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Mr. Straw: The idea that I sneaked out the statement at 11 o'clock on a Friday is absurd. The moment I knew that the Spanish Foreign Minister had been moved from his post, I decided to make a statement and communicated that fact to Front-Bench spokesmen and many hon. Members on both sides of the House, so they were well aware of my intentions.
The hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) asked when a copy of the joint declaration would be made available, and I am glad to hear that he thinks that is a good idea. We shall do so when there is one, but there is not one, as I have been trying to explain. There may not be one, but I think that there probably will be.
As for the Falklands, the hon. Gentleman was not in the House in 1982, but I was. The history of the Falklands is one that we shall certainly not follow. There was an effort at backstairs deals with no negotiation or involvement whatsoever with the people of the Falklands; there was a readiness by the Government of whom the shadow Foreign Secretary was a member to hand over the Falklands, without any veto whatever being given to the people of the Falklands. Contrast that with our position on Gibraltar, on which we have said from the start that of course we respect the commitment that we gavenot themto ensure that any final decisions are put to the people of Gibraltar in a referendum.
Mr. Straw: On the European Union, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of our commitment to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights and ensure representation by attachment to a United Kingdom constituency in the European Parliament. The other issue that he raised is interesting. Essentially, he is proposing that Gibraltar should become directly a part of the United Kingdom. In that case, the Government of Gibraltar would obviously have to become a local authority and accept completely the current laws of the UK as they apply. People in Gibraltar have never put that to me; if it is a proposition, we shall obviously look at it.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Whatever the rights and wrongs of making the statement on a Friday, does the Secretary of State not think that he has learned something today? With the exception of one Labour Member, not one Member in the Chamber could give him any comfort whatsoever. Do I have to remind him that a former shadow Foreign Secretary said that he could not agree with a single word of the Foreign Secretary? Does he not think that the whole process of negotiation in Gibraltar, as elsewhere with other European Union countries, has been characterised by his Department's surrender and weakness? This is not a policy of flying two flags. It is a policy of flying one flag, as ever, as the Minister for Europe knows full wellthe white flag.
Michael Fabricant: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We have had an interesting statement from the Foreign Secretary, but have you received notice that the Home Secretary will make a statement today, given that we have just heard that the Government's crime policy has resulted in a 28 per cent. rise in crime and the lowest detection rates ever? That is a huge indictment of Government policy to be tough on crime and tough on causes of crime. The Foreign Secretary has come to the House, but where is the Home Secretary?
Mr. Willis: As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted, I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he opened the debate and for raising the issue of homophobic bullying. Contributions from Members on both sides of the House, including the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady), have focused on the value of education and what education is about. I do not know whether Members had a chance last night to see the interview between Michael Parkinson and Nelson Mandela in South Africa in connection with the sports aid programme. The interview was particularly interesting because it showed that Nelson Mandela and the South African people had a thirst for education that could not be satisfied. Our youngsters have access to what is arguably one of the world's highest quality education systems, despite its flaws, yet here we are, discussing how we can get them in and engage them, while in other parts of the world, particularly in southern Africa, tens of thousands of youngsters have no education at all and face an incredibly uncertain future.
Mr. Djanogly: It is interesting that we are filling our schools with foreign teachers because of the lack of our own. I note the enormous numbers that are coming over from South Africa. Given the hon. Gentleman's comments, that must be a problem for the South Africans.
Mr. Willis: I am grateful for that intervention. I have raised the same issue in the House on a number of occasions. It is deplorable that, because of appalling management of the teacher supply, we have to denude the countries of sub-Saharan Africa of teacherscountries where they are most neededto make up our shortfall. I hope that the Government will return to the issue, but I shall not pursue it today.
As hon. Members know, I spent not just one year before I went to university, but 34 years in classrooms. Apart from four years when I was deputy head in a boys' grammar school, which, I am delighted to say, was becoming a comprehensive, all my time in education was spent at the sharp end, dealing with youngsters from challenging homes and circumstances. I say to the House in all humility that in all that time, the children did not
There have always been disruptive and violent pupils in our schools; the idea that they have suddenly appeared over the past two or three years is nonsense. I met violent and disruptive pupils, and I met violent and disruptive parents. Although I was attacked only once by a violent parent, who hit me over the head with an umbrella, having ambushed me at the bottom of the stairs, I know that a number of my colleagues encountered real difficulties from time to time.
I should also say that I remember my very first day at school and a disruptive child aged five. The little boy was going off to Rosehill primary school. His mother had bought him a new coat, but it was raining when he went to school, so his old coat was put on top of his new coat. The teacher met him at the school gates, sent his mother away, took him inside and said, "Will you take your coat off?", to which the little boy said, "No. My mother says I have to keep it on to protect my new coat." The teacher grabbed hold of the child and shook him rather violently to get his coat off, at which point he stood on her foot rather violently and ran out of school.
Later that day, my father caused me to go back and make humble apologies, but the point of telling the tale is to illustrate that many children are temporarily involved in disruptive behavioura one-off incident, or a small incident. We must recognise that from time to time children growing up in all sorts of environments stray from the strait and narrow.
Michael Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman gives an interesting example and makes a powerful point, but does he accept that there is a difference between such an incident at a primary school, and one involving some hulking great brute of 17 years of age in a secondary school?
Mr. Willis: Of course. I merely wanted to show that we should not get incidents of disruptive behaviour out of perspective, and we should not believe that the problem is new; it is on-going. Sadly, what is new is that many youngsters today have an anarchistic view of authority: authority is there to be opposed. Many of their parents come with exactly the same view, whether towards school, the benefits office, the housing office or wherever.
I want to emphasise, and I hope that the Minister will accept, that we do not have a universal breakdown of discipline in our schools. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West, who spoke for the Conservatives, gave some horrific examples, but they are exceptional. The vast majority of our schools do not have that awful problem.
We cannot look at school discipline without looking at the whole issue of discipline in society. As many hon. Members know, my daughter was attacked recently on the streets of Kennington, just for the sake of a mobile phone. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffered a fairly brutal attack. That is becoming quite common. In one month in Lambeth and Brixton there were 17,000 such incidents. It is a major problem.