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Lord Campbell of Croy: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her comments in regard to the matters I raised concerning Scotland. I sympathise with her for having to deal with Scotland. I am pleased to see the Scottish Minister in his place, but he was not present when I spoke, and no doubt the noble Baroness will pass on the points I made.
I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, because he is the Scottish Office Minister dealing with devolution, and, I imagine, is fully occupied outside this House dealing with all the disagreements and troubles in the preparation of a White Paper about which the media keep us informed.
The noble Baroness stated that we could discuss the Scottish points when we reach Clause 5, including the White Paper, and I am perfectly happy about that. However, my point is that there is no Scottish White Paper, and the Scottish Office Minister made it clear that there would not be one. The press conference he gave was not a substitute for a White Paper.
The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, made an interesting statement about his attendance at a head teachers' conference. He said that the subject of assisted places had not arisen. I was invited as a guest to the United Kingdom headmasters' conference in 1976, 1977 and 1978, and to the United Kingdom preparatory headmasters' conference which used to take place every four years. The question of assisted places schemes, north and south of the Border, was one of the major subjects discussed. I was chairman of the Scottish
That was the experience then. Once the assisted places schemes were operating head teachers seemed to be fairly happy with them. Therefore I can understand that the matter would not have been discussed at later conferences. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, that the conferences in the 1970s had different interests and concerns. I look forward to hearing more when we discuss Clause 5 which deals with Scotland. Amendment No. 22 is nearly the same as the amendment we are discussing now. In this Chamber the groupings are normally drawn up by agreement. It makes sense that a matter which is to apply to Scotland, England and Wales should be discussed in the same debate.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I appreciate that the noble Baroness has probably prepared excellent replies to Clause 5. However, the problems with the airlines at the moment mean that I may have to leave before we reach that clause and therefore I am probably speaking a little more about Scotland at this stage than I should.
The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, said that schools have known about this matter for a long time. I refer him to a Scottish school. Before that school had to become independent it had 25 per cent. local authority places and 75 per cent. fee paying places. That school, in a rural area not far from where I live, has managed to survive. I know the school well. Practically all its pupils are local. Out of a roll of 530, it has 173 assisted places. The school expects to lose at least 100 pupils whose parents will not be able to pay the full fees when the scheme is phased out. That school is under threat. Its quality will alter. Places will have to be found in the local secondary school. The distances involved in that area mean there is no other alternative. That process will cost money. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, said that some of the figures which had been mentioned were complete nonsense and that because local authority costs were so much lower than those of the assisted places savings were bound to be made.
Lord Peston: I interrupt the noble Baroness because she does not seem to understand what I said. Her noble friend said that abolishing the scheme would save no money. I simply pointed out to him that I found that slightly difficult to comprehend. Indeed, that clashes with what the noble Baroness herself has just said about the damage that abolishing the scheme would cause to certain schools. If no money is involved here what is anyone complaining about? The scheme will save the amount of money that my right honourable friend and my noble friend the Minister have said it will save. That is the point I was making.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I mention other figures to the noble Lord. I live near the city of Dundee. At the private, fee paying Dundee High School the average cost for a day pupil is £4,300 a year. The average cost
In the city of Dundee in the past year or two, £8 million has been spent on an extension to one school and £6 million on an extension to another. Capital expenditure is of that order in the state system. That is not the case with all state schools all the time but there is a great deal of money tied up in capital expenditure. That must be allowed for in the fees charged in the private sector. One cannot calculate the capital element in the public sector. Therefore, the noble Lord's comparison is not a proper one.
Lord Henley: I do not know whether the noble Baroness wishes to respond to some of those points. I remind her that it is Committee stage and therefore she is entirely at liberty to respond should she so wish. I wish to make a few remarks before this debate comes to an end. I did not find the response of the noble Baroness satisfactory. However, there was at least one thing on which I could agree with both the noble Baroness and her noble friend Lord Morris; namely, when they said this had been a longstanding policy of the party opposite--which is now the Government--and that they had stuck to this policy for some 18 years. I put a question to the noble Lord, Lord Morris. What other policies have they managed to stick to for 18 years? I suspect they will be few indeed. Therefore, we must at least congratulate them on that fact. Here is some continuity and stability in the party opposite.
The noble Baroness complained that I had something of an obsession with the savings in this Bill. The noble Baroness and her noble friends have only themselves to blame for that obsession. For some quite extraordinary reason that I simply do not understand--it is the weirdest bit of drafting I have ever come across--they have linked one part of the Bill on the abolition of assisted places with some other good that they wish to achieve. It is a good that I think we can all generally support. They have linked the two in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum but then have not mentioned that in the Bill. The Bill is purely about the abolition of the assisted places scheme. It is perfectly legitimate for the Opposition--if there is more than one opposition party, and sometimes I have considerable doubts when I listen to the comments from the party opposite which after all at the time of the election was telling us there was not even a cigarette paper's difference between the policies that we were espousing and the policies of the party opposite, and now we seem to be hearing--
Lord Tope: I could not possibly let that pass; namely, that at any time I or any other member of our education team claimed that there was not a cigarette paper's difference between us. I think I recall the noble Lord, Lord Morris, making a comment to that effect, but that is up to him and his party.
Lord Henley: I hope I may correct the noble Lord. I think it was the leader of his party who during the election used that very expression about there not being a cigarette paper's difference between the Conservative Party's policies and those of the Labour party. Now we seem to find that new Labour and new Liberals are all in bed together. The noble Lord should ask the leader of his party whether he was misleading the electorate at the time he implied that our policies were the same as those of the party opposite.
That said, the question of savings is an important one. I do not think that the noble Baroness has adequately addressed those points. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that the assisted places scheme costs money. However, one must also accept that if this scheme is to be wound up--I appreciate that we are talking about a relatively small number of pupils in relation to education as a whole--a number of extra pupils will have to attend other schools and there will be some extra cost because of the way that schools are funded on a per pupil basis. That point was not addressed by the noble Baroness.
Nor did she address the point that the difference in costs between maintained sector pupils and assisted places pupils is not as great as all that because one has to take into account capital costs. I could have gone on and talked about LEA overheads. Of the vast amount of money that we make available to schools, how much gets through to the schools themselves? We all know that that is a difficult calculation and it varies from LEA to LEA. However, one could make a strong case that much more of it should go directly to the schools. In the case of the assisted places scheme, every single penny goes to that scheme.
I have to say that I do not think that the points we have put forward have been adequately addressed. I will have to consider very carefully between now and the next stage exactly what kind of amendments I should table. I appreciate that this is a rather complicated matter and that is why I had to put down amendments that sought to delay the Bill, something which, as I have made clear to the noble Baroness, I do not wish to pursue at this stage because within the Bill itself there is very little about where the money is going. We only find that in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum.
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