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9.51 pm

The Minister for Lifelong Learning (Margaret Hodge): I am grateful to Conservative Members for giving us the opportunity to have this debate. I agree with the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) that we do not often focus our discussions in the Chamber on those pupils whose needs may be greatest because they have special needs.

Many powerful speeches were made, reflecting a genuine commitment to the large number of complex issues and challenges that we face in trying to give the best possible start in life to children with special educational needs. I pay tribute, as did the hon. Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), to all those involved. One of the most fulfilling periods in my life was when I worked with people in the disability and special educational needs world as we worked on legislation.

The hon. Gentleman's contribution was in stark contrast to the opening remarks by the hon. Member for Epping Forest. She may have been surprised at our reaction. When she describes children with special educational needs and disabilities as sad, disadvantaged, little tragic cases—

Mrs. Laing: Will the Minister give way?

Margaret Hodge: No.

When the hon. Lady says those things and talks about the liability that such children are imposing on LEAs because of inclusion, she displays a patronising attitude and devalues the worth of the individual children whose interest she is claiming to promote.

Mrs. Laing: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Margaret Hodge: No, I will not. The hon. Lady talked for far too long tonight.

Mrs. Laing rose

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Minister is not giving way.

Margaret Hodge: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.] I am not behaving disgracefully.

Mrs. Laing: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: I hope that hon. Lady is not raising a point of order because the Minister is not giving way. That is not really a point of order, is it?

21 May 2002 : Column 257

Mrs. Laing: My point of order, Mr. Speaker, is that the hon. Lady is impugning me for something that I have not said. It cannot possibly be in order for her to do so.

Mr. Speaker: That is a matter for debate. One day the hon. Lady will have an opportunity to rebut the case that the Minister is making.

Margaret Hodge: She will also have the opportunity to look at the Hansard record.

The hon. Member for Epping Forest and many other hon. Members mentioned autism. My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) gave us a score of 68 per cent. I think that five years into a Labour Government, that is good progress. I also accept, however, that there is much left to do. I agree about the need to have better information. In July 2001, we carried out a pilot study, involving 200 schools, to assess the feasibility of collecting data on the broad range of special educational needs. We are considering whether we should introduce a requirement for all schools and LEAs to provide that information from 2004. It is likely to include data on autism. My hon. Friend mentioned other important matters, and we will return to those.

The hon. Member for North-East Bedfordshire said that further education is important. FE probably has the best record in responding to inclusive education for young people and older people with special educational needs and disabilities. I take on board the issues that he raised about British sign language. One reason why students are doing so much better in an inclusive environment in higher education is that we introduced the non-means tested disabled students allowance. We heard a thoughtful contribution from the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel). My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward) raised the issue of VAT, which I raise constantly with my colleagues in the Treasury, and I shall do so again following tonight's debate.

The hon. Member for Wealden (Mr. Hendry) raised some interesting issues about diet in relation to hyperactive children. Sharing that sort of information in the House can do nothing but add to our knowledge. My hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Phil Hope) and the hon. Member for Newbury both talked about the importance of inclusion—supporting not just children with special educational needs but contributing to the experience of all children in the mainstream environment. I was particularly interested to hear about what is happening in Northamptonshire, where specialist centres are being linked to mainstream schools.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) talked about diversity and choice and trying to provide flexibility between special schools and mainstream schools. I agree with her on that. I would fail in my public duty, however, were I not to remind the House of the Conservative party's record in office in relation to special schools. In the last four years of the Tory Government, 83 special schools were closed. That is 50 per cent. more than were closed in the first four years of this Government. We are working with the special schools to ensure a positive future for them. Far from leaving them to the insecurity of the market, as the Tories did, we want to give them the security that comes from sensible planning and strong partnership.

That is why my noble Friend Baroness Ashton has set up a working group to consider the future role of special schools in the wider context of our strategy on inclusion.

21 May 2002 : Column 258

That group will focus on practical mechanisms that would help special schools to work more effectively. Subjects that it will consider will include: how best to secure regional provision to meet the requirements of those with low-incidence special educational needs; systems, which could include funding, that would enable special schools to deliver outreach support more effectively; how best to use the inspection team to celebrate the achievements of special schools; and provision for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. I hope that the hon. Member for Epping Forest will accept that that sort of work, leading to a report in the autumn, will ensure that we have proper inter-linking between special schools and the mainstream.

We have considerable achievements under our belt, although we have a long way to go. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 is on the statute book, and we have introduced the new SEN code of practice, which has been in force since January. All LEAs now have parent partnership services. We have placed a duty on LEAs to provide informal arrangements to prevent and resolve disagreements before they reach the tribunal stage. We have supported massive increases in funding in education in general and to respond specifically to the requirements of children with special educational needs. The standards fund is now five times larger than when we came into office, and we have introduced the £220 million access initiative into schools. Early years intervention, with special co-ordinators in each setting, is also an attempt to make progress.

I recognise, as have other hon. Members tonight, that we must continue to do more. There will continue to be major challenges in raising the quality and improving the outcomes for children with special educational needs. It is still a fact that a child with a special educational needs statement is seven times more likely to be excluded than a child without a statement. We need to tackle that. It is also still a fact that we need to get better at identifying a child's needs earlier and responding more quickly to them. That is why our guidance on working with children under the age of two will be so important. We hope to issue that guidance shortly. We need to get better at working across the disciplines—between health, social services and education. The special educational needs partnerships are a start in that work.

We need to build a stronger, professional work force to cater for the needs that we identify. Again, progress is being made, with more speech and language therapists, for example, but we want to ensure—

David Maclean (Penrith and The Border) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 357.

Division No. 249
[9.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Brazier, Julian
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Cash, William
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger
Gibb, Nick
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heathcoat–Amory, Rt Hon David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr Andrew
Norman, Archie
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mark
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (Mid–Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Dr. Julian Lewis and
Mr. Laurence Robertson.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barrett, John
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brake, Tom
Breed, Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cable, Dr Vincent
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Carmichael, Alistair
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Cohen, Harry
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis–Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Rt Hon Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Francis, Dr Hywel
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan (Oxford W)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, Rt Hon John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Irranca–Davies, Huw
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kirkwood, Archy
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laws, David
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Lucas, Ian
Luke, Iain
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr John
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Joan
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thurso, John
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Dan Norris and
Mr. Graham Stringer.

Question accordingly negatived.

21 May 2002 : Column 262

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):

The House divided: Ayes 310, Noes 167.

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