§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, with the leave of the House I should also like to make a short business statement. Her Majesty's Government have decided not to proceed further this Session with the Education (Corporal Punishment) Bill. They are now considering the appropriate course of action for next Session.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, may I be allowed to make a comment on that business statement? We are glad that the Government have agreed with the judgment of this House, and indeed with that of the local authority associations and teachers' unions, that the Education (Corporal Punishment) Bill was a ridiculous and unworkable Bill, and we are glad that it is not to become an Act. However, we regret that the Government have not thought fit to accept the amendment which was passed in this House on 4th July, when there could then have been a sensible Bill put on the statute book at the end of the Session, and parliamentary time would not have been wasted. As it is, I understand that parliamentary time will have to be devoted to it in the next Session.
All this time we are in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I remind that House that it is already three and a half years since the judgement of the European Court was given, and that even now there are more than 30 cases at Strasbourg which are at some stage or other, at a cost (so I am told) of about £120,000 per case, which I may say in parenthesis is the cost of 13 teachers annually.
May I make a plea that even at this late stage the Government have the courage to think again and accept our amendment, or something similar, and save a great deal of parliamentary time by getting something on to the statute book this Session, putting us to rights with the European Court and saving money which could very well be spent on the education service?
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady David, and say that, although we are not unhappy to see this Bill go away in the form in which we last saw it, we are somewhat amused at the sight of the Government leaving the field in disarray. I am tempted to ask whether the Government are 1098 prepared to take the same steps with other Bills that are bad Bills, such as the Transport Bill—but I do not suppose they will agree with that. Nevertheless, we are grateful to the Chief Whip for making this statement to us today.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I cannot accept the interpretation of the noble Baroness as to exactly what it was that prompted your Lordships to take the decision that was taken about this particular Bill on another day. Also, I cannot accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that the Government are leaving in disarray. The Government have received the judgment over a particular small issue taken for various reasons by your Lordships' House, and they are, I think, doing your Lordships' House the credit of taking this matter away to look at it, to consider it and to come back with the best solution during the next Session.