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Madam Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for me. I heard no such thing.

Mr. Forth: In order to illustrate my point about schools' flexibility in the use of their budgets, I cannot resist quoting The Guardian , which is something that I rarely do. I never read The Guardian so this had to be brought to my attention. On 1 February, it--

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Mr. Blunkett: What does the Minister read?

Mr. Forth: For the hon. Gentleman's edification, my principal reading each day is The Sun , which I find universally uplifting. The article in The Guardian read as follows:

"Eight women teachers from Picknalls First School, Uttoxeter"-- [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. It is quite impossible for me to hear the Minister. I especially deprecate noises from Front Benchers making it impossible for me to hear what is being said.

Mr. Forth: I shall not be deterred from completing this little quotation. The article states:

"Eight women teachers from Picknalls First School, Uttoxeter, spent a day among the Jacuzzis, whirlpools and health lectures of Hoar Cross Hall . . . and the £250 bill for their visit was paid for by public funds after being approved by their chairman of governors . . . Staffordshire county council said that it was up to an individual school how it spent its budget on education and training." The point is that that was a decision made by the school. We may think it bizarre, but, in these allegedly hard-pressed times--we know that there is more than £500 million in school reserves and balances--that was the school's decision. We respect the decisions made by schools in choosing their priorities. We understand that some schools may choose to have higher reserves, while others schools may choose to use their money to adjust and alter classes sizes or pupil-teacher ratios. We understand that and accept and applaud their freedom to make those decisions. We accept that different local education authorities will decide on different priorities, perhaps to invest in hotels or to do other things, but we object when they come along and try to blame the Government for cuts that may or may not have to be made in education. That will not wash.

We have found out today that Opposition Members have failed consistently to understand the nature of education and its funding. I hope that, having listened to the debate, the few Opposition Members who were present earlier and my hon. Friends will, without hesitation, reject the motion and support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question: --

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 295.

Division No. 65] [7.00 pm


Column 196

Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashton, Joe

Austin-Walker, John

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret

Beith, Rt Hon A J

Column 196

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, Andrew F

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Roger

Betts, Clive

Blair, Rt Hon Tony

Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Column 197

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D N

Canavan, Dennis

Cann, Jamie

Chidgey, David

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clapham, Michael

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Cohen, Harry

Connarty, Michael

Corbett, Robin

Corston, Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)

Denham, John

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Donohoe, Brian H

Dowd, Jim

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eastham, Ken

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Fatchett, Derek

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foster, Don (Bath)

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galbraith, Sam

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A

Godsiff, Roger

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Gunnell, John

Hall, Mike

Hanson, David

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Harvey, Nick

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Henderson, Doug

Heppell, John

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

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