Education (Schools) Bill — Regulations for purposes of transitional arrangements — 10 Jun 1997

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill .

I beg to move amendment No. 35, in page 3, line 2, leave out from 'to' to 'fees' in line 3 and insert

'direct a school to refrain from making or postpone or reduce an increase in'.

provide a decent education for assisted places pupil. The need for safeguards against such abuse or fraud has been demonstrated, but the 1995 regulations already provide substantial safeguards.

Parents must apply to schools for a fee remission and supply schools with detailed information about their circumstances. The regulations give the Secretary of State power to direct that, in specific cases, parents shall not be entitled to a fee remission if he is satisfied that the parents have knowingly or recklessly furnished information for determining remission or have supplied false information.

Under the regulations, in such circumstances the Secretary of State must give parents the right to make representations before finalisation of any decision to block a fees remission. Nowhere in the Bill is a similar right to make representations offered to schools before the Secretary of State may intervene to exercise the power provided by the Bill to set a maximum fee level. I hope that the Minister will flesh out the Government's thinking on such matters.

The 1995 regulations allow the Secretary of State to specify the manner and form in which parents should make applications and declare their actual or expected income. Moreover, the Secretary of State may specify the nature of any documentary material that parties must produce in support of their case. Under section 21 of the regulations, a school is not permitted to increase fees for any pupil in the assisted places scheme without one month's written notice to the Secretary of State. The same section gives the Secretary of State powers to block or postpone such a fee increase or to restrict its amount.

Those powers seem to be sufficient to guard against any suspected abuse of the system. I therefore question why the Government believe that it is necessary to introduce a new power for the Secretary of State to go beyond blocking a fee increase which a school proposes for its reasons and to intervene in setting a maximum fee level. I do not want the House to give Ministers more powers than are absolutely necessary to intervene in the affairs of independent institutions.

I hope that the Minister will be able to offer the reassurance that I seek. If not, I hope that he will suggest ways in which the Government might attempt to amend clause 3 or clarify the matter in the regulations.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn .

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 25, at end insert--

'(g) require local education authorities to provide information to the Secretary of State about the financial and other effects of the abolition of the assisted places scheme.'.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 38, Noes 340.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 000.0%
Lab340 (+2 tell) 0082.0%
LDem0 34 (+2 tell)078.3%
UUP0 4040.0%
Total:340 38060.2%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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