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Mr. Andrew Turner: My hon. Friend may not have heard the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), from a sedentary position, ask what was improper about using a civil servant[Interruption.] A special adviser is paid for by the taxpayer. Jo Moore was defended as a civil servant, under the civil service disciplinary code. I hope that my hon. Friend, as a former special adviser, can explain to the hon. Gentleman why such a use of a civil servant is improper.
Mr. Green: So far has the arrogance of power penetrated this Government, that they genuinely do not know why it is improper to use people whose salaries are paid by taxpayers of all political views and none to promote the partisan interests of the Government of the day.
Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Perhaps we can clarify the point for the benefit of the whole House. Is my hon. Friend saying that the document has come not from Millbank or the Labour party, but from the Department for Education and Skills, and that it has been given to hon. Members of one party but not to those of another? That must be improper.
The purpose of this wretched document, which is supposed to be about the Bill, has already failed. The document is supposed to try to make Labour Members helpful to the Government, but the Government have already lost the argument with their own side. The Local Government Association has a Labour majority, and understandably it usually tries to be helpful to the Government. It is therefore all the more damning that the LGA's key message on the Bill includes statements such as:
Additionally, with the creation of statutory school forums and admission forums, the Bill adds a whole new tier of bureaucracy to education. Is the Secretary of State seriously telling us that what we most need in education today is more committees and more paperwork? We need the exact opposite. The recent National Union of Teachers survey showed that 37 per cent. of teachers leaving the profession cited Government initiatives and paperwork as their main reason for getting out, which is more than cited pay as the main reason. Furthermore, how will the school forums work? Will it be one school, one vote? If so, will not primary schools always outvote secondary schools, and what effect will that have on the allocation of resources? None of those vital practical issues is addressed in the Bill.
That brings me to another important failure of the Bill, and back to this ever-useful and rather controversial document for Labour Members. With an almost magisterial use of weasel words, the document states:
The Bill is another turn of the ratchet in making Parliament irrelevant. All the key decisions will be left to the Government to implement in secondary legislation. None of us can know what the Government really have in mind on any of those vital details. That itself is a democratic disgrace, but it has only been compounded by a programme motion that makes it explicit that the Government will savagely curtail consideration in Committee. The Government are denying the opportunity of proper debate on the Floor of this House and they are denying the opportunity of proper scrutiny in Committee. It is bad governance.
This Billany Education Billshould be important enough for the Government to want to get it right more than they want to get it quickly. Rushed legislation is inevitably partly bad legislation. In this case, as it will be left to teachers, parents and students to suffer the consequences, I should try to salvage some of the good points among the mass of bad ones in the legislation.
As I said, I applaud the way in which the Government are seeking in clause 180 to reverse some of the mistakes that they have made in previous Bills. Notably, we support the removal of the ban on schools forming federations. We think that such federations can be helpful and we welcome the removal of the ban. I would also welcome moves towards increasing diversity by lifting restrictions but, as I said, innovation is not promoted by saying, "You can do what you like as long as the Secretary of State likes you".
I also think that the Government and the Secretary of State have the balance broadly right on faith schools. The vast majority of existing faith schools do a good job in educating their children and they deserve our support.
Mr. Green: Apparently one did. I suspect, however, that my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) and I are closer to the Secretary of State's views on the issue than are many Labour Members and, in particular, Liberal Democrat Members. I urge her to have courage on the issue. I think that she is doing the right thing, and I hope that she maintains her stance on it as it is the correct one.
Overall, however, the Bill's good intentions will mean nothing. Conservative Members have an alternative vision of education that is based on real freedoms, real respect for professional teachers, objective measures of success and a desire to take daily decisions out of the Department. We believe that the Government should be concentrating on creating the right conditions in schools, including proper powers for heads and teachers to impose discipline, less interference and paperwork from Whitehall, and a genuine commitment to local control.
The Bill offers the exact opposite. Its centralising agenda will prevent us from ever having a world-class education system in England and Wales because it will continue to demoralise teachers and drive them from the profession. If the Bill is enacted in its current form, England and Wales will be moving in the exact opposite direction to the rest of the world, where Governments of all types are trying to decentralise education.
The Secretary of State has done one remarkable thing with the Bill: she has assembled against her a coalition that encompasses the Conservative party, some other minor parties, two organisations for head teachers, most of the other teaching unions, the Labour chairman of the LGA education committee and the Labour-dominated Local Government Association. There comes a time in the life of every Government when arrogance cuts in and Ministers measure their success by the scale of the opposition. May I tell her that when Governments reach that stage, they are heading for the rocks? The Bill is a prime example of such arrogance. It does not deserve support, and I urge the House to vote for our reasoned amendment and against the Bill.