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2.27 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Gisela Stuart): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) on introducing the Bill. I take note too of the remarks of the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne). He reminded me of the debates that we had in Committee on the Care Standards Bill. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) ended up saying that he would go home and wrap a cold towel round his head, as he could not follow the discussion. I hope that the hon. Member for New Forest, West does not have to do the same.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley has an honourable record. I am delighted that her determined campaign on cosmetic surgery was successful. I hope that in time she will look back and see that her present campaign was equally successful. There is no disagreement between us about the objective of her Bill. The matter for discussion is how that will be achieved.

People should expect to receive high quality health care, provided by doctors or dentists in whom they have complete confidence--practitioners who are well trained, up to date with good practice in their discipline, and mindful of the ethical standards set by their professional body. A constant theme of the Government's policies for improving the quality of health services has been the strengthening of the regulation of health care professionals.

In 1999 we secured enactment of the Health Bill, which included provision to amend, by order, the uni-disciplinary Acts governing the main health care professions--the Medical Act 1983, the Dentists Act 1984 and the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1997. Last year we used that provision after the conviction of Harold Shipman for murder to amend the Medical Act to provide for the immediate suspension from the medical register of doctors charged with serious offences. We also gave the General Medical Council wider ranging investigatory powers where complaints have been made about a doctor's conduct.

During the current parliamentary Session we have sponsored a Health and Social Care Bill which provides health authorities with tight controls over the four independent contractor professions--general medical practitioners, general dental practitioners, pharmacists and opticians. When the Bill is passed, health authorities will be empowered to refuse to register practitioners whom they judge unsuitable, to suspend practitioners on their own authority, without having to apply to the NHS tribunal, and to place conditions on their registration, such as prohibiting dentists from treating patients under general anaesthetic. We are currently working on a second order, to be laid under section 60 of the Health Act 1999. The order will empower the General Dental Council to strengthen the regulation of dentistry. It has two main elements to do with the constitution of the council--

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 23 March.

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Remaining Private Members' Bills


Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

Second Reading deferred until Friday 30 March.


Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

Second Reading deferred until Friday 23 March.


Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

Second Reading deferred until Friday 23 March.


Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

Second Reading deferred until Friday 23 March.


Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal): Not moved.


Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

Second Reading deferred until Friday 23 March.

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Motion made,

Line 31, at end add--
'( ) The committee shall have power to appoint a sub-committee, which shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, and to report to the committee from time to time.
( ) The committee shall have power to report from time to time the minutes of evidence taken before the sub-committee.
( ) The quorum of the sub-committee shall be three.'.--[Mr. Clelland.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [31 January],

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Line 40, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 50, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 52, at the end insert the words:--
'(4A) notwithstanding paragraphs (2) and (4) above, where more than two committees or sub-committees appointed under this order meet concurrently in accordance with paragraph (4)(e) above, the quorum of each such committee or sub-committee shall be two.'.--[Mr. Clelland.]

Hon. Members: Object.

16 Mar 2001 : Column 1359

16 Mar 2001 : Column 1361

Secondary Education (West London)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Clelland.]

2.32 pm

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): This is a timely opportunity to have the privilege of raising in the House the subject of secondary school education in west London. I have used the term "west London" advisedly in the title of the debate. Although the problems that I shall describe are especially serious for Ruislip-Northwood and the Hillingdon borough, they transcend borough boundaries and must, therefore, be set in their wider context.

My constituency has a range of excellent secondary schools. It contains the Bishop Ramsey Church of England school in Ruislip, Northwood school in Northwood Hills, Haydon school in Eastcote-Pinner, Queensmead school in South Ruislip and John Penrose school in Harefield. Dolay Martyrs school, Ickenham, is situated just outside my constituency, in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). It is a Roman Catholic Church school that receives a significant number of pupils from my area.

The problem that is currently of special concern to my constituents is their inability to secure places for their children in local secondary schools of their choice. The problem is especially prevalent in parts of Eastcote, Ruislip Gardens, Ruislip Manor and South Ruislip, where many people face significant problems unless they can claim priority for their children on medical or sibling grounds. Most usually, disappointed parents are offered places for their children in John Penrose school, which is located in Harefield. The school is a long way from Ruislip or Ruislip Manor and is fairly inaccessible. Other parents are offered places in Hayes Manor school, in the extreme south of the borough of Hillingdon.

I raised related issues when, some two and a half years ago, I took a deputation--my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge did the same--to see the Minister for School Standards about education problems in Hillingdon, especially in respect of secondary education.

We discussed at that time the possibility of constructing a new school in Ruislip, and Hillingdon borough council local education authority hoped that Her Majesty's Government could let us know by now whether the capital funding for the project was available. Local education authority officials have been in discussion with the Department for Education and Employment, and a site has been identified at Sidmouth drive, although planning permission has to be secured first. I hope that the Minister can deal with that point.

Parental feeling is strong. Indeed, several parents of pupils at Lady Banks primary school in Dawlish drive, Ruislip Manor have got together. Many have written to me to argue forcefully against the effects of the Greenwich judgment, which permits cross-borough migration of pupils to the school of the parents' choice, often to the detriment of the exercise of that same parental choice by those who live in the borough where the school is located.

In my area of west London, the difference between the sort of secondary schooling in Harrow borough and Hillingdon borough makes the problem especially acute.

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In Harrow borough, people feel strongly that the current system should be changed. The Minister may remember that sixth forms disappeared when the borough changed to comprehensive education in the early 1970s. Education to A-level was then provided by sixth form colleges, which have subsequently been replaced by tertiary colleges. The reputation of the tertiary colleges is good, but they are not popular with all parents, who may prefer a post-16 sixth form in a school environment, where children gain authority as prefects and in other positions of responsibility. Such opportunities are not available in tertiary colleges.

Parents therefore seek places at 11-plus schools in neighbouring boroughs, such as my borough of Hillingdon, where school education to sixth form level is available. That leads to unfilled places in middle schools in the Harrow borough and resentment from parents in Hillingdon who cannot, as a consequence of the migration of pupils from Harrow, secure a place for their children in the Hillingdon school of their choice.

Successive Governments have upheld the Greenwich judgment. It was passed in 1989 in the Court of Appeal, which upheld a High Court ruling that a local education authority could not lawfully pursue a schools admissions policy that preferred children living in its area to those outside. There is little information about the impact of the judgment on parental choice. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) tried to secure such clarification in a written question on 11 January. The Minister for School Standards replied:

We understand that, and my local authority is doing its best, hence the dialogue with the Department for Education and Employment about a new school in Ruislip.

Even if the new school was authorised tomorrow--I hope that it is--that would not solve the immediate difficulty. Other west London boroughs have also identified a problem. I cite an Adjournment debate introduced by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) on 28 May 1998. He said that overcrowding in schools in Richmond upon Thames borough had been aggravated by the Greenwich judgment. In the same debate, the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) said:

I would say, "especially Hillingdon"--

The problem with the London borough of Richmond upon Thames is one that we share in Hillingdon: the schools are especially good in both boroughs. Children come flooding into Hillingdon, not only from Harrow but from Hertfordshire in the north and from the London borough of Ealing in the south-east. The then Minister in

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the Department for Education and Employment, the right hon. Member for Tyneside, North (Mr. Byers), said in his reply that

That is a somewhat contentious remark. He went on to say:

The difficulty is that, for someone in Harrow, Northwood school or Queensmead school in my constituency could be "just over the road". However, children who live in my constituency in the same road as those schools could be denied a place in those schools. That is most unsatisfactory. The Minister concluded:

In Hillingdon, we only import. I have no evidence of an exodus of pupils from Hillingdon to the neighbouring boroughs that I have mentioned, although one or two pupils go to grammar schools in Buckinghamshire and in Watford on the basis of competitive examination. However, they are special cases.

In short, there are widespread difficulties in secondary education in my borough. I took advice from the local education authority when trying to summarise what the difficulties were, in addition to the issue of parental choice. The advice that I received was this:

the prospect of--

as high as those in many inner London boroughs, and, in some parts of Ruislip-Northwood, even higher. The local education authority went on:

that exist in the borough--in Hayes and Yiewsley in the south, and in Harefield, parts of Northwood Hills and South Ruislip in my constituency.

The formula for applying for the education grant is subject to an extraordinary paradox that I find incomprehensible. According to the LEA, Hillingdon

There is, therefore, a fundamental problem of funding, which I hope that the Minister will address.

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I took advice not only from the local education authority but from the schools themselves, in which there was a unanimity of view. The head teacher of one school said:

So concerned was the local education authority that it called in my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), the director, the chairman of the education committee and the heads of all the schools to thrash out initiatives that could be taken. The head teacher said that although there are affluent areas in Hillingdon, the neighbouring boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow have excellence in cities additions to their funding that we do not enjoy in our borough.

Another head teacher cited the very high cost of housing in west London and the low level of the London weighting allowance. He said that for mortgage purposes and based on an income multiple of three times salary, the increase in the London weighting allowance would give an extra £6,000 on a mortgage, which was almost

He also referred to low pay and the fact that particular specialisms, such as languages, maths and science, have recruitment problems.

Retention is always a difficult problem. The stress and strain of bureaucracy and form filling are acute, so people all too often leave the profession early.

A good summary of the situation was given by another head teacher. The aspects that caused him concern were a salary increase that in total adds up to about 6 per cent. while his likely budget increase is about 4.5 per cent.; the inequalities between our borough and Ealing and Hounslow, which enjoy excellence in cities funding, whereas we do not; the shortage of teachers; the long-term problems of teacher recruitment and retention; the painfully inadequate London allowance compared with house prices; and the need for affordable housing for young staff.

A catalogue of difficulties affects my borough of Hillingdon particularly severely. However, they are not just Hillingdon problems: they go wider than that and are made more acute by the difference in the education system between Harrow and Hillingdon, and the difference in treatment between Hounslow and Ealing and our borough of Hillingdon.

I hope that the Minister will address some of those issues, and give us hope about the new school in Ruislip.

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