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Angela Watkinson: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Mahon: No, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal took up an enormous amount of time and I want to speak briefly.

In October, I tabled an early-day motion, which was signed by about 80 hon. Members, pointing out that faith schools are not only about selection but about the exclusion of children.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras touched on another issue that I want to raise. I want to sing the praises of teachers in community schools. Their moral values are no less than those of someone who opts to teach in a religious school. We should praise those teachers for their teaching about humanity and human values. When they talk about inclusivity, we should praise them—not denigrate them.

I have three more points. First, more faith schools will be damaging to racial and religious relations. About 8 per cent. of the people of Halifax are Muslim: not one of them has asked me to support them in setting up a separate Muslim school. I have held many discussions with them about education. Like all immigrant populations, they realise that education is the way to get on and to achieve integration. They are trying to better themselves and their children through education. I have never been asked for a Muslim school in Halifax and I am pleased about that. Incidentally, we were not consulted about the inclusion of the manifesto commitment on faith schools so I did not feel that I had to defend it during the general election.

I ask hon. Members to read Lord Ouseley's report: "Community Pride not Prejudice, Bradford Vision 2001". The report was commissioned before the Bradford riots and was published just after they took place. It asked several questions, one of which was:

The conclusion was that the answer lies partly in education.

The young people of Bradford spoke for themselves about what had gone wrong. They complained that there was polarisation of communities along racial, ethnic and religious lines; that there was limited or non-existent interaction between schools; and that there was "virtual apartheid" in many secondary schools.

In his conclusion, Lord Ouseley noted:

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Those are the words and conclusions of those young people. They are not mine. Why cannot we listen to those voices?

Mr. Andrew Turner rose

Mrs. Mahon: The hon. Gentleman has already spoken.

Mr. Savidge: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Mahon: I have already said that I would not take interventions. I have almost finished my speech.

My second point is about Northern Ireland. We cannot smooth over it and pretend that it does not exist. Anyone who witnessed little girls running the gauntlet of hatred as they tried to go to school—some of them for the first time—must reflect on the wisdom of segregation based on faith. We cannot ignore that problem.

My third point relates to the Cantle report, which makes it clear that separate education leads to lack of cohesion and integration. The report notes:

Of course it will. It says that it will be a big problem for the future, so it is irresponsible to promote the idea any more. Faith schools are a big mistake.

7 pm

I recognise that I am in a minority in the House in saying that I want secular education in all our schools. Obviously, we will not get it with the new clauses and the amendment. Faith schools are about division and I have had personal experience of that. They are also about selection. They encourage parents to lie about attendance at church. Only 8 per cent. of adults attend church in this country. People who do not agree with faith schools and do not want any more of them often ask me why the rest of us should pay to indoctrinate children in only one religion when our churches are empty. They ask why the churches are not doing their job. If their religion is so good, let them fill the churches.

Religious schools discriminate against everyone who is not of their faith. I disagree with the letter sent to the Secretary of State from the Muslim Council of Britain. The letter makes my point for me. It states that the council does not mind including a few children of different faiths, provided that they operate within a Muslim ethos. That will exclude any other ethos and it will not produce the healthy, well-educated and well-balanced child of the future. It will lead to more divisions.

I will support the new clause in the Lobby. I urge the Prime Minister to listen to this debate and to those of us who have spoken against having more faith schools. Let him, for once, listen to us, especially after 11 September. The last thing that we want is more division and segregation in society.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a well respected journalist and Muslim, recently wrote these words of wisdom. She said that many people think that

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She is completely against state funding for religious schools, saying

I totally agree.

In my life, I have gone on a journey through various points of view, some based on my early experiences, but in the past 10 years I have come to believe that in 2002 we must try to work towards a secular state education system that is bothered about education and not indoctrination.

Mr. Goodman: I speak largely on behalf of my Muslim constituents in High Wycombe, who are a disadvantaged community whose views should be heard with respect. My Muslim constituents have told me—before the election and since—that they see Church of England and Catholic schools in the Wycombe area, but no Islamic schools. Whoever they may have voted for at the election, most of them want a Muslim or an all-girls school in the constituency.

The Bill would make it easier for faith schools to be established. The Secretary of State was careful to say that that was not the intention, but it is none the less clear that that would be the effect. What effect would the new clause have on the desires of my constituents? Subsection (2) is the most important part of the clause. It makes it clear that in the last resort, even though it is "after consultation", the local education authority

"authorise" is the key word—

I am not sure why those figures are given. Those who have supported the new clause did not explain them, but perhaps we may learn the reason in due course.

Mr. Willis: Perhaps I may help the hon. Gentleman. The new clause was drafted to include percentages recommended in the Cantle report.

Mr. Goodman: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clearing that up at least. [Interruption.] I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) is saying that that is still not an explanation. He may be right, but I want to return to the new clause.

If my Muslim constituents had a school that was maintained on the same basis as a Roman Catholic or Church of England school, under the new clause the local authority could in the last resort say that only 20 per cent. of its pupils could be Muslim. In the eyes of my constituents, a school with only 20 per cent. Muslim pupils would not be a Muslim school. I appreciate that Church of England schools are different, but my constituents are not thinking of those schools.

I fully accept what the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) said about his motives in introducing the clause. He said that he was not carrying on any vendetta against faith schools. However, the most important thing about the clause is its effect and I believe that in many parts of the country local authorities would tell people who wanted to set up a Muslim school, "We're sorry, but only 20 per cent. of your pupils can be Muslims." I may wrong, but I believe that to be the case.

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My Muslim constituents do not oppose Church of England or Roman Catholic faith schools. They are happy that they are there. Were they following this debate closely and I hope that some of them will—

Mr. Dobson: Is it the case that some of the hon. Gentleman's Muslim constituents would like to go to schools of other religions?

Mr. Goodman: Some of them do go to such schools. If the right hon. Gentleman is asking me what my constituents want, the majority of my Muslim constituents—this includes the majority of those who voted for the Labour party at the election as well as those who voted for me—want a Muslim school.

The new clause would affect not only any future faith schools but those that exist at present. It simply states that "after consultation" the local authority could authorise those percentages in "a maintained school". That must mean any maintained school and not merely any such school that might be established.

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