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Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : Northern Ireland is under a great shadow tonight. Two gallant members of the Army were murdered this afternoon, with another seriously injured. Those who did those acts evidently escaped over the border to the Irish Republic. We meet under that shadow. It runs deep into the hearts of the Ulster people. I want to express our sincerest sympathy to the families and the assurance of our prayers at Christmas time. They have received terrible tidings that will go down into the depths of their hearts. Before I come to my main points, I wish to protest about the procedure tonight. We are at a great disadvantage. This is a massive Order in Council. If it were a Bill, I do not know how long it would take to go through this House and its Committee stages, yet we have to discuss it in three hours. I do not blame the Minister--he gave way quite often--and I do not blame the Opposition spokesman, but at the end of the day, and because in courtesy we must allow time for the Front-Bench spokesmen to reply, we are left with only one and a half hours to debate the order. That makes it not a properly brought about law, but rule by decree. That is the measure of how the procedure has deteriorated.
The Minister and others have said that we might have had only an hour and a half in total. I know that, but must tell the Minister that three hours is just crumbs from the rich man's table. To be told that we are lucky to have three hours rather than an hour and a half is like the dog licking the sores after he gets the crumbs. That is how we feel about this procedure tonight. The Government should have provided at least a full day's debate on this Order in Council. We are asked, "Why do not the leaders of the Unionist parties and the SDLP get together?" We did, and we made a request for further time to debate this matter. What happened? The Government said, "Oh no, you are not getting any further time." What is the use of the Government preaching that we should get together when, on the simple matter of giving Government time to deal with an order that the Minister admits is comprehensive and drastic and turns around education in Northern Ireland, we are denied further time and asked to consider it in these circumstances? The anomaly is that, if it were a Bill about education in England, Wales or Scotland, I could move an amendment ; for Northern Ireland, however, I cannot move an amendment. All that we can do is to vote against the motion, and I shall exercise my right to vote against it. It is the only way to register my protest at the way that this matter has been arranged. I know that the Minister will say that there was time to consult. Democracy is not built on consultation and the
Column 1112Government deciding what the consensus is. The Government have the right to consult the people concerned, but the meaning of democracy is having a proper debate in the parliamentary forum, where the legislation can be examined line by line, arguments can be advanced, and the Minister must reply. The reply may not convince those who oppose him, but at least he has to attempt to justify the legislation.
We could not read this Order in Council in one and a half hours. We could not intelligently digest it in one and a half hours. Yet that is the impossible test for us. What an uproar there would be if this was offered as an Order in Council for England or Wales. What an uproar there would be if it were to be passed as we are being asked to pass this Order in Council. The Minister and the Secretary of State could have helped us a great deal if they had said, "Look, we are dealing with the whole of the education system of Northern Ireland, so let us have a full day's debate at least, and let it be open-ended so that all hon. Members can take part."
Many hon. Members from England, Wales and Scotland would have liked to take part in the debate. No doubt their contributions would have been valuable. But, out of respect to Northern Ireland Members, they are giving us what little time there is. That is not helpful, as Northern Ireland happens to be, and I trust will ever continue to be, a part of this United Kingdom.
Mr. Alton : I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman. Is there not overwhelming evidence that throughout the House hon. Members want to see the establishment of a Northern Ireland Standing Committee so that issues such as this can be remitted to it for proper discussion? Does the hon. Gentleman also agree that if there is ever to be normalisation of politics in Northern Ireland, these bread-and-butter issues are exactly the sort of thing that should be analysed line by line in Committee before they come to the House to be pushed through in this undemocratic way?
Rev. Ian Paisley : That is a right which has nothing to do with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. As of right, Northern Ireland should be treated like any other part of the United Kingdom. A happier position would be a devolved Administration in Stormont. A happier position would be that those Northern Ireland Members who are affected by such legislation could debate it. That was done in consultation in the Stormont assembly, but we at least had the opportunity to examine Orders in Council line by line.
The time has come for a change. But I do not want a talking shop upstairs with no power. Legislation should be submitted as a Bill, so that amendments could be moved in a proper Committee session, if not on the Floor of the House, at least after a Second Reading on the Floor of the House. That would give Northern Ireland Members real power, and that is what we want.
Mr. John D. Taylor : Does the hon. Gentleman understand why the Government introduced the fair employment legislation in the form of a Bill, but introduced this much more important piece of legislation on education reform in the form of an order?
Column 1113Northern Ireland. I do not know. But the Minister can argue his own case. I shall not be an apologist for the Government.
Mr. Lenihan made a long statement in The Irish Times in which he said that education was thoroughly discussed at the Anglo-Irish Conference, and matters relating to opposition from Nationalists to certain Government proposals were discussed and would be further discussed as they were important matters.
The Minister guarded himself carefully and gracefully. He said, "We did not submit this to the southern Government." No. But according to Mr. Lenihan, statements and matters in the order were discussed at an Anglo-Irish Conference. I suppose that the controversial matters were discussed and exchanges made. We will never know, because they are like masonic lodge meetings. They are on the square. We will never know exactly what takes place behind the doors. We shall have to leave the matter there.
However, I would take exception to the Minister pretending--I hope that I do not misjudge him ; I do not want to do so--that Dublin had no influence on the matter. Dublin has an influence on all legislation that comes before the House for Northern Ireland through the Anglo-Irish Conference.
The order deals with the general duties of the Department, the curriculum, the admission of children to grant-aided schools, the financing of schools, integrated education and general provisions relating to education in the Province. Its scope is wide-ranging. It is not right to ask hon. Members to say whether they are for or against integrated education. I sent my children to an integrated school. They sat side by side with Roman Catholics. Education in Northern Ireland should be non-sectarian. Northern Ireland's state schools are not Protestant schools. The education system should be non-denominational. Denominational ministers should have the right to instruct children in state schools according to the tenets of their faith.
That is impossible in Northern Ireland, for the simple reason that the Stormont Government built up the grant system for Roman Catholic schools, not for Protestant schools. Dr. William Corkey has written up the story of the battle for grants, and it is available in the Library.
When I was in Los Angeles, I met about 100 pressmen. I asked them, "How much money does the Government here give to Roman Catholic schools?" They said, "Not a penny." I asked, "Do they pay teachers' salaries?" They said, "Not a penny." Then I asked whether the Government paid their pensions. The reply was, "Not a penny", so I pointed out to them that they had said that, during 50 or 60 years of Stormont misrule, Roman Catholics had been very badly treated. Roman Catholic Church schools were liberally treated by the Stormont Government. Their representatives should acknowledge that fact. We cannot now say to the Roman Catholic Church, "We're going to take away all your grants." It is impossible to create a non-sectarian, non- denominational system of education for Northern Ireland. It is developing into three systems.
The tragedy, however, is that the Government have not allowed every system to take its chance. They have made special provision for integrated schools. What about state
Column 1114schools that have been integrated for a long time? What about schools that have always opened their doors to those on both sides of the ecumenical divide? One state school in Londonderry that the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) knows very well, in an area where there has been severe bombing, has been integrated almost from the beginning. Both Protestants and Catholics attend that school. However, it will not enjoy the same financial advantages as an integrated school will enjoy. It is not fair that those who have worked hard should be treated in this way.
Everybody knows about my opposition to the Roman Catholic Church, but it has worked hard and increased the number of Roman Catholic schools. Why should they be discriminated against? The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) may smile, but Roman Catholics have come to me and said, "We are being discriminated against." The bishops have threatened to take the Minister to court. The hon. Gentleman need not shake his head. Members of his own Church in Northern Ireland are not happy about the proposals in the order. I am not their spokesman, but that needs to be said.
Mr. Alton : An interesting coalition appears to be developing between the hon. Gentleman and Cardinal O'Fiaich. I do not support the idea of sectarian education. The hon. Gentleman should look at what happened in the diocese of Chelmsford last week, when an Anglican school and a Roman Catholic school amalgamated to become a Christian school. Christians decided to work together to provide non-sectarian education in which Christian values could be maintained. I hope he will consider that as a comparable model for Northern Ireland.
I am asking that all the systems should stand equally in the market and be treated in the same way. But they are not being treated equally. I shall illustrate that point. Hazelwood school, which I am sure the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) knows well, had to close down. It was immediately turned into an integrated school and money was poured into it. Although the attendance at that school has not improved, I understand that it was closed because of falling pupil attendance. That is not right, because the state sector suffered to the advantage of the integrated sector. I agree with the spokesman for the Ulster Unionist party, the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs), that we should look at the results of integrated education.
The hon. Member for Mossley Hill mentioned Lagan college. I am sure that he would hope that Lagan college would keep within the law. Is he aware that that building was built without planning permission and defied the planners? Is he aware that there had to be an enforcement order against it? Is he aware that only influence in the Department prevented them from being taken to court while other people who put up a sign saying, "Belfast says No" were taken to court? Those are the facts. The hon. Gentleman should go to Castlereagh council planners and find out exactly what happened in respect of Lagan college. Are those the ethics that they plan to teach their young people? Example is stronger than precept, so they should set the right example.
Column 1115The hon. Member for Mossley Hill referred to a coalition. I am opposed to abortion, but that does not mean that I join the Roman Catholic lobby in my opposition to abortion, so let us not talk foolishly about coalitions, but see things in perspective. I am worried about the emphasis that has been placed on education for mutual understanding and cultural heritage. I am sure that the Minister will understand how I feel. He told a certain gathering that part of the work of education for mutual understanding
"would be to de-mythologise some beliefs among children." Where do they get those beliefs? Are they the beliefs of their parents? It does not matter which side of the argument one supports. There are people who consider that some of my beliefs should be de-mythed, and equally I consider that some of their beliefs should be de-mythed, but who is to decide?
When the Minister says that education for mutual understanding is to de- myth some beliefs among children, I regard that as a very serious statement. I do not like the underhand way in which this matter is being handled. Teachers who were called to a conference in Enniskillen were told to tell no one its purpose. The first steps in this education for mutual understanding came from that conference. No teacher has a right to say to a child, "Do not tell your parent where you are going today."
I strongly protest. I should like the Minister to give me an unequivocal assurance that that will not be his Department's policy and that parents will have the right to say whether their child goes somewhere and say that he will not study a certain book. I should like the Minister to tell us all the beliefs that he thinks need to be de-mythed. He had better start working on that. Proceedings in the House begin every day with a prayer from the Prayer Book. Some things in it are anathema to the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholics would say that that Prayer Book should be de- mythed. Everyone has a right to his beliefs.
I do not believe that education for mutual understanding and cultural heritage will achieve anything. A faceless member of the educational establishment stood up and said, "The older generation of Ulster will never change, but we will change their offspring." That was a reference to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I have news for the Minister. An attempt was made recently to involve schoolchildren in a massive rally, but it did not come off because the children did not come. We cannot change children.
Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith) : The hon. Gentleman said that we cannot change children. If he is correct, that means that their view will not differ from his, and of course we respectfully listen to his view. An Edinburgh person called James Connolly went to Ireland and argued in a Marxist way for a Socialist Ireland. Surely his view should be understood in Ireland, North and South. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is anathema to the South, to the green Tories as well as to orange Tories? Does he agree that James Connolly's view is understandable and acceptable?
Column 1116ward. Lord Fitt was there as well. He was a Connolly man and preached Connolly's Marxism in the streets of the Dock ward. I have been well indoctrinated, and I know exactly what Connolly believed. It is not the duty of a teacher to de-myth the beliefs in which a child has been brought up. If we make schools a place where we change children's beliefs, we are on dangerous ground.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) has a family. If he has, its members would probably have been brought up to be staunch Socialists. He would not want a Tory teacher to say, "I have come to de-myth your beliefs," and teach the child the wonders of capitalism and all the blessings that flow from it. The hon. Gentleman would be the first to denounce the teacher and all his work.
Rev. Martin Smyth : Following through his argument, does the hon. Gentleman accept that, apart from what teachers may be asked to do, it is wholly anathema for a Conservative Government who talk about parental choice to try to impose this indoctrination on our children?
Rev. Ian Paisley : I thoroughly agree with that comment. I should have thought that no Government in Westminster would take that line. This is a serious matter and it is causing great concern in Northern Ireland. I do not know what will be taught in the Roman Catholic schools. I should like to sit in on their education for mutual understanding and to see the textbooks that they will use. I should like to know what will happen. The Secretary of State made a dangerous speech when he said that the Government would "de-myth" the beliefs of children.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Might de-mything not depend on the approach that is adopted to try alter people's views in the long term? Will there be counter-indoctrination to try to change people's views or will there be questioning, which should be part of education? Will there be questioning of beliefs as well as everything else? In the questioning process, it is possible that different, freely chosen views will start to emerge in the children who are subject to that climate of investigation.
Rev. Ian Paisley : The hon. Gentleman refers to education, but education is a different matter altogether. De-mything beliefs will go to the heart of a child's beliefs. Where do children get their beliefs? They get them from their parents and from the Church in which they are brought up.
Rev. Ian Paisley : They get them from their parents. It may be that there are prejudices. Some Tories would say that the hon. Gentleman is prejudiced. Where does it end? Let us get the matter straight. I do not know or care whether the House agrees with me : I do not believe that it is the duty of a teacher to de-myth belief. It is the duty of the teacher to say what happened when giving a history lesson and to paint Cromwell, warts and all. The teacher should tell it as it is. Hon. Members may not know that, unfortunately, Irish history was never taught in the schools of Northern Ireland. I never learned Irish history in my curriculum because the state schools never taught Irish history.
Column 1117Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : It is not taught over here either.
Rev. Ian Paisley : I had to read all about it when I was older. All I can say to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes)--and I know his view of the matter--is that a teacher has a responsibility, but it is wrong to put this extra load on the teachers of Northern Ireland. They cannot carry it, and it is not fair to them. The Government have no right to try blatantly to manipulate children who are sent to school. That view must be stated.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Yes, of course I indoctrinate them in church by preaching, but they can say aye or no. The very genius of Protestantism is not authoritarianism, but the right of every man to choose for himself. I can preach to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith the necessity for a new life and a new birth, but he may not accept that. He may say that he does not want anything to do with that new life or that new birth and that he will go his own way. He is entitled to do that. I am not going to get into a preaching session with the hon. Gentleman or we might have a penitent, and dear knows what would happen. He might be lost to the Socialist party eventually.
Education for mutual understanding causes serious doubts. The committee that drew up the curriculum is very unbalanced. I do not see one prominent member of the Protestant community, although I see names of people who are well known for their religious and political views. Why was a man who was well known for his Protestantism, as some of these people are well known for their Roman Catholicism, not chosen as a member of the committee to draw up the proper curriculum? Those are the questions that need to be asked, and I should like the Minister to tell us why that did not happen.
I must now deal with finance--
Mr. William Ross : Before the hon. Gentleman gets too far away from the whole question of religious instruction, let me ask him this. Did he note that the Minister said that the Department's inspectors would examine the quality of religious education, and would he, with his own religious qualifications, care to inquire what theological training the Department's inspectors have?
Rev. Ian Paisley : I do not know anything about the inspectors at the Northern Ireland Office ; I do not know what their religion is or what their religious views are. I can only say that I fear that this concept will take us into deep waters, and I do not think that we should embark upon it. If people want to hear what others teach and believe, they have a perfect right to hear it directly from those people's representatives. But it is not right to tell teachers that it is part of their job to de-myth children's beliefs.
The financing of schools will play an important part in the programme. I fear for secondary schools. I fear that grammar schools will be put at a great advantage because they can take in all the pupils that they want to accept but can then exercise a veto. The headmaster can say. "You cannot send your child to this school because it will be detrimental to his educational interests." That is too strong a veto for any headmaster to have, and I do not think that it is right and proper that secondary schools should be put at that disadvantage. I worry about
Column 1118secondary schools, especially in the areas that the hon. Member for Antrim, East mentioned, because they are in danger.
It has been argued that the financing of schools should be put on a par. But will we bring all the schools up to the same level before introducing level pegging? That is an important matter, and I ask the Minister to enlarge on that theme. Can we have the money to pay for the massive changes that are envisaged? One only gets what one pays for. The time has come for the Minister to tell us whether he is prepared to bring all the schools up to a certain level before he starts handing out the grant because at present some of the schools are disadvantaged.
The hon. Member for Londonderry, East made an important point when he asked about the schools whose grounds are filled with Portakabins. Will they be given proper capital grant so that they can build proper school rooms, or will they be left as they are? We need to know that, and I trust that the Minister will be able to help us.
We must also consider the whole concept of the curriculum. We know that the Government are postponing for a period their production of the new national curriculum, but the Minister should spell out clearly what the Government propose to do in Northern Ireland. Article 158 of the draft order is viewed by many as a dictatorial and draconian measure. It seems from article 158 that, despite being obliged to consult, the Department of Education is given wide-ranging powers in regard to the education service in Northern Ireland. We are well used to diktat in Northern Ireland, and it seems that the order will perpetuate that feature of life in the Province.
I have a question about the new Council for Catholic Maintained Schools. The Minister said that education does not come under the Fair Employment Commission, but am I not right to think that boards and their employees come under its remit?
Dr. Mawhinney : The hon. Member is making a good point. Schedule 9 provides that staff employed by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools are subject to the ombudsman and the fair employment legislation.
I think that boards are having powers taken from them. I wonder whether the Minister is moving towards having one board for the whole of Northern Ireland. Having got one Roman Catholic board, is he trying to get one education board for the other schools? Perhaps he would care to tell us whether that is what he has in mind. There is no doubt that boards' powers are being depleted. Many people who want to serve on them, and who have done good service on them, will not want to serve because they will not have the powers they want to exercise to help forward education in Northern Ireland.
I regret that we cannot have a proper debate, move amendments and have a free-for-all. That is not possible, so my colleagues and I will vote against the order.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : I appreciate that many right hon. and hon. Members want to speak and I shall try to be brief, but we have had two long speeches from members of the Unionist community in the North of
Column 1119Ireland, so if I require more time than I should like to take to describe a different view, I shall, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, take it.
I deeply regret that it is the present Minister with responsibility for education who is bringing this order forward. I have found him prepared to listen to people's views, to get out of the ivory tower and to talk to people. That has been noticeable. I say with the utmost sincerity that I cannot understand why he has not got the message from the entire community which we shall give him tonight. I and my party will vote against the order with the other political parties in the North of Ireland, knowing full well that our opposition is shared by the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, all teacher unions, area boards and the Council for Integrated Education
I want to know who these people are who were able to have such influence on this Minister who, to his credit, travels the North of Ireland and listens to people. Those people will have told him that he is touching a raw nerve. For historical reasons, education is part of the folk memory in the North of Ireland. People of the same religious denominations as the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and me were once not allowed to be educated. We are non-conformists in our various ways. We could not have schools and be educated because we were considered dangerous. What did we do? We had something called Hedge schools. That is going back a bit, but it is relevant because it is in the memory of the people in the North of Ireland. That is why their nerves are touched by these proposals. That is why when the Minister started to bring forward these proposals, manyof us said to him, "Tread softly because you are not just treading on dreams ; you are treading on the sacrifices that many families made to create and build schools and to send their children to them. You are treading on the deep pride of local communities at having their own spick and span schools and at having a good education system." The people of Ireland have always taken pride in education for the simple reason that in many ways it has been the only alternative to the dole queues in the present and to famine in the past. We asked him to tread softly--
Rev. Martin Smyth : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way on that point which I should like to underscore. Does he equally acknowledge that it was out of our Presbyterian tradition that the Royal Belfast Academical Institution was founded? It was open to everybody and was to the educational benefit of the Minister.
Mr. Mallon : I confirm exactly what the hon. Gentleman has said and that the same position applied to many schools in the North of Ireland which did not draw attention to the fact that they were indulging in what is now called "integrated education". They did not have to do it, but they were making a contribution and the community knew it and responded.
Ironically in a place such as the North of Ireland, where the whole fabric of society is falling down around us, the Government have chosen to change the one thing that was succeeding--the education system. Furthermore, they are changing it fundamentally. It will not be easy because those traditions are in our folk memory and in people's historical dimensions. They are shared by the people of the North of Ireland. Given that the three Northern Ireland
Column 1120parties in the House are asking the Government to stop, even at this late stage, will not the Minister recognise that fact and respond to it? Has he chosen to tread on all those susceptibilities to cater for the predilections of the few? Who are they? I do not know because we have not been told, but we are entitled to know. I should like to make many points about the order, but time does not allow it and I shall make only four. First, I should like to consider the one most important thing in education, which has not yet been mentioned tonight, and that is the child, the person who is being educated, and who I believe must have some rights in this. I am concerned about the rights of the child in relation to the new procedure of testing. I am not opposed to testing. Indeed, as a teacher for 20 years, I used it myself, but there is a difference between diagnostic testing which is helping the teacher and the school to try to gear the child's educational programme, and testing that puts one child against another, one school against another and one position against another. I believe that that is contrary to article 16 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which surely must be noted when it states :
"The education of a child shall be directed to (a) the promotion of the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential".
That principle should underlie everything in relation to testing. However, I am afraid that we are getting a market mentality about this. I shall not go so far as to say that we are getting Conservative dogma in that market mentality, but I shall quote from the Ulster Teachers Union which best sums up what I want to say. I give the union credit for saying it much better than I could when it stated that this approach
"reflects the economics of the market place which are not appropriate in the field of human endeavour".
That sums up the way many people feel about this testing. I repeat that I am not against testing--indeed, it is essential to the education process-- but it must be done for the right reasons. It must be done so that we can learn something from it so that the child's education is improved. It must not be done for the reasons behind these proposals.
This testing is dangerous because it is aimed not at the pupil but at the teacher. Who better to quote as an authority for that than the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) who, during the debate on the Education Reform Act 1988, said that resistance to testing came not from pupils and parents, but from teachers. It was a fear of quality control. That is as though we were talking about something which was inhuman and wrapped up in a parcel--part of a market mentality which the Ulster Teachers Union was right to identify. George Orwell said something about this long before the right hon. Member for Chingford.
I shall make a point related to testing, about which I feel strongly, and which I tried to make in an earlier intervention. I have taught in more than one secondary school. The following problem has not been faced by the Government, the Department of Education, the church authorities of whichever church--whether Catholic or controlled : a vast number of young people in the North of Ireland are not receiving the vocational skills they need. We are not training them to be good bricklayers, joiners, cabinet makers and plumbers because the Department says that they must study this subjects, that subject and
Column 1121other subjects. The principal says that they cannot do one subject because we have to compete because if we do not we shall go down the tubes and will not receive more pupils. The management says that the school will not get a good photograph in the local paper for prize-giving day and will not look like a grammar school. What does that matter if we send people out equipped to enter the world and bring their skills and talents to the rest of the community? That is what we should be doing.
The testing procedure is not for the child's benefit or as a diagnostic tool to help the child, but a crude market stick to create competitive forces in a field which, thankfully, has been protected from those forces for more than 40 years. The Minister's reasons are not good, fair, just or workable in the terms stated. I ask him to rethink them.
The other substantive issue to which I wish to draw attention is open enrolment. I shall not have time to expand in detail, but I wish to nail one great lie : open enrolment is not based on parental choice, but is the choice of headmasters of good schools in good areas. That is what open enrolment involves. Grammar schools will increase at the expense of secondary schools, especially those in isolated rural areas and deprived urban areas. Less able pupils will suffer because none of us has had the courage to say, "Let us train people for the lives that they will lead afterwards."
Schools will be categorised. There is a case for rationalisation, but it must be planned and not determined by market forces which are identified in this legislation. The essence of this unfairness is shown by the fact that we have created two types of school : one, called a grammar school, for the academically able pupil ; the other, called a secondary school, for the less academically able. Then we say to the pupils that they will be given a common test and curriculum and be expected to compete. Wonder of wonders, the Department, Her Majesty's inspectors and the Ministers will all be surprised when they do not compete. The absolute injustice of this system is that we put two football teams on the pitch that simply cannot compete against each other.
I am proud to quote from the UTU document which states that the system
"shows a cynical disregard for those smaller, less fortunate and less well- resourced schools which have done splendid work over the years, despite the system which is now going to militate against them even more harshly."
In reality, we are talking about school choice, not parental choice, that will be based on the place where the school is built and the type of pupil who goes towards it and not on the merits of the school. There is the inherent and human element of snobbery in the education system. It will not go away, but we do not have to nurture it in this way.
If we have secondary schools and grammar schools with the same curriculum, tests, assessments and scrutiny, let us give them all some chance of competing equally. Let us have co-ordination, not competition. There must be co-ordination of schools that are not equal initially. Without that, there is injustice.
This is not a debate about integrated education. It is a debate about a set of Government proposals that will give a new sector within the education system preferential treatment in terms of capital expenditure and in jumping the queue to obtain additional capital expenditure, and in
Column 1122my book that is unjust. It is wrong if that advantage is given to a maintained system, a controlled system, an integrated system or any other system. That, however, is Government policy. It is the Government's policy to create that unfairness by providing moneys that other schools will not get. The opting-out provisions will place other schools at a tremendous disadvantage.
The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott), in a fine speech, talked about lack of funding. Funding will be much more of a problem when the pool is much smaller. Surely that is unjust. I am not discussing integrated education, although I think that there is a place for it. When I spoke at the Northern Ireland Assembly as long ago as 1973, I said, "Let's try it. Let's see what is involved. Let's see what it can contribute. Let's have the courage not to turn it down." I emphasised, however, that it should not have unfair advantage. I said that it should not take money from other schools that might have been waiting 15 years for improvements or extensions. I stressed that such a system should not be placed ahead of other schools that had been waiting a long time for valuable moneys. My view was that we should not be unjust in our efforts to be fair, and that is one of the great contradictions in the Government's proposals.
I believe that parents have the right to seek integrated education and to have their children educated within such a system. That right must be defended by us all. They have no reason to tell us of their objectives, definitions or motivations, but we can guess at them. There are some who say that it will contribute to the alleviation of conflict and the promotion of reconciliation. That view deserves to be respected. It is a commitment which deserves to be respected. There are those who say that it is the answer to the divisions in our society. That, too, is a sincere view which must be respected. It is entirely wrong, but it must be respected and we must let people act upon it.
There are those who argue for integrated education for good, old-fashioned snobbish reasons that are always attached to education. Whatever their reasons, people do not have to explain them to us. If, however, a Department brings forward legislation that will be with us into the next century, it has a duty to present and explain its definitions. It must explain its objectives and their bases. Does this order do it? It does not. The Minister failed abysmally to answer the question in the intervention of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown).
We have heard many quaint and whimsical approaches by the Minister and others. The Minister should be honest and tell us the basis of the analysis. Why do the Government think that somewhere down the line the result will be the one that they envisage? People in the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, the SDLP, the DUP, the Ulster Unionists and the teachers' unions might agree with the Minister if only they were told the Government's view. There is a case for being honest in relation to that. There must be an overridingly worthy objective to justify the change and it must justify putting us all through the emotional wringer of this legislation.
The Government cannot get away with not answering questions that they do not like. They are dealing with our lives and, more important, the lives of our children and they have a duty to answer. We await those answers and we want no more whimsy or quaintness. The Government should be straight and deal with the matter. I could go on
Column 1123at great length about that, but I should like to sum up in relation to integration, but not in relation to integrated schools. It is unfair for schools to be put in a queue for scarce money. It is unfair to maintained schools which get 85 per cent. of their capital costs on foot of exercising parental choice. I am a parent and I contribute to that. It is okay for me to do so because I am exercising my parental choice. I have no quarrel with that, but when other people who exercise parental choice on foot of exactly the same position get a 100 per cent. grant I have reason to say that there is a difference which militates against me. There is not parity of treatment nor the type of approach that would add to the status of what will be. None of us knows what integrated education will become, but unfortunately the whole concept has started and has produced emotion and ambivalence all over the North of Ireland. That is bad. I am being encouraged to finish and I shall do so. How can we justify allowing opting-out? If a group of parents decide to have an integrated school, how can the Government justify the taking of property on a different basis from that which applies in England and Wales? The trustees have some rights as well. The order says that the Government will consult the trustees in such circumstances. How nice of the Government. They will say, "That which you have owned for 200 years will be taken away from you, but don't worry because we will consult."
Mr. Mallon : That is right and it goes back to the syndrome that I have spoken about. Section 89(2) of the Education Reform Act 1988 for England and Wales is most specific. It provides that the trustees of Catholic schools in England and Wales are assured that no proposals shall be published under the section for the purposes of making a significant change in the religious character of a school unless the trustees of the school have given their consent in writing to the change in question.
There is no doubt that where there is a change in a
grant-maintained integrated school in Northern Ireland its ethos and its religious position will change as defined in the order. Where is the parity in that? When we ask about income support and family credit we are told that there must be parity in every region. No doubt we shall be given whimsy in relation to that, too. Some people will look for a lot more than whimsy. They will make sure that the proposals are subjected to the utmost rigour of examination. Whimsy will not be enough.
I said that I should finish at 5 minutes to 1 and I shall. I wish to leave the Minister with two quotations, again from a Northern Ireland source. They are both kind to the Minister about his efforts to create understanding within the community in the North of Ireland and about the whole concept of integrated education. They are from an editorial in the Irish News. I put them on record as the view of a paper which, by and large, reflects the Catholic Nationalist position and yet is kind to the Minister. The first is :
"Whatever about the merits of integrated education, there can be no justification for diverting much-needed resources away from disadvantaged schools and pupils to underwrite the choice of a minority the present Minister seems bent on re-opening old wounds by promoting legislation which flagrantly discriminates in favour of a sector with a specific religious ethos--that of integration'."
Column 1124That must surely sum up the view of the Catholic Nationalist community and is reflected across the whole of the North of Ireland. Aristotle once said, in what could be described as cynical terms, that education is the best provision for old age. The Government should not make education another item of confrontation in the North of Ireland where there is already far too much confrontation already.
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North) : I regret that all the hon. Members who wished to speak in the debate have not been able to do so. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box to speak about Northern Ireland, particularly as he came here from his sick bed to inflict his opinions on us. We welcome his opinions--we just hope not to get the flu.
The number of issues running through the debate shows the anxiety felt about the Government's proposals in the state, Catholic and integrated sectors of education. The Minister has gone out of his way to listen to people but on occasions it has seemed to be a dialogue of the deaf. He has heard and made changes where appropriate, but none of the changes has been appropriate in the view of any of the Northern Ireland Members who have spoken.
I welcome what the Minister sought to do in the education for mutual understanding and the cultural heritage proposals. I also welcome the provisions that he has made about teaching the Irish language and some of the other provisions that he has made. The Minister must reply to several profound questions which cause anxiety. The first is about resources. My hon. Friend mentioned the reduction in resources for education. If the changes are to take place easily and properly in schools in Northern Ireland, adequate finance must be provided to back up the great demands that the Government are making.
The Minister made several vague statements at the beginning of his speech giving promises of jam tomorrow. Let us hope that there wil be some jam today. We want jam, not spread thinly, but put into the system in large quantities if the changes are to work. He must also look at the morale of teachers, who are at the front line of education changes. Proper recognition of their status in society must be accorded. Otherwise, the flood of teachers out of education will continue--as has happened in the United Kingdom generally--into other jobs where they receive better financial rewards and greater respect from the general public.
It is not only the financial aspects of the teachers' rewards that must be considered, but the status and administration of the new system. Teachers should have a proper stake in the overall direction of events and a place on organisations such as the Northern Ireland Curriculum Council and the Northern Ireland School Examinations and Assessment Council and on the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools. It should be as of right for teachers to appoint teachers to represent the opinions of teachers on those bodies.
Hon. Members have said a great deal about their fears about the assessment of pupils and schools. There is a real fear that one school might be played against another, and that a school in a middle-class area might do better than one in a deprived area. We need to know more about the