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Mr. Charles Kennedy: I hesitate to interrupt a fascinating life story. However, I bring to the Minister's attention the consideration that were it not for the state sector and comprehensive education, I would not have had the chance of tertiary education. When I took up the chance of a scholarship in the United States, it was a valuable experience. At that stage, the best part of 20 years ago, the US was implementing precisely the student-funding approach that is now the Government's policy. In the mid-west, the one group of people who were not my contemporaries were those who were well heeled, from New York and California. There were very few of the poorer kids from the mid-west because the system

7 Jun 2000 : Column 343

deterred them. That experience taught me a great deal. I wish it were an experience from which the Government would learn.

Ms Hughes: It seems not to have taught the right hon. Gentleman very much. He said that he got his scholarship competing

I am saying that fair and equal competition is not sufficient. It might be necessary, but if we are to help kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is not a sufficient condition to enable them to make the progress that clearly the right hon. Gentleman was able to make.

Mr. Bercow: Will the Minister give way?

Ms Hughes: No, I will not give way at this stage. I want to make more progress.

I am glad that we have achieved clarity, because so far the Liberal Democrats' stance on inequality has been confusing. They opposed the windfall tax to fund the new deal. They supported opportunity for the few but not for the vast majority. Their manifesto stated that they would increase pensions in line with prices, but now they are to be linked with wages. Perhaps if it had been a Lib Dem 75p increase, it would not have mattered so much. They said that they would put £200 million into health and education from their elastic 1p increase in income tax. So far, they have not matched our £40 billion.

Liberal Democrats accuse us of poverty of ambition and of timidity. However, when it comes to difficult choices, they run scared. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) gave us no more of the Lib Dem analysis of what is required than more cash, more cash and more cash. That is because they only have to make promises; they do not have to deliver.

We share with the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough the belief that education is a key source of inequality as a result of underachievement, and that education is a key way out of deprivation. I do not share his party's views about how we will achieve real opportunity in education for everybody, but I acknowledge his commitment to education and to young people.

I cannot say the same of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). It is amazing how often the quality of speeches is in inverse proportion to their length, and so it was this afternoon. The hon. Gentleman's speech was as bankrupt in substance as it was full of bluster. What he chose to speak about was interesting. In an extraordinarily long speech, he spent almost half an hour defending Oxford, Cambridge and grammar schools. He spent the rest of it--a relatively short time--rubbishing the national health service, public transport and the new deal.

Mr. David Taylor: Does my hon. Friend agree that at least one saving grace was that the speech of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) cleared the official Opposition's Benches, where three Members now reside? They are to be set against the scores of people who are interested in equality.

Ms Hughes: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend about that.

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I must take the hon. Member for Buckingham to task, because he accused every other Member in the Chamber of ignorance. He said that the new deal was a failure and a waste of money. He added that it was not worth the effort and that it was not having any impact. However, by the end of March, 210,000 young people had moved into jobs through the new deal. To take up one of the hon. Gentleman's points, 73 per cent. of those jobs are sustainable, and 86 per cent. of them do not, contrary to the hon. Gentleman's claim, require subsidy.

It is obvious that the hon. Gentleman does not know that in December two reports were published on the macro-economic evaluation of the new deal for young people. The evaluation was undertaken by a conglomerate of five independent research organisations. One of the findings was that unemployment is much lower as a result of the new deal. The independently conducted research confirms that half of those leaving unemployment since the new deal began would not have done so without it. The evaluation of the new deal is the most robust of any labour market programme. The report is free, and I advise the hon. Gentleman to read it. He may learn something, but it will not be humility.

The Government's approach is in stark contrast to those of the Conservative party and the Lib Dems. We have set ourselves the goal of ensuring that there is opportunity for all, and unreservedly attacking social exclusion. There should be opportunity for all alongside responsibility from all.

The Labour party was born out of the conviction and from the experience of many of its members that inequality and lack of opportunity are unjust, divisive and a waste of human potential. Many Labour Members and some Opposition Members come from backgrounds where only a few have the opportunities that enabled us to achieve something like our potential and enjoy a wider range of opportunities in life. We are too well aware of many friends from childhood and members of our own families--sisters and brothers, who are no less able than ourselves--who did not have the key chances. The hon. Member for Buckingham finds that funny, but we would expect that from him, wouldn't we?

We see in our constituencies that things have not changed much for many of today's children. My hon. Friend the Member for Corby spoke graphically about that. The hard-working, decent people of this country want that to change. They want a society that is fair and just in which everyone has a chance to get on and make the best of themselves. They want the chance to use opportunities and then to go on and take responsibility for their own future, as we do and as the hon. Member for Buckingham does. However, that is a chance that he would like to deny to others.

Opportunity for all does not exist in Britain at the moment. Some people and some groups--people from poor backgrounds, women, people from minority ethnic communities, disabled people--face barriers that others do not. They all face barriers and old-fashioned attitudes that should have no place in a modern society--the sort of attitudes we have seen today from the one Member of the Tory party who spoke from the Front Bench.

We are determined to lift those barriers, and we make no apology for that. That is the proper job of a proper Government. It is what sets the Labour Government apart from the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats.

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We are not leaving barriers in place like the Tories, or preferring to look the other way, or giving a quick fix that fizzles out, like the Liberal Democrats, but enabling people, through opportunities, to exercise the same choices and to take the same personal responsibilities that we all expect.

The Government are working hard in a systematic and sustained way to change Britain, to lift the barriers for all and to enable individuals and families whom we are concerned about--unlike Opposition Members--to reach their full potential, enabling them to take responsibility for their futures and, in so doing, to contribute as much as they can to this country's future. I urge Members to oppose the motion and to support the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

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

The House divided: Ayes 41, Noes 249.

Division No. 219
[7.1 pm


Allan, Richard
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Brand, Dr Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Fearn, Ronnie
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gidley, Sandra
Hancock, Mike
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kirkwood, Archy
Livsey, Richard
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Mr. Tom Brake.


Ainger, Nick
Alexander, Douglas
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blears, Ms Hazel
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
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
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lepper, David
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lock, David
McAvoy, Thomas
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Mitchell, Austin
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Organ, Mrs Diana
Pendry, Tom
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

7 Jun 2000 : Column 347

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


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