That leave be given to bring in a Bill to control the fouling of public places by dogs.
After the European elections, I can safely say that dogs are the No. 2 subject of the month. The public are rightly concerned about the increasing number of attacks on people by savage dogs, and the Government have responded to that concern. Last week, the Home Secretary promised to strengthen the power of the courts to deal with dangerous animals and with stray dogs and to apply heavier fines to irresponsible dog owners. The Secretary of State for the Environment promised to increase pressure on local authorities to clear up dogs' mess and to charge owners who allow their dogs to stray. Therefore, to some extent, the Government have pre- empted some of the matters that I wanted to deal with in my Bill. I am most especially concerned, however, with the hygiene aspect of the problem.
I decided to introduce this Bill when a mother came to my surgery a few Saturdays ago and pointed out that her small daughter, who had been playing on a grass verge, had slipped into some dog's mess--verges are often used as public latrines by animals--and had been very seriously ill in hospital. It was at that point that I began to discover the number of diseases that are transmitted through dog's mess. It is not just an aesthetic, but a serious hygiene, problem, and, quite rightly, the Government take the problem of public hygiene very seriously.
In addition to the well-known worms, toxocara, which can affect people's spleens and livers and, of course, cause blindness, dogs' faeces also contain salmonella and campylobacter. Those are the diseases with which the child I have mentioned had been afflicted. They can cause serious damage to the intestines of small children and are quite common in adults. There are a number of complaints from which people suffer without realising that the problem stems from dog faeces. Whenever we breathe and smell those faeces, we are taking into our bodies some of the organisms that are present.
A solution to the problem would be privately owned streets. The people who owned their streets would then ensure that they were kept free from dog fouling. As it is, the public own the streets through the local authorities. The Secretary of State has rightly empowered local authorities to take more steps to encourage local councils to introduce pooper-scoop schemes and heavier fines. In Westminster, the fines are up to £100, but that has not entirely persuaded people to do something about this unpleasant problem.
When, in the old days, people had the problem of disposing of soil, they simply threw it out of the window, with the warning of, "Guar-e-loo". Then, when I was a child, the nasty habit of spitting required "do not spit" notices on all the buses. Why do we still tolerate the problem of dogs using the streets as if they were public lavatories?
As I have said, I am concerned about the hygiene problem, as well as how to control dogs on the streets. I draw the House's attention to the situation in several American cities, including the city of Charleston in North Carolina, where there is a dog lead requirement. No dogs are allowed on public streets unless they are on a lead, and
Column 148that copes with the problem of identifying the person who owns the dog. That is one of the main concerns expressed when we talk about the prospect of legislation in this place. I recommend to the Secretary of State that at some time in the future he thinks about that problem. I am waiting to see, however, how the measures that the Government have recently introduced will affect it.
When there are food poisoning incidents, the Government step in immediately to reassure the public that they are doing all they can to control the problem. They inspect, and they require people preparing food for the public to adopt very high standards. Yet still we allow people with dogs to walk the streets and leave behind them potential disease-causing piles on the pavements.
Next time that we have registration for the community charge we should examine the possibility of people putting their dogs on the community charge form. We could then charge the dog owners for cleaning up after their animals. Meanwhile, my main concern is for health. I should like to propose in my Bill that dog owners be required to obtain a certificate--an MOT of health--from a vet before they are allowed to take their dogs on to the streets.
People will say that that cannot be enforced, but one might as well say that one cannot enforce any sort of public hygiene. Of course it can be enforced, and, last week, the Government stated that they would permit the authorities to introduce more wardens to catch irresponsible people.
We cannot continue to tiptoe around the problem or sweep it under the carpet. It is important that our streets are kept clean and beautiful in the same way as some cities in America. In addition to the current regulations operated in many of our cities and in the Isle of Wight, dog owners in this country should be required to obtain from a vet a certificate that the dog has at least been tested to see that it does not contain worms and other diseases, that it is vaccinated against rabies in addition to the ordinary diseases, and that it cannot cause the problems that currently exist.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Teresa Gorman, Mr. Vivian Bendall, Mr. Roger Gale, Mr. Tony Marlow, Mr. Neil Hamilton, Mr. Harry Greenway and Mr. Jerry Hayes.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman accordingly presented a Bill to control the fouling of public places by dogs : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 7 July and to be printed. [Bill 161.]
Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80 (Allocation of time to Bills),
That the Report [19th June] of the Business Committee be now considered.-- [Mr. Sackville.]
Question agreed to.
That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
The following is the report of the Business Committee : That the Resolution [24th May] of the Business Committee shall be varied as follows :
(1) The order in which proceedings on consideration of the Bill are taken shall be Amendments to Clauses Nos. 1 to 3, Part I of Schedule No. 1, Clauses Nos. 4 to 7, Part II of Schedule No. 1, Clauses Nos. 8 to 10, Schedule No. 2, Clauses
Column 149Nos. 11 to 14, Schedule No. 3, Clauses Nos. 15 to 18, Schedule No. 4, Clause No. 19, Schedule No. 5, Clauses Nos. 20 to 24, Schedule No. 6, Clauses Nos. 25 to 28, Schedule No. 7, Clauses Nos. 29 to 32, Schedule No. 8, Clause No. 33, Schedule No. 9, Clauses Nos. 34 to 74, Schedules Nos. 10 and 11 and Clause No. 75 ; Government new Clauses ; remaining new Clauses.
(2) The following table shall be substituted for the Table set out at the end of that Resolution :
Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
Amendments up to the end of Schedule No. 3 5.30 p.m.
Amendments up to the end of Clause No. 75 6.30 p.m.
Government new Clauses 7.30 p.m.
New Clauses Nos. 1 to 10 10.00 p.m.
Remaining proceedings on consideration 11.00 p.m.
Third Reading Midnight
Self-Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Bill
As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
but the Secretary of State shall not, in performing the duty, or exercising the power, distinguish, as regards the benefits or services provided or as regards the terms on which they are provided, between pupils at any self- governing school and pupils at education authority schools in the same area.'.
Mr. Speaker : With this, it will be convenient to consider the following Government amendments : No. 72, No. 83, No. 84, No. 91, No. 92 ; and Government new clause 25-- Recurrent grant in respect of provision for special educational needs.
Mr. Canavan : As the Bill stands, it is a serious threat to one of the basic principles of comprehensive education,--equality of educational opportunity for all children and young people, irrespective of their ability or aptitude. One of the finest achievements of the 1964-70 Labour Government was the introduction of comprehensive education, and it is worth recalling that it was introduced in Scotland without legislation. The then Secretary of State for Scotland, Willie Ross, simply sent a circular round to all local education authorities in Scotland, and even the few authorities which were Tory-controlled complied with the Secretary of State's request, because it was reasonable and because there was such widespread consensus in Scotland at that time about the fairness of comprehensive education, and particularly the basic principle of equality of educational opportunity. Many people saw through the unfairness and the evils of the two-tier system, under which children were selected or rejected at the ages of 11 or 12 on the result of just one test.
It is greatly to be regretted that the Government have now broken the consensus in favour of comprehensive education, a system for which there is still widespread support in Scotland. Scotland moved towards comprehensive education without the need for legislation, yet the Government are forcing this Bill through the House against the wishes of elected Scottish Members, the majority of those working in education and the majority of parents, all of whom want nothing to do with such an infringement of the basic principle of equality of educational opportunity.
There is an understandable fear of a return to a two-tier system, and without my amendment there will be an increased chance of that happening. The Secretary of State may show bias towards self-governing schools and give them special treatment or unfair advantage over local authority schools. The Government are intent upon eroding the local authority education sector. For political, not educational, reasons, the Secretary of State may try to
Column 151encourage that erosion by giving additional funds to schools that opt for self-governing status, in the hope that that will have a snowball effect, with more parents voting for self-governing status because they want that additional funding for their children. The Bill will split the local authority education system into two different sorts of school. The self-governing schools will be funded by direct grant from the Secretary of State, with the remainder being funded, as at present, by local authorities. The local authority is dependent upon the Secretary of State, through revenue support grant, for most of the money that it spends on education. It is also dependent upon him for borrowing consent for capital for projects such as the building of new schools or extensions to existing schools. The Secretary of State will have his hands on the purse strings not only of what he hopes will be self-governing schools but, indirectly, of local authority schools. There will be an opportunity for a certain amount of financial manipulation to give unfair advantage to self-governing schools.
The amendment would place upon the Secretary of State a statutory responsibility to be as even-handed as possible between local authority schools and self-governing schools. The Minister may have already noticed that there is a similarity in the wording of my amendment to clause 24, which states :
"the authority shall not, in performing the duty, or exercising the power, distinguish, as regards the benefits or services provided or as regards the terms on which they are provided, between those two categories of pupil."
The two categories of pupils referred to are those at self-governing schools and those at education authority schools. To refresh the memories of those who were members of the Committee, and the memories of Members present now for Report, clause 24 refers to certain services and benefits for pupils which will continue to be the statutory responsibility of the education authority even for self-governing schools after opting out has taken place. Schedule 6 specifies the obligations which the education authority shall continue to have even after self-governing status has been acquired. Those responsibilities include the responsibility for health and cleanliness of pupils.
Health and cleanliness are important. It is often said that cleanliness is next to godliness. However, educational opportunity is also important. With regard to the important aspect of educational opportunity, which is the prime function of a school, the Secretary of State should have a continuing responsibility to be even-handed in his treatment of education authority schools and any schools which may opt for self-governing status.
If the drafters of the legislation, and presumably the Secretary of State, thought it necessary to write into the Bill a continuing statutory responsibility on education authorities in connection with self-governing schools, I maintain that there is an equally compelling case to place a statutory responsibility on the Secretary of State to be even-handed in his treatment of the two different categories of schools and the two different categories of pupils. The Secretary of State has some responsibility, directly or indirectly, for the education of all children in Scotland. It is sometimes said that we are all Jock Tamson's bairns. However, in this matter of education, I suppose we are all
Column 152the Secretary of State's bairns. Just like any good parent who tries to be even-handed with his or her children, if the Secretary of State is to be a responsible and good Secretary of State for education in Scotland, he should have regard to the need for equality of educational opportunity between children attending self-governing schools and those attending education authority schools in the same area.
Unfortunately, the Secretary of State so far, by many of his actions, has failed to live up to his responsibility to be even-handed with pupils, whatever school they attend or whatever category they fall into. That is obvious from the massive cuts in educational provision and the resources provided to education authority schools. Those cuts have been imposed by the Government while at the same time, they can find millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to operate the assisted places scheme in non-education authority schools, which in effect means that millions of pounds of public money are being given out to bolster that privileged sector of education which caters for less than 4 per cent. of Scottish children.
In view of the Secretary of State's track record in being very unfair and using public money to bolster privilege while at the same time denying adequate resources to 96 per cent. of children who attend education authority schools in Scotland, there is a strong need for a statutory responsibility like that proposed in my amendment. It would place the onus on the Secretary of State to give equality of treatment to all children in Scotland, instead of giving an unfair advantage to a privileged minority.
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood) : The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) made three or four general points in support of the amendment before coming to the point of principle. I accept at the outset that he has a genuine point of principle, but the amendment is unnecessary.
The hon. Gentleman's first point was that the legislation is being passed against the wishes of the majority of parents. It is worth reiterating that nothing will happen at self-governing schools unless the parents wish it to happen. Under the revised provisions before the House, there will, if necessary, be two ballots of parents and, unless they express the wish for their school to have self-governing status, there will be no change. Therefore, this is purely permissive legislation. That is the crucial point against those who have sought to tell the Scottish people that anybody will be forced to do anything under the self-governing clauses.
The hon. Gentleman's second point was that the legislation seeks to undermine the comprehensive system. I have no doubt that we shall return to that point during the debate, but it is not central to the hon. Gentleman's case at this stage. However, it is interesting to note what has been revealed about Opposition Members' view of the objectives of Scotland's comprehensive education system. The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) made a remarkable admission in an article in the Glasgow Herald this morning. In a number of respects, it was a remarkably honest article, and I commend him on that. He said :
"Before 1979, Education was used by successive governments in an attempt to engineer an even more egalitarian society."
All is revealed. That is what the Labour Government's education policies in Scotland were all about--not according to propaganda from the Adam Smith Institute
Column 153or the Tory party central office, but according to the Labour party's Front-Bench education spokesman. They were all about social engineering.
Mr. Stewart : I shall not make any personal comment on the hon. Gentleman's education. As he knows, I am a product of the Scottish comprehensive education system, and proud to be so. However, I went through that system rather earlier than the hon. Gentleman. Dundee high school has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion). He will be glad to know, as I am sure the House will be, that this year Dundee high school celebrates its 750th year. Those who sometimes make the most wild assertions about Scottish educational traditions should bear in mind the fact that the tradition of that school has continued in Dundee for three quarters of a millenium.
The third point made by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West related to the assisted places scheme. However, that scheme is about choice, just as the provisions to which the amendment refers are about choice. [Interruption.] Let me give the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) a quotation, again from the revealing article written by the hon. Member for Fife, Central :
"the hi-jacking and exploitation by the right of parental choice is one of their most significant victories."
I agree. It is a significant and continuing victory.
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the assisted places scheme is a creaming-off process that attacks comprehensive education, by taking certain children out of it to receive special treatment. The same was done a long time ago. The scheme favours a particular grouping, and the price of it goes up year by year at the expense of comprehensive education.
Mr. Stewart : Not at all. The scheme is designed to give those having incomes below a certain level the opportunity to send their children to particular schools. The scheme extends choice and gives parents an opportunity to choose a particular sector of education. It makes no attack on the comprehensive system.
Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East) : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House over the way in which the assisted places scheme operates. He seems to suggest that all parents having an income below the level to which he referred have a right to an assisted place for their child, but he knows perfectly well that that is not true. The headmaster of the school operating the scheme has the final say. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is right to say that the headmaster--correctly, from his point of view--chooses the cream of the pupils. There are hundreds and hundreds of cases of children of parents who meet the income criteria being refused admission.
Mr. Stewart : I am grateful to the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) for confirming that there is a large demand for assisted places. That line was not generally taken by Labour Members in Committee, but the hon. Member for Falkirk, East has more experience and understanding of Scottish education trends than do
Column 154members of the Labour Front Bench. While the hon. Gentleman is correct to say that not every pupil who wants such an education has an opportunity to receive it, that is not an argument for not extending that opportunity whenever possible.
The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) argues that there should be an equality of treatment as between the Secretary of State's financing of self-governing schools and that which the Secretary of State partly, if not wholly, determines for schools in the local authority sector. The Government's position on that aspect has been stated with great clarity. At the 18th sitting of the First Scottish Standing Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister stated : "It may help the Committee if I restate the cardinal principle that an individual self-governing school should be neither better nor worse off than it could reasonably have expected if it had remained under local authority management. That phrase has been used many times in Committee and was contained in the descriptive paper that we issued in December, and discussed in response to points made by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion)."
I recall that he did so with the brevity to which members of the Committee became accustomed during its proceedings : My hon. Friend continued :
"Therefore, it is right that they should be treated no better and no worse than would be expected for equivalent schools managed by the education authority for the same area."--[ Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 20 April 1989 ; c. 854.]
That seems crystal clear to me. I would expect my hon. Friend the Minister to express some sympathy with the general point of principle made by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West--although not with many of his arguments--but I feel that the amendment is unnecessary.
Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) referred to the three quarters of a millenium for which Dundee high school has served the people of Dundee. I must point out to him that it has not served them all ; it has served only those who could afford the fees. The Opposition are entirely opposed to any link between access to education and ability to pay, which is why we do not rejoice in 750 years of Dundee people being refused education.
Mr. McAllion : I look forward to the day when access to education is given freely and equally across the country, irrespective of ability to pay. I certainly support the abolition of public funding for the independent sector. If people want to do their own thing with their own money that is their affair, but they cannot look to public funds from the taxpayer for the indoctrination of elitism in a whole new generation of children.
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North) rose --
Mr. Walker : I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way in his usual courteous manner. Does he agree that pupils from his constituency and mine attend Dundee high school under the assisted placed scheme because of the level of their parents' income and also because they were acceptable, being, in most cases, able and talented? Those
Column 155children have been given a unique opportunity. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that children should not be offered such opportunities?
Mr. McAllion : The hon. Gentleman entirely misrepresents the scheme. Private fee-paying schools suffer from the same problem experienced for many years by public-sector schools--falling rolls. Because falling rolls meant that the private sector could not maintain its own business, the Government dreamed up the assisted places scheme as a way of filling places with the help of public money. That is why the Labour party will phase out the scheme when they come to office at the next election--as we will ; make no mistake about that.
The hon. Member for Eastwood said that he considered the amendment unnecessary. He would think that, because it ties down the Secretary of State for Scotland to treating both sectors fairly. The Conservative party does not want that ; it wants to leave the Secretary of State enough room to exercise bias in the allocation of funds.
The hon. Gentleman also said that the Bill was purely permissive. That is not true. Under the clause as it stands, the Secretary of State will clearly favour schools that opt for self-governing status. Parents will quickly get the message : if they want their kids to be educated in a decent school--a decent building with decent equipment and well-paid teachers--they had better opt out of local authority control, because the Secretary of State for Scotland is going to squeeze public-sector funds and force them out. There is nothing permissive about that. My hon. Friend's amendment is right on the ball, and should be supported.
In Committee, the Minister said that self-governing schools would receive exactly the same funding as they might reasonably have expected had they remained under local authority control. Such a proposition is unproblematic only if schools that opt out remain unchanged under the direct rule of the Scottish Office. What will happen when the Government try to apply that principle? What if the roll changes in a school? The funding will then have to change as well. Who will decide how it is to change? The Secretary of State for Scotland.
What if the character of the school changes? That is also permissible under the Bill. A school may go for academic selection or for single-sex status-- or, indeed, mixed status--which will obviously have funding implications. Who makes the decision about funding implications? Again, the Secretary of State for Scotland makes it, completely on his own.
What about the capital requirements of a school? It is hard to imagine that the Secretary of State for Scotland will know what the capital funding of any school might have received, had it remained under education authority control. He would need to know the state of the building and the level of priorities in a particular school compared with other schools in the education authority's area, and also where the school would be placed in the programme by the education authority. All that the Secretary of State can do is to put a school at the top of the list and provide it with more capital funding than it might have received from the education authority. I do not know how anyone can say that the Secretary of State will not be allowed to do that.
Column 156If the Secretary of State is serious about the principle that there will be no additional funding for self-governing schools that opt out, he must accept the amendment. It writes on to the face of the Bill a restriction that the Secretary of State for Scotland must be fair to both sectors.
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton) : On the point about the funding of self -governing schools being the same as that of local authority schools, does not my hon. Friend agree that, for years, Scottish local authorities, particularly Labour-controlled local authorities, have spent more on education than the Government say that they ought to have spent? We have been told by the Government that, although local authorities have spent over the limit during the last 10 years, they will nevertheless be given as much as they have already spent on education because they believed that it was essential to spend that much on education. That holds the key to the debate. The Government will sugar the pill with extra finance and thereby allow self-governing schools to opt out. The Government have given no credible answer on that point.
Mr. McAllion : My hon. Friend has made a fair point. that is obvious to everyone in Scotland, particularly since last Thursday's European election results, when the Tories were finally rejected completely in Scotland. To those of us who live in Scotland, it has been obvious for many years that the Government have been squeezing the funds that they have made available to public sector schools. They have squeezed the money that they have made available to education authorities, mostly by controlling what is now called the revenue support grant. They have placed strict limits on education authority spending. The poll tax will now make it virtually impossible for education authorities to raise enough money to spend on schools.
The Government are trying to ensure that the kind of services that are provided by education authorities will be minimal. They have provided them with only minimal funding for those services. At the same time, they have tried to create a new self-governing sector to which the Secretary of State for Scotland, who will have no restrictions placed upon him as the Bill stands, will be able to allocate funds as he likes.
That is the carrot that will be used to tempt parents to take advantage of what was described by the hon. Member for Eastwood as purely permissive legislation, although it is nothing of the kind. It is a carrot to try to save the reputation of the radical, far Right-wing Minister with responsibility for education in Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). He wants to create a two-tier system and also to destroy the local education authority schools sector in Scotland. This is another step down that road. God knows what will come after this measure. When the School Boards (Scotland) Bill was considered, it was said that it would give power back to the parents. Power was not given back to the parents. Instead, it paved the way for the Self-Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Bill. This Bill will pave the way for yet another monstrous piece of legislation, behind which there will be only one principle--to attack the public provision of education and to destroy local authority schools. That is why the House, in line with the people of Scotland, should vote for the amendment.
Mr. Bill Walker : I welcome the opportunity to speak on the amendment. I am sure that the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) will be read with great interest by his constituents and also by mine, particularly his views on that very fine school, Dundee high school. I did not attend that school, nor did any of my children, but as a Dundonian I believe that it has enhanced the status and position of Dundee, a status and position that sadly, it would not enjoy without the school. It has contributed handsomely in the past to the provision of many leaders in almost every walk of life. However, the hon. Member for Dundee, East, has put it on record that he wishes that school, after 750 years, to be destroyed.
That is not so very surprising. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) referred to the fact that in today's Glasgow Herald, there is a most interesting article by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish). I am confident that it will be referred to regularly in future and that his attention will be drawn to it on many occasions. There is no question that he has set out clearly what the views of the Labour party are and have been. He wrote : "Before 1979 Education was used by successive Governments in an attempt to engineer a more egalitarian society."
The hon. Member for Fife, Central is nodding in agreement. He is obviously proud of that. That is good, because I shall find that article very useful in future. I shall also find it useful to quote back to him his comment earlier in the same article that
"privatisation represents a much greater threat than
There is nothing in the Bill about privatisation. Self-governing schools are not privatised schools.
The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), to give him credit, is consistent. He found it just as difficult to live with a Labour Government as he does with a Conservative Government. He said that in Scotland today the Conservative Government are putting through legislation which is opposed by the majority of Scottish Members in the House. Of course, that is nothing new. I remind him that the Labour Government passed a Bill through the House to abolish the grammar schools--a fundamental change in English education--without a majority in England. I do not argue with that, because I believe that the unitary Parliament is the right place to take such decisions, but the hon Gentleman and his colleagues cannot have it both ways. They either support the unitary Parliament and what it does or they do not.
In the euphoria since last Thursday--I congratulate the new Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) who is obviously a credit to the Labour party and I am sure will be a credit to the House--Labour Members have been very happy with the result and the leaders of the Labour party have been making noises about what they will do in government. If the Labour party was in government, in the same situation as previously, when it had no majority in England, quite properly it would wish to put through legislation affecting England, using its majority in other parts of the United Kingdom--usually Scotland and Wales--to make sure that that legislation got through. The hon. Gentleman is not being even-handed, which is unlike him as he is usually pretty consistent in the way in which he deals with these matters.