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Mr. Wilshire: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The next debate is about a very serious and important matter. Many hon. Members wish to speak.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of it, but there is another motion to deal with. Is that the matter that is so important?

Mr. Wilshire: Yes. It is an issue about which many hon. Members wish to speak--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the next motion on the Order Paper is not for debate, however important he thinks it is.


Queen's recommendation having been signified--

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)(Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills),

Question agreed to.

Mr. Leigh: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The next item for debate is the Education

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(School Teachers' Pay and Conditions) (No. 4) Order 2000, and it is very important. However, the Order Paper states that the Question will be put

It is now 11.18 pm. Given the interest in the matter, how can we have a serious debate in just 12 minutes? Is there any way, under our procedures, that Parliament can do its proper job and hold a serious debate?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Debate on the motion must end at 11.30. I shall consider then whether to use my powers to adjourn the debate, rather than put the Question.

Mr. Bercow: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance as to whether, in the heavily circumscribed period available for debate, it is expected or obligatory that, even if there is not time for Back-Bench contributions, all three Front-Bench contributions will be made and heard.

Madam Deputy Speaker: My answer to an earlier point of order indicates the way in which I intend to conduct the debate.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think it would help the House if you would give your guidance as to whether your judgment will be affected by the length of speeches even in the very brief time available, and whether more than one contribution has been allowed for in that period of time. That would enable, for example, the person who first catches your eye to decide how to structure the debate in order to allow you to make your judgment at the end of the time available.

Madam Deputy Speaker: It would certainly help me make my judgment if we could proceed with the debate.

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11.20 pm

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): I beg to move,

As hon. Members who raised points of order made clear, this is a very important issue indeed. It is sad that we are starting to debate such an important issue at twenty minutes past 11 o'clock because we have spent most of the evening waffling about parliamentary business that could have been carried very quickly. If it had been, that would have enabled us to hold a full one and a half hour debate on this issue.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Willis: It is very sad indeed--[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal): Order. The House must come to order.

Mr. Willis: Performance-related pay is an important issue, which for the last two years has vexed the minds of some 500,000 teachers throughout England and Wales. When they look at the newspapers tomorrow, or at Hansard, and see that, sadly, Members felt it was far more important to play games on the Opposition Benches than to discuss this important issue, they will draw their own conclusion about who has teachers' interests at heart.

We have never had an opportunity in the House to discuss performance-related pay, or indeed the Government's Green Paper, published in December 1998, entitled "Teachers: Meeting the Challenge of Change". That Green Paper contained a series of interesting proposals about the future of the teaching profession--proposals that Members on both sides of the House would have enjoyed debating. There was an important proposal to introduce information and communications technology and to make every teacher in the country ICT-literate. Another proposal was to introduce teaching assistants, who have a crucial role in the education delivery service. The changes to initial teacher training were trailed in that document. It had some profound things to say about the way in which the profession would be organised in this new millennium. Perhaps the most interesting issue, to which the Government have come rather late, is that of professional development of the teaching force. Those were all major issues.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Willis: Given the time that is available to me, I am not prepared to give way. I apologise for that.

Sadly, two years on, the Green Paper, despite the fact that it has not been debated in the House, will be remembered not for the many excellent initiatives that it

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contains, but for the Government's bungled attempts to impose performance-related pay on the teaching profession in England and Wales.

Miss McIntosh: Would the hon. Gentleman allow me?

Mr. Willis: The order that we are considering tonight is the culmination of that bungled and torturous process. Rather than unite the teaching profession around new structures for pay and conditions, the Secretary of State has shown us how it is possible to divide the profession and squander the good will of 500,000 teachers.

Miss McIntosh: Would the hon. Gentleman allow me?

Mr. Willis: In his judgment in the successful court case brought by the National Union of Teachers, Mr. Justice Jackson said that the course adopted by the Secretary of State had bypassed the School Teachers Review Body, Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. He said that if he did not make an order, the court would be allowing contractual provisions to be foisted upon some 400,000 schoolteachers in a manner not authorised by Parliament. That judgment on 14 July last year was a shocking indictment of the way in which the Secretary of State had tried to force through his proposals without debate or proper consideration.

Miss McIntosh: Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. It is clear that the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give way.

Mr. Willis: Imagine if a Conservative Secretary of State had been so judged in the courts--there would have been outrage among Labour Members.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): There frequently was.

Mr. Willis: The right hon. Gentleman says that there was, frequently.

Mr. Forth: I was there.

Mr. Willis: Labour Members must recognise that it was a judgment of real significance in terms of the process.

Miss McIntosh: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Willis: Yet even with that judgment ringing in the Secretary of State's ears, he sought to deflect the blame, first by blaming the NUT and then his civil servants for the decisions that were taken. Never did the right hon. Gentleman say after that damning court judgment, "I got it wrong and I apologise to the teaching profession."

Miss McIntosh: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Willis: What nonsense.

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In the Department's submission to the court, its timetable for the validation of all assessments was not September 1990 or October, but 28 February 2001. That was the date on which the Government expected the threshold payments to be made available to teachers.

Miss McIntosh: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Willis: There was never any intention of paying teachers earlier than that. The Minister and the Secretary of State castigated the NUT, saying that teachers were prevented from having their payments in September. That was untrue and a dreadful statement for a Secretary of State to make.

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