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11 Mar 2003 : Column 168—continued

Mr. Speaker: Order.

12.44 pm

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): It is always a great pleasure to oppose what the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) has said in the Chamber. However, that puts me in a slightly awkward position, because I know that opposing him is helpful to Ministers in the Department for Education and Skills. In a week in which we have all grown used to reading stories about divisions in the Labour party over international matters, he is introducing a Bill that highlights one of the key divisions in the Labour party on an important aspect of domestic policy.

11 Mar 2003 : Column 169

The Bill is at the core of the Government's education policy. I give the hon. Gentleman credit for being consistent. Only a few months ago, he tabled a Bill that would have had an almost identical effect on reducing the amount of selection possible in specialist schools. As someone who takes an interest in education policy, I was concerned that not only did Ministers sit on their hands throughout the debate, but when it came to a Division, the Government allowed no fewer than six Parliamentary Private Secretaries, who are members of the Government, to vote against Government policy and support the hon. Gentleman's proposals.

In opposing the Bill, I am conscious of providing an opportunity for the Government Whips, who have been experiencing some difficulty of late, to test their new strategies. We will be interested to see whether they choose to exercise on this policy the variable geometry allowed to members of the Cabinet on international affairs, or whether they want to revert to instilling discipline within the Labour party, especially as selection by aptitude is one of the more sensible parts of the Government's education policy.

Given that Ministers have been silent on the issue, I took the precaution a couple of weeks ago of tabling a written question to the Department for Education and Skills asking the Secretary of State about the Government's policy on the Bill. I shall again be perhaps uncharacteristically helpful by acting as a mouthpiece for the Minister for School Standards, who is sitting silently at the Dispatch Box. In his candid response, for which I thank him, he said:

He went on:

As the Minister went on to say, that applies in particular to an aptitude for sport and the ability of music and ballet schools—which are close to the heart of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan)—to select by aptitude. The Bill would destroy that ability and do significant damage.

Given the Minister's splendid response to my written question, I trust that when the House divides he will join us in the Lobby to support what is clearly explicit Government policy and vote against those on the Labour Benches who choose to deviate from that policy, so setting back progress in our schools. The Opposition support specialist schools and accept that there is a role for selection in raising standards—something that Ministers also accept. That is true of both partial and full selection. Northern Ireland has a wholly selective system and GCSE results there are 14 per cent. better than in England. Yet in spite of that, with direct rule in place, the Government are persisting in the policy previously pursued by Mr. Martin McGuinness of trying to destroy that system.

11 Mar 2003 : Column 170

In the past few days I received another written answer confirming that it is not just grammar schools that do well in a selective system. Selective systems as a whole show benefits for educational performance—

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): As in Buckinghamshire.

Mr. Brady: Indeed, and in the borough of Trafford—[Interruption.] I am being urged to add Kent to that list.

We have clear evidence that wholly selective areas outperform the national average by 4 per cent. in terms of the number of children getting A* to C grades in all the core subjects of English, maths and science. Areas that are wholly comprehensive underperform against that average.

We urge the Minister and his colleagues to join us in the Lobby in support of one of the more sensible parts of Government policy. He should accept that selection has a role to play in raising standards. If we have a quibble with Ministers on this subject, it is that they have been far too timid. They could go much further and free schools even more to harness the energy that would come from there being far greater diversity and choice among them. That is the way to raise education standards; the Minister knows it, and the answers that he has given me prove it. He should now act on what he has said and come into the Lobby with us to oppose the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):—

The House divided: Ayes 135, Noes 92.

Division No. 112
[12:50 pm


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Allan, Richard
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Battle, John
Begg, Miss Anne
Bennett, Andrew
Betts, Clive
Borrow, David
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Ronnie(Blyth V)
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Cohen, Harry
Cotter, Brian
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dismore, Andrew
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Edwards, Huw
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Heath, David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hinchliffe, David
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Kilfoyle, Peter
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Lepper, David
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McKechin, Ann
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Martlew, Eric
Mole, Chris
Mullin, Chris
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Olner, Bill
Perham, Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Pugh, Dr. John
Purchase, Ken
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Stevenson, George
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stunell, Andrew
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
White, Brian
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wright, David (Telford)

Tellers for the Ayes:

David Taylor and
Lynne Jones


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Burns, Simon
Burt, Alistair
Cameron, David
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moss, Malcolm
Munn, Ms Meg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Sayeed, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Tredinnick, David
Trimble, rh David
Tyrie, Andrew
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Andrew Selous and
Mr. Bill Wiggin

Question accordingly agreed to.

11 Mar 2003 : Column 172

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. David Chaytor, John Austin, Andrew Bennett, Valerie Davey, Mr. Huw Edwards, Jeff Ennis, Mr. David Hinchliffe, Glenda Jackson, Mr. Tony Lloyd, Mr. Chris Mullin, Mr. Kerry Pollard and Jonathan Shaw.

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