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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I thought the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, shared my liberal and pluralistic view of society. I have been disillusioned. I realise that the old ILEA is writ large.

I find it an insult to my former profession to think that schoolmasters look at parents coming to the school and, if they are wearing poor clothes and are rather deprived, turn their children down. I say sincerely to the noble Lord that, during all my career--albeit in privileged schools, but one school which in its history had taken the deprived Jewish people of Eastern Europe, and took immigrants--that did not happen. I say this with some indignation. The noble Lord is accusing people like me of looking at parents, looking at their clothes and their children's language, and refusing them. All I can say, as a matter of personal conviction, is that in the whole of my career I never did that. I hope that the noble Lord may allow--not publicly but somewhere--that I did not do that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that deserves a public response. Of course I did not say, I have never believed and never would have said that the noble Lord had done that. What I said was that interviews have been used for the purpose of selection, whether social or academic. The noble Lord has given me an absolute assurance that he has never done so. He had no need to do it; I never had any doubt about his integrity as a head teacher.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, nor did many of my profession do so. I must stand by my profession. The noble Lord is accusing my profession of saying that they wanted the smart people. I am not prepared to accept that. I leave the personal side of it, but I feel it very strongly. Many school teachers who read this debate will also feel it. My indignation is rare, but I feel strongly about the point.

I wish to move on. What we saw tonight is old-fashioned "statism". The state knows best. I thought that had died. What we are talking about is the right of a school. A school is a community and in the end--if I become indignant, it is because my life was concerned with schools--the relationship and future of the child is related to the school. The document on admissions forbids an interview. The assumption of the noble Lord and the reason he justified it was that the interview was used as a method of social discrimination. I disputed that and I still dispute it. Within the mass of the school teaching profession, people trust in the relationship between the pupil and the school. One cannot detach, as the noble Lord tried to do, the community at large from the school which the child enters. That will be his or her community.

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There are many qualifications that Her Majesty's Government could have made about the proposal. However, they decided, in the true tradition of statism, of the old ILEA--which I thought the noble Lord had forgotten--that people were so bad in the teaching profession that they would judge by the suit that was worn or the language people spoke. Those in the teaching profession are not like that; they relate to people and try to enter into a community. Her Majesty's Government are trying to ensure parental choice, but inevitably some parents will not get the choice they want. It is crucial that a relationship is then established between the child and the school so that the parents feel confident.

On the whole, I have had an amiable relationship with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, but I believe he has failed to see the reason behind my amendments. I accept his attack on my trust in and devotion to selection. I believe in selection. But the main and crucial point of the amendment--Amendment No. 163A--does not conflict with articles of government but relates to selection, to a degree.

The amendments I stress are Amendments Nos. 161A and 161C. I say to the House that I can see no reason, beyond the prejudice of the noble Lord that teachers will judge pupils by the suits they wear, that school teachers cannot interview parents and children. If the noble Lord wishes to put qualifications on that, it is open to him to do so on the face of the Bill. He should do so on the understanding that he and his noble friends have proposed the admissions procedure but they have not allowed for this.

I must say to noble Lords opposite that they take a tough attitude. They are assuming that I have a hidden agenda in this. I have acknowledged to the House that I believe in selection. What I am saying is that pastoral sensitivity demands allowing parental interviews. If the Government wish to put qualifications on it, it is up to them. However, the noble Lord used a Gatling gun to attack me. I had to rise to indignation because it was not just me; it was most of my profession. The noble Lord was saying that school masters would choose the fancy end of the social scale. He is wrong to do that. It is wrong not to give more consideration to these amendments and I am disappointed that a liberalism was abandoned in which I know the noble Lord believes.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down--with the leave of the House--perhaps he or the Minister can explain what it is in Amendment No. 163A that is already being done by the Government. Amendment No. 163A simply says that a child can be refused entry to a school if it is incompatible with the school's admission arrangements.

I remind the noble Lord of the arrangements for entry to the Oratory. The parents whose children are entering that school must sign a binding agreement. If they do not, it becomes a condition of entry. That pertains to this day and was not outlawed by the previous government. I am not sure therefore that I understand what the Minister said in response to these amendments and perhaps he or my noble friend can explain.

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9.41 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 161A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 17; Not-Contents, 39.

Division No. 3


Annaly, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Blatch, B.
Byford, B. [Teller.]
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Glentoran, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller.]
Selsdon, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Wharton, B.
Wise, L.
Young, B.


Addington, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Chandos, V.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grenfell, L.
Hardie, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Judd, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Maddock, B.
Monkswell, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Ripon, Bp.
Rix, L.
Russell, E.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Whitty, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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9.49 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 161B and 161C not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 162:

Page 61, line 26, after ("matters") insert (", including the interpretation of the law,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 163. In Committee we discussed at some length the effects of the Greenwich judgment. I and other noble Lords referred then to the unpopularity of the effects of the Greenwich judgment among many parents and to the difficulties it is causing not only in outer London and in metropolitan areas but also, increasingly, in the new unitary authorities which have become relatively small LEAs. I am not returning specifically to the Greenwich judgment because this amendment does not seek to reverse the Greenwich judgment in any way. It does not deal with the effects of the Greenwich judgment, but rather, in a sense, offers some compensation for the effects of the Greenwich judgment. It is, in effect, reintroducing recoupment. I suppose that I have a sort

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of interest to declare in that my own local authority was a considerable beneficiary under the system of recoupment when it existed.

Parents do not particularly mind children coming from just over the border. Indeed, in many urban areas the border is irrelevant to everyone except the local authority. But for the local authority, it is very difficult in terms of planning school places to have this degree of uncertainty. It is also in many ways very unfair. I use the example of my own local authority because I know it best, although I think it is typical of many. For very good geographical reasons, we educate a large number of children from the neighbouring borough of Croydon. Were those Croydon children to be educated in Croydon, Croydon Council would be receiving well over £100 per pupil more to educate its children in Croydon schools than we receive to educate the same children in Sutton schools. The reverse is true, again for very good geographical reasons. A number of our children are educated in Croydon schools and Croydon receives well over £100 more per pupil to educate those children than we would if they were in Sutton schools. That seems to be unfair.

This issue was raised on Report in the other place by my own Member of Parliament. He received a reply from the Minister, Stephen Byers, which I suspect will bear some resemblance to the reply I shall receive in a few minutes, which is that the Government have no wish to reintroduce recoupment. I understand that and I expect to hear that very shortly. Mr. Byers said in that debate:

    "I can assure him"--
my Member of Parliament--

    "that the concerns that he has just raised will be taken into account as part of that exercise".--[Official Report, Commons, 24/3/98; col. 374.]

The exercise to which he was referring was the wholesale review of the SSA system. My purpose in raising this issue again tonight is not so much to press for the reintroduction of recoupment, because I know that that is not going to happen, but to urge the Minister to say a little more about how he expects this issue to be dealt with in the wholesale review of the SSA, as was promised by the Minister in another place some three months ago. I would hope that, three months on, the Minister is now in a position to answer it rather more fully than was possible in March at 4.15 a.m. I look forward with great interest to hearing the response that I am about to receive. I beg to move.

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