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Mr. Dewar : There is some dispute about that. However, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) may object to remarks from the Opposition as being wrong. At least Opposition Members knew about Scottish education, which is more than can be said of some of the imported forced labour serving on that Committee.

To take an example of the way in which the Committee proceedings were conducted, I draw attention to a speech by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. Perhaps I should make it clear that he is referring to the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), as it is such an unlikely passage. "My task"--

said the hon. Gentleman modestly--

"in the Committee is to ensure that there is no backsliding. Opposition Members do not understand how meek, mild and reasonable my hon. Friend the Minister is."

That certainly says something about the hon. Gentleman's ideological position. He went on :

"To ensure that there is no backsliding, it is essential that he has strong men behind him. It is an excellent Bill, but my hon. Friend the Minister has a reputation for conceding amendments to the Opposition."--[ Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 16 March 1989 ; c. 17.]

We can take that at two levels : if we accept it as a serious comment, it is simply alarming--or we can take it as an asinine display of stupidity. I leave the House to decide which is more plausible.

Of course the Committee has ended up in trench warfare. I regret that, but I do not believe that it is our fault. The first day on which the Committee sat--excluding the day of the disruption--we did not start at 10.30 am and sit until 1 o'clock. We had a sittings motion that took us into the depths of the night, and we sat until after 11 pm on the first day.

In my 15 years in the House--no one could say that I did not serve my time in Scottish Committees--I cannot remember such a timetable motion. Clearly it was designed and tabled with the intention of bulldozing the measure through with absolutely no concern or consideration for Scottish opinion.

Great play has been made of the fact that an amendment was tabled which would have had an unintended consequence. When that was recognised, the amendment was withdrawn. A mistake was made in an amendment and an attempt was made to withdraw it. What I find significant is not that in all those hours a mistake was made by the Opposition--it would be remarkable if no mistakes were made--but that when attempts were made to withdraw the amendment, attempts were made, clearly out of spite, to retain it in the debate and the Minister adopted it into the Bill, presumably because he saw it as a chance to claim a victory and embarrass our side of the Committee, although he clearly did not think that there was any educational case for it, as it was not in the Bill originally. It is such frivolous matters that are so offensive.

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The Bill has been an unpleasant business. What has happened has not reflected any credit on the Minister, his colleagues and, ultimately, the House. This abrasive approach to Scottish business and insensitive conduct will breed cynicism and a certain disenchantment with the democratic process. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos), who had a well-written speech, spoke of our hysterical over-reaction to the Bill, which showed that he does not understand what Scottish education feels about this measure. It no doubt looks like hysterical over- reaction from his point of view and that of his English constituents, but in Scotland there is deep opposition to, and deep distrust and deep dislike of this measure. It is genuinely seen as a root-and-branch attack that cannot be justified. The way in which the Bill has been handled and rammed through in Committeee has added to the disillusionment and anger about what is happening in this country.

The Bill will damage confidence not only in the Government--there is little enough confidence to damage--but in the system. I take no pleasure from that and I do not like it. If this is to be the model of what is to come from the Secretary of State, I strongly advise him, for the sake of all of us, to have second thoughts.

10.40 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind) : In the 15 years that I have had the privilege of serving in the House, this has been the most extraordinary debate on a timetable motion that I have experienced. The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) told the House that the Opposition are using every means at their disposal to resist the Bill. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) told us that this is one of the most detested Bills that he has experienced. He criticised my hon. Friends from English constituencies for the many hours of hard work that they put in on the Committee. He did not inform the House --and if his protestations are to have the slightest merit, he should have done so--that he did not serve on the Committee. Why, on a Committee on which the Secretary of Scotland was serving with other hon. Members--

Mr. Dewar : The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a virtue out of his own necessity. He was on the Committee as a vote and a placeman, but he took no part in its proceedings.

Mr. Rifkind : The hon. Gentleman cannot avoid the fact that I played a considerably greater part than he did. He seeks, with synthetic fury, to suggest that the Opposition-- [Interruption.] The debate has been consistent with the principle of the dog that did not bark in the night. We did not hear the normal references to the Government trying to stifle debate. The hon. Member for Garscadden could hardly accuse the Government of trying to stifle debate when last night part I, which deals with opting out, was completed before the motion came before the House. All the clauses dealing with self-governing schools have been fully debated and are not affected by the motion.

Furthermore, we did not hear, because we could not hear, that the Bill is being rushed through--for the simple reason that, before the Committee stage began, the Opposition said that they would like between 120 and 130 hours to consider it. How much time will we have as a

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result of the motion? Some 156 hours will be spent considering it, which is more than the Opposition asked for. The Government have responded to the Committee by agreeing to amendments and making concessions as a result of the arguments that have been used. No fewer than eight amendments have been accepted, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has agreed to consider 25 issues raised by the Opposition and Government Back Benchers.

If the House or the Opposition do not believe my comments about the way in which the Opposition have handled the debate, they should consider the views of an organisation that is not entirely friendly to the Government-- the Forum on Scottish Education. I should inform the House of its members so as to establish their credentials for saying how the Opposition have handled this matter. Its members include not only the Church of Scotland education committee but the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Educational Institute of Scotland, the National Union of Students, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and the Association of University Teachers. In a statement published on 2 May and embargoed until 4 May--today--the Forum on Scottish Education says :

"The Forum on Scottish Education has unanimously condemned time wasting by MPs who are members of the Standing Committee considering the Self- Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Bill."

Mr. Home Robertson : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Secretary of State to break the embargo on that statement and to read it out the day before?

Mr. Rifkind : I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that it was embargoed until 1 o'clock on Thursday 4 May and it is now 10.45 pm. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. Even the Secretary of State must take responsibility for what he says.

Mr. Rifkind : If the Forum on Scottish Education is good enough to send me a copy, I am entitled to refer to it. The forum says that it "has unanimously condemned time wasting by MPs who are members of the Standing Committee considering the Self-Governing Schools etc (Scotland) Bill.

The Rev. Dr. J. Ian McDonald, Chairman of the Forum, said in Edinburgh that despite over 100 hours of debate at twenty-one sittings of the Committee, only Clause 29 had been reached." Since then we have gone a little further.

The statement quotes Dr. McDonald :

" The Forum thinks that it is particularly deplorable that the concept of prime time', that is of debates taking place at a time which will ensure maximum media coverage, has been used tactically in order to delay the consideration of important Clauses. The Forum calls on all Members serving on the Committee to drop disruptive and time wasting tactics and to make the best possible use of the time which remains for giving serious consideration to the remaining Clauses.' "

That was a statement by the Forum on Scottish Education, which includes the EIS, STUC and COSLA. If that is the forum's judgment on the Opposition, it makes the remarks of the leader of the Labour group on Strathclyde regional council positively helpful in comparison.

Mr. Dewar : I have not had the advantage of reading this embargoed statement as yet, but I did not notice in it any words that condemn the Opposition specifically. It

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was a comment on the Committee as a whole. [Interruption.] Having read the record of a number of the Committee's sittings and having sat through several hours of its debates, it seems to me that the Secretary of State is, on behalf of his colleagues, going for an exercise in self-criticism.

Mr. Rifkind : The argument that the Government have an interest in prolonging debate on one of their own Bills-- [Interruption.] That may be what the hon. Gentleman likes to suggest, but it is obvious who is condemned in the statement, to the Opposition's shame. The Bill does not impose a single obligation on anyone in Scotland. It provides opportunities for those parents who wish to exercise them, and it is that freedom that Her Majesty's Opposition have always been adamant in resisting. They believe that they know better than the people and parents of Scotland what is appropriate for Scottish education, yet if they knew Scottish education as well as they claim, they would know that the right of local communities to control their school structure is among the finest traditions of Scottish education.

This is a guillotine motion, but it is probably the first guillotine in the history of the House that is being used for the purposes of mercy killing. It is because the Opposition are anxious to be spared the interminable embarrassment that they have experienced because of the superb way in which my hon. Friends who have served on the Committee have fulfilled their responsibilities. It is very much on that basis that I have no hesitation in commending the motion to the House.

It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Speaker-- put the Question necessary to dispose of them, pursuant to Standing Order No. 81 (Allocation of time to Bills). The House divided : Ayes 214, Noes 135.

Division No. 185] [10.49 pm


Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Allason, Rupert

Amos, Alan

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Beaumont-Dark, Anthony

Bellingham, Henry

Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Bottomley, Peter

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick

Buck, Sir Antony

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Churchill, Mr

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Colvin, Michael

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Eggar, Tim

Emery, Sir Peter

Evennett, David

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Norman

Fox, Sir Marcus

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Gale, Roger

Gardiner, George

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Column 286

Gow, Ian

Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Ground, Patrick

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Hannam, John

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hawkins, Christopher

Hayes, Jerry

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hind, Kenneth

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howard, Michael

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Janman, Tim

Jessel, Toby

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)

Knowles, Michael

Knox, David

Lamont, Rt Hon Norman

Lang, Ian

Lawrence, Ivan

Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

Lyell, Sir Nicholas

Macfarlane, Sir Neil

MacGregor, Rt Hon John

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Maclean, David

McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)

Madel, David

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Marland, Paul

Marlow, Tony

Marshall, Michael (Arundel)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Mates, Michael

Maude, Hon Francis

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Mellor, David

Meyer, Sir Anthony

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Sir David

Monro, Sir Hector

Morris, M (N'hampton S)

Morrison, Sir Charles

Neale, Gerrard

Nelson, Anthony

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Paice, James

Pawsey, James

Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth

Porter, Barry (Wirral S)

Porter, David (Waveney)

Powell, William (Corby)

Raffan, Keith

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Rathbone, Tim

Redwood, John

Renton, Tim

Riddick, Graham

Ridsdale, Sir Julian

Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm

Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)

Rossi, Sir Hugh

Rowe, Andrew

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Sims, Roger

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Speller, Tony

Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Squire, Robin

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steen, Anthony

Stern, Michael

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)

Tracey, Richard

Trotter, Neville

Twinn, Dr Ian

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Waddington, Rt Hon David

Wakeham, Rt Hon John

Walden, George

Walker, Bill (T'side North)

Waller, Gary

Ward, John

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Warren, Kenneth

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Wheeler, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Jerry

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Young, Sir George (Acton)

Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory

and Mr. Tom Sackville.


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