§ 5. Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead)
If he will issue guidance to schools to develop the capacity of school students to reason about moral issues; and if he will make a statement. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Ms Estelle Morris)
The advisory group on education for citizenship and democracy has identified moral reasoning and responsibility as a vital component of citizenship in its initial advice and will be making final recommendations in July.
§ Mr. McWalter
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and for her interest in the question. Does she accept that many people leave school with an elementary or poor grasp of moral concepts and moral reasoning, and that perhaps we should get on with this matter with rather more haste than we have so far?
§ Ms Morris
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. We could not have acted with more haste—we set up an advisory group that has looked at this issue, among others, and reported within the first year of the Labour Government. I look forward to further recommendations from the group and in due time to seeing citizenship, which includes moral reasoning, represent a full part of the curriculum for all our students.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
Does the hon. Lady agree that denominational schools are well placed to make a contribution in this process? Does she share my concern that, having gone out to public consultation on the issue following a previous outcry, the Liberal Democrat-controlled Devon county council has introduced a charging regime on parents who want to send their children to denominational schools, using figures described by the principal of Cuthbert Mayne school as nonsensical? Is it possible that, in the study that the hon. Lady mentioned a few moments ago, she might consider the question of denominational transport? While it clearly is not her fault that this situation has arisen, she is now in a position to do something about it.
§ Ms Morris
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on managing to bring denominational transport into a question about moral reasoning. It is for him to deal with what local Liberal Democrats are doing in the area that he serves. I agree with the first part of his question, however. I am greatly persuaded when I visit denominational schools in my constituency and beyond 1226 that they have a clear understanding of the shared values of the religious community. Part of the work on this aspect of education involves the encouragement of all our schools to acknowledge the shared values that are so important to every community—both school communities and the wider community.
§ Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South)
Does the Minister agree that the way to develop moral reasoning is not only to impart knowledge to pupils but to give them the opportunity to put that knowledge into practice by interacting in curricular and extra-curricular activities? That is a good example of how both didactic teaching and active learning have their part to play. Those who overemphasise passive learning are pointing the route towards moral illiteracy among pupils.
§ Ms Morris
I have some sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. It is important to remember that giving children the opportunity to develop moral reasoning is not about telling them blindly to obey what other people say but about teaching them to become active citizens, to understand shared values and to grasp why there is a need for right and wrong both in school and in the wider society. That is what we aim to do with the extra emphasis that we are putting on citizenship. We want to enable students to grow up to be full and active citizens. That means teaching why we have right and wrong and why moral values are so important to society.
§ Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)
Is it not ironic that politicians should be talking about giving moral guidance to schoolchildren in a week in which the phrases "cash for access" and "Tony's cronies" have passed into the political lexicon? Is it not doubly ironic that this talk should be happening at a time when religious education and religious moral guidance are continually under pressure in schools?
§ Ms Morris
It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman should raise that issue—one that I thought might be raised. One of the reasons why we set up our advisory group on citizenship, including moral reasoning, so speedily was that we saw the lack of ability to develop moral reasoning in the past as one explanation of why the previous Government thought that it was acceptable to receive cash for questions.