HL Deb 19 October 1981 vol 424 cc562-96

2.58 p.m.

Read 3a.

Clause 1 [Meaning of "special education needs"and" special educational provision"]:

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 12, leave out ("suffers from") and insert ("has").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1. This is a drafting amendment which the Government are glad to make in the interests of avoiding any misunderstanding over the wording of Clause 1(2)(b) and of avoiding any possible offence to disabled persons. The amendment arises directly from an approach made to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) who is unfortunately unable to be here today. I have put down the amendment in her place. Lady Darcy has pointed out that the use of the term "suffers from" is rather antiquated and possibly offensive to disabled persons who do not regard themselves as suffering in that sense. The substitution of the word "has" meets this understandable objection and at the same time removes the slight risk that the clause as originally drafted will allow someone trying to oppose a local authority's plans for a disabled child to argue that it was necessary to establish that the child was actually suffering in some way from his disability. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Statement of child's special educational needs]:

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 6, line 22, leave out ("they consider to be") and insert ("is").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 2 and I suggest that Amendment No. 3 be taken with it. I realise that within the terms laid down by the Procedure Committee earlier this year at Third Reading we are allowed only to move amendments. I have of course studied the recommendations of the Procedure Committee and I suggest that this amendment, and others which I have tabled, are in order so as to clarify any remaining uncertainties.

Before I go any further, may I say how welcome is the presence upon the Front Bench this afternoon of my noble friend Lady Young who has revealed her continued interest in this very important Bill by her presence here, in addition to her new responsibilities, upon which we congratulate her, as our Leader.

The amendment which I have just moved is to Clause 7. The uncertainty in my mind arises as follows. At the Report stage on Friday 30th July my noble friend moved a rather long and fairly complicated amendment, the purpose of which we all welcomed as far as it went. It was to give to parents of handicapped children the right, when a local education authority had issued a statement of their child's special educational needs, to meet an officer of the authority with whom the matter could be discussed. At the Report stage my noble friend said, at the foot of column 888: Parents will have the right to be present at all examinations on which reports to the LEA are based. It would be unusual if parents did not know the professional recommendations made and the grounds for them".—[Official Report,31/7/81.] May I say, in passing, that I agree with that as a general statement but I think there may well be cases where the parents did not get to know either about the people advising or about the recommendations they had made or the information on which it was based, until a slightly later stage.

My noble friend went on to say: Therefore the amendment will allow parents to clear up any misunderstanding about the statement face to face with those contributing to it". She concluded by saying: I hope that your Lordships will agree that the amendment will have the effect of strengthening good practice in sharing information between parents and professionals at an early stage in assessment".

When one looks closely at that part of subsection (6) of Clause 7 to which her amendment at Report stage related, it seems to me that there is a bit of a snag and a hindrance from fulfilling the Government's intention and that of Parliament, arising from the definition of "relevant advice"—and that comes in subsection (6). Relevant advice is the only advice which parents will be allowed to discuss. Fair enough, but alas! we find that "relevant advice" means only such advice given to the authority as they consider to be relevant. That is a purely subjective test and parents would be bound by it. The authority are to have the only say on that point as to what is relevant advice and they could prevent relevant advice from being considered. I agree that this will happen in only a minority of cases—one must concede that—but in those cases, if anything went wrong because of this wording in the clause which makes the authority able to take the decision as to what is "relevant advice", the matter could not be challenged in the courts or in Parliament.

The same applies—and here I refer to my next Amendment, No. 3—to the definition in subsection (6) of "appropriate person". Again, it is for the authority only to decide who the appropriate person shall be and in the worst of cases—and they do happen and it is right that we should legislate sometimes for the worst cases. In the worst cases the local authority could shield somebody who had given wrong advice. One hopes that it would be very rare, but it could happen. We have known it to happen in different circumstances. Therefore, I cannot believe that that is quite what my noble friend intended when she spoke as she did at columns 888 and 889, and when she said at column 895: I think it is very important for parents to understand that one of the underlying principles of this Bill is parental involvement at every stage". We do not, through oversight on our part, want to allow anything to slip into the drafting which could prevent that parental involvement. That is why I am moving this amendment and the following one, and I trust that my noble friend will ensure that the wording of the clause is made to be consistent with her expressed intention, which she can do by accepting these two amendments. I fear that unless we do that we may be enacting a dead letter in the application of the Bill to a small minority of bad cases. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have listened carefully to what my noble friend Lord Renton has said and I hope that I can give him the assurances that he requires about both these amendments. I will speak to both of them now, which I think will be for the convenience of the House. We have sought in Clause 7 to reflect the reality of the circumstances which will arise when parents apply to their local education authority for meetings in connection with any part of the assessment as set out in their child's draft statement. In the majority of cases, I have no doubt that parents will be able to specify exactly in what respect they disagree with the assessment and the LEAs will have little difficulty in deciding what the relevant advice is which the parent should be discussing with the provider of that advice or another appropriate person. That is a point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has accepted.

However, in other cases it may not necessarily always be clear to the LEA what the parent's real concerns are. Where a number of professionals have contributed advice in one aspect of the assessment in the case of a child with complex special educational needs, it may not be immediately clear which is the appropriate advice upon which to draw. In those circumstances the LEA's role will be, I believe, an interpretative one.

As I indicated during the Report stage, in the arrangement of meetings the exercise of judgment by the LEA cannot be interpreted as giving the LEA the discretion to ignore parents' wishes. I think that that is the fear of my noble friend. It applies equally that in deciding what is the relevant advice which will determine the nature of the meeting or meetings the LEA will not be able arbitrarily to dismiss a concern expressed by the parent. I should like to give that assurance. The flexibility afforded in the present wording of the clause is simply to enable LEAs to judge the parents' needs with a view to serving their best interests as quickly as possible. Let us also remember that if the judgment of the LEA is wrong the parent still has the right to request a meeting with the other professionals concerned with the assess- ment, so there is no danger that the parent can be prevented from seeing the right person; and I hope that will meet the concern expressed by my noble friend.

To turn to the second amendment tabled by my noble friend, the definition of "appropriate person" in Clause 7(6) simply takes account of the reality of the situation with which local education authorities may be faced and I think it is only right that the legislation should reflect this. I hope the noble Lord will recognise the fact that LEAs will have to exercise their judgment again in deciding who is the appropriate person able to help the parents further to understand the nature of their child's special educational needs, and that the question of the "appropriate person" in these difficult cases will inevitably be a matter of judgment.

What is important is that the parent should have the opportunity to see the professionals involved and if these subsections are read in the context of the whole of Clause 7 it will be seen that the undertakings which I gave at Report stage are being fulfilled, that parents will have the right to meet all the professionals involved, and one has to remember that we shall not even have got to this stage before the parents will have been involved at all the earlier stages. At this stage we are talking about a draft statement. The parents will have been involved with the assessment, in seeing the draft statement, and then we are looking at professional advice. This is really a very long way along all the stages of the Bill. Then if, sadly, they are still dissatisfied with the result of this they still have the opportunity to go to an appeal committee, with the final resort of taking their case to the Secretary of State.

I do believe that we have gone as far as we can to meet the quite natural and justifiable concern of parents. At some stage a local authority has to make a judgment, and that is what this definition does. With the assurances I have given, I hope my noble friend will feel able to withdraw these amendments.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Renton, because I do know personally some parents who are highly professional themselves; they are perhaps consultants in medicine or professors at universities who themselves have children who have severe disabilities. Local authorities can be very authoritarian and therefore relationships break down. I think the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has a very valid point and I support his amendments.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, the noble Baroness on the Front Bench was, as always, most reassuring in her assurances. But I did note that she did not specifically answer a point which my noble friend Lord Renton made which certainly weighs with me. My noble friend Lord Renton said that if the Bill stood in its present form it would be impossible for an aggrieved parent to challenge the decision of the local authority either in the courts or in Parliament. I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether she accepts that. She did not specifically challenge it, but it may be that she overlooked the point. If she does accept it, I would ask her why that is thought to be necessary.

There will be, I hope, as my noble friend said, very few such cases, but, given the potential number of cases of this kind—it is inevitable that there should be some—where the parents may feel passionately, may wish to face the expense and chances of litigation, or may wish to approach the Member of the House of Commons who represents them or indeed a noble Lord or noble Baroness in this House, is it really necessary, if my noble friend is right, to exclude those two avenues of approach? If the noble Baroness is prepared to argue that it is necessary I should really like to hear from her a little justification for it.

My second question really goes on from that. Can the noble Baroness explain to the House to what extent the procedures which she outlined so clearly and admirably a moment ago would be interfered with or handicapped or inhibited if the words of my noble friend's two amendments were put in instead of the existing words?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I reply with the leave of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has asked two questions. I am sorry if I did not answer the first one as fully as I perhaps should have done. I must emphasise that this is at the end of a very long process from the time when the child is first identified as a child having special educational needs, the parent being brought in at the first stages and taking part in the multi-disciplinary assessment, the parent being involved with the assessment that is made, the parent being involved with the draft statement.

If the parent is dissatisfied with the draft statement, the opportunity exists to consult with those professionals who are responsible for drawing it up, and to do so over a period of time. Then at the end of that, if the parents are still dissatisfied, there is the opportunity to go to an appeal committee and finally to the Secretary of State. If at the end of all that they still believe that the local education authority is acting in an arbitrary way they are entitled to appeal under Section 68 of the 1944 Act, as any parent is entitled to do.

I do believe that we have gone as far as we can to meet what I recognise are very real concerns. If we get to this kind of situation, then I think it will be due to a failure which would be very difficult to put right by putting it into law, because it will be a breakdown in human relationships. I think that would be a sad fact, but I believe we cannot meet it further.

Turning to the reason why I am not prepared to accept these amendments, it is not just an arbitrary decision on my part but because I think that, in the interests of the local authority, there will be cases where the local authority will have to make a decision about who should be the person the parents should see at some stage. Therefore, there has to be some mechanism to make quite sure, where there could be uncertainty or difficulty, that someone has the final right to say so. To take that out I think would make for more confusion and probably bad law than leaving it in. That is the reason why technically I cannot accept the amendments. In saying that, I do want to give the assurance that I am not in any way trying to go back on undertakings I have given. I recognise the feeling of the House in this, and the Government want to meet the natural concern of parents as far as they possibly can.

Lord Renton

My Lords, if I may briefly exercise my right of reply—

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I think the noble Lord should preface his remarks with, "by leave of the House".

Lord Renton

My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend. May I, with the leave of the House, reply to the short debate which has taken place? I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for their support. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lady Young for her fairly full explanation, although I regret to say I cannot accept it. In the first place, in her concluding remarks she said that this would be bad law. If this would be bad law, what are we to say about what the Government have so wisely done on the British Nationality Bill, from which they have deleted nearly every reference to the original proposition that the Secretary of State was satisfied, thereby removing the objective test and enabling the matter to be challenged in the courts or Parliament in a way that could not so easily have been taken had those words remained in? I really cannot accept that this would be bad law. It might be slightly embarrassing to some of the local authorities if they could not always have the last word.

In addition to that point, I see no difficulty technically about accepting these amendments, for the reason I have given just now. But surely my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter was right when he emphasised, as I had tried to make clear and he made more clear, that if we do not accept these two amendments there will be that minority of bad cases in which things will go wrong. It is awfully tempting, because one has such great faith in the zeal and interest of my noble friend Lady Young in this matter, to say "Well, she is full of hope that everything will go right". But with great respect I do not think that is a sure enough foundation for our work as a revising Chamber. Therefore, with great reluctance and some regret, I do feel that I cannot withdraw my amendment. The only question is whether I let it be negatived or ask your Lordships to divide. Having thought about that, I feel that it is necessary to ask your Lordships to divide.

3.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79; Not-Contents, 82.

Allen of Abbeydale, L. Blyton, L.
Amherst, E. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Ampthill, L. Brain, L.
Amulree, L. Brockway, L.
Ardwick, L. Bruce of Donington, L.
Avebury, L. Clancarty, E.
Aylestone, L. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Bacon, B. Collison, L.
Banks, L. Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.
Bernstein, L. Davies of Leek, L.
Bishopston, L. Davies of Penrhys, L.
DeL'Isle, V. Peart, L.
Derwent, L. Phillips, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Plant, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Porritt, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rathcreedan, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Renton,L.—[Teller.]
Gaitskell, B. Robbins, L.
Gladwyn, L. Sainsbury, L.
Glenkinglas, L. SaintBrides, L.
Gosford, E. Seebohm, L.
Greenway, L. Segal, L.
Gridley, L. Somers, L.
Halsbury, E. Spens, L.
Hampton, L. Stamp, L.
Jacques, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Jeger, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Stone, L.
Kennet, L. Strabolgi, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Swinfen, L.—[Teller.]
Leatherland, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Lincoln, Bp. Underhill, L.
Listowel, E. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe,B. Wells-Pestell, L.
Wigg, L.
Loudoun, C. Wigoder, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Willis, L.
Melchett, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Oram, L. Yarborough, E.
Pargiter, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Lane-Fox, B.
Avon, E. Long, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lothian, M.
Beloff, L. Lyell, L.
Belstead, L. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Bessborough, E. McFadzean, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Margadale, L.
Clitheroe, L. Marley, L.
Cockfield, L. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cottesloe, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Daventry, V. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Davidson, V. Northchurch, B.
De Freyne, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Denham, L.—[Teller.] O'Hagan, L.
Digby, L. Onslow, E
Dilhorne, V. Orkney, E.
Effingham, E. Portland, D.
Ellenborough, L. Rankeillour, L.
Elton, L. Reigate, L.
Energlyn, L. St.Davids, V.
Faithfull, B. Sandys,L.—[Teller.]
Ferrers, E. Savile, L.
Gainford, L. Sharples, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Gore-Booth, L. Strathcarron, L.
Gormanston, V. Strathclyde, L.
Haig, E. Swinton, E.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Hawke, L. Trefgarne, L
Henley, L. Trenchard, V.
Hives, L. Trumpington, B.
Hylton-Foster, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Ilchester, E. Vivian, L.
Kemsley, V. Ward of Witley, V.
Killearn, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Kinnaird, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Duty of health authority to notify parents etc.]:

3.29 p.m.

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 4: Page 9, line 11, leave out ("the authority are of opinion that").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, encouraged as I am by the result of that Division, I beg to move Amendment No. 4. I must confess to your Lordships that a very similar situation now arises on Clause 10. The position is that Clause 10(2) was added to the Bill at the Committee stage by a welcome amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Young. It did not go as far as some of us wanted, but, as chairman of what was then the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults, I was very grateful for it. I am proud and happy to tell your Lordships that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to command that we should become the Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults.

However, I must come to the point of my amendment, which is to leave out the words: the authority are of the opinion that". Again, I must confess to your Lordships that the same point arises, that by making the authority the sole judge of the question whether a particular voluntary organisation is likely to be able to help the parents, a subjective test has again been applied. So yet again we find that the authority could not be challenged in the courts or in Parliament if it refuses or fails to inform the parents of an obviously suitable voluntary organisation.

At the Report stage on 31st July, 1981 at column 911 my noble friend Lady Young said that we should avoid being bureaucratic. We all agree with that. She went on to say that we need to be flexible. We also agree with that. Then she said that subsection (2) of Clause 10: … does meet the needs, which we recognise as important ones, of parents with handicapped babies". In view of the uncertainty as to whether to make the authority the sole judge will frustrate the purpose of the clause, I have moved this amendment and will move the next one, which is merely consequential. I shall listen with interest and, indeed, eagerly to what my noble friend has to say. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, as this amendment is concerned with voluntary bodies, I should like to offer my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Renton and to the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults. I was delighted to hear that the society had received the gracious permission of Her Majesty to add "Royal" to its full title. I am sure that this recognition of the work of the society will be greatly acclaimed, and that all parts of the House will be pleased to endorse it.

On this Bill I find myself continually in a great difficulty. As my noble friend Lord Renton said in moving this amendment, as he did on the former ones, this clause of the Bill was, in fact, brought forward by the Government to meet the concerns which were expressed in another place and in your Lordships' House about voluntary organisations, just as earlier the parts of Clause 7 were brought forward to meet concerns about parental knowledge as regards statements for children with special educational needs. No matter what it is that we do, clearly, in the eyes of many people we have never done enough, though we hoped that we had met a concern which I and my colleagues recognised. The concern was that when parents first discovered, very tragically, that they had a handicapped child—and the first person to know of this would almost certainly be the doctor, the health visitor or, indeed, the hospital—the hospital authorities would put the parents in touch with a voluntary organization—a view by which we stand. Indeed, that is the object of Clause 10 of the Bill.

My noble friend dislikes the thought that there should be any circumstance in which the health authorities might use their discretion about putting parents in touch with a voluntary organisation. Of course, when we are talking about voluntary organisations, such as the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults, it is quite clear what the circumstances are and with which organisation one should put the parents in touch. But I am quite certain that if my noble friend Lord Renton considers the matter carefully, he will recognise that we must be quite realistic about the circumstances. Very tragically, when some children are born they will suffer from more than one handicap and it will be a matter for professional judgment in which direction to encourage the parents to look for additional help and support outside the health and social services; in other words, with which voluntary organisation or organisations they should be put in touch.

In other individual circumstances there may well be occasions when a particular local organisation will be inexperienced. It very much depends on the individuals locally who are able to give their services to the organisation. A good voluntary organisation can be of enormous help to parents. But let us suppose that there is some doubt about it. Is it not right to give some discretion to the health authorities to use their judgment as to whether or not it would be helpful to the parents? After all, it is always open to the voluntary organisation to get in touch with the parents or to the parents to get directly in touch with the voluntary organisation itself if they think that there is any doubt about the matter.

Although I recognise that my noble friend Lord Renton will say that it is ultimately just a matter of trust, I believe, again, that when this clause is read in the context of the whole Bill, the health authorities will see—as the clause says—that they must inform the parents, that they are under a duty to inform the parents, of a suitable voluntary organisation. However, if there is not a suitable one, it must be at their discretion whether they do not, either because the child is suffering from a multiplicity of handicaps—perhaps a handicap for which there is no appropriate voluntary organisation—or possibly because the local voluntary organisation is not as good as they would wish.

I do not think that this detracts from the principle of the case and, as in the other cases, I think there will be times when someone has to exercise a discretion in the matter. That is why the clause is drafted as it is. With that explanation, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, will not be carried away by the sunshine of our support for his previous amendment, because on this occasion I cannot advise my noble friends to support this amendment. It seems to me that we are putting the local education authorities in a very difficult position. Any group of people can band together and call themselves a voluntary organisation. They might be some of the less desirable or more desirable people connected with fringe medicines or various cults. To use the words "voluntary organisation" leaves the whole thing far too wide open. If it is the local authority that has advised the parents to contact a particular organisation and the organisation does not, in fact, help the child—it might even (and I have known such sad cases) have had a deleterious effect on the health of the child—that is no one's fault. People working in voluntary organisations very often give up their spare time and do not always become fully associated or acquainted with the complications of those whom they are trying to help.

I think that it would be most unfair for a parent to have to go back to a local authority and say: "You put us in touch with this organisation. Our child has become worse than ever since we contacted them; they have given us nothing but bad advice". I think that that would be unfair to the local authority. Although I pay tribute to all the very good work which voluntary organisations do—and certainly in this field we would be lost without them—I believe that the responsibility must be between the organisation and the parent. I appreciate for once—and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will not be too surprised—that at least it is suggested that the voluntary organisation should be put in touch. But I believe that discretion must be reserved for the local authority, otherwise the amendment would mean that the local authority could never refuse to tell a parent about any organisation however small, kinky, way-out or difficult.

Lord Renton

My Lords, may I say at once and ease your Lordship's minds that I am persuaded by the gracious way in which both noble Baronesses have argued against my amendment. But may I just correct the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, because Clause 10 does not refer to local authorities; it refers to area and district health authorities. Nevertheless, I am sure that what the noble Baroness said would in her mind apply with equal force to them as she argued in relation to local authorities. It was Clause 7 that applied to local authorities, local education authorities in particular.

Since I moved the last amendment I have been advised that I have the right of reply and do not need the leave of your Lordships—but if some of your Lordships consider that in view of my loquacity I need your leave, I will gladly ask for it. My noble friend Lady Young may perhaps have thought me ungrateful for not taking exactly as they stood the amendments which she moved at earlier stages of the Bill. I would like to assure her that we are deeply grateful, but our attitude could be easily impaired if for some reason her efforts were frustrated by something being inserted which prevented her intentions from being fulfilled. That is the only reason why I am moving these amendments, but we are none the less grateful to the noble Baroness.

I realise that I do not have such a strong case with this amendment to Clause 10 as I did with the amendment to Clause 7. In view of the considerations which have been expressed by both noble Baronesses, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Interpretation and commencement]:

3.42 p.m.

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 6: Page 14, line 14, leave out ("and is registered as a pupil at a school").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is purely a drafting matter and I do not wish to press it, but I believe it is worth asking for a brief explanation. On page 14, line 14, we find the words: and is registered as a pupil at a school;". This is in relation to the definition of the word "child", which of course occurs a great deal throughout the Bill. It is especially important in the earlier clauses of the Bill. For the sake of clarity and emphasis it might be just as well to leave in the words, and is registered as a pupil at a school; but we need see always that unnecessary words are not introduced in statutes. If my noble friend Lady Young assures me that these words are really necessary and in fact perhaps highly desirable, then I will not press the matter further. In any event, I would not dream of dividing your Lordships over this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, before the noble Baroness, Lady Young, replies may I say that I had hoped that this was much more than a drafting amendment because it seemed to me that if we widen the definition of the word "child" to include people in need up to the age of 19, whether or not they were registered at a school, we should be fulfilling one of the main objectives of the Warnock Committee. One of the committee's priorities was 16 to 19 year-olds whom that committee found to be very neglected, unemployed, lacking in facilities for special training and lacking enjoyment of life in many ways. It seemed to me that insisting that a child comes within the definition of this Bill only if registered at a school is going to exclude thousands and thousands of children who most need help.

I am here speaking of the school drop-outs—the children who drifted off at 16 and who have not been found a place in any training establishment. Unfortunately, they do exist. I had a case of such a child only recently. The only advice his mother was given was that he was only fit to go to a sheltered workshop. When she asked where a sheltered workshop was she was told the nearest was 40 miles away and that there was a two-year wait for admission. It is important that we should pay much more attention to this age group. I know we discussed this matter on a previous occasion, on 17th July, but none of the answers was satisfactory; and we know that this is a sphere of great sadness in many families, especially at a time when there is so much youth unemployment. It is bad enough to be a young unemployed person, but to be a young unemployed disabled person is to be in a very sad situation indeed.

I had hoped that what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, intended by suggesting taking out the requirement for the child to be registered as a pupil at a school, was to enable these very children to come within the ambit of this Bill and to give a bit of a tonic to local authorities. It was certainly not the intention of the Warnock Committee that these children should be excluded; in fact I should like to repeat that this group of children was one of the committee's priorities. I very much wish that the noble Lord will reciprocate our earlier kindness by agreeing that his amendment means what I think it means.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I believe her whole speech may have been based on the assumption that the word "includes" means in this definition "means". In fact it merely reads: includes any person who has not attained the age of 19 years and is registered as a pupil at a school;". All other children, of course, are obviously children.

Baroness Jeger

I am sorry, my Lords, but that does not bear out our earlier debate of the 17th July, when the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said quite clearly at column 1495: Those who have left school are not covered by this Bill". I believe that is the flat answer to the noble Lord, Lord Renton.

3.48 p.m.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, I am in some little doubt about the wisdom of this whole phrase, which states that: 'child' includes any person who has not attained the age of 19 years and is registered as a pupil at a school;". That means to say that anyone who is 18 years and 364 days old is to be regarded as a child. That is ridiculous in this day and age. Generations ago it was probably proper to regard such people as children, but I remember that back in the 1914 war at the age of 18 I was a company sergeant major, and nobody ever dared to refer to me as a child. I consider that the whole of that sentence wants looking at, whether or not the noble Lord's amendment is accepted.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, is not the matter somewhat complicated in the case of the ages of disabled school children because so many of them have lost time through operations and illness that they may have missed out on years of schooling? In Germany, where I visited educational facilities for disabled children, such children sometimes still go to school long after the age of 20 if need be.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the debate we have had on 16 to 19 year-olds. I believe that what the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, has said is true; that my noble friend's amendment is in fact more than a drafting amendment. The definition of a child for the purposes of this Bill would be extended by this amendment to include 16 to 19 year-olds who are not at school; that is to say, pupils at further education colleges, who are in work, or who are unemployed. The Bill as a whole—in particular, Clause I—has been so drafted that we are concerned only with those 16 to 19 year-olds who are at school. Were this definition of the word, "child", to be altered, we would do much more than insert a drafting amendment; we would be very much affecting the definition as given in Clause 1.

If, for example, one looks in Clause 1(2)(b) in building up the determining factors as to whether a child has special educational needs, they refer to the educational facilities of a kind generally provided in schools for children of the age of the "child" in question. The reference to educational facilities in schools does not make sense in relation to 16s to 19s generally but only in relation to those of them who are at school, and for this reason the word "child" must bear the meaning given to it which it has in Clause 20.

We had, both in Committee and on Report, long debates on the whole question of 16 to 19 year-olds who are not in schools. I understand the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, and my noble friend Lord Renton that it would be much nicer and better if we could extend the definition to include all of those who are in further education, but I do not want to repeat all the arguments as we have been over this ground very fully before. The truth of the matter is that the Department of Education and Science has now a consultation document out on the whole question of further education, and included in this must be, and is, the further education of children with special educational needs. It has been made necessary because some of the legal basis of further education has been questioned—and it is therefore important to put all these matters right at the same time.

It is important that those interested particularly in children with special educational needs should of course make their view known to the department on this consultation document. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will not press this amendment to a Division. As she will understand, it is not one that I could accept. I am very glad to hear that my noble friend Lord Renton definitely does not intend to do so. I think at this stage it would be very damaging to the Bill. We recognise the problem and we are trying to do something about it, but this really is not the way to deal with the problem of 16 to 19 year-olds.

Lord Renton

My Lords, again I am grateful to the two noble Baronesses. I had indeed missed the point of this definition of "child" until I heard both their speeches. I accept that my amendment was potentially more than a drafting amendment. However, having heard them both, and having learned a great deal from what they said, I now am a wiser man, I trust, and I certainly do not intend to press this to a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.54 p.m.

Baroness Jeger moved Amendment No. 7: Page 14, line 18, after ("date") insert ("not later than 1st September 1984").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 7, which inserts the date "not later than 1st September 1984". I make no apology for moving this amendment. We had an earlier discussion about the possibility of fixing a date. In fact, on 17th July during the Committee stage we suggested a date for implementation of 1st September 1982. The amendment was withdrawn, but in column 1543 I assured the noble Baroness that we should be keeping a very close watch on developments and it was in that situation that I withdrew that amendment.

Every development since July has strengthened the case for a starting date to be written into the Bill. With increasing cuts in public expenditure it is clear that education is in the firing line. It will be impossible for authorities to maintain existing services, leave alone to develop new ones. We are asking authorities to act in a climate of recession and contraction which, even with the best will in the world, is bound to lead to postponements.

We are asking for a date to be put into this Bill for the sake of the children and the families we are working for. A date will compel action to be taken, and I am sure that if the Government wills the action it will have to will the means. According to the Warnock Report we are talking about 20 per cent. of the nation's children. We are letting the years of their childhood slip by with lost opportunities because of delay in implementing this Bill.

Today's amendment suggests a date of 1st September 1984—much more generous than our previous suggestion. This gives the Government nearly three years, which is a long time in the life of a child; years that can never be given back. The noble Baroness said, in column 1543 on 17th July, that she did not want to be tied to a date on the face of the Bill, and that she was exploring the possibility of bringing some provisions into force earlier than September 1982. Today's amendment does not prevent her from doing that; it asks only that the Bill should be in force not later than 1st September 1984.

The House should be encouraged to support this amendment through experience of the Education Act 1976. I refer to that Act to illustrate how fair-minded I am between one side of the House and the other. In the Education Act 1976 Section 10 laid down that priority was to be given to educating handicapped children in ordinary schools rather than in special schools. No date was laid down in that Bill, and after five years that section has still not been implemented. It is because that Bill has not been implemented that we need this Bill today. But I do not want it to meet the same fate. That would be a cruel deception for children, for parents, for the voluntary organisations who have worked so hard in helping on this Bill, and for the members of the Warnock Committee themselves.

I must ask: what is the objection to putting a date in the Bill? It is quite the usual procedure. I have been a Member of one House or another for a long time, and to find a date at the end of a Bill is more usual than unusual. If the reasons for leaving a date completely unmentioned are financial, then I have to wonder whether it is better not to have the Bill at all than to raise hopes before a false dawn. If there is an objection to giving local authorities a timetable, I am sure the best authorities will welcome this. It is not unusual in many spheres of activity, especially when long-term planning and budgeting are essential. Of course, the department often asks authorities to make long-term plans. I see from a press notice from the department on 16th June of this year that education authorities were asked to rationalise their school stock and to inform the DES by the end of this year what action they propose to take up to 1986. The department is in fact asking for a five-year plan. I know that is how the education authorities look at it. Surely the implications of this Bill could be made part of that plan.

Of course, the best local authorities will endeavour to go ahead. Several of them, in spite of resource difficulties, are already working closely on Warnock principles. ILEA, for instance, has already announced its response to Warnock; that it is to appoint 29 special needs support teachers; that there is to be a special education inspector in each of the 10 divisions; and that other plans are going ahead. I shall not take the time of the House by reading out all the details, but I am glad to see that there is a special paragraph given to the in-service training of teachers. There are to be extra child care staff in the ILEA's 32 special boarding schools and hostels, and that is what Warnock meant by advisory and support services.

I am sure the Minister personally welcomes such initiative; one can only hope she will prevent some of her fiscal colleagues from bullying London authorities for rate increases which will be all the heavier because of cuts in Government expenditure on education, leaving the burden of the implementation of the Warnock proposals to be largely a matter for local authorities. We have reached the point in education now, it seems, when the Government are not just slicing off the fat but sawing through the bones. I was reminded of the situation by an article in the Sunday Times on 11th October last, which was headed: Council chiefs draw up chopping list for schools". That gave several examples of drastic and damaging economies. In particular, the Chief Education Officer for Gloucestershire warned in his report, the article said, that: Child guidance, psychological and remedial advisory services would have to go. The county would, therefore, be unable to diagnose children's learning and behaviour difficulties. There would be no expert opinion available, for example, on whether a child should be sent to a school for the maladjusted". I am not being uncomplimentary to Gloucestershire, who I know are doing the very best they can, but, if that is how one county spells out the difficulties, what are the prospects for the implementation of this Bill? In those circumstances, who will do the assessments, prepare the statements and deal with the appeals under the Bill? It is because of fear that the Government will use their fiscal powers to prevent the Bill fulfilling its essential purposes that we ask for a date to be inserted which would be the law of the land, so that we hope not even the present Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the Government would be able to ignore it.

I spent part of the Recess in the United States and I spent far too much of my holiday looking at the work being done there among handicapped children. I have with me Public Law 94–142, cited as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act 1975. That measure, passed in November 1975, required implementation by education authorities for all handicapped children between three and 18 not later than 1st September 1978. That gave the states three years. For handicapped children up to the age of 21, however, a more generous upper limit was chosen and the Act had to be implemented by 1st September 1980, which allowed the authorities five years. It also provided that individualised education programmes had to be revised for every handicapped child periodically but not less than annually. I was impressed by that because, in view of the much looser form of government which exists in the United States, in many spheres it is more difficult for Federal laws to be applied in local detail. However, on that occasion the Federal law insisted on those dates being taken on board locally. That is an example of what is not only possible but necessary.

I spent a great deal of time there speaking to doctors, teachers, psychologists and people on local councils, all of whom said that the legislation had been given terrific acceleration because of the knowledge that once the Bill had been passed, something had to be done about it. Nobody could say, "There will be a statutory instrument in a few years' time", or, "The country cannot afford it yet". All sorts of local endeavours were started and all concerned have found it a tonic to have a date to which to work. All the parents and teachers I spoke to welcome that arrangement very much.

The Warnock Report suggested that we should have extra qualifications for teachers working in this sphere. Indeed, Mrs. Warnock hoped that we should be able to get that teaching programme off the ground in three years' time. Thus, I do not feel I am being eccentric, impatient or unfair; it is essential, if we mean what we say, to insert the date as proposed into the Bill. Then local authorities will be able to do the necessary budgeting and planning. As I said, many of the best of them are doing it already, but I am concerned for those children who live in areas where the authorities are not among the best, or where the authorities which will be so poor, as the result of the present Government's policies, that it will be difficult for them to implement the Bill as quickly as they themselves would wish.

I hope, therefore, that we can agree that, in common with many other education provisions which we in this House pass, we shall show parents, voluntary organisations and the members of the Warnock Committee that in this matter we mean what we say—that we want the Bill to happen and that there is no good reason for delaying it. I beg to move.

Lord Banks

My Lords, I wish briefly to express sympathy with the amendment, for I feel it would be unsatisfactory to leave the commencement date unspecified. There is the danger, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, made clear, that if we did that we should be opening the door to delay. The Government envisage, as she said, the possibility of different parts of the Bill being implemented at different times. But as she pointed out, that would still be possible if the amendment were passed. The only thing necessary would be that the full implementation should be complete by 1st September 1984. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness, Lady Young, could give a greater picture of what is envisaged in the way of stage-by-stage introduction, and would indicate whether she feels that must inevitably last longer than from now until 1st September 1984.

Baroness Bacon

My Lords, there is little I need add after the important arguments advanced by my noble friend Lady Jeger. I suggest that it is dangerous for any Act of Parliament to leave the Minister absolute discretion. If the clause is left as drafted, it will mean that the measure will, come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may by order appoint". That means that local authorities will have no target date whatever. Unless they have a target date there will be a tendency to postpone the preparation for the coming into operation of the Bill.

It is no use the Minister saying there is not time for that. After all, it is not long since we debated a Bill one of whose provisions was to spend millions of pounds giving special places to more able children from state schools to go to private shools. That was put into operation almost immediately and is now being acted upon in many parts of the country. Just as the Minister would argue on behalf of able children to have that opportunity—I opposed it from the beginning—surely it is more important to give this opportunity as quickly as possible to the less fortunate children in our schools.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, although I am sure that all of your Lordships on both sides of the House are united in agreeing with the noble Baronesses on the Labour Benches that we do not wish to see the implementation of the Bill delayed, I must confess that I should be very disappointed if we were to make 1984 the target date. There are some local authorities that I would expect to be ready to implement the Bill on 1st September 1982—

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to give way for a moment? My amendment asks that the Bill should come into force "not later than 1st September 1984".

Lord Renton

My Lords, there, if I may respectfully say so, I see the danger. If we say that the date should not be later than 1st September 1984, that will cause many local authorities to sit back and say, "We have plenty of time to deal with this. We have lots of problems as it is. We can let this one wait a bit". No, if there is to be a target date, I should much rather see an earlier date. I think that many local authorities could implement the Bill by 1st September 1982, and it would be very sad indeed if they were not all made to go ahead and get on with it, so that it was implemented by 1st September 1983 at the latest.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, I do not recall, when I previously put down an amendment proposing September 1982, having had the pleasure of the noble Lord's support.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, it is all very interesting, but let us read what the subsection states: This Act shall come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may by order appoint and"— this is so nebulous— different dates may be appointed"— this is a little more nebulous— for different provisions or different purposes". The drafting is so cloudy that far from local authorities knowing where they were, one local authority could have regulations and a date different from that of another. In other words, it does not mean that the Bill could be implemented for all parts of Britain at the same time, but rather that a diktat would come from above. Those of us who have worked in education and who have seen the work devoted to it in the country by education authorities of all parties—I stress all parties—should not underestimate the degree of knowledge and experience of many people on local education authorities throughout Britain.

We talk of the principal Act of 1944. To me that was Butler's great Act. It was a great move on the part of the then Conservative Government. But that Act has been shredded, absolutely shredded, and parts of it are withering away. We cannot afford to neglect the children with whom the Bill is concerned. I do not want to spread the debate much further, but I should like your Lordships to consider classes of 30 or 35 pupils. If such classes include, say, half a dozen children who are handicapped in different ways, they are far too big for those children to receive the attention they need. If handicapped children are to be moved into ordinary schools, there should be provision to limit the size of classes to 25, or at least under 30 pupils. There is nothing in the Bill to state what should be the size of classes when handicapped children are introduced

Those of us who have worked in education think, at least I think, whatever the rest of the House might think, that this is a bad Bill; and the redundancy that is now being created at all levels in the teaching profession is a disgrace to a great country. Consequently, I want to enhance the excellent arguments put forward by both noble Baronesses about the latest date for implementation, and I think that we should adopt the logical words of the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger: "Not later than 1st September 1984". The noble Lord, Lord Renton, is a brilliant advocate and logician, but there is more than logic involved in teaching and dealing with children. We owe something to the handicapped children, and the proposals should be harnessed right away so that the nation can at last get down to giving a square deal to the handicapped children of Britain.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I, too, wish to support the observations of my noble friends, especially those of my noble friend Lady Jeger. I was particularly upset by what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said about certain things happening earlier than other things. Some comments have been made this afternoon on education of children up to 19 years of age, and I feel sure that at present no local education authority could in one year fulfil the requirement concerning the continuing education of those in the 16 to 19 years age group. One of the most important aspects of the Bill is that it is written into it that children up to 19 years of age are to be given the right to further education. It is for that reason that I support the date that my noble friend puts forward. It would make it quite clear to local education authorities that they must work towards providing further education by 1984 at the very latest, and some of them would have to pull out a lot of stops to accomplish that.

Good local education authorities are already providing many of the things that are included in the Bill, but what is most important is the provision of further facilities, and we must recognise that fixing the date would be a considerable help to the large numbers of parents of children approaching the age of 16. Throughout the country pressure is building up that something must be done for children at 16 years of age. There is no need for me to remind the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that one of the first groups of parents to challenge the Education Act 1944 regarding the continuation of education came from Oxfordshire. Those parents had the support of the Education Department at that time, but perhaps the Education Department is not now so willing to support other pressure groups of parents up and down the country in regard to continuing education.

We must recognise—I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, brought this out quite clearly—that education Acts have to apply to able children as well as to those who are handicapped. In our education set-up in this country we have at all levels great facilities for able children, and we are trying to include a date in the Bill and ensure that the facilities will also be given to less able children who suffer handicaps. My sole purpose in rising this afternoon is to ensure that the proposed date is included so that the part of the Bill dealing with the 16 to 19 year-olds is seriously considered. Before sitting down, I should like to add that exactly the same words are included in the document. The Legal Basis of Further Education. I have read it very thoroughly and I am not at all happy with the recommendations for further education that are being considered. I hope that all people who are interested in education for the 16 to 19 year-olds will make their observations on the recommendations, since the department is showing all the different kinds of loopholes that every local authority could find to get out of implementing the provisions. But what worries me in particular is what is stated at the end of the recommendations about implementation: It is envisaged that different provisions in new legislation might for operational reasons need to come into force at different times". Are those times to be different from those that we have here? It is in this respect that I would support the noble Lord on the Liberal Front Bench and ask the noble Baroness: Can she not give some guidance to us this afternoon on when the different parts of the Bill will come into operation?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I hope that I can set at rest the fears that have been expressed this afternoon; and I should very much like to thank my noble friend Lord Renton for his most helpful remarks and for his interpretation of the effects of this amendment. I have always made it clear to the House that it is my wish that this Bill will be implemented as soon as possible, and I reiterate that today. I should like to place on record that the Government share this view, and that it is our intention that the implementation of the major provisions of the Bill will be well before September 1984. I should like to make that absolutely clear.

Indeed, we hope that all the provisions of the Bill, or nearly all of them, will be in force in time for the early part of the academic year 1982–83; that is, In a year's time. That is the date to which we are working, and that is the date by which I hope we shall see the provisions of this Bill implemented. I think it is important, and it is a matter which has been debated for a very long time. The Bill is in itself creating a new legal framework which will set local authorities on a new course, and I think it is important that it should be started as soon as possible.

There will be no delay on financial grounds because the Bill is based on the best practice at present, and I believe that that is something that is very important. The public expenditure proposals make it clear that it is the Government's wish that the same amount of money will be devoted to special education throughout the period of review, and as indeed we expect that there will be about 10,000 fewer children with special educational needs in the school population because of falling rolls, there will in fact be some extra money for redistribution.

I therefore hope very much that, with those assurances, the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, will not press her amendment. I should perhaps repeat the point that my noble friend made, that were the amendment to go into the Bill, then, if in fact any part of the Bill was not implemented by 1984, it would fall, and I cannot believe that that would be her intention. So I hope that she will believe that in this matter the intentions of the Government are quite clear.

I should just like to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, who raised a quite separate point about 16–19year-olds, that we discussed this matter on an earlier amendment today, and indeed we discussed it both in Committee and on Report. The whole area of 16–19-year-olds in further education is not covered by the Bill, of course, and is the subject of the document to which she referred, The Legal Basis of Further Education, which has been the subject of discussion; and the proposals under that document will be, and must be, subject to other legislation. But I should like to reiterate the legal position in regard to 16–19-year-olds, and it is that local authorities have the same duty towards handicapped young people as towards all others over compulsory school age and under 19.

This duty derives from the LEAs' general duty under Section 8(1)(b) of the 1944 Act to secure the availability of sufficient schools to provide secondary education. The effect of this section is that LEAs have a duty to see that suitable provision is available for those pupils between 16 and 19 who require it; and the general view of the DES and others is that this duty may be discharged if the LEA offers facilities either in a school or in further education, and that no individual young person has an unqualified right to be provided with school education rather than further education, or vice versa. But the duty remains where it is, and it applies just as much to children with special educational needs as to any other children.

I hope that with these assurances the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, will feel able to withdraw her amendment. I think it is very important that this Bill is implemented as soon as possible, and I hope very much that we shall see it implemented in time for the next academic year, 1982.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I say that I do not think we have made any progress in this connection this afternoon. The noble Baroness seems to be living in a totally different world from the world of the people on the education authorities and on the school staffs, and of the anxious parents of handicapped children, who are seeing day nurseries shut, nursery schools closed down and all sorts of facilities contracting, whereas the Warnock Report urged priority for the under-fives and for the over-16s; and when we talk to education officers and teachers about these things they are in despair about the reductions in services which are being forced upon them. So when the noble Baroness says that she looks forward hopefully to the implementation of some aspects of this Bill by 1982, and that certainly she hopes for fulfilment before 1984, I think that, with great respect, that would get a horse laugh from any director of education or any chairman of an education committee who I know at the present time.

The idea that because there are going to be fewer children that will somehow set free some money so that we shall not need to ask for more is quite unreal. We are not talking only about teachers: we are talking about training and we are talking about the extra support services that will be needed as these disabled children are brought into the schools. Let me bring your Lordships down to earth. What do you think happens in a classroom of 30 children or more where there is one child with spina bifida and that child wants to go to the lavatory? Is the teacher to take her? Of course not. There must be available in our schools, if we mean what we say about implementing Warnock, the sort of assistance that will give support and aid and will make the life of that child as normal as possible. It really is unfair to the House, to Mrs. Warnock and her committee, to the parents and to these children themselves to pretend that this Bill can be implemented without any money.

I know the noble Baroness wishes Godspeed to this Bill, and perhaps I may say to her that I think the whole House is indebted to her in that, with all the added duties that she has assumed, she has kept this Bill under her wing. We do appreciate the fact that she has given this time to it this afternoon. I could sometimes wish that her wing were a little cosier, but at least we are glad that she is here. In fact, we are terrified that she is not going to be in this department any longer, because we fear that without her championship we might do even less well than we have done so far.

Of course, these things depend on Government policy. They will depend a lot on announcements which I understand are likely to be made tomorrow—or, if not made tomorrow, leaked tonight or leaked tomorrow. Therefore, I think we cannot just brush this aside by merely hoping in the present atmosphere that it will work out all right and the money will come from somewhere. I am sorry, but on this occasion I must ask my noble friends to vote for the amendment.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down I wonder whether I might make one small comment. Residential care for handicapped children is very expensive. It costs something like £4,000 or £5,000 a year. If a number of those children are going to be educated at home there will be a considerable amount of saving to local authorities. I just make that small point.

4.30 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64; Not-Contents, 117.

Amherst, E. Leatherland, L.
Amulree, L. Listowel, E.
Ardwick, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]
Avebury, L.
Bacon, B. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Banks, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Bernstein, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Bishopston, L. [Teller.] McCluskey, L.
Blyton, L. Mais, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Melchett, L.
Brockway, L. Noel-Baker, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Oram, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Pargiter, L.
Collison, L. Peart, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Phillips, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Sainsbury, L.
Segal, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B Stone, L.
Gaitskell, B. Strabolgi, L.
Gladwyn, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Gosford, E. Underhill, L.
Hale, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hampton, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hanworth, V. Wigoder, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Willis, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Winstanley, L.
Jacques, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Jeger, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Adeane, L. Chitnis, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Clitheroe, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Cockfield, L.
Ampthill, L. Colwyn, L.
Arbuthnott, V. Cork of Orrery, E.
Avon, E. Cottesloe, L.
Bathurst, E. Craigavon, V.
Beloff, L. Craigton, L.
Belstead, L. Cranbrook, E.
Bessborough, E. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Boardman, L. Daventry, V.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Davidson, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L. de Clifford, L.
Chelwood, L. De Freyne, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Marley, L.
Digby, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Dilhorne, V. Monk Bretton, L.
Ellenborough, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Elton, L.
Exeter, M. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Fairfax of Cameron, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Faithfull, B. Northchurch, B.
Ferrers, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. O'Hagan, L.
Gainford, L. Onslow, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Orkney, E.
Gibson-Watt, L. Porritt, L.
Glenkinglas, L. Portland, D.
Gore-Booth, L. Rankeillour, L.
Gormanston, V. Reigate, L.
Greenway, L. Renton, L.
Gridley, L. Renwick, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Saint Brides, L.
Haig, E. St. Davids, V.
Halsbury, E. Sandford, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Savile, L.
Hawke, L. Seebohm, L.
Henley, L. Sharples, B.
Hives, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Holderness, L. Soames, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Somers, L.
Ilchester, E. Spens, L.
Kemsley, V. Stamp, L.
Killearn, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Kilmany, L. Strathclyde, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Swinfen, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Swinton, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Terrington, L.
Long, V. Teviot, L.
Loudoun, C. Trefgarne, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Trenchard, V.
Lyell, L. Trumpington, B.
McAlpine of Moffat, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
McFadzean, L. Vivian, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Macleod of Borve, B. Westbury, L.
Mancroft, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Margadale, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.38 p.m.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 8: Page 14, line 19, after ("order") insert ("made by statutory instrument").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment. It has always been the Government's intention that commencement orders would be made by statutory instrument as they were for the 1980 Education Act. This enables commencement orders to have the widest possible circulation and for the world at large to have a reference point as to when a particular provision becomes operative. I am sure that Parliament as a whole would welcome this and I commend the amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. At this stage it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the care and concern that has been shown on all sides of your Lordships' House during our debates on this important measure. Our debates have taken place against a non-political background and across party lines, and I should like to thank your Lordships for the co-operative way in which you have approached the problems relating to the education of handicapped children. I should like also to take this opportunity on an Education Bill to pay tribute to Lord Boyle of Handsworth, whose recent death will have saddened many Members of your Lordhips' House. The House will recall that he was, apart from holding many other ministerial appointments, first, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education from 1957 to 1959, and later, as a Cabinet member, Minister for Education from 1962 to 1964. The House will also recall, and has reason to be grateful for, his work as chairman of the Top Salaries Review Body which made recommendations for a number of years about allowances in this House.

As many of your Lordships will know, if it had been possible to arrange Government business differently I should have liked to see this Bill introduced first into your Lordships' House, particularly as your Lordships have wide knowledge and experience of problems associated with the handicapped. In the event, however, the debates in the other place served to heighten those areas of proposed legislation where improvements might be made, and your Lordships have taken full advantage of the Government's willingness to consider afresh some difficult areas.

At this stage in the afternoon, I should like to touch on only two particular points of the Bill. The first, which I know has been of great concern to your Lordships, is the integration of handicapped children into ordinary schools. The Bill makes it clear that, in reaching decisions about where a child's special educational needs can best be met, the local education authority must first look at the possibility of meeting those needs in an ordinary school. Even more important, in my opinion, when a child with a statement is educated in an ordinary school, education must take place so far as is reasonably practicable in association with other children in the school. We have thus ensured, I hope, that children with statements are not unnecessarily isolated within ordinary schools.

I have made it clear that the Government do not expect a wholesale movement of children from special school settings into ordinary schools as a result of this legislation. The pace of change will be gradual because we do not have the resources that would be required to integrate all handicapped children overnight. Nevertheless, the Bill makes it clear to LEAs that, wherever possible, integration should be the goal, providing it represents the appropriate way of meeting an individual child's special educational needs.

The second area of the Bill is parental access to professional reports, which has been the subject of much debate. I do not wish to reiterate the Government's views on this issue, but I recognise the concern of parents who, having received a copy of their child's statement feel that there is something more that might have been said about their child's special educational needs. I believe I can offer some comfort here. Your Lordships will appreciate that preparation of post-legislative action in the way of drafting regulations and circulars of guidance is often started by officials in the expectation that Bills will reach the statute book. This is particularly so in cases such as this Bill where the Government wish there to be the shortest possible time between enactment and implementation. Prep- aratory work is already being undertaken in the Department of Education and Science, in consultation with the DHSS, on drafting the statement, the form and content of which are to be prescribed by regulation. I can assure your Lordships that it is the intention of the Government that the statement shall contain sufficient information about the child's needs, and about the medical, psychological, educational and other advice on which the authority's assessment is based, to enable the parents to decide whether to exercise their rights to make representations, to ask for interviews, or to go to an appeal committee.

I believe that the procedures in the Bill will inevitably encourage a system of open advice to LEAs and that the procedures will in practice allay fears about confidential reports. Moreover, the Government amendment which your Lordships accepted will allow the worried parent to go back to source and discuss professional findings with the person concerned. I am sure that this is the right approach, as it allows anxious parents to pose questions and have them answered by those responsible for the advice on a child's special educational needs which has been given to the local education authority.

This Education Bill sets out a framework for the development of special education in the years ahead. I sincerely hope that the co-operative spirit which has pervaded our discussions on this Bill will be mirrored in the discussions locally on how best to meet individual special educational needs. If this can be the case then this Bill will be a far greater contribution to the International Year of Disabled People than the Government anticipated when the legislation was introduced.

My Lords, finally, I should like to thank noble Lords who have so kindly thanked me for taking part in the Third Reading and the last stages of this Bill. I should like to place on record that I believe this to be a very important Bill, and I have been very pleased to do all that I can to further its passage in this House. I hope that we shall see it implemented in the next academic year. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Young.)

4.44 p.m.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, I should like to begin by echoing what the noble Baroness said about the late Lord Boyle. I had the privilege of being contemporary with him for many years in the House of Commons. We were all impressed by his ability, understanding and his deeply civilised approach to the problems of our difficult society. Also, combined with that there was a personal kindliness which many of us knew at first hand and deeply appreciated. His early death is a great tragedy for many people who have benefited from his wisdom and friendship.

This is a Bill which we all wish well; but I must be slightly discordant and say once more that wishing is not enough. It seems to me that the Warnock Report was like a good seed that has fallen on rather stony ground. I should like to express our thanks to all those people who have not only worked on the Warnock Committee but to the number of voluntary organisations and concerned people—such as parents—who gave evidence, have been to see us during the passage of this Bill, have given evidence to committees and who have tried to make this a Bill that would fulfil its objectives.

I must remind your Lordships that The Times Educational Supplement— and that is not a roaring rag of a publication—on 31st July said of this Bill: Well thought out advice has been disregarded or watered down beyond recognition". That may be a harsh judgment, but I know it is how some people feel. Added to this there is a fear also that it will be crippled at birth by lack of resources. I very much hope that we shall be proved wrong about that.

The Bill leaves us with several omissions: we shall pursue the question of the over-16s. We have no national advisory council, which many people wanted. My friends and I especially regret this: the Bill leaves us still allowing corporal punishment in special schools. Clause 2 gives an alibi to reluctant authorities by making the provision of special education compatible with "the efficient use of resources". There is confusion and disappointment about the appeals system. I know that the Minister knows this because there has been correspondence with the Advisory Centre for Education—people who know what they are talking about—and if they feel confused, goodness knows how confused many parents must be.

I was glad to notice that the noble Baroness said at an international conference on 9th September: We must not forget that a child with special needs can be just as isolated from ordinary children within an ordinary school as he would be if he attended a special school". I am sure that we can all echo that. We know that without additional resources integration could disadvantage a child.

I can find no extra provision for the under-twos who are supposed to be brought into the education system for the first time. I can find no evidence that the nursery school provision is going to be extended as the Warnock Committee recommended, and there needs to be a seeking out in many cases of these children. We have talked about anxious parents, but I hope that we shall not forget about parents who sometimes are not as anxious as they ought to be or as anxious as they know how to be.

When I was in America I found that the highest proportion of children getting special education were in the most affluent areas, for the simple reason that these were the articulate, knowledgeable parents—sometimes the demanding, rather pushing parents—whereas in some of the run-down and miserable slum areas people are so crushed by poverty, anxiety and ignorance that they would not think of lifting up their heads and demanding what was due to their child. This will be expensive. I found in a typical area 15 per cent. of the children were getting special education and they were using up 20 per cent. of the budget. This was a matter of some comment among people who were not in receipt of special education.

I appreciate what the noble Baroness has said about the anxiety of parents over access to records. I hope she will not mind my saying that I think we ought to put something right that the noble Minister said at column 795 on 30th July. When talking about the practice in America, she suggested that parents have a right of access to educational records only and a medical report is not a required part of the assessment in the United States. I looked up that Bill while I was over there and it is a fact that health data are part of the required input into a child's file.

I shall not reopen that subject today but I found varying views. Some doctors told me that because of this provision for open access to files for parents they "laundered" their reports. That is the word which at least one doctor used and it was done partly because of fear of litigation—and of course they are a litigious lot over there. Then there was the doctor who said: "I did better reports because I knew that lay people would be reading them and I really had to stop doing this professional shorthand and really write something out carefully that I knew could be understood and discussed".

I do not think myself that the anxieties about this matter have yet reached the end of the road, but I am not sure either that the parental right of discussion with an official is the answer. It seems to me that either the official will tell the parents what is in the report, which is the obvious reason for seeking the interview in the first place—certainly it would be my reason for seeking the interview—or, if he will not, then the original dissatisfaction will persist. I will not go further into that point at this stage, but I think it ought to be on the record that there is still anxiety about it. Of course, we wish the Bill well. My only fear is that there is a great chasm yawning between the concept of this Bill and the reality of its implementation; but I shall be delighted to be proved wrong.

4.53 p.m.

Lord Banks

My Lords, I should like to associate my noble friends and myself with the tribute paid by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to Lord Boyle of Handsworth. We fully endorse all that was said by the two noble Baronesses. We on these Benches are glad that as a result of this Bill steps will be taken to implement many of the recommendations of the Warnock Report. We are glad that the integration of education of handicapped children with all other children is now accepted as a consequence of the acceptance of this Bill.

Although we share many of the reservations that have been expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, our fears that lack of resources may prove a stumbling block remain. The amendments which we proposed and supported at earlier stages, designed to prevent that from happening and designed to ensure that plans were made at local level for the implementation of the provisions of this Bill, were not accepted and we wish that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, had been able to be more flexible in that respect. Nevertheless, we recognise fully her personal commitment to the aims of the Bill and we recognise the considerable contribution which she has made during the passage of the Bill to improving it, particularly in relation to the assessment of educational need. We hope that this Bill will be very carefully monitored in practice, to make sure that a practical application is given to its excellently good intentions.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, owing to the school holidays of our two children, I was not able to become involved in the Bill as much as I would have liked. I am very sorry to have to tell your Lordships that my noble friend Lady Darcy (de Knayth), who worked so hard on this Bill, is not in your Lordships' House today: my noble friend is in hospital. Both my noble friend and I feel that more emphasis should have been put on integration into normal schools of children who can cope. It seems that we have not yet caught up with the United States of America and Canada over the educational policies for handicapped children. I think the Bill integrates in the wrong way by muddling up all children who come under this Bill by saying "special educational needs" rather than that "they are children with special educational needs". A bright, physically handicapped child's only need may be an accessible school and someone to help them on to the lavatory. If they go to special schools they may in time have a special educational need, as they will have been starved of educational opportunities. Very many special schools for physically handicapped and disabled children have deplorably inadequate libraries, with few reference books, and only achieve CSE standard.

Last Friday I met the father of two boys who have muscular dystrophy. He told me that with the help of the then Secretary of State at the DHSS, who happened to be Sir Keith Joseph, he managed to get allocated electric wheelchairs. These important aids enabled his children to go to normal schools and both boys went through university. One of them graduated with first-class honours degrees. Both are now working. I hope now, as Secretary of State for Education, that Sir Keith Joseph will help other handicapped children successfully to achieve their full potential.

It seems to be the philosophy of Warnock to do away with categories. I have seen how the generic social worker failed to help disabled people through lack of expertise on specific handicaps. I am sure one has to know and assess what the problem is before one can treat it. For example, the deaf, the blind and the dyslectic all have to have specially trained teachers. Far more training on disabilities needs to be given to teachers in training colleges. The International Year of Disabled People has highlighted many of the needs up and down the country, and one of them is more integrated training in colleges. There are genuine fears of disabilities if people have never come into contact with them and do not understand the results.

I welcome Clause 10(2), when health authorities notify the parents of children under five that there is a special educational need and that, if they think it appropriate, they are to inform the parents of a particular voluntary organisation. I have seen so often how putting parents in touch with a specialising voluntary body can encourage and bring them much-needed information and support. Many of these organisations run counselling services, preventing the families from becoming isolated and the parents frustrated by guilt. If there is to be a happy relationship between parents and professionals, barriers ought to be broken down and not built up. There should be confidence between the two: not a "them and us" situation.

It is a pity that educational records are not more open. I should like to read a letter sent by some professionals after they had attended a debate on this subject in your Lordships, House. They say: We are professionals in the field of deafness and since the United States' education laws concerning the confidentiality of records were referred to we would like to share our perception of the experience of our country on this matter. The benefits of open records have outweighed the possible hindrances and many of the concerns expressed have not proved to be problems. Our experience has been that open records have been in the best interest of the child for the following reasons:

  1. 1. Parents have become more involved in the education of their child. They have become more responsible for the total development of their child and participate more fully in this outside the classroom;
  2. 2. A relationship of trust has developed between parents and professionals; and
  3. 3. Information in files is substantiated by facts. Care is taken to express clearly the meaning and implications of technical data so that it is understandable and useful to both parents and professionals".
Today I have received a letter from the Minister of State at the Scottish Office, the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, telling me that the circular which is to be sent to local authorities about the scope for taking account of the needs of disabled people in deciding applications for planning has been issued. This is connected with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill. This includes granting planning permission when building a school and providing parking and sanitary facilities. So far, I have not heard about the progress of the circular which is to go out with the Disabled Persons (No. 2) Bill.

It is vital that the different departments get together. As your Lordships know, disabled people have so many needs and cross so many departments. These Acts of Parliament are interlinked. If I do not hear anything about England shortly, I shall be putting down a Question to find out what the progress is. With the drop in numbers of children at present, it seems that schools are likely to close rather than that new ones will be built. Therefore, I hope that local authorities will try their hardest to make suitable facilities by adapting some of the existing buildings. So much can be done if the attitude is helpful. Where there's a will, there's a way.

The needs of children with disabilities are so varied. I expect that before long this Bill will have to be amended. There is a problem which I do not think has been discussed, but I hope that some satisfactory solution can be found. This concerns the mobility allowance for children who attend residential special schools. I quote from a letter which I received from the headmaster of Welburn School in Yorkshire last week. He said: While I am delighted by the benefit that this allowance has been to so many of my pupils and ex-pupils, I am concerned to note that a few of them do not enjoy any improvement in their lot … A small number of my pupils, who are quite properly assessed as eligible for mobility allowance, spend their time at home in uninspiring circumstances, while their parents enjoy the extra income of the weekly mobility allowance. It has been suggested that the school should be able to benefit from the allowance during the term times, but I am opposed to this, even if it were feasible to arrange it. Perhaps the best solution would be to make a trust provision which would empower social services to monitor the proper use of the allowance. I realise that one could not legislate to compel parents to take children out and about so as to enrich their lives and enlarge upon their experience, but it makes me angry when I discover that the mobility allowance is used by people to run a car into which their handicapped child hardly ever, or never, enters". Because of the difference of needs and the attitudes of parents and teachers towards the education of handicapped children, we need to keep a flexible approach. I hope that this Bill will not hinder progress, but will help to bring together all concerned to work for the overall benefit of all children with problems. I also hope that the noble Baroness will continue to take an interest in this matter, even though she is leaving the Department of Education..

5.4 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, the Government deserve to be heartily congratulated on this Bill and on the open-minded way in which Ministers, including my noble friend Lady Young, have considered the arguments put forward in all parts of both Houses of Parliament. Of course, the Minister initially responsible was my right honourable and learned friend Mr. Mark Carlisle, who is no longer in the Cabinet. Whatever may have been the reason for his departure, he deserves credit for having in this Parliament introduced three Education Bills, and for getting two of them onto the statute book with this one to come. He deserves credit, especially, for acting on the Warnock Report. So many valuable reports of independent committees, Royal Commissions and so on especially on education are well received all round and highly regarded, but they never reach the statute book. But Mrs. Mary Warnock and her committee have, in their lifetime achieved the apotheosis that they deserve.

The parents of mentally handicapped children—and I grant that, although they are the largest group of the handicapped, they are among the smaller groups to be considered by this Bill, because a huge proportion of children who were considered to be normal are now regarded as having special educational needs—are grateful for the main provisions of this Bill dealing with special education, special schools and the assessment of special educational needs. Although it is, strictly speaking, an enabling Bill, like most Bills of this kind, it is unthinkable that it should not be implemented quite soon, as my noble friend indicated.

May I briefly mention three ancillary matters? First, on the confidential reports under Clause 7, I was very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, for telling us that the American provisions apply to medical reports as well as to educational reports. Unfortunately, the Government had apparently been wrongly advised on that and we had a Division, in which those of us who were trying to press the point lost by only five votes. I daresay that it might have been different if I had not had to withdraw that part of my argument. Then, so far as notification under Clause 10 is concerned, I accept what my noble friend said this afternoon in reply to my amendment. We can only hope for the best and that local authorities will co-operate fully. This Bill is a worthy contribution to the many efforts which are being made in this International Year of Disabled People. Well may it serve its purpose!

Baroness Bacon

My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships' House very long, because I know that there is other important business to come. However, I was very pleased indeed that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, paid tribute to the late Lord Boyle, and I should not like the opportunity to pass without my saying something, too. The late Lord Boyle was a great friend of mine for over 30 years and I was very pleased when he was appointed vice-chancellor of the university which had been in my former constituency. During the 11 years it was there, I was a member of the court and council, and saw at first hand how he served the purposes of education in Leeds University with great distinction. He served not only the university but the city, particularly in the sphere of music. We shall all remember his speeches. I remember many when we faced each other from opposite Front Benches in another place. But although we faced each other from opposite Front Benches, I know that there was very little difference in our outlook towards education.

The speech that I shall remember most in your Lordships' House was made in December 1979—nearly two years ago. Very few people realise the circumstances in which that speech was made. A few weeks previously Lord Boyle had had a serious operation. He took the rather unusual decision to come to convalesce in a London hotel. Having got as far as that London hotel he could not resist coming to your Lordships' House. That day we were debating overseas students' fees. In the afternoon he said to me, "I can't be here and not speak. I am going back to my hotel to rest for a few hours and then I shall come back to speak". I told him I thought it was rather unwise but he insisted upon speaking. He not only spoke but he spoke at midnight.

I am very pleased indeed that we are paying tribute in an education debate to one who felt so strongly about education. He was a great man who never lost his temper, who was compassionate and who always saw the other person's point of view. I do not want to go into detail about this particular Bill. That has already been done. I know, however, that it is a Bill after Lord Boyle's own heart. One of the things he did at Leeds University soon after he arrived was to set up a special committee to consider the needs of disabled students in Leeds University. Many changes were made to the structure of the university so that disabled people could get about the campus better.

I wish this Bill well. What is important is not what is said in the Bill but the spirit in which it is put into operation. I hope that this Bill will not be only a piece of paper but will become a reality within the next few years.

5.12 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I, too, welcome this Bill. I make no apologies about speaking on one subject which has not been considered very much in any of our debates. I think that it should be mentioned, even though I am interested, as many other Members of your Lordships' House are, in the business which is to follow.

This Bill will not be crippled at birth, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, said. This seemed to me to be rather an unfortunate expression about a Bill concerning handicapped children. However, I am very worried about one matter which has not been mentioned; namely, the staffing which will be necessary. To be very parochial for a minute, I made a speech at Second Reading, about which my noble friend Lady Young was very kind, concerning a new special school. Because of the nature of the school—where we take in children from normal schools although they remain on the school roll of that normal school and therefore they are not on the official roll of our school—we are very worried that when the figures for the teacher-pupil ratio go to the Department of Education and Science, as I believe is the case with every single special school, the computer there will go stark, raving bananas. It will probably leap through the roof. It will give the officials an awful fright. Therefore, I hope that whoever is in the department at the time will look kindly at those figures.

Even more important than that are wider questions concerning teacher training. We have to consider the integration of less fortunate children into our normal schools. I am thinking of children we have classified before as ESN(M)—those with minor learning difficulties and those suffering from behavioural problems. There is a very real danger that teachers, who we know are very conscientious, will have so little experience of these children that they will tend to classify them as either stupid, gauche, or even as completely "Bolshie" and therefore will place them on one side and will not encourage them. They may even look upon them as insolent. This can be countered to a certain extent during initial treacher training but I do not think that this situation is very satisfactory. The teachers who are being trained at the moment will not come into the mainstream for another year or so, and we hope that this legislation will come into effect before then.

There is an even more important fact: that practical experience for teachers of what I might describe as children in a normal school is fairly important before they come across handicapped children. By realising what they are looking for in the ordinary child and spotting the mischievous types, they will be more wary and will spot the differences when they come into contact with handicapped children. The answer to this problem is in-service training. Indeed, in-service training must be the answer to both problems. But the important question is: where on earth is the money going to come from? As a result of the present cutbacks, I believe that Lincolnshire recently announced that it is closing down all its teacher centres. Other local authorities are having to follow suit and greatly cut their resources.

Although my noble friend has told us that it will not cost very much, under this Bill I can see extra costs creeping into the budgets of local education authorities because of the very detailed assessment and appeal procedures which this Act gives rise to. I believe therefore that there is a very real danger that teachers will not be prepared to cater for children coming from special schools into ordinary schools. I hope that my noble friend will be an ally on behalf of education and on behalf particularly of—under this Bill we must not call them special children any more but children with learning difficulties. When she is in Cabinet perhaps my noble friend will remember some of the things that have been said in your Lordships' House today. I wish this Bill well and I wish my noble friend well. I hope she will remember us when the hard talking takes place in another place.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I should like to make a few comments on the Third Reading of this Bill. I shall be brief but I wish to emphasise the points made about Lord Boyle. I knew him when I first entered local politics. I was one of the councillors in the Handsworth division. Although we represented different points of view in different parties, before he became a Member of your Lordships' House Lord Boyle was thought highly of in the Handsworth division. He involved himself with the ethnic minorities there and showed his humane attitude towards the disadvantaged, even if they were not suffering from physical or mental disadvantages.

May I touch briefly on what was said about the 16 year-olds by the noble Baroness in her reply to me on a previous occasion. I must remind her that the education of the 16 year-olds and above has been regarded as something of a privilege for those with special needs. Further education is certainly not available for all those who wish to take advantage of it. According to the latest reports in the Library, which go up to 1978, the number of boys and girls who are staying on at school after the age of 16 is very small. We have to recognise clearly that the child who is going to be disadvantaged in the future will in the main be a child with a multiple handicap. All the statistics point to the fact that straightforward disabilities are disappearing. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Mrs. Warnock felt that there was a need to blur what we call the different categories. As was said by the previous speaker, the children who are suffering from multiple handicaps—who perhaps are partially sighted and suffering from severe spasticity, or who are deaf and also suffering from cystic fibrosis—are those who are now having to be catered for inside special schools.

Obviously, as the noble Lord who has just spoken said, these children need a tremendous amount of resources. They need extra special teaching and these will be the children whom we shall have to think of more and more in the future. Medical science keeps these children alive and, unfortunately, some of them are very seriously disadvantaged. I have enjoyed very much listening to the great experience in special education, including that of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who obviously speaks from a great deal of experience and knowledge. What I think we have to consider when we are thinking seriously about the Bill is that there will be many children who are at school today who will not be able to play their part in life in employment. Many more children will be unable to find employment, even if the employment position, as we all hope, improves in the near future. Therefore, we shall have to look to those older age groups from 16 years of age upwards for the development, not of special courses to fit them for future employment in a sheltered workshop—though that might be desirable—but of what are now called self-help skills. Such skills will lead the boys and girls to greater independence so that they will be able to manage alone when their parents die.

So it is in society's own interests that we emphasise the importance of the education which these people will require. It is economically more satisfactory for them to be able to stay in the community. Even if they are not earning any money at all it is cheaper for them to stay in the community, as well as being more humane. The development of what we might call further education might have to be the development of these skills, and it is these skills that will be given to what we call the young adults that will enable them to integrate into society because it is at young adulthood that difficulties arise with handicapped people of all description.

We look at this Bill and hope that the deliberations which have taken place in this House will perhaps enthuse those outside. Although as I said at a previous stage of the Bill I do not think it goes far enough, one has to accept that in the circumstances the Government do not intend it to go any further, and all we can hope is that people outside will work to the maximum of their ability to give greater independence to all handicapped people.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, I apologise that I was called away, but I intend to make only three points. One is to pay a tribute to the men and women who for many years have devoted their lives to teaching the underprivileged and the handicapped children in difficult schools. I should think that everybody in this Chamber who has shown an interest in education at some time or other has been to see the devoted work given by these men and women to handicapped children. My second point is one that I mentioned in a brief speech and I intend to be brief again. Anyone who has been a practical teacher—and I have had experience right through the gamut of education—knows that small classes are needed to give the care and devotion. For Heaven's sake! within reason whatever it costs the nation we shall not lose by having smaller classes if they are going to be mixed classes with handicapped pupils in them. Let us not pass this by as being merely a light point but a point that emanates from a democratic Parliament; our first priority is to have small mixed classes.

My last point is one which has not been touched on yet. I think we shall need some peripatetic nurses and dental and medical personnel attending these schools. There is a first-class dental report out at the moment on school children and their dental care. This is particularly of paramount importance in the case of underprivileged children, and therefore I hope we shall be looking at the nursing and the medical profession in relation to these new classes that will come into existence. The House is so well informed that I need not speak any more on these points because I know that they will have gone home.

Baroness Young

My Lords, we have had in effect a Second Reading debate, and I should like to correct one slight misunderstanding. I am sure the House will understand that I would not in any way wish to mislead anybody at any stage of the Bill on the American experience. I think it is always rather difficult to compare different systems. I took the best advice that I could and I should like to absolve my advisers from any intention to mislead anyone. What is important is that in the important area of confidentiality I believe we have gone as far as we can to meet what we recognise to be the concerns of parents.

Another point that I should like to make is that, like many others who have spoken, I wish that we could have done more in this Bill, but what is important is that the Bill makes a start on creating a new framework for children with special educational needs and we all wish to see it on the statute book as soon as possible.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with the amendments.

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