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Mr. Byers: The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and I share a belief in the need to ensure a quality learning environment in our schools, because we consider that high-quality education takes place where children have access to the facilities that they deserve. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman--and ask the House not to support new clause 24--because I do not believe that, by locking ourselves into the regulations that were appropriate in 1981, we shall provide the accommodation and buildings that are necessary for our children into the next century. New clause 24 would require us to return to the position in 1981.

The hon. Member for Bath rightly refers to the need to ensure that we invest in school buildings, and to ensure that we do not use the fact that there are no regulations under the Bill as an excuse to cut capital investment. The previous Government used the deregulation of school premises as an excuse to cut schools' capital spending. The present Government intend to increase the amount that we spend on schools' capital, but in a way that is flexible, and meets the needs of a variety of schools throughout the country. We are not convinced that the best way to do that would be to implement the 1981 regulations.

5.45 pm

We shall require authorities to prepare asset management plans, in which they will review their current accommodation, giving priority to those buildings and school premises that need to be updated, and that need investment to provide the type of accommodation in which high-quality learning can take place.

The asset management plans will not be filed away in the Department. They will provide the opportunity for investment with public money and--perhaps most important--will enable the private sector to support investment in school buildings. It has emerged from discussions between the Government and the private sector that the private sector needs, in effect, an audit of the condition of school premises, to make possible its financial support for increased investment in school buildings.

The Government are investing well in excess of £1 billion in schools capital as part of our new deal for schools, based on the experience this year, when £83 million of public spending led to £115 million of investment in our schools. We believe that, with funding from local authorities, Church authorities and the private sector, the new deal will make it possible for about £2 billion extra to be spent on schools capital.

In last week's Budget statement, it was announced that an extra £90 million would be made available for schools capital. The Bill provides new safeguards on the disposal of playing fields. We are increasing investment and safeguarding important assets.

24 Mar 1998 : Column 214

I agree with the hon. Member for Bath that we should not simply defend the status quo and that changes are needed. I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about this issue. I make this contribution in the hope that, when he has heard what I have to say, he will feel able to ask leave to withdraw the motion and new clause 24.

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South): Before the general election, there was considerable speculation from the Labour Front Bench about how much money would be needed to bring schools throughout the country up to what we would consider an acceptable standard; the figures suggested ran into several billion pounds. In the year that has nearly elapsed since Labour came to power, has the Department for Education and Employment done any work on finalising what it now estimates to be the total capital that will need to be spent on the school building programme over the next five years to bring schools to what we would all consider to be a desirable state of repair?

Mr. Byers: One reason why we want local education authorities to carry out their own asset management plans is to provide exactly that sort of detailed information. There will be 150 LEAs in England with effect from April this year, and all will be required to develop asset management plans. Once we have those, we will be able to identify the precise cost of bringing premises up to a suitable standard, not just for 1998 but for the next century as well. It will also allow us to trigger in investment from the private sector, which will be important in meeting our objectives.

On the points raised by the hon. Member for Bath and the concerns he expressed, at the moment we are operating under the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1996. It is our intention to review the regulations in the light of the hon. Gentleman's comments, recognising that they need to be changed to meet the objectives that I think we share. We will be prepared not just to review them in the light of the commitments in the Bill on, for example, school playing fields; if more general amendments are necessary--the hon. Gentleman may wish to suggest some for consideration--we will consider them.

I hope that, in response to what I hope the hon. Gentleman will view as a positive response to the issues which he raised, we will be able to avoid a Division on the new clause. However, if he presses the motion to a vote, I shall ask the House to reject it.

Mr. Don Foster: The Minister was generous and positive in his response to this brief debate, but I shall still urge my hon. Friends to press the new clause to a Division.

I think that the whole House will welcome the Government's plans for an audit of the state of school buildings. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) said, we are well aware of the magnitude of the figure likely to be revealed by the audit. Some suggest that the backlog of repairs and maintenance to our school buildings amounts to £4.3 billion--and that does not take into account some of the additional sums that will be needed for the reduction of class sizes in key stage 1 primary schools and the overcrowding in a number of other schools. I suspect that the figure which my hon. Friend suggested is probably right.

24 Mar 1998 : Column 215

It is also welcome that the Government are putting additional money into the repair and maintenance of school buildings. However, we should not be fooled by the sums of money that the Minister mentioned. When he spoke about £1 billion or so, he failed to remind us that that would be spent over a five-year period. When that is taken into account, the additional amount per year is much smaller than he suggested. The hon. Gentleman also did not point out that some of that money is to be used for capital purposes to meet another of the Government's election pledges, which is to reduce class sizes in key stage 1. Initially, the Government said that that pledge would be met entirely from the phasing out of the assisted places scheme, but we were then told in the Budget that additional capital money would be required from other sources.

We are pleased that some of that money will be used to get rid of outdoor loos in some of our primary schools. Hon. Members will have found it surprising that the Minister was able to announce the precise number of schools that will be assisted, when only two weeks ago, in answer to a question from me, he said that information on the number of schools with outside loos was not centrally available. I am delighted that, in only two weeks, he has been able to do such a detailed study and give the House the assurances that he did.

Mr. Byers: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way; I am sure that he would not want inadvertently to mislead the House. In replying to his parliamentary question, I did say that the Government did not hold the information centrally. However, we discovered subsequently that the two local authority associations had conducted their own survey, and it was on the basis of that information that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was able to announce that we shall assist more than 600 schools.

Mr. Foster: I am delighted that the Minister has confirmed my version of events. Two weeks ago, the Minister did not know that information; now he does. I am sure that the House is pleased that he has obtained that information and made the appropriate announcement.

I intend to press the new clause to a vote. The Minister said that it would lock us into the 1981 regulations, but that would be true for only a very brief period. The Minister was right to say that the regulations needed updating. However, the purpose of the new clause is to ensure that we put back on to the statute book a requirement to have premises regulations. When the Labour party was in opposition, it said that it was passionately in favour of that. We still believe in what the Labour party believed in less than 18 months ago. For that reason, I ask the House to support new clause 24.

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

The House divided: Ayes 39, Noes 279.

Division No. 221
[5.55 pm


AYES


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Cable, Dr Vincent
Chidgey, David
Dafis, Cynog
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kirkwood, Archy
Livsey, Richard
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Wallace, James
Webb, Steve
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Edward Davey and
Mr. Adrian Sanders.


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McLeish, Henry
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mandelson, Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. David Clelland and
Mr. Jim Dowd.

Question accordingly negatived.

24 Mar 1998 : Column 218

Clause 21

Kinds of foundation and voluntary schools and types of foundations

Mr. Byers: I beg to move amendment No. 47, in page 19, line 10, leave out 'two' and insert 'three'.


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