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Ms Estelle Morris: The world seems to be turning upside down when Conservative spokespeople defend local authorities' right to make decisions on everything that comes before them, and the spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats quotes the Lords in defence of democracy. If those are the best arguments that can be advanced, they have confirmed in my mind, if ever I needed confirmation, that the Government are right on the matter.

I took seriously the point made by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) about bureaucracy. Inevitably, when any Government seek to build in checks, balances and procedures, and to ensure that the rights of the weak and of minorities are protected, one can make that sound like bureaucracy. I expect that I could make the existing system sound like a bureaucracy. When I advise the Secretary of State on school closures, there is a lengthy procedure involving objections, responses to local authority objections, local authority reflections on objections and so on. Similar comments could be made about that, but bureaucracy is not always bad. Sometimes structure and procedures exist to defend decisions.

I would never claim that what we are putting in place is not a bureaucracy. Whether it is more bureaucratic or less bureaucratic, and whether we agree or disagree about it, we shall not know until we see the system in practice.

The hon. Gentleman quoted my words at me. If we want local decision making, we must make some changes. If the Opposition do not support our motion to disagree with the Lords amendment, we shall be left with what we have, which every party is unhappy about. We cannot set up a new structure and a new system for schools and for decision making, and leave local authorities and others with the status quo. No proposal or amendment would result in a different outcome.

The choice before hon. Members tonight is to go along with the school organisation committee and the adjudicator, or to stay with what we have. Every hon. Member who has spoken has said that what we have is not good enough. We have sought to put in place a form of local decision making. It contains layers to ensure that we get the balance right and that the partners are protected.

The second point made by the hon. Member for Bath, which was also referred to by the hon. Members for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) and for Altrincham and Sale,

15 Jul 1998 : Column 451

West (Mr. Brady), is about who has the right to take decisions. We are trying to create true partnership in the education service. People other than locally elected members of councils have a right to be part of our education system and have a vested interest in it. They are governors, they run schools, they are teachers or head teachers, they are members of diocesan boards or they are parents. They have a right to express an opinion and take part in decisions about what happens to their schools.

It is not good enough to leave such important decisions to members of local councils, although they have a large part to play. By drawing up the school organisation plan against which all recommendations will be made, they will firmly entrench their role in the process. I repeat that they will retain the power to decide on their own proposals where there are no objections.

Our proposals for school organisation committees reflect what we have tried to do over the past 18 months--that is, to anchor into the committees the partnership we need to make our schools good. They will make decisions based on proper guidelines, plans and accurate statistics. Decisions will be made in the interests of local people, not sidestepped to Whitehall through the Secretary of State. The quality of decisions will be better, because they will reflect the wishes of local people and local circumstances. Partners in the education service will know that they have had their say.

The hon. Lady spoke about the position of the Churches and referred to a letter to The Times on 24 June from Mr. John Hall, the general secretary of the board of education of the Church of England. He stated:


Assurances were given by my noble Friend Baroness Blackstone in another place that there will be guidelines from the Secretary of State to the adjudicators, which will make it clear that, where the relevant Church group on a school organisation committee has voted against closure of a denominational school, an adjudicator taking the final decision shall not reduce the proportion of denominational places within the authority. Such assurances in the House and in another place led the Bishop of Ripon to say on Third Reading:


    "I believe that the structure and character of Church schools has been both preserved and enhanced."--[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 July 1998; Vol. 592, c. 73.]

Not only the Churches, but the other partners in the education service are now taking their proper place as parties to decisions about the organisation of schools in their locality.

Mrs. May: This is an important issue. The Churches have expressed concern. I acknowledge that a statement was made about the existence of a Church veto, but perhaps the Minister could explain something to me. Will she confirm that, in the voting circumstances that I described, when the Church has a veto and the matter has gone to the adjudicator, that Church will have no veto over the closure of a particular school?

Ms Morris: As I have already made clear, if the Church section on the SOC votes against the proposal, it will go to the adjudicator, and the adjudicator will not be

15 Jul 1998 : Column 452

able to make a decision that reduces the proportion of denominational places. If the hon. Lady is not happy with that, I assure her that representatives of both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are entirely happy.

6 pm

Mr. Brady: As the Minister will recall, I mentioned in Committee that St. Bede's college in the borough of Trafford--an independent Roman Catholic grammar school--draws pupils who are funded by the local education authority, and has done so since the war. Would the power of veto prevent the local authority from removing such funded denominational places, in an independent school?

Ms Morris: We are talking about decisions relating to the framework for maintained schools, not independent schools. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the whole issue of whether local authorities can buy places in the independent sector has been dealt with on numerous occasions. It appears in other parts of the Bill, and I will not go into it at this stage.

We have made it clear that our commitment to local decision making is backed up by a structure that will deliver exactly that. I hope that the House will join me in rejecting the Lords amendment.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:--

The House divided: Ayes 306, Noes 184.

Division No. 336
[6.1 pm


AYES


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon
(Dunfermline E)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
(Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
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, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
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)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McLeish, Henry
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Jim Dowd and
Mr. David Jamieson.


NOES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Arbuthnot, James
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Ballard, Jackie
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Butterfill, John
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Forsythe, Clifford
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, James
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Webb, Steve
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Donald Gorrie and
Mr. Paul Keetch.

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 Jul 1998 : Column 455

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Lords amendment No. 35 disagreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 36 to 41 agreed to.

15 Jul 1998 : Column 456


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