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Mr. Hoban: I am sure the Minister is aware that those data are already collected by the Government, and are available through the Office for National Statistics.

Mr. Twigg: I shall be happy to look into that. I think there are problems over data sharing, but we have had discussions with colleagues in the ONS and the Department for Work and Pensions to establish whether we could provide the information in a way that would help local authorities.

The second difficulty is that a family's needs obviously depend to an extent on family size. Larger families will need more income to sustain the same standard of living as smaller families, and it seems unfair to penalise them by looking only at average family income. Thirdly, average incomes vary considerably from place to place. The greatest concentrations of poverty are in the inner cities, while many rural areas are relatively affluent.

The last category mentioned was that of children whose current transport costs are covered by a discretionary fare scheme. I assume that the hon.
16 Dec 2004 : Column 1869
Member for Fareham is referring to children travelling to denominational schools, to schools within the statutory walking distances, or to other schools that are not the "nearest suitable" for which the LEA makes discretionary travel arrangements. I can see that there are good arguments for including information about the charges they currently bear and what charges will be in scheme applications in future, and I will amend the prospectus to achieve that.

In the short time that I have left, let me say something about the important issue of children with special educational needs and disabilities. Amendment No. 14 seeks to include a limited proportion of children with a special educational need or a disability in the definition of "protected child". Those included would be pupils who, because of their SEN or disability, were unable to use transport ordinarily available to children without that SEN or disability and were attending their nearest suitable school, or another school where it had been agreed with the scheme authority that they should be registered as a consequence of their need.

In Committee we had some very constructive discussions on the provision of transport for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities. At that stage, I undertook to look carefully at the position of such children. I think there was a helpful consensus among Members that parents of pupils with SEN should not be placed in a worse position than parents of pupils whose children made their own way to their local schools on foot, by bicycle or on the bus. The Committee also agreed that any charges made for transporting pupils with special educational needs or mobility problems must take into account families' ability to pay.

In response to the hon. Gentleman's challenge, I want to explain what we have done following the comments of my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State on Second Reading. Officials in the Department have had, and continue to have, helpful discussions with the Special Educational Consortium and other groups that speak for children with SEN. I am grateful for the consortium's constructive approach, and for the time and trouble it has taken to explore a broad range of options with us.

After careful consideration of the points made by the consortium and others, I have decided to set out our policy for pupils with SEN and mobility problems in the prospectus, which of course will be referred to in the Bill as a result of a late amendment that I tabled.

LEAs will need to include their policy on providing transport for pupils with SEN in their scheme applications. We will not approve schemes unless they protect pupils with SEN or mobility problems from charges that would be additional to those accruing to the parents of pupils of the same age, in the area in which they reside, where special arrangements have to be made by reason of their disability or special educational need.

I want to respond to two specific points. The hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) made a very reasonable point about the definition of mobility, and I undertake to consider whether we can strengthen and clarify the prospectus in the way he suggested. I will reply to him in due course. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) expressed disappointment, saying that we were simply talking about protecting parents and pupils from the additional costs that might
16 Dec 2004 : Column 1870
arise in respect of children with special educational needs. I can assure him that our ongoing discussion with the consortium and other groups focuses on that issue, and he is doubtless right in saying that we will return to it when the Bill goes to the other place.

The approach that I have set out meets many of the concerns expressed by the SEC. It does not extend free or subsidised transport to every SEN pupil who does not attend their nearest suitable school because we want the provision of such transport to continue to be at the discretion of local education authorities.

In some respects, the approach that I have outlined goes further than amendment No. 14. It protects pupils who are unable to walk or cycle to school, along with their peers, from charges in cases where they require transport. However, the amendment offers protection to such children only in cases where transport is normally available to their peers. In addition, there are some practical difficulties with the amendment as drafted. For example, it refers to a comparator group of pupils provided with transport. In practice, therefore, pupils who live close to their school, and whose comparator group were walking or cycling, might have to pay a contribution to the transport, while those living further away, and whose comparator group were entitled to transport, would be protected from charges.

I am grateful to the House for allowing me to set out in some detail the Government's response to the amendments. As has been said, these issues are at the very heart of the Bill. Through the existing prospectus, we have been able to respond to the many legitimate concerns that were expressed in all parts of the House and by a number of pressure groups. We are almost there but further work is required, which is why dialogue is ongoing. We will return to the issues of SEN and low-income families in particular when the Bill goes to the other place. However, the progress made merits the support of Members in all parts of the House, so I urge the Liberal Democrats to withdraw their amendment.

Mr. Willis: I thank the Minister for the courteous and detailed way in which he has responded to the debate. This group of amendments goes to the heart of the issue, which is providing guarantees for children with special educational needs, and for children who attend schools that are a product of choice, such as denominational schools, as a result of Government policy. There is also the question of how to guarantee school places for children who live in rural areas, and whose parents are on relatively low incomes, without shifting the burden.

Despite the Minister's assurances, the prospectus has proved to be a moveable feast, even during the course of this afternoon's debate. In a sense, that is to be welcomed, because it shows that he is listening and responding to the debate. But he has also made it clear that we are no longer talking about pilots; rather, school transport will be subject to wholesale change. As amendment No. 9 makes clear, we want to keep the existing arrangements in place until the pilots are seen to work effectively. Imposing such change beforehand is unacceptable and a cause of sadness, so with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we will press the amendment to a vote.

I was disappointed at the Minister's dismissing the issue of rurality. The legality of the prospectus is very dubious in this regard, and it would have to be tested in
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the courts, or by the Department itself. It is a pity that the Minister has taken this view, because there is growing resentment among people in rural areas, who feel that the Government's social policy is focused on urban areas. This was a good opportunity to deal with that issue.

The issue that we continue to feel strongly about— I hope that there will be other votes on amendments in the group—is denominational schools. It is not feasible for the Government to claim that they have a policy to support denominational schools, as well as academies and specialist schools, and want to expand them, without guaranteeing young people access to those schools relatively free of charge—

It being Five o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker, put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [28 October].

The House divided: Ayes 147, Noes 233.

Division No. 20
[5 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Ancram, rh Michael
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Barrett, John
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Beith, rh A. J.
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burnett, John
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Cameron, David
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gidley, Sandra
Gill, Parmjit Singh
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hammond, Philip
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John (Orpington)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Keetch, Paul
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lilley, rh Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, rh Mrs Theresa
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Pugh, Dr. John
Redwood, rh John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Dame Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Stanley, rh Sir John
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, David
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Sir Robert Smith


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Austin, John
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Byrne, Liam (B'ham Hodge H)
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Casale, Roger
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Colman, Tony
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
David, Wayne
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jamieson, David
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Kemp, Fraser
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, rh Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McFall, rh John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, rh John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, rh Jacqui (Redditch)
Soley, Clive
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Iain (Hartlepool)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Paul Clark and
Mr. Nick Ainger

Question accordingly negatived.

16 Dec 2004 : Column 1874

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