameside just before an election.

Mr. Mulley

I appreciate that until the Bill becomes law the situation in Tameside could recur, but unless the Bill becomes law, even if the new clause were to be included, the new clause is a nullity.

We had a surprising revelation from the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack)—a statement of the obvious which could not be denied —that if we had no Bill before us there would be no amendments. That we do not dispute. Equally, unless the Bill becomes law, any amendments or new clauses that are added to it will not become law either. Therefore, if Clause 4 were enacted it would make the new clause otiose. If we were to put in the new clause, it would make me popular with teachers but it would not be necessary if, as I hope and believe, the Bill becomes law. I hope, therefore, that the

House will proceed to decide this matter, and then we may make more progress.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 269, Noes 311.

Division No. 167.] AYES [7.14 p.m.
Adley, Robert Fookes, Miss Janet Loveridge, John
Aitken, Jonathan Forman, Nigel Luce, Richard
Alison, Michael Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fox, Marcus McCrindle, Robert
Arnold, Tom Fry, Peter Macfarlane, Neil
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Gardiner, George (Reigate) MacGregor, John
Awdry, Daniel Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Baker, Kenneth Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Banks, Robert Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) McNair-Wilson, p. (New Forest)
Bell, Ronald Glyn, Dr. Alan Madel, David
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Goodhart, Phillp Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Goodhew, Victor Marten, Neil
Benyon, W. Goodlad, Alastair Mates, Michael
Berry, Hon Anthony Gorst, John Mather, Carol
Biffen, John Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Maude, Angus
Biggs-Davison, John Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald
Blaker, Peter Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mawby, Ray
Body, Richard Gray, Hamish Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Boscawen, Hon Robert Grieve, Percy Mayhew, Patrick
Bottomley, Peter Griffiths, Eldon Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Grist, Ian Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Grylls, Michael Mills, Peter
Braine, Sir Bernard Hall, Sir John Miscampbell, Norman
Brittan, Leon Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moate, Roger
Brotherton, Michael Hampson, Dr Keith Monro, Hector
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hannam, John Montgomery, Fergus
Bryan, Sir Paul Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Morgan, Geraint
Buck, Antony Hastings, Stephen Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Budgen, Nick Havers, Sir Michael Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Bulmer, Esmond Hawkina, Paul Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Burden, F. A. Hayhoe, Barney Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Heath, Rt Hon Edward Mudd, David
Carlisle, Mark Heseltine, Michael Neave, Airey
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hicks, Robert Nelson, Anthony
Channon, Paul Higgins, Terence L. Neubert, Michael
Churchill, W. S. Holland, Philip Newton, Tony
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hordern, Peter Normanton, Tom
Clark, William (Croydon S) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Nott, John
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howell, David (Guildford) Onslow, Cranley
Clegg, Walter Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
Cockcroft, John Hunt, David (Wirral) Osborn, John
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Hunt, John Page, John (Harrow West)
Cope, John Hurd, Douglas Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Cordle, John H. Hutchison, Michael Clark Parkinson, Cecil
Cormack, Patrick Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pattie, Geoffrey
Costain, A. P. James, David Percival, Ian
Critchley, Julian Jenkin, Rt Hn P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Crouch, David Jessel, Toby Price, David (Eastleigh)
Crowder, F. P. Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Prior, Rt Hon James
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Jopling, Michael Raison, Timothy
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rathbone, Tim
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kaberry, Sir Donald Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Drayson, Burnaby Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Kershaw, Anthony Rees-Davies, W. R.
Durant, Tony Kimball, Marcus Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Dykes, Hugh King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kirk, Sir Peter Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Elliott, Sir William Kitson, Sir Timorthy Ridsdale, Julian
Emery, Peter Knight, Mrs Jill Rifkind, Malcolm
Eyre, Reginald Knox, David Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lamont, Norman Roberts, Michael (Cardiff MW)
Fairgrieve, Russell Lane, David Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Farr, John Latham, Michael (Melton) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Fell, Anthony Lawrence, Ivan Ross, William (Londonderry)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Lawsen, Nigel Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Royle, Sir Anthony
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lloyd, Ian Sainsbury, Tim
St. John-Stevas, Norman Stanbrook, Ivor Viggers, Peter
Scott, Nicholas Stanley, John Wakeham, John
Scott-Hopkins, James Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Stokes, John Wall, Patrick
Shelton, William (Streatham) Storehouse, Rt Hon John Walters, Dennis
Shepherd, Colin Stradling, Thomas J. Warren, Kenneth
Shersby, Michael Tapsell, Peter Weatherill, Bernard
Silvester, Fred Teylor, R. (Croydon NW) Wells, John
Sims, Roger Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Sinclair, Sir George Tebbit, Norman Wiggin, Jerry
Skeet, T. H. H. Temple-Morris, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Speed, Keith Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Spence, John Townsend, Cyril D. Younger, Hon George
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Trotter, Neville
Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Tugendhat, Christopher TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sproat, Iain van Straubenzee, W. R. Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. John Corrie.
Stainton, Keith Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Abse, Leo Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Howella, Geraint (Cardigan)
Allaun, Frank Deakins, Eric Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)
Anderson, Donald Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Huckfield, Les
Archer, Peter de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Armstrong, Ernest Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Ashley, Jack Dempsey, James Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Ashton, Joe Doig, Peter Hughes, Roy (Nwport)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Dormand, J. D. Hunter, Adam
Atkinson, Norman Douglas-Mann, Bruce Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Duffy, A. E. P. Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dunn, James A. Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Dunnett, Jack Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Bates, Alf Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Janner, Greville
Bean, R. E. Eadie, Alex Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Beith, A. J. Edge, Geoff Jeger, Mrs. Lena
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)
Bidwell, Sydney Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) John, Brynmor
Bishop, E. S. English, Michael Johnson, James (Hull West)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ennals, David Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Boardman, H. Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Evans John (Newton) Judd, Frank
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Kaufman, Gerald
Bradley, Tom Faulds, Andrew Kelley, Richard
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Kerr, Russell
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Flannery, Martin Kinnock, Neil
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Lambie, David
Buchan, Norman Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lamborn, Harry
Buchanan, Richard Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lamond, James
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Ford, Ben Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Campbell, Ian Forrester, John Leadbitter, Ted
Canavan, Dennis Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Lee, John
Cant, R. B. Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Carmichael, Neil Freeson, Reginald Lever, Rt Hon Harold
Carter, Ray Freud, Clement Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Garrett, John (Norwich S) Lewis, Ron (Carllsle)
Cartwright, John George, Bruce Lipton, Marcus
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Gilbert, Dr John Litterick, Tom
Clemitson, Ivor Ginsburg, David Loyden, Eddie
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Golding, John Luard, Evan
Cohen, Stanley Gould, Bryan Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Coleman, Donald Gourlay, Harry Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Grant, George (Morpeth) McCartney, Hugh
Concannon, J. D. Grant, John (Islington C) McElhone, Frank
Conlan, Bernard Crimond, Rt Hon J. MacFarquhar, Roderick
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Grocott, Bruce McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Corbett, Robin Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mackenzie, Gregor
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Mackintosh, John P.
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Hardy, Peter Maclennan, Robert
Crawshaw, Richard Harper, Joseph McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Cronin, John Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McNamara, Kevin
Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Hart, Rt Hon Judith Madden, Max
Cryer, Bob Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Magee, Bryan
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Hatton, Frank Mahon, Simon
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hayman, Mrs Helene Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Dalyell, Tam Heffer, Eric S. Marks, Kenneth
Davidson, Arthur Hooley, Frank Marquand, David
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Hooson, Emlyn Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Horam, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Davies Ifor (Gower) Howell, Rt Hon Denis Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Maynard, Miss Joan Richardson, Miss Jo Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Meacher, Michael Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Tierney, Sydney
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Tinn, James
Mendelson, John Robinson, Geoffrey Tomlinson, John
Mikardo, Ian Roderick, Caerwyn Tomney, Frank
Millan, Bruce Rodgers, George (Chorley) Torney, Tom
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Rodgers, William (Stockton) Tuck, Raphael
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Rooker, J. W. Urwin, T. W.
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Roper, John Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Molloy, William Rose, Paul B. Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Moonman, Eric Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Rowlands, Ted Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Sandelson, Neville Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Moyle, Roland Sedgemore, Brian Ward, Michael
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Selby, Harry Watkins, David
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Watkinson, John
Newens, Stanley Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) Weetch, Ken
Noble, Mike Shore, Rt Hon Peter Weitzman, David
Oakes, Gordon Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C) Wellbeloved, James
Ogden, Eric Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) White, Frank R. (Bury)
O'Halloran, Michael Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) White, James (Pollok)
Orbach, Maurice Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Whitehead, Phillip
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Silverman, Julius Whillock, William
Ovenden, John Skinner, Dennis Wigley, Dafydd
Owen, Dr David Small, William Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Padley, Walter Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Palmer, Arthur Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Park, George Spearing, Nigel Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Parker, John Stallard, A. W. Williams, Sir Thomas
Parry, Robert Steel, David (Roxburgh) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Pavitt, Laurie Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Peart, Rt Hon Fred Stoddart, David Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Pendry, Tom stott, Roger Wise, Mrs Audrey
Penhaligon, David Strang, Gavin Woodall, Alec
Perry, Ernest Strauss, Rt Hn G. R. Woof, Robert
Phipps, Dr Colin Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Wrigglesworth, Ian
Prescott, John Swain, Thomas Young, David (Bolton E)
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Price, William (Rugby) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Mr. Ted Graham and Mr. Peter Snape.
Radice, Giles Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)

Question accordingly negatived.

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