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The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. William Hague): It may be for th

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convenience of the House if I intervene in the debate now, as I have some announcements to make about Government policy on these matters.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) moved new clause 3 and the associated amendments and did so for worthy reasons with which we can readily agree. He wants to provide for disabled pupils and students the opportunities in education that are available to other people, but the new clause and the amendments are emotive and not objective, impractical and not realistic, and would lead to the waste of valuable resources. They would result in a policy for special education that would be muddled, imprecise and unworkable. New clause 3 and the Opposition amendments would undermine new legislation, especially the Education Act 1993, which is widely recognised as a landmark for special education. That Act used a system that provides for an appropriate school placement and curriculum for every child, irrespective of his or her disability; allows for precise, detailed and rapid assessment, to produce statements for the children with the most severe needs; gives parents of such children fundamental rights of preference for any maintained school, backed by a new, independent tribunal and subject only to conditions that are analogous to those for non-disabled children; and, makes all schools and governors more accountable than ever before for making appropriate provision for all children with special educational needs.

The framework is comprehensive--indeed, it is excellent--and our measures, cemented together by the code of practice on the identification and assessment of pupils with special educational needs, have given an enormous boost to special education. The Audit Commission has given strong support and no little praise for what the Government have achieved in that sector in the past two years. This series of amendments cuts across, and would ruin, that very successful new legislation, for the following reasons. First, integration into mainstream education is not a simple question of parental choice, as the hon. Member for Monklands, West would have us believe, but is more complex than that.

Special education ranges far more widely than sensory and physical disability. We are in danger of forgetting the many children with emotional and behavioural difficulties who frequently need special school provision. That is especially significant, because children without special educational needs in mainstream schools also have rights--for example, to have their education protected from the disruption that could be caused by children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. There is no convincing strategy for handling some children with such needs in mainstream education. Sometimes, withdrawal and a temporary placement in a special school is the only option and parental choice for a mainstream school, however desirable, cannot be allowed to prevent other children from learning efficiently.

We have a fine record of promoting effective integration into mainstream schools. At the moment, two out of three pupils with new statements are entering mainstream schools. Nearly 99 per cent. of all pupils are in mainstream schools and the Government strongly welcome that. None the less, we need a range of special schools. Some parents demand that and many hon. Members--including the right hon. Member for

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Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who is reported to be receiving many local representations on the matter--know that, when a local education authority tries to close a special school, there is sometimes a furore from local parents and supporters. These are community schools just as much as local comprehensives.

In many cases, as we know from detailed inspection evidence, children are worse off in mainstream schools that are unable to provide the necessary support than they would be in special schools. As I argued in Committee, and the hon. Member for Monklands, West acknowledged, our available resources are finite. He said that, like me, he could make no commitment about whether full accessibility to education could be achieved during a full Parliament, even in a Government of which he was a member. He knows that the resources are finite. The capital cost of making all mainstream schools accessible for all the purposes that might be covered by the Bill is enormous.

Mr. Tom Clarke: I am especially grateful that the Minister has given way, as he did not intervene in my speech. Does he accept that the Committee that considered the Bill presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) last year made it clear that it was absurd for the Government to pretend that we were seeking all that we want to achieve in terms of civil rights in one Parliament, and that the views that I expressed in Committee reflected those views as well?

Mr. Hague: Yes, I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members made that point. However, he seeks to write something into legislation which he knows he has neither the means nor the capability to deliver in practice, and which no Government could deliver in practice. He raises the prospect of damaging the position of disabled students.

We do not want sensible and realistic local authorities that want to concentrate their resources where they will be most effective, both geographically and with an eye to pupils with the most pressing needs, to have their plans thwarted because of this legislation. Under the new clause, such an authority might be forced to spread its existing resources, with the effect that fewer pupils benefit. Instead of several schools in an authority, each with excellent resources, being able to take many pupils with a wide range of special needs, we would end up with nearly all schools in that authority with a few ramps, no lifts and improved curriculum access for only a small minority of pupils. I do not believe that that is what the Opposition want. It is certainly not what the Government want, and I do not believe that the Opposition have thought the measure through.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth): Will the Minister consider the case of a school in my constituency that teaches 11 to 16-year-olds, is especially geared for the needs of the physically handicapped and does a fine job by them, but when it comes to 16 to 18-year-olds, neither the sixth form college nor the district college can offer a satisfactory continuation? Should not the Minister bear in mind such cases, which are quite disgraceful?

Mr. Hague: Clearly, the authority concerned should concentrate the resources available to it on rectifying that problem. The solution is probably not to place a duty on

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the local education authority or other education providers to make some changes to all schools or place of further education. I shall come to further education in a moment.

Mr. Enright: The Minister should note the anomaly that the 11-to-16 school receives local authority provision, but both the sixth form college and the district college have been launched into the stratosphere in terms of management. The fact that they are different bodies causes immense problems.

Mr. Hague: The hon. Gentleman will be interested in what I have to say about further and higher education.

Those are the reasons why I believe that new clause 3 is mistaken with regard to school education. Similarly, I see many good reasons to retain and build on the existing legislation covering the responsibilities of further and higher education funding councils, local education authorities, the voluntary sector and independent institutions of further and higher education.

Let us be clear that, in discharging the duties and powers imposed on it, the Further Education Funding Council must always take account of the needs of people with learning difficulties and disabilities. The funding council already has a duty to secure sufficient full-time education for all young people over the age of 16 and under 19, and the provision of adequate facilities in respect of part-time students on courses leading to vocational and academic qualifications. It must ensure that the education is provided at locations that meet the reasonable needs of all those to whom the duty extends and are equipped appropriately.

Local education authorities have a complementary duty to secure adequate education for adults which falls outside the scope of the funding council's duties, including provision for some independent living and communications skills, for which they have retained funding.

7.15 pm

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education's launch letter of guidance to the Higher Education Funding Council drew particular attention to the importance of provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities and the need for access to higher education for those students to be facilitated. The Further Education Funding Council has demonstrated its commitment to securing effective and coherent provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities through its committee chaired by John Tomlinson of Warwick university.

The Government are rightly proud of their record on widening access. The number of students in higher education has risen from under 750,000 to nearly 1.2 million in the past decade. Particular attention has been paid to increasing the participation of groups that have been under-represented in the past, including those with disabilities. The Higher Education Funding Council allocated £3 million in 1993-94 and a further £3 million in 1994-95 for special initiatives to widen access, which included projects related to physical access, accessible curricula and support services. Skill, the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, has been contracted to organise dissemination as well as evaluation. The new clause would undermine the strategic and planned approach of the funding councils, which already recognises the needs of disabled people. I have already

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pointed out that available resources are finite. We cannot pretend that the new clause, if carried, would give all disabled people unrestricted access to all further and higher education institutions. Indeed, that is not the case for their peers. Instead, it risks dissipating scarce resources on piecemeal and ineffective measures. I suggest that hon. Members examine the existing statutory framework, which provides a sound basis to underpin continued development of provision for students with disabilities, before seeking to undermine and disrupt it. For that reason, I urge the House to reject the new clause.

The approach in new clauses 7 and 8 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) and other hon. Members is a good deal more constructive than that in new clause 3. They provide that schools be included in the provisions of the Bill--

Mr. Tom Clarke: The Minister says that those new clauses are more constructive than that proposed by the Opposition. Which organisations of or for disabled people support them?

Mr. Hague: I am concerned with the merits of each of the new clauses and amendments. It is not my job as Minister with responsibility for disabled people to add up the number of pressure groups on each side of an argument and say that that is the reason for my decision when it affects the policy of the nation. My task is to come to a sensible and balanced policy that advances the causes of students and pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities. My hon. Friend's new clauses would include schools in clause 12 and establish a new code of practice on children with special educational needs covering questions such as when a placement in a special school would be reasonable; the overall planning of education for children with special educational needs; and how access to education may be insured for such children. They would also include further and higher education in the provisions of the Bill. A further code of practice would be drawn up for HE and FE institutions.

I appreciate my hon. Friend's motives in suggesting those provisions, but must point out several substantial practical difficulties. For example, a second code in parallel with the widely acclaimed special educational needs code of practice would be confusing. It would leave parents, schools and local education authorities uncertain about its relationship with the present code. The Government do not believe that it makes sense to set up completely new rights or mechanisms for appeal against non-admission of children with special educational needs but for whom the question of a statement does not arise. None the less, I have noted my hon. Friends' points in the amendments with care, and I intend in a moment to propose an alternative approach, which will achieve in practice what they are seeking.

In further education, the amendments would undermine the strategic and planned approach of the Further Education Funding Council by placing a separate duty on individual colleges. The council ensures that a coherent pattern of educational provision is available to students with disabilities. It looks beyond its own colleges to courses in maintained and non-maintained schools and independent colleges to avoid duplication and to secure the most effective use of resources. Placing duties on

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individual colleges under the Bill would cut across the duties placed on the funding council by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Scarce resources would therefore be dissipated, and there would be a period of confusion at a time when the 1992 legislation is bedding down.

The Government wish, however, to build on existing education and on the considerable progress achieved to date. In conjunction with my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department for Education, who are in their place on the Front Bench, I have a number of announcements to make. In the case of further and higher education, we wish to leave the way open to take account of the outcomes of the review programme, which was announced today in answer to a parliamentary question tabled my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter.

That review programme will include consideration in higher education of how flexibility in capital spending can be used to improve facilities for students with disabilities, ways in which the arrangements for increasing the awareness of staff at further education colleges of the needs of students with disabilities can be improved and whether any further funding incentives could be given to colleges to encourage the enrolment of students with disabilities. It will also consider the administration of the disabled students allowance and the advice and information service provided by Skill, and whether charters for further and higher education can be improved in respect of availability of information to students with disabilities.

The Government have great reservations--

Dr. Godman: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hague: I have a number of announcements to make, and I must give priority to making them.

The Government have great reservations over the amendments but we accept that it is desirable to find sensible and realistic ways in which to achieve greater access to mainstream schools, ways in which to strengthen the hand of parents who believe that a disabled child is being discriminated against in being refused admission to a school and ways of making both the higher and further education sectors more sensitive and responsive to the needs of disabled students. The Government have therefore decided to bring forward significant amendments to the Bill in another place to achieve those ends. The amendments build on, and add importantly to, existing education legislation.

One of the most important parts of the Education Act 1993 was the requirement for the first time that all schools should have a published policy for special education and should make it available to all parents. By reporting annually to parents, schools will ensure that they are accountable for the work that they do and will benefit from the comments that parents are able to make.

We want greatly to strengthen those measures by making it a requirement in primary legislation that the published annual report should specify the admission arrangements for pupils with special educational needs, the steps that the school takes to avoid discrimination against disabled pupils and a description of facilities which increase or assist access to the school by pupils who are disabled. We therefore hope to amend the Education Act 1993 within the Disability Discrimination Bill to achieve those requirements in law.

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In further education, the Government intend to amend the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 to require colleges, as a condition of grant from the Further Education Funding Council, to give information on provision for students with disabilities. We envisage that this would give the Secretary of State the power to specify the timing and nature of such information. The reporting requirements would, in themselves, encourage all colleges to give further attention to the needs of students with disabilities. We also propose to amend the 1992 Act to give the Further Education Funding Council an express statutory duty to report to the Secretary of State on progress in facilitating access for students with learning difficulties and disabilities to further education and its plans for the future. As to redress, disabled individuals would be able to complain in the first instance to colleges if they considered that the institutions had failed to fulfil the expectations raised by their policy statements. In the event that that proved ineffective, the individuals would be able to take their complaints to the Further Education Funding Council. I am considering with my hon. Friends whether an additional amendment might be required to enable the FEFC to take action where it judged a college's response to have been unsatisfactory.

The Government also envisage two amendments bearing on higher education. The first would be a statutory duty for the Higher Education Funding Council for England to have regard to the needs of disabled students in its allocation of funds. That would embody in legislation a requirement at present covered only in guidance from the Secretary of State. Secondly, we envisage that the Secretary of State might take an unambiguous power to enable her to require the funding council to seek policy statements from universities and colleges covering their arrangements for access for disabled students. We shall be consulting representative bodies about the details of the amendments, and, in the context of the review programme, we shall be exploring how it might be given practical expression.

I remind the House that the new proposals make substantial new legislative provision and I believe that they go to the heart of the concerns expressed about further and higher education in particular and education more widely. They are above and beyond our existing legislation, but they build on it in a sensible fashion. They supplement the non-legislative measures already announced--the further and higher education review and the access funding scheme for schools, about which I can now also give further details.

As hon. Members will recall, the schools access initiative was announced in the White Paper which accompanied the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education will very shortly be publishing a consultation document on how that scheme might operate in the 1996-97 financial year. We envisage that around £10 million will be available in the first year to encourage imaginative and cost-effective projects aimed at increasing mainstream schools' accessibility to pupils with physical and sensory disability. It should facilitate voluntary involvement by local communities and it aims to build on existing good practice and to act as a spur to improved access, which includes physical access to building and curriculum access to equipment and teaching.

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I therefore commend the Government's proposals to the House, and I look forward to their formal introduction in another place in due course. I believe that the proposals will substantially satisfy the concerns of my hon. Friends and of many people outside this House and demonstrate to the House and to the nation that we fully intend students and pupils with disabilities to share in the opening up of opportunities and access for disabled people, which we are dedicated to bringing about.

Dr. Godman: I had hoped to intervene on the Minister to ask him what the comparable figure for Scotland would be, as he mentioned a figure of £10 million for the English funding council. I also wanted to ask him, if I can capture his attention for just for one moment--I listened very intently to him--if, in his role as Minister for Social Security and Disabled People, he had held discussions with his Scottish Office colleagues concerning the performance of the 43 further education colleges in Scotland in relation to meeting the aspirations and interests of students suffering from disabilities. In a letter that I received just today, Catherine Buchanan of the Scottish Association for Mental Health and her colleagues expressed their very serious concern about the Bill and what it fails to do for disabled students. The Scottish mental health and discrimination group, to which Catherine Buchanan's letter refers, states inter alia:

"The group believes that the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill is severely flawed and that, in particular, it discriminates unfairly against people with mental health problems." The group says that what is needed, among other things, is a law to outlaw discrimination in education and training. It further argues: "without fair access to education and training, the employment rights given by the Bill are inadequate."

That is one reason for my support of new clause 3, which has been tabled by the Opposition.

In fairness, I should point out that the association also notes: "There are examples of good practice developing in higher education"

in Scotland,

"and a legal requirement not to discriminate would underpin and extend such good practice."

That is offered by the new clause. The association also argues: "A law to outlaw discrimination in education would give a powerful incentive to colleges and universities"

throughout Scotland

"to continue to improve practices."

I accept that a range of performance tables already exist to record improvements in practice.

7.30 pm

In relation to new clause 3, I acknowledge that certain Scottish educational institutions already set a fine benchmark for others to try to match. In my constituency, James Watt college of further education provides many course for people with learning disabilities. Such a college would have no fear of any regulations imposed as a result of new clause 3. That is the kind of quality of education for disabled people that I should like to see extended throughout Scotland.

My constituents with learning disabilities are encouraged by James Watt college to undertake studies such as photography, printing, woodwork and keyboard

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skills. That college, which leads the other 42 in its concern for disabled people, provides, through its faculty of learning support and adult resources, educational and training courses for upwards of 800 people throughout Argyll, from Campbeltown in the south to Oban in the north, as well as many areas in Renfrewshire. I should like such a uniform pattern of educational opportunity to be offered throughout Scotland.

I believe that the Scottish Association for Mental Health is right to express its concern at the failure of some universities and colleges of further education to provide the kind of education opportunity offered by James Watt college in Greenock and a few other colleges. Much more needs to be done.

I am sorry that the Minister devoted all his speech to amendments to be tabled in another place which will relate to English universities, colleges and schools. He used the singular "council" about everything he said. That is why I sought to intervene, because the Scottish Association for Mental Health is absolutely right and proper to express its concern about those youngsters who are denied access our colleges of further education and universities north of the border.

I remind the Minister that this is the Parliament of a multinational state- -the so-called United Kingdom. He should have voiced some concern and sympathy, which I am sure he feels, for disabled students north of the border. Next time I seek to intervene on behalf of fellow Scots, I hope that he will give way.

Mr. Alan Howarth: I warmly welcome the common sense, practicality and thoroughly constructive spirit in which the Minister made his important announcements. It seemed strange that education had been left out of the Bill, as education should surely be central to it. Education is fundamental to the life chances of everyone--including, of course, disabled people--and I am pleased that education will now be prominent and important in the Bill.

The Bill will follow on a sequence of important reform measures introduced by the Government: the Education Act 1981, the Education Reform Act 1988, the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 and the Education Act 1993. The latter Act was a particularly important milestone, on which I should like especially to congratulate the Minister of State at the Department for Education.

Even that Act was insufficient, however, because it still left it within the law for schools to discriminate against individual children. As I understand it, it is still lawful for schools to refuse to take a child because he or she is disabled and to treat that child less favourably. I do not know any teacher who would regard such behaviour as tolerable, but it is important that we legislate to ensure that discrimination against disabled people is illegal in education as it is elsewhere.

Legislation has an enormously important declaratory significance. It is, of itself, a great educative force. If we state the standards and decencies that our society expects of schools, colleges and universities, they are fed through into the ethos of those institutions and, in turn, those institutions influence the better development of our society. In that way, we reinforce the values of mutual care, responsibility and good citizenship.

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I welcome the announcements that my hon. Friend the Minister has made and his determination, with colleagues at the Department for Education, to ensure that a series of important reforms are incorporated in the Bill. My hon. Friends at the Department for Education have clearly heeded the maxim of R. A. Butler, who said that the way to make progress on the Education Act 1944 was to grasp a good bunch of nettles all at once.

I do not think that the apprehensions that some professionals in education may express will be realised. They may argue that the proposals will be prejudicial to the efficient use of resources or will distort capital programmes. I do not think that those apprehensions will be justified. It is particularly important that the law governing further and higher education should be developed, as it has been significantly weaker than that governing education in schools. We must declare the principle. It is almost universally accepted within the further and higher education sectors. It is right to affirm the values set out in the Bill.

There should be no fear of a threat to academic freedom--I believe that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals acknowledges that--and the institutions should not take fright at the cost implications because the concept of reasonableness will apply. I add my tribute to the constructive work of the Further Education Funding Council and the Higher Education Funding Council. In particular, I pay tribute to Sir William Stubbs and Professor Graeme Davies. Professor Davies sent me a copy of the HEFC's recent publication, "Access to Higher Education: Students with Special Needs", and emphasised to me that he regarded the programme of work set out in that document as being among the key objectives of the HEFC. The practical benefits include reporting on and disseminating good practice and encouraging and assisting institutions to review their practice and to do better.

My hon. Friend the Minister rattled through a series of important announcements, so there is much for hon. Members to digest. I am unclear whether he was suggesting that to attach conditions for funding would in itself be sufficient or whether he wished to go further by establishing a broad legislative duty. It is needful to strengthen the obligations in that regard.

I was pleased to hear that my hon. Friend intends to institute some sort of appeals system. The duty to report to the Secretary of State will be extremely useful. I hope that my hon. Friend's further consideration of the possibilities will lead him to invest in the FEFC the scope to take action where it considers that an institution may be defaulting on its proper responsibilities. I would encourage him to be bold about that.

As for the student support system, I believe that the distinction that we continue to make between support for part-time and full-time students is increasingly anachronistic. The majority of students embarking on courses in higher education are aged over 21. We all acknowledge the importance of lifelong learning opportunities in the changing economy and the developing society into which we are moving. Inevitably, those opportunities will have to be taken by large numbers of people part time. I recognise the cost of providing that broader range of support for part-time students, but it is an aspiration that we should firmly establish for ourselves.

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Although the lack of mandatory awards for part-time students and the ineligibility of part-time students for disabled students' allowance are not direct discrimination because all part-time students are disqualified from certain awards, they none the less operate as indirect discrimination because, of necessity, a greater proportion of disabled people than of others have to study part time.

My hon. Friend the Minister suggested that the Government would consider the administration of the disabled students' allowance. I wonder whether that alone will be sufficient, or whether they will need to consider the legislative basis and possibly to reconsider the 1962 legislation. I hope and believe that the outcome of the Government's review of higher education, in which those issues will be considered, will be constructive, but I am worried that they may miss the legislative bus. I hope very much that the Government will, in a precautionary way, take powers in the Bill to enable them to enact any changes in student support that the review may suggest are appropriate.

I very much welcome the announcements, and I congratulate my hon. Friends on them.

Ms Lynne: I, too, welcome the announcements. They are rather like a last-minute conversion. We have not had time to study them in detail, but I am glad that the Minister has been forced to accept, to a certain extent, some of the things that have been proposed by organisations representing disabled people. I always thought that education was a glaring omission from the Bill, and that that was one of the Bill's most serious flaws.

However, the announcements do not go far enough. I recognise that, especially in the past few years, enormous strides have been made in assessing people with special educational needs and attempting to meet those needs. For all that, there is not full accessibility of mainstream education. I believe that all children should have equal rights of access to state education. They should have a choice between mainstream and special schools.

I agree with the Minister that some children will need special schools, but it is wrong for children to be forced into them simply because there is no mainstream school that is accessible. They should have a choice. Some children attend mainstream infant and primary schools but are then denied mainstream secondary education or further and higher education. That is disruptive to their schooling and the problem should be tackled.

One in five further education colleges, for instance, has no specific policies for the deaf. Many deaf students opt to attend a specialist college as a result. If they opt to attend one outside their area, it will not be paid for and they have to pay for it themselves. That is an impossible situation. Good will on the part of the schools, colleges and universities is not enough. It must be laid down by statute. However, I urge the Minister to go further than he has with the announcement.

A survey by Scope, formerly the Spastics Society, said that the majority of polling stations were not accessible. It is interesting that most polling stations are in schools, and it is a sad indictment that those people are thus denied in one fell swoop their electoral rights and their educational rights--the two key elements of a modern democracy.

Mr. Barnes: Following the Minister's statement, there may be provisions in the Bill to aid that access, which

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would feed through into polling station provision. The problem is that the Minister has placed us in considerable difficulties by making a statement of such complexity at this stage without being able to say what the details are, so that we shall have to wait until the Bill goes to the Lords to know what those arrangements are. Those should have been before us now in a series of amendments.

Ms Lynne: I take the hon. Gentleman's argument. As I said, it is an announcement that the Minister has been forced into making. It would have been preferable if we had seen the proposals beforehand so that we could have examined them. I agree with the hon. Gentleman: let us hope that our polling stations will become more accessible, as it will mean that schools are more accessible, because polling stations are mainly in school buildings. People should have a right to vote and a right to be educated, but those rights are denied to them because they are not included in the Bill. It is scandalous that that should be the case in 1995.

My final argument--I am rushing through, as I know that we are short of time--is that we cannot afford not to extend the provisions of the Bill. How can we justify not equipping people with the skills for life? How can we justify not allowing people to realise their full potential? How can we justify not recognising their achievements? The Bill should be inclusive, not exclusive, especially on education. As a former president of Yale said,

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." I hope that the Minister will take note of that.

Sir John Hannam (Exeter): I wish briefly to express my thanks to Education Ministers who met a delegation as recently as a couple of weeks ago in which we set out the objectives to bring education into the Bill. In the short time available, they have made those recommendations and proposals to be implemented in the House of Lords. I am extremely grateful, on behalf of the all-party disablement group, for the remarks that have been made about the provisions embodied in our new clauses. The Bill has begun to take the shape that we want it to have, incorporating those aspects previously omitted. I very much welcome their inclusion and the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Minister.

7.45 pm

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): I shall be extremely brief in my remarks. Although I welcome the comments and concessions made by the Government today, I ask strongly for some guidance as to what consultation took place with the Scottish Office and what funding will be available for similar requirements in Scotland. Our statutory and voluntary organisations have followed the debate closely, and it is only right that they should know what will be available to them in relation to the requirements placed on them.

Mr. Hague: The announcements that I made and the figures that I gave relate to England because they relate to the Department for Education. There will be further announcements in due course about provision elsewhere in the country. As the White Paper said, the Scottish Office Education Department will be considering further

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the scope for authorities and schools to improve accessibility for disabled pupils, so further announcements will be made in due course.

Mrs. Ewing: Obviously, I welcome that comment, but I hope that "in due course" does not mean that it will be a substantial time before those announcements are made. The authorities have a right to know what is happening.

We have been worried about the attitude of the Scottish Office to some aspects of the Bill. I draw specific attention to clause 14(3)(a)(ii), as I wish to know whether that will apply to the aspects of education to which the Minister has referred, especially further and higher education, where a person with learning difficulties may not be in position to give formal consent. A letter sent by the Scottish Office to Enable of Scotland on 16 March 1995 appeared to be in stark contrast to the advice being given by the Disability Council to similar organisations in England and Wales. We certainly do not want that clause to apply in education. Indeed, I do not believe that it should apply to any aspect of the Bill. It would be interesting to know whether the Government intend to delete parts of the Bill and make them inapplicable to the reforms in education that the Minister mentioned today. I am willing to send the Minister the correspondence so that he may study it in detail and perhaps make a measured response at some stage.

Mr. Hague indicated assent .

Mr. Tom Clarke: With the leave of the House, I wish to say briefly-- I sense that the House is of a mood to take an early decision--that we are disappointed with what the Minister has said. He was unimaginative and far too slow about integration. We already had in the White Paper the contents of his announcements about further and higher education; there was nothing new in what he said. He was slow to present those aspects in the Bill and he did so today purely as a result of my hon. Friends' success in embarrassing him into so doing. The Minister's reference to local colleges hardly fills us with enthusiasm as the Government appointed the business men and others who run those local colleges.

In common with my hon. Friends, I found the Minister unconvincing. I welcome the fact that, because the other place is more radical and progressive than the Minister on these matters, our new clause 3--instead of being muddled, imprecise and unworkable--is clear, precise and workable. For that reason, I recommend it for the support of the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 277, Noes 297.

Division No. 116] [7.49 pm


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Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

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