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10.30 pm

In the light of all those problems, I urge the hon. Member for Maidenhead not to press the amendments and the new clause. I hope that the Opposition will also end their campaign of frightening parents, schools and LEAs into believing that the Government have a hidden agenda for school sixth forms. Our only agenda is one that we are proud to publicise--that provision for 16 to 19-year-olds should be of high quality, and that it should offer a range of options. School sixth forms will continue to be an important and valued element of education provision.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): The Under-Secretary of State smiles at the end of a speech that would have been more enjoyable if, instead of sounding like a wind-up Minister, she had smiled while she made it. She has assured the House that if sixth form numbers fall, funding will not be cut more than pro rata, but she did not say what would happen if sixth form numbers grew. We have to assume that she could not give the assurance that, in that case, funds would grow pro rata. Perhaps she would like to give an assurance to that effect to schools that are successful in expanding their sixth forms.

It is clear that people in many education authorities are keen to have a mixture of provision. In the West Sussex area, for example, there are sixth form colleges and schools with sixth forms. The House should unite in saying that the Government should show more confidence in children and their teachers, and that the aim should be to help them achieve far more than has been the case over the past 20 years or so.

When I first came to the House, some large schools had more than 1,200 pupils, none of whom gained an A-level pass in maths, physics or chemistry. Those schools were not successful. Many people said that pupils in large schools, regardless of whether those were rural or inner-city schools, should be able to achieve the sort of success that would allow them to go on to university or medical school, or join a range of professions. There is now a bipartisan agreement that that can and should happen.

The disappointment in the debate was that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) seemed to think that he was opposing the Conservatives in government, and gave his implicit support to almost everything that the Labour Government are doing. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) asked him what was the Liberal Democrats' policy on sixth forms in rural areas, but he did not answer. That will allow Liberal Democrats to be attacked by Labour and Conservative Members for letting down many teachers, pupils and parents in those areas.

Finally, it is true that children are not numbers. All children, parents and teachers want to achieve what in South Africa is called "upliftment". The connotations of that word are a greater sense of achievement, and a greater opportunity for it. Achieving that requires a little less of the partisan approach that we have heard from the Government over the past three years.

27 Jun 2000 : Column 832

The Under-Secretary of State referred to a Green Paper. Will she assure the House that the consultation process will be more open than the health service consultation that was bounced out by the special political advisers to the Department of Health a month ago? An education Green Paper that was a genuine consultation exercise would be welcome, I suggest to the Labour party--

Mr. Blunkett: What has this got to do with the Bill?

Mr. Bottomley: I am following up a point made by the Under-Secretary of State in this debate. She referred to the Green Paper, and that involves consultation. If that is news to the Secretary of State, it is a jolly good thing that he is listening to the debate.

Mr. Blunkett: What a silly man. Is that a challenge?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. I should be grateful if hon. Members, including the Secretary of State, would refrain from making sedentary interventions.

Mr. Bottomley: The Under-Secretary referred to the Green Paper in her response to the debate on the amendments, for which the Secretary of State was not present. I was saying that I hoped that the consultation would be genuine. If the Labour party wants to respond to the consultation, that would also be welcome. For us to have a bipartisan approach to improving education, each person should try to respond to the questions that others are asking.

My belief is that we are doing our job better if we allow schools and sixth form colleges to improve their output. That requires the confidence of the teachers, the interest of the parents and rather less of the minor party bickering that the Secretary of State introduced into the debate this evening.

Mrs. May: I am disappointed that the Government have not seen fit to take the opportunity to accept the amendment that would remove the uncertainty from the future of school sixth forms. I am also disappointed that they have not indicated in answers to the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley) what will happen to school sixth forms when numbers increase--because the schools are worried. However, the Government do not trust the schools, the heads or the teachers. It is clear that the Liberal Democrats do not trust the heads or the teachers either. We do trust the heads and the teachers to get on with the job of raising standards in our schools. That is why we want to give schools complete freedom and ensure that they get all their funding and the opportunity to decide for themselves how to spend it, rather than having to take instructions from the Minister on where to spend every £10, and have the Government decide their priorities for them.

Because the Government have not seen fit to put their legislation behind the Secretary of State's mouth, I shall press amendment No. 87 to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 323.

27 Jun 2000 : Column 833

Division No. 241
[10.36 pm


Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Randall and
Mr. Stephen Day.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Butler, Mrs Christine
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hood, Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McFall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

27 Jun 2000 : Column 836

Clause 10

Qualifying accounts and grants

Amendments made: No. 28, in page 6, line 11, after "promote" insert "--
No. 29, in page 6, line 12, at end insert--
'(b) the making of arrangements which qualify under section 101.'.
No. 30, in page 6, line 13, at end insert--
'( ) may be specified as a body with which arrangements under section 101 may be made;
( ) may be designated by the Secretary of State under section 102(1) or (3) and may act in accordance with such a designation;'.--[Mr. Wills.]

Clause 13

Persons with learning difficulties

Amendments made: No. 57, in page 7, line 10, leave out "adequate".
No. 58, in page 7, line 10, after "training" insert--
'which are sufficient in quantity and adequate in quality'.--[Mr. Wills.]

Clause 16


Amendment made: No. 31, in page 8, line 25, at end insert--
'(2A) The strategy must include proposals as to how the Council intends to develop the skills of persons in employment; but this does not affect the generality of subsection (1).'.--[Mr. Wills.]

Clause 18

Supplementary functions

Amendment made: No. 91, in page 9, line 6, leave out--
'hold shares in a company, or otherwise become a member'
and insert--
'subscribe for or otherwise acquire shares in or securities'.--[Mr. Wills.]

Clause 22

Plans of local councils

Amendment made: No. 32, in page 10, line 28, at end insert--
'(f) a statement of the likely effect of the local council's activities on the economic development and regeneration of its area.'.--[Mr. Wills.]

Schedule 1

27 Jun 2000 : Column 837

Learning and Skills Council for England

Amendments made: No. 42, in page 70, line 23, after "member" insert--
'or chairman or chief executive'.
No. 43, in page 70, line 25, after "chairman" insert "or chief executive".--[Mr. Wills.]

Schedule 2

Local councils

Amendment made: No. 44, in page 73, line 38, after "member" insert "or chairman".--[Mr. Wills.]

New Clause 6

Plans: Wales

' .--(1) The Council must make a plan for each of its financial years.
(2) The Council must send its plan for its first financial year to the National Assembly as soon as is reasonably practicable after the year starts.
(3) The Council must send its plan for any subsequent financial year of the Council to the National Assembly before the year starts.
(4) A plan for a financial year must include--
(a) proposals as to how the Council intends to achieve in the financial year any objectives which should be achieved in the year in conformity with directions of the National Assembly or with conditions imposed under section 47;
(b) the Council's financial proposals for the year;
(c) such other matters as the National Assembly specifies.
(5) The National Assembly must approve the plan or require the Council to make specified alterations of it; and if alterations are required the Council must make them.
(6) The Council must publish the plan as approved by the National Assembly or as altered in accordance with the National Assembly's requirements; and publication must be made at such time and in such manner as the National Assembly specifies.
(7) The Council may make and publish such other plans as it thinks fit; but any such plan must not conflict with a plan for a financial year.'.--[Mr. Hanson.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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