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particularly to the remarks of the previous speaker, but also to the difference in approach to the provision of education taken by Members on either side of the House.

On the whole, the Government seem to put forward exclusive schemes in which only a very small minority can participate. I would remind hon. Members once again that fewer than 1 per cent. of children participate in the assisted places scheme. Of that 1 per cent., fewer than 2,500 are from the sort of background to which the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) was pleased to refer in terms of Labour party history.

The Labour party wants to make sure that the opportunities which were previously available to only a few are available to all. After all, the proportion of people who passed the 11-plus depended on the local authority area in which they lived. The proportion might vary tremendously across the country. I was fortunate in being brought up in an area where about half the primary school pupils went on to grammar school. Frankly, the education provided in secondary moderns was nowhere near the same, and the amount of money spent on pupils in either sector was quite different as well.

We want to ensure that money spent on education enlarges the opportunities of 100 per cent. of children and not a mere 1 per cent. That is the difference between the two parties. From the Government, we have scheme after scheme to provide additional funding for small groups--1 per cent. here, 4 per cent. there and 2 per cent. somewhere else. All in all, the schemes encompass fewer than 10 per cent. of all pupils in secondary schools. We want to ensure that all children receive a good-quality education in their local school or, if parents' circumstances decree that they want to look at another school, that they should have that choice.

Let us make no bones about it : as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) pointed out, there has been a 40 per cent. increase in expenditure on the assisted places scheme in six years, with only a 6 per cent. increase in the number of pupils participating. One cannot make similar comparisons from the latest Department for Education expenditure plan report. On the figures with which one can make a comparison, however, between 1988-89 and 1992-93 there was a 6 per cent. increase in participation in the assisted places scheme, but its costs increased by about 80 per cent. For voluntary schools in the same period, expenditure increased by 16 per cent and local education authority expenditure on secondary schools increased by 28 per cent. I admit that I have worked that out without a calculator and in rather a hurry. If I were given different figures

Mr. Don Foster : I gave the calculations.

Mr. Griffiths : Yes, I must not forget the contribution of the hon. Member for Bath. We have clearly shown that expenditure on the assisted places scheme goes far beyond that on other sectors of state education.

Once again, we oppose the uprating as a point of principle. We should be giving opportunities not to the few, but to everyone. 9.52 pm

Mr. Forth : You would not want me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to be tempted into a debate on the broad principles of the assisted places scheme. This is neither the time nor the occasion to do so. However much I enjoyed

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my hon. Friends' contributions, especially that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), who dwelt on the theme of diversity of education and reminded the House of the extent to which Conservative Members want to give increasing choice to

parents--covering grant-maintained schools, city technology colleges, technical colleges, grammar schools, voluntary-controlled schools and the independent sector--I am sure that you would not want me to dwell on any of that. Nor would you want me to point out that virtually all those schools are under direct threat from the Opposition parties. It would be wrong for me to take up the time of the House in that way. Equally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would probably look askance if I dwelt excessively on the theme of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington). He pointed out so ably the opportunities that the scheme gives the less privileged, partly as a direct contrast to the perceptions of the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths), who was obsessed by manual workers. That seems a quaint way of looking at the subject, but it is his way and I respect him for that, of course.

I would not necessarily even want to dwell on the value-for-money argument that my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) outlined. He pointed out, rather succinctly, that it costs much more to educate a pupil in Tower Hamlets than to educate a pupil through the assisted places scheme. None of that is directly relevant to the debate, and I am sure that my hon. Friends would not want me to waste their time by going through those points at length.

What is relevant to the debate is that we are talking about £100 million. Yes, it is a lot of money, but it has to be put in context, as it is £100 million out of a total of £17 billion spent on education. We are introducing a very modest increase, which is tied to the retail price index, as is right at this stage. It allows us to balance the real benefits brought to many pupils and parents, by giving them access to an area of education to which they would not otherwise have access. We have proposed a modest increase to allow that to continue, which will be of great value not only to parents and pupils, but to society because it will provide diversity in education, in which Conservative Members passionately believe. It is right to say that we should consider outputs and not inputs. That is the theme for the Department for Education and the Secretary of State for Education, and in the maintained sector and beyond. We must ask ourselves how much young people benefit from the assisted places scheme and we are doing so.

Mr. Jamieson : Before the Minister concludes his speech, will he deal with the points that I made to him ? If independent schools are so good, what have they to fear from having a four-year Ofsted report that will be made public to parents in particular ?

Mr. Forth : At the risk of incurring your wrath, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall say that independent schools have nothing to fear from that. These are matters for Ofsted, an independent department of Government. I am sure that Ofsted will want to move in the direction that the hon. Gentleman suggests. It has nothing to fear and nor have we. In the first place, he should take the matter up directly with Ofsted. We can return to the issues as appropriate, but not in this debate.

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Dr. Spink : Bearing in mind the fact that the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) took advantage of the independent sector, does not my hon. Friend believe that it is singularly hypocritical of the Opposition to oppose the uprating ? Such opposition could deny able children of poor families the opportunity to take advantage of the independent sector.

Mr. Forth : My hon. Friend is right. I hope that before deciding how to vote on this matter hon. Members on both sides of the House will give serious thought to what would happen if we were to deny parents and pupils the modest uprating. They should think of the children who would be denied access to the excellence of the independent sector. That is what is at stake ; that is the issue. I hope that hon. Members will whole-heartedly support the regulations. Question put :--

The House divided : Ayes 191, Noes 160.

Division No. 299] [9.57 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)

Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)

Alton, David

Amess, David

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkins, Robert

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)

Banks, Matthew (Southport)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Beggs, Roy

Bellingham, Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Booth, Hartley

Bowis, John

Brandreth, Gyles

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)

Browning, Mrs. Angela

Burt, Alistair

Butcher, John

Butterfill, John

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Channon, Rt Hon Paul

Clappison, James

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coe, Sebastian

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)

Cope, Rt Hon Sir John

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Davies, Quentin (Stamford)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Deva, Nirj Joseph

Devlin, Tim

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Duncan-Smith, Iain

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Sir Anthony

Dykes, Hugh

Eggar, Tim

Elletson, Harold

Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)

Fabricant, Michael

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Fishburn, Dudley

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)

Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)

Freeman, Rt Hon Roger

French, Douglas

Fry, Sir Peter

Gallie, Phil

Gardiner, Sir George

Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan

Gillan, Cheryl

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gorst, Sir John

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Hargreaves, Andrew

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hawkins, Nick

Hawksley, Warren

Hayes, Jerry

Heald, Oliver

Hendry, Charles

Hill, James (Southampton Test)

Horam, John

Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)

Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunter, Andrew

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert (Wantage)

Jenkin, Bernard

Jessel, Toby

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Kilfedder, Sir James

King, Rt Hon Tom

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby N)

Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)

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