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Mr. Connarty: My experience is somewhat different. If the Minister cares to visit Graeme High, just as he visited Bo'ness in my constituency, he will find that the school board and action group want to discuss not the internal affairs of the school but the need for more resources--just as happened at Bo'ness. The group's members do not want to sit down with the headmaster to divide up the school's resources--they trust the professionals to do that well--but they do want to make the case for more and better resources. If the Government recognised the validity of allowing people some degree of subsidiarity so that they could speak out democratically, they might get on better.

Clause 32 might be aptly named the Balfron clause, as it clearly stems from the Secretary of State's experience at Balfron in the west of his constituency. For some time now people have been crossing the border from Strathclyde mainly because, once over the hill, people look down on Balfron in the Blane valley, not at Glasgow. I was the leader of the local council for 10 years so I know the area well. I should like to record my commendation of Jim Fleming, the head teacher whom I knew for many years as a fellow modern studies teacher--just as the Minister used to be before his temporary incarnation as a politician. I am sure that he will go back to teaching when he leaves this place--

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: I am too old.

Mr. Connarty: This place's loss would be modern studies' gain. I have heard no criticism of the hon. Gentleman's period as a modern studies teacher, although I have heard him criticised as a Minister.

The school attracts people, but many schools in the same situation attract so many that they squeeze out their local catchment area pupils. Clause 32 is therefore long overdue.

Today, the Secretary of State made his usual and typical disparaging personal remark about me, but we are old sparring partners. My problem with what he had to say

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was echoed earlier by the hon. Member for Ayr. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that the nursery places being provided are additional. They are certainly additional in the pilot schemes, but that is what bribery is all about. The same happened with the capital offered to opting out schools in England and Wales. Such schools are now being told that there will be no more bribes, with the result that many of them have run into difficulties.

It is easy to get people to take up an option that includes more money. The councils that have taken the money have clearly decided that although they do not like the political ideology behind them they need the extra cash offered in the pilot schemes. So their choice was between taking some money or taking nothing--and some took it. I do not wish to act as judge and jury; I do not know what pressures such councils have been subjected to, or how they have resolved them.

What is clear is that, after the pilots are over, the provision will have to be delivered universally, and if £1,100 per pupil is universally offered it will not amount to that much money on top of what is already spent by local authorities on nursery education. Both the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Ayr know that. Just because everyone queues up for vouchers in one local authority area does not mean that that authority will have the money to provide them all with places--certainly not of the quality to which the right hon. Member for Dumfries aspires. The pre-five organisations in my area, too, know that the provision will not be adequate.

As for clause 24, the administration of the voucher system constitutes a blank cheque for political interference. Some of the clauses in this Bill smack not of a nanny state but of a dogmatic state, because they allow the Secretary of State first to decide on the requirements and then to change them at any time after payment: if the requirements are not met, the money can be called in again. It seems that the Secretary of State can change the rules on his personal whim. He may, for instance, decide that too much partnership with local authorities should result in a shift to the private sector. Failing that, the money can be taken away. There will be continual pressures of this kind, which is why I hope that clause 24 will be examined in great detail by the Standing Committee.

The safeguards written into the Bill may, according to clause 24(2)(b),

In effect, the Secretary of State can apply pressure and then take away the safeguards written into the agreements with the people who set up the system. The whole thing is fraught with difficulties, and clauses 24 and 25 are dangerous parts of the Bill.

Clause 25 deals with setting up a nursery voucher company, Capita. I have visited the Student Loans Company so I know what a disaster it is. This one will be the same. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton described the complexities which the Government say do not exist, and I certainly cannot see how the system can be run on spending of £22 per person out of the £1,100. That represents £1 million of the £70 million. It is ridiculous to believe that an organisation can be run on that, although no doubt a private company will be set up if the banks think that there is money to be made--just as they did with Motability. I predict that problems will follow.

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Clause 26 refers to the Secretary of State's ability to release social security information about people. That is worrying. The defence will be that information was released unknowingly to third parties. The Government tell us that they want freedom and choice, and that they want to get the state off people's backs, but clause 26 allows personal information to be passed on to others.

The point has been made again and again that vouchers do not mean places--they just mean vouchers. Because they want to be seen to have introduced broader nursery education for more people, the Government are willing to spread the available jam more and more thinly. The result will be something that sustains no one; it will not achieve the impact to which Headstart aspired in America, or even the impact achieved by the pre-fives groups in Strathclyde and in other local authorities. Yet the Secretary of State is trying to sell the idea to the people of Scotland.

Does the Minister really believe that this £1,100 will buy the same quality nursery provision as local authorities currently make? If he does, his view will be subjected to scrutiny during the pilot period and will be found wanting.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: The hon. Gentleman does not have to take my word for it: the National Audit Office has said that £1,100 will pay for everything except the most high-quality and the most expensive places--the voucher scheme was never intended to pay for those places. The independent National Audit Office is saying this, not me.

Mr. Connarty: It is the independent National Audit Office for England and Wales. I would like to see someone from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy or the Comptroller of Audit in Scotland do it. I remember that when we had the debate about the cost of local authority reorganisation, CIPFA put out a paper to show that the reorganisation cost will be much dearer than the one put forward by the Government. The Government's chosen consultant, Touche Ross, borrowed the Government's watch and told them the time the Government wanted to hear.

Mr. Robertson: Is the hon. Gentleman not being a wee bit arrogant to think that he knows better than the National Audit Office?

Mr. Connarty: I was the treasurer of my council and I was the deputy leader of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, so I suppose I can be a little arrogant in thinking that local government experience may outweigh the accountants' slide rule, but we will test that as time goes on.

The Secretary of State spoke about people being brainwashed. I was amazed by the statement. When it was pointed out that everyone is against the proposal, the Secretary of State said that even the parents and people of Scotland have been brainwashed by the Labour party. That is an incredible insult. I see one of the English Members, the hon. Member for Colchester, North(Mr. Jenkin), backing up the Minister and nodding his head. That shows that he does not know much about Scottish society because in Scottish society there is a common weal, a belief among the people, that there are certain aspirations that we should all share. If we do not share those aspirations, or are willing to tread on them, we are betraying not just ourselves but the society in which we live.

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I believe that that society aspires to have the best for the largest number of people and it wants to give a chance to the 30 per cent.--it is 30 per cent. at the moment--who are not getting a chance in the Scottish society that we have created over the past 17 years. We are doing it for moral and emotional reasons and for reasons of logic. But there are sound economic reasons as well. Society will carry those 30 per cent. on our backs--through transfer payments, and through social unrest, disruption and disfunctionality for the next generation. I believe that people want to see an effort being made to right that wrong in Scotland. I do not think that the people are in any way brainwashed. The Secretary of State said that the parents are brainwashed and that the voters are brainwashed. The Conservative party is down to 12 per cent. in the polls in Scotland, not because of brainwashing but because people are sick to their teeth of this ideology.

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