HL Deb 02 June 1986 vol 475 cc546-94

2.52 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I beg leave to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now be read a third time. (Baroness Hooper.)

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, I rise with great reluctance to move that the Motion for Third Reading be not agreed to. I do so not in terms of the merits of the Bill but in regard to Amendment No. 5 on the Marshalled List. I oppose the Third Reading of the Bill because there is no other course open to me. I speak on behalf of ordinary Back-Benchers and not those who may be in the privileged position of sitting on the Front Benches and who have, of course, close contact with and are well served by the Government in terms of their proposals.

There is a convention—and it is no more than that—that matters of major substance are not raised on Third Reading. Amendment No. 5 certainly falls into that category. It is an amendment of very considerable substance. On the other hand, it concerns a matter which was debated—very briefly, it is true—at the Report stage, and it was then that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, on behalf of the Government intimated his intention to bring forward an amendment to meet the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox.

The amendment in question is of considerable substance and for it to be introduced on Third Reading places your Lordships' House in very considerable difficulties. I do not wish to go into the question of the merits or the various problems that will arise from it. Certainly my first knowledge of the contents of the amendment was from reading my copy of The Times this morning. It was only when I came to your Lordships' House that I discovered the amendment on the Marshalled List. The amendment introduces a new clause to a Bill which deals with education. I think that the Government would at least agree with me that if the Government had intended moving a clause of that character, the title of the Bill would be very different from the present title of the Bill.

My anxiety is not about the problems and whether the Government have got it right; my anxiety is about the ordinary Members of your Lordships' House acting as a revising Chamber. I do not know how many noble Lords had sight of the amendment prior to today. Some noble Lords on the Front Benches have had it earlier. I gather that the Minister made great efforts to contact those who took part in the discussions during the earlier stages of the Bill. However, as I have said, the new clause sits very uneasily within the general context of the Bill itself. Therefore, I need to ask this question. Were those noble Lords who were concerned about the universities notified of the Government's intention? My understanding—and I am open to correction—is that the vice-chancellors and the authorities in the universities were only informed of the contents of this new clause on Thursday of last week. At that time we were in parliamentary recession or rather Parliament was in Recess. We were not in parliamentary recession, although some of your Lordships may think that that is rather topical! However, Parliament was in Recess. It would have been very difficult for vice-chancellors to contact ordinary Members of your Lordships' House about their concern regarding the Bill. It would have been very difficult for ordinary Members of your Lordships' House to contact even their closest friends within the universities about the merits, the difficulties and the problems of what the Government have in mind.

However, I do not wish to discuss the merits of the amendment, and nor do I wish to accuse the Government of trying to treat this House in any roughshod fashion, although it could well be said outside that your Lordships' House is being treated in a very roughshod way.

Let us consider the position of your Lordships' House this afternoon. I said that I objected to the Third Reading with reluctance. I have no other course open to me. I could not move a Motion; I could not put down an amendment because I had no prior knowledge of the contents of this particular amendment. Therefore, I should like to suggest to your Lordships how this particular clause should be handled. I personally believe that the new clause should be recommitted to your Lordships' House. I believe that it should be recommitted in order that your Lordships' House could deal with the substance of the clause and could have the ability to move constructive amendments to it.

However, as the amendment has been put down on Third Reading, and put down so late, there is no way in which any of your Lordships can amend the clause. All we can do is take the clause as it is. It is perfectly true that my noble friend Lord McIntosh has tabled an amendment, but he may have been in a privileged position. I should say that his amendment is not one that will give him great comfort. He may well have wished to deal with the matter in greater detail. Certainly those noble Lords who may be interested in the universities may have wished to move amendments of greater detail. Therefore, I point out to your Lordships that the only way in which that could be done is if the clause were recommitted to your Lordships' whole House.

However, we have now reached Third Reading. Each of your Lordships is only permitted to make one speech and then has to sit down and be quiet. If the Government wish to take up a point, there is no way they can do so other than for the Minister to say, "I rather agree with the noble Lord. This is an amendment that we should like to consider, and we shall deal with it in another place". Is that in itself satisfactory? I do not think that it is.

I oppose the Third Reading because it is the only course open to me. This is a clause of substance and importance and it sits uneasily with the rest of the Bill, but that is neither here nor there. It is a clause that ought to be looked at in the same way as any other clause in a government Bill and it should be subject to amendment. Therefore it is my earnest appeal to the Government that this new clause be recommitted to your Lordships' House in Committee.

If the Government are so willing—and I can only say this speaking personally, but I think it would be the understanding of your Lordships' House—we would deal with all the amendments now on the Marshalled List for Third Reading but we would not conclude the Third Reading procedures, and the Government would recommit this particular clause to a Committee of your Lordships' House. We could then deal with it, and then perhaps next week bring it back and include it in the Third Reading. I am sure that if the Government were to make that gesture nobody would seek to make capital out of it, or seek to add to the problems of the Government with their timetable.

I beg the Government, in the interests of your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber, to acknowledge that this is a clause of such substance that it ought to be considered in detail and be capable of being amended if we so wish. The present position is quite unsatisfactory. All we are faced with is an amendment that we have either to accept or to reject. In view of the importance of the subject, I do not think it is right that the House should be placed in that position.

I propose that the Third Reading be not taken this day. I would happily withdraw that Motion if the Government would make the one concession that this particular clause be recommitted to your Lordships' House in Committee. I am certain that through the usual channels business could be expedited so that no great amount of time would be lost.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Shepherd in his submission. The entire nation seems to be gravely concerned about the situation with regard to education, and would it not be right and proper to listen to what my noble friend Lord Shepherd has said? If the people could have a voice they would say that what is happening today in this House is neither right nor proper.

It may be that the Government did not intend to submit this particular amendment on the Marshalled List today. If they did not, one could understand that the intention was a not dishonourable one. If, to use an old soldier's phrase, this Government, as they sometimes do, are trying to "work a flanker", then the only way that they can save their good name and not irritate the people of this country is by allowing us to examine the submission that has been made and to take cognisance of and agree with the submissions made by my noble friend Lord Shepherd.

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, there has been a long discussion on this subject at Committee and Report stages. It is true that the amendment can only now be looked at in detail, but I think I am right in reminding the House that the Bill goes from here after Third Reading to the other place, and should there be amendments to this clause they can be discussed when they return to us. I should have thought that we have had enough discussion of this important matter. The view of the House has been made fairly clear, and the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, should not be agreed to.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we on these Benches understand the problems of the Government. At the same time it remains true, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, that this amendment came out during the Recess and we have had no proper opportunity to consider it. It is not a minor amendment. It is a very important issue. Many of us have received letters from the vice-chancellors, who are not a frivolous committee and who are deeply worried about it.

I see the procedural difficulty, but unless the House can give this full consideration (because it is a new idea and it is not really just a modification of what we have already discussed) we should not be doing our duty as a House, and we should be deeply unhappy to proceed on that basis.

Lord Renton

My Lords, this new clause is introduced as a result of an undertaking given by the Government at Report stage and after a discussion—and not the first discussion in this House—on this subject. I should have thought, therefore, that it was perfectly well within the rules of order for the tabling of amendments at Third Reading.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I hate to disagree with my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Trenchard, but I feel, as a Back Bencher on this side of the House who also saw the text only when I arrived in the House this morning, that it is not the way such an important matter should be dealt with. I agree that there is a mischief to be corrected, but there is a variety of ways in which that mischief could be corrected.

If some of us who have experience of the university world had been consulted, we might have persuaded the Government to introduce something which would not have received the rather unfavourable reception that the amendment has received. It would be a pity to have to rely upon another place to improve it, since one of the things that this House can claim is a representation of the university world much greater than exists in the other place. Therefore, with deep regret I must find myself on the same side as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd.

Lord Denning

My Lords, may I say one word? I was present at the discussion at Report stage. It was a full discussion which went into the principles on both sides, and the Government gave their undertaking to bring in a clause at this stage. They have done it rather late; but on the other hand I should have thought that it is possible for all of us to discuss it quite profitably even now, because the principle has been discussed, and let it go forward.

Noble Lords

We cannot amend it.

Lord Butterworth

My Lords, I wish to support my noble friend Lord Beloff. The difficulty about this clause is that it divides freedom of speech into two. There will be one definition of freedom of speech which will operate on the campuses of this country, and another freedom of speech which will operate elsewhere. I can elaborate the consequences of this, which in my view would be disastrous. I would therefore wish to see this matter of freedom of speech not immured in a Bill which is concerned with education, governing bodies, curricula, and the like. Later this month we shall have a public order Bill, and that is where clauses about the freedom of speech should be placed.

Lord Edmund-Davies

My Lords, for many the first knowledge of this matter was found on the centre page of The Times today. Are we to hear something from the Opposition Front Bench on the matter so that we may have some guidance?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I had assumed that it was a matter of courtesy to let the Government respond to my noble friend's Motion before intervening myself. I certainly take it as the responsibility of the Opposition to speak from the Dispatch Box on this matter, but I did not want to anticipate the debate on the substantive content of the amendment or to speak on the procedural matter without hearing the words of the noble Baroness for the Government. If it is possible within the rules of order, I may wish to comment on what she says.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has said in raising this Motion that we should not give the Bill a Third Reading this afternoon. As a former Leader of the House, he will appreciate more than most that that is a very serious step for the Government to undertake about something on which we have agreed with the usual channels. The Bill has gone through all the procedures since early March, and those who have taken part in the detailed debates that have taken place are aware of the timetable.

The noble Lord said that he moved this Motion because the Government amendment raises a matter of substance. It is true it is an important amendment that the Government are bringing forward at Third Reading, and I understand the sincerity of all those who have spoken this afternoon. However, I would remind your Lordships that this matter of the universities was raised at Second Reading, it was raised again and debated at the Committee stage of the Bill—after all we had four days in Committee,—and it was raised and debated again on Report. Perhaps I may quote what my noble friend Lord Swinton said on Report: We have carefully considered the arguments put forward at Committee stage by my noble friend and have decided in the circumstances that it would be appropriate to make provision in this legislation to meet the concerns she expressed. We therefore undertake to introduce our own amendment at Third Reading. This will be wider than freedom of speech for visiting speakers and will relate to every aspect of higher education."—[Official Report, 20/5/86; col. 281.] If I may say so, I think that it is a little disingenuous to say that the first anyone has heard about this is reading the very important article by Sir Patrick Neill in today's issue of The Times. For those of us who have been following this Bill in some detail the Government made an absolute commitment on Report and have honoured that commitment. We would have been quite properly criticised if we had not honoured our commitment.

The noble Lord made another point. He said that this was wide of an Education Bill. Again—as I am sure he will know as well as I do—the question of whether any amendment is relevant to the matter of a Bill is something for decision by the Public Bill Office. As he will know, it is relevance that applies in your Lordships' House; it is scope that applies in another place. The amendment and those which preceded it at other stages have been allowed.

I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to go into all the detail of what I propose to say later on moving the amendment. But I should like to make two points, because I must say to the House that I do not believe we could recommit this Bill at this stage.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, recommit the clause.

Baroness Young

My Lords, recommit the clause. I understand the point about recommitting the clause but I do not feel nevertheless that we could recommit this clause. The clause has been brought forward to meet an obligation. The time has been short, although it was said on 20th May at Report stage that we would bring forward an amendment at Third Reading. I recognise that time has been short and we have not had the opportunity for the consultations which we should like to have had. I shall give an undertaking to your Lordships about this which I would have given and shall repeat when I come to the amendment. The Government will look further at this amendment in the light of what has been said and in the light of consultations which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is to have with those in the universities, the polytechnics and other higher educational authorities about this. I shall expand this remark later because I do not want to get into the substance of it now.

I hope I have said enough to assure your Lordships that what we are doing is fulfilling an undertaking on a matter which has been raised at each stage of the Bill and why I believe it would not be appropriate for us to recommit this particular amendment.

3.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have listened with great care and sympathy to what the noble Baroness has said because the Government are certainly in a difficult position. It is true that the Government made the undertaking which the noble Baroness read out. It is certainly true that they were under an obligation after Report stage to come back to this House at Third Reading. However, Report stage was on Tuesday, 20th May. By the following Wednesday the Bill, as amended at Report, was not available, and it was therefore not possible for anybody other than the Government to put down amendments to it. I did not see the amendment until this Friday morning last, 30th May.

In those circumstances, I question whether the Government acted with sufficient speed to enable them to escape the charges which my noble friend Lord Shepherd has put against them. I suggest that it may not be improper for the Government to proceed as they intend to proceed; but it would be the path of wisdom for the Government to listen to the views expressed on all sides of the House this afternoon, accept my noble friend's amendment and suffer the very minor delay which might be caused by the recommittal of this new clause.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, I find myself in no disagreement with the noble Baroness in terms of the Government's intention of dealing with a difficult problem. As she said, this has been made clear particularly at Report stage. My anxiety was solely on the question of the drafting of the amendment, which is a substantial new clause. The noble Baroness has said that the Government themselves have anxiety about it and that they would wish to listen. They gave an undertaking that in another place they would deal with it.

However, if we were to proceed as the noble Baroness has suggested, your Lordships' House will not in any way have an ability to contribute to the discussion of the detail of the clause. Like the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, I agree that there is a wealth of experience in the House, unlike in another place. I should not like to think that your Lordships' House should not have an opportunity of dealing with the detailed contents of this clause before it goes to another place. I think that would be quite wrong.

The noble Baroness referred to my previous role in your Lordships' House. It may be because of that previous role that I have spoken today, because as the Leader of the House one has one guiding principle: you are not solely the servant of the Government; you are the servant of your Lordships' House and you have to take into account what are the anxieties and the concerns of the House. This is not a party political issue. It is not an issue that necessarily divides us in the field of education. This is purely a procedural argument.

In the light of what the noble Baroness has said, I should like to move that your Lordships' House should decline to give this Bill a Third Reading today and ask the Government to re-introduce it some seven days hence. That will give the Government an opportunity to meet the understandings of the usual channels for this particular part to be re-committed to your Lordships' House.

I therefore beg to move that the Third Reading be postponed these seven days. I beg to move.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, perhaps I ought to say just the briefest word. I suggest that the Motion before the House is, That the Bill be now read a third time. We can consider, and are considering with the very greatest care, the remarks which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is making on that Motion, which is the one that will be put to your Lordships. But before that Motion is put I ought, on behalf of the Government, to express apologies to your Lordships for the shortness of the notice for this amendment being put down. It is a situation where the House has every right to expect the Government Front Bench to express apologies for the shortness of the notice. I know that my noble friend Lady Young did so in her usual felicitous way a few moments ago; but at the termination of this discussion I think that I ought to underline it and repeat it. That is one point that I wanted to make. I unreservedly apologise to your Lordships for the shortness of the notice.

However, the second point that I ought to make is that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, in his intervention from the Cross-Benches, asked whether it was really to be that the House, after all that has gone on on this Bill, is not to hear from my noble friend and other noble Lords about this important matter. As I understood it, the noble and learned Lord said, "Is there really to be silence?"

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, he did not say that at all.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, may I finish? That was my understanding If I may say so, I think that after all that has gone on over this Bill—and it is for the House to decide whether it agrees with me or not—for there to be total silence on this matter would be very questionable indeed. My noble friend Lady Young has made it clear that there really would be the very greatest difficulty from the Government's point of view about recommitting the clause until next week. Therefore, the second point that I wish to make is that for the reason that I have just given I think that we ought to proceed.

The final thing I ought to say to your Lordships is that it is for the House to decide, if we do proceed, what then to do with the new clause. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, put a very important point to the House when he said that the clause could not be properly considered. If your Lordships reach that conclusion at the end of the debate on the new clause, it will be for your Lordships not to agree to it. But I hope that the House will agree that at least the clause should be considered on Third Reading.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, surely it is very odd for your Lordships' House and for Members opposite to say, in effect, that we cannot trust the House of the people, or the House of Commons, to—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, it was all sides of the House.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, it is just as odd for all sides of the House to do it as only one side of the House; but it is odder from that side than from this. It does seem rather odd. Surely we have had a commitment from my noble friend that this will be seriously looked at in another place and if amendments to it are necessary, they will be brought forward. I sincerely hope that your Lordships will support my noble friend if it does come to a Division. I think it is very odd for the Labour Party to promote Divisions because they do not trust the Commons to look at legislation.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

My Lords, the Question before the House is, That this Bill now be read a third time.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, I had hoped that I could have moved a Motion to the effect that this Third Reading be postponed for seven days. If we are asked to vote against the Bill, I think we are then placed in an intolerable position. All that I am seeking, because of the circumstances that I have explained, is the adjournment of the Third Reading. If we were to vote against the Third Reading, the Bill would be lost. I think that that would be quite wrong and quite contrary to what we on this side of the House, or for that matter those on all sides of the House, are seeking. What we want is a postponement of the Third Reading.

Lord Morris

My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, this cannot be so. Back-Benchers, or indeed Front-Benchers, of your Lordships' House cannot just stand up and move any Motion in a form which they consider is relevant—certainly not without notice. My understanding of the matter is that the Motion to be agreed at the moment is, That this Bill be read a third time. This Motion cannot be altered just because it suits the whim of any Member of this House; that would be a certain recipe for procedural chaos.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, perhaps I may help the House on this occasion. I feel that the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees was quite right to say that the Motion before the House is, That this Bill be now read a third time. The operative word is "now". If the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, wishes to move an amendment to it, he may do so. He may leave out the word "now" and insert "this day"—

Lord Shepherd

Seven days.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

Yes, my Lords; "seven days' time", or "this day one week". I think that that would help the House, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, can move his Motion in accordance with the procedure.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, I take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, to delete the word "now" and insert "seven days hence". I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, very briefly, I have taken the advice of the Table. The advice is that, under Standing Order 43, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is perfectly within his rights; and it comes very close to the advice given to him from the Bench behind him. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I referred to Standing Order 43: A Motion for the adjournment of a debate may be moved at any time during the debate without notice and may be debated. But when it has been arranged in advance for a debate to be adjourned, it is usual for its adjournment to be moved formally by the Lord who will speak first when the debate is resumed". That second part, of course, is irrelevant, but the first part is highly relevant. May I suggest, although I do not agree with the noble Lord, that he proceeds according to Standing Order 43?

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, I shall soon be out of order if I speak too many times. In the light of the advice that the noble Lord the Deputy Leader of the House has given, I beg to move that consideration of the Third Reading be now adjourned for seven days—

Noble Lords


Lord Shepherd

My Lords, just "be adjourned".

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, the Motion is that the word "now" be deleted and the words "seven days hence" be substituted for the word "now". Is that the correct Motion? That is the Motion before the House. The Question is, That this Motion be agreed to.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I wonder if I may come in now. I am speaking to Lord Shepherd's Motion. As my noble friend the Deputy Leader of the House has said and as has been confirmed by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is quite in order so to do. I am just wondering whether he is wise so to do or whether the House would be wise spontaneously to accept such a Motion. The business of this House has always been agreed through the usual channels. To have a government's timetable altered in this way just after a very short debate like this might make for very great difficulties in this and in future Parliaments.

Noble Lords


Lord Denham

My Lords I do not know whether noble Lords opposite realise how difficult it is. We have agreed through the usual channels what the business should be. To adjourn a whole stage of a Bill just because of one amendment seems to be—

Noble Lords

But it is important.

Lord Denham

All right, my Lords; it is an important one. But it seems to be a precedent over a Bill like this—and, as I say, the programme has been agreed through the usual channels—and a precedent that needs very careful thinking about, before Members of any party should decide to inflict their will on the Government of the day.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I think that in an earlier speech the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, indicated that he would be quite happy to take this afternoon that part of the Third Reading of this Bill which did not refer to this particular amendment if the Government would agree to the recommitment of Amendment No. 5. If it is procedurally possible to agree that, I am sure we can make progress.

Lord Denham

My Lords, if, with the leave of the House, I may speak again, I think it would be a good idea to consider this through the usual channels outside the Chamber. Therefore, with the leave of the House, I beg to move that this House do adjourn for five minutes.

Noble Lords


Lord Denham

My Lords, I beg to move that this House do adjourn during pleasure.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The sitting was suspended from 3.29 until 3.34 p.m.].

Debate on the Motion for Third Reading resumed.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I was not quite sure procedurally as to who should speak first. I think the best procedure I would recommend to the House is that my noble friend should undertake to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, not to move Amendment No. 5 during the Third Reading today but that the Government should also undertake to my noble friend Lady Cox and others that an amendment similar to this will be moved by the Government in another place. Your Lordships' House will therefore, if another place accepts the amendment, have full ability to consider it and amend it after listening to all the discussions that have taken place both here and in another place. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will agree to withdraw his Motion that the debate on Third Reading should be adjourned

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, replies, may I ask the noble Lord the Chief Whip whether in that case the Government will undertake to carry out full consultations before redrafting any clause to be presented in another place?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have already said to the House what it was the Government's intention to do. I have no reason for thinking that there will be any change in that because the clause which followed an undertaking given on Report and which was tabled for your Lordships this afternoon is now to be withdrawn.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, may I ask this question? If this procedure is followed and an amendment such as this goes through the Commons and comes back here, is it the opinion of the Chief Whip or of members of the Government generally that this House, constitutionally and properly, could disagree with that amendment if it wished?

Lord Denham

My Lords, I hope that it will not, but it would be perfectly proper for this House so to do.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, as one of the proposers of the original amendment, perhaps I may say that I welcome the efforts that have been made by Her Majesty's Government to come forward with an amendment which tried to meet the spirit of our original amendment. I have listened very carefully to the representations of concern made from all parts of your Lordships' House this afternoon and I am very happy to support the current Motion which is before us.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, the House will be very grateful to the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms for his statement today. Of course, the assurance given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is given not to me, but to your Lordships' House. In the light of that assurance I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion for Third Reading agreed to.

Clause 6 [Appointment of representative governors in place of co-opted governors]:

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 7, line 28, at beginning insert— ("Where the local education authority and the governing body consider it appropriate,")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, after the storms and excitement of the recent debate, the amendment which I now beg to move is comparatively tame. It returns once again to the whole question of trying to get right the composition of school governing bodies.

This amendment relates to the relatively small number of schools in the maintained special schools sector. As presently drafted, the Bill states that these special schools must have one governor imposed on them, representing one or more voluntary organisations. The local education authorities decide which voluntary organisations are appropriate to make the appointment. I have received representations from special schools who regard these provisions as "patronising and offensive". Governing bodies of special schools are just as capable as governing bodies of mainstream schools of co-opting governors with appropriate experience and expertise. It might be that special school governing bodies would indeed want some representation from an appropriate voluntary body; however, they should have the discretion to choose. Governors should not be imposed on them by an external agency. My amendment introduces a degree of flexibility. The provisions of this subsection would apply only where the local education authority and the governing body consider it appropriate. In effect, there would be discussions between the school and the local education authority. Where it was right for a voluntary group to have representation, then a governor could be appropriate. Where it is not appropriate, no such appointment need be made. As presently drafted, the Bill does not permit this flexibility.

Furthermore, it may not always be appropriate for the appointment to be made from a voluntary organisation. It may, for example, be more appropriate for a person from a district health authority to be appointed. If this was the case, then a governor could be co-opted in the normal way, and no appointment from a voluntary body would be made. Again as presently drafted the Bill would not permit this. My amendment, by introducing flexibility, would improve the functioning of governing bodies of special schools. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I understand that there is a printing error in the amendment, which should refer to line 35. Amendment proposed,

Page 7, line 35, at beginning insert— ("Where the local education authority and the governing body consider it appropriate,")

Lord Renton

My Lords, I appreciate the motives of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, but I have some doubt about it because it seems to me that it gives to the local education authority and the governing body, or to each of them, a veto as to whether or not the provisions of subsection 1 of Clause 6, which are good provisions, shall be carried out, and I am very doubtful whether each of those two bodies or either or both of them should have such a veto.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, has said in moving this amendment, which is a new amendment which we have not seen at earlier stages of this Bill. The effect of it would be, as the noble Lord has explained, to make representation of the appropriate voluntary organisation on the governing body of a maintained special school discretionary, depending on whether the local education authority and the governing body consider such representation to be appropriate.

The voluntary organisation to be represented on such a school does not have to be a national body. It could be a local group concerned with a particular specialism of the school. The criterion is that the local education authority considers it to be appropriate, whether it is national or local. If a governing body feels that it has had inappropriate organisations foisted upon it, it can always make representations to the local education authority and they must then consider such representations. If they consider such representations to be well founded, they can amend the instrument of government. If the parents at the school believe that the voluntary organisation represented is the wrong one, they can raise the matter at the annual parents' meeting, and if they pass a resolution on the matter they will have to have it considered by the local education authority, who will then have to report back on the question in the next annual governors' report.

There are various alternative ways of dealing with this matter, and I hope that I having shown the various ways in which under the Bill an individual school can make its views known to the voluntary organisation or organisations to be represented on the governing body the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her words on this matter. It is unfortunate that the Government do not feel able to accommodate the feelings of those most closely involved in this matter, but, in view of what she says, I do not see that any more can be said at this stage, other than that one hopes it may be done in another place at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 [Miscellaneous]:

3.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 1A: Page 18, line 17, at end insert ("and shall make provision for a postal ballot").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I rely on the words used by the noble Baroness at Report stage. I appreciate that she has had a lot of matters on her mind between Report stage and now, in particular towards the latter end of the period, but I would remind her and the House that when we discussed the whole question of postal ballots at Report stage she said: "It is an area that needs looking at, but I sense the feeling of the whole House about that, and I will look at the matter again between now and Third Reading".

That is by no means as firm a commitment as that which her noble friend Lord Swinton gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, about the issue of freedom of speech in universities, but it went some way towards indicating that the Government appreciated the validity of the point that in order for parents in particular to have a full opportunity to take part in the election of parent governors, a postal ballot was the only effective system. We discussed the possibility that there would be parent governors who would be working on night shift and could not attend parents' meetings and that there could be parent governors who would be disabled and could never attend any outside meetings, but who would still wish to have a say in the election of parent governors.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, has written to me indicating that in her view the position in residential schools was certainly such that a postal ballot would be the appropriate way for a ballot to take place, but I do not think that really goes far enough. It is not just a matter of special or residential schools. In all schools there will be parents who, for the reasons I have suggested and possibly for other reasons, would not be able to take advantage of their right under Clause 14 to take part in the election of parent governors. A postal ballot in addition to a ballot taken at the annual parents' meeting would be a valuable extension of the democracy which the Government wishes to encourage in the running of our schools.

I said a moment ago that this was not as firm a commitment as that given on another amendment, but it was one where the Government appeared to be opening the door slightly. I want, in all humility, to try to push on the door in so far as it is open. I recognise that the Government may not feel able to accept this amendment, which does not deal with the question of whether there should be a postal ballot for teachers. If the Minister would be prepared to say in response to this amendment that the Government's consideration, which had not come to a point by today, will continue and that they will look sympathetically at the possibility of putting down an amendment in another place to achieve this effect, which was widely wished for on many sides of the House at Report stage, then I should be happy to withdraw my amendment. But in view of the offer made by the noble Baroness, I think that we ought not to let this matter drop. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is quite right in saying that I undertook at Report stage to look again at the question of postal ballots; and indeed I have subsequently written to noble Lords opposite who spoke on the matter. It is, I think, common ground between us that nothing in the clause as presently drafted excludes a postal ballot. It is also fairly clear that the provisions of subsection (5)(c) mean that for schools where the parents live a long way from the school—for example, many residential schools—there would have to be a postal ballot for parent governor elections.

I said in my letter that in the post-Act guidance the Government would make clear their expectation that for parent governor elections local education authorities, or, as appropriate, governing bodies, would allow parents a postal vote if they were unable to attend to vote in person. However, we recognise that this may not always achieve the desired result and that there could be a few hard cases where the LEA (or the governing body) could not be said to have denied anyone the opportunity to vote but where some parents had for some reason or other not been able to do so. The Government will therefore undertake to introduce their own amendment in another place to make clear that a postal vote should be available in parent governor elections for those who, for whatever reason, cannot attend to vote in person.

I hope the noble Lord will understand why we cannot accept his amendment as it stands. It would, among other matters, apply to teacher governor elections and I thought he indicated agreement when I suggested at Report stage that there is considerably less of a case for postal ballots here. I hope very much that with the undertaking I have given about the government amendment which we shall bring forward in another place, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Baroness could hardly say fairer than that. We have the undertaking that I was looking for, we have the understanding that it is in the mind of the Government, as it was in the mind of the House at earlier stages of this Bill, that there should be no unjustifiable obstruction of postal ballots and no obstruction by anybody in any position of authority of the democratic rights of parents to select their own parent governors. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her assurances, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 [County, controlled and maintained special schools]:

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 2: Page 21, line 3, leave out '("and").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment to remove a superfluous "and". I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 2A: Page 21, line 7, leave out ("modified") and insert ("interpreted").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is a very simple one, but it has very wide-ranging consequences for the control of the curriculum in our schools. This is a matter which it will be common ground has been debated at all stages of the Bill in your Lordships' House and to which the Government submitted very substantial amendments at Report stage. It is therefore appropriate to use Third Reading to examine those Report stage amendments again, and to consider whether they achieve the objectives for which I believe the House was looking at Report stage and the Committee was looking for at Committee stage.

Who has the final say in the control of the curriculum in our schools is a fundamental matter. There was a difficulty in the Bill as originally drafted that the head teacher was left in the invidious position that he had to decide which policy—the policy of the local education authority or the policy of the governing body—should be adopted in the school if there were a conflict between the two. The Government's amendments at Report stage go some way to dealing with that, and some way to removing the difficult position in which the head teacher was being placed. Indeed, an amendment on similar lines which was moved in Committee achieved some measure of support, and I believe it was that amendment and the support that was given to it that prompted the Government to move their own amendments.

Although the difficulty for the head teacher is to some extent removed by the Government's amendments, the fundamental difficulty of who shall have the last say in the curriculum—the local education authority or the governing body—is not really resolved or, if it is resolved, it is resolved, in our view, in the wrong way. It is still possible under the Bill as amended for the governing body to modify the general curriculum policy of a local education authority and for the head teacher to be obliged to follow that modified policy, rather than the general policy of the local education authority.

I am not, in general, a centralist on these matters. I do not feel as a matter of general principle that local education authorities are all-knowing and all-wise on matters of curriculum. I do not go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and two of my noble friends about the central control of the curriculum. I shall not repeat the argument which we had at Report stage when the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, made it clear that, in his view, the local education authority is the worst possible decider on the curriculum. But there are real difficulties if the governing body is encouraged or allowed to modify the curriculum policy of a local education authority.

For example, let us look at the possibility that a governing body may go for broke and say: "We have comprehensive schools in this area, but we are going to have a curriculum policy which concerns itself only with the interests of the academically able, and all our efforts are going to be devoted to securing that the academically able have the lion's share of resources and the best teaching. We hope, as a result of that, that parental choice as exercised in the authority's area will, in effect, result in de facto selection of that school by the academically bright pupils to the detriment of the range of ability in the other schools in that area." That could happen.

It is possible for a governing body which believes in that sort of segregation of the academically able from the less academically able to seek to achieve that through its own curriculum policy; a curriculum policy which would be counter to the general policy of the education authority. Under the Bill as drafted, there is nothing to stop a governing body from making those modifications to the curriculum policy of the local education authority.

Surely an education authority which is elected by the people in the area and is aware of the resources available to it in all the schools in the area, and which has a general statutory obligation under innumerable Education Acts to provide for the best educational interests of all the pupils in its care, has the right and the duty to be heard and to be the prime mover in the decisions about curriculum policy. This is not to say that there could not be changes to suit the needs of a particular school as determined by the governing body. That is why we have put in the word "interpreted", which allows for differential interpretation of curriculum policy and still gives a significant and valuable degree of freedom to the governing body, without affecting the statutory obligations on a local education authority to serve all the pupils.

I realise that this is a new word to be brought into the Bill at a late stage in your Lordships' House, but I believe that the two valuable contributions which are made—first, to removing the difficulty of head teachers of choosing between two conflicting policies, and, secondly, of settling once and for all how the education of the pupils in any one local education authority shall be determined—make it worthwhile making this amendment even at this stage in the consideration of the Bill. I commend the amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I shall not take up the challenge to rehearse our arguments. I rise merely on a point of drafting. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, like other people has been in a hurry because if "modified" is changed to "interpreted" surely he should have wanted the words "(if at all)" removed. How (if at all) the authority's policy should in their opinion be interpreted", would suggest an even more negative attitude on the part of the governors that they want to have nothing whatever to do with it. This seems to me to be a fault in drafting; but if the Government are not going to accept it, the mere fault in drafting will not matter all that much.

4 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I take a slightly different view of this; and I am so sorry to have to record any kind of disagreement with my noble friend Lord Beloff with whose views I nearly always agree, although perhaps he does not always agree with mine. Although I do not accept all of the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I think that from the purely drafting point of view he has made a point which we should even at this late stage consider. The word "modified" can be read as "amended" or "changed". If it is the Government's view that the governing body shall be allowed to change or amend the policy of the local education authority, so be it; but I did not think that that was the Government's view. If the policy of the education authority could be changed by the governors of every school we should get immense variation between one school and another within that authority's responsibility.

It may be that the Government would prefer to have time to consider this point. They are, after all, rather fine points. But I suggest that as a matter of drafting it might be as well to have a look at the use of the word "modified" in both of the places to which the noble Lord has referred. There is a real difficulty, a slight dilemma, for us all as well as for the Government in that we do not want too much rigidity. At the same time we do not want too much variation. It is just a question of what the Government have in mind and what they want us to do.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I cannot help feeling that there is a great danger in giving local education authorities too much control over the curriculum of the schools in their area. One has to remember first of all that the governing bodies are not education specialists. They are merely local government officials who are acting as a local education authority. The governing body is far more likely to know what are the necessary points for its curriculum. Recently the local authority for Surrey made a disastrous regulation which banned entirely the teaching of the arts within school hours. That is all very well. That is a hypothetical regulation but it does not make for what individual schools may want. I feel therefore that the governing bodies are far more likely to know what is wanted in their schools.

Baroness Young

My Lords, the point that lies behind this amendment has been looked at, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, quite properly said, in considerable detail at earlier stages of the Bill. Indeed, I went over this ground at Report stage very carefully to set out the Government's thinking behind the curriculum provisions of the Bill, provisions which are central to the Bill's purpose of giving parents and governors a genuine voice in the running of their schools.

Concern had been expressed that we had moved too far in allowing governors to overturn sensible, authority-wide policies in a way which might make it difficult for local authorities to carry out their statutory responsibilities. But a number of government amendments were introduced to clarify this point: that by restricting governors' powers to the "modification" of the authority's policy we had ensured that this policy could not be changed out of all recognition by the school governors. Modification is intended to allow for genuine, albeit limited, freedom for governors to diverge to some degree from local authorities' policies. This point was made very clear particularly at Report stage when we made significant changes to the Bill in order to stress the concept of modification.

The amendment before the House would effectively place governors within the straitjacket of local authority policy, since only its "interpretation" would be left to the governors. Authorities would make very sure—or could make very sure—that their policy was open to only one interpretation—the anxiety expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Somers. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, gave as an illustration the possibility of the curriculum being only for the academically able within a local education authority. One might, as well, use "peace studies shall be taught in all schools". That does not leave much scope for debate.

The curriculum provisions are designed to give all partners in the education process at local level—authorities, governors and head teachers—an appropriate voice in determining what children will be taught in school. Each has a part to play. I do not think anyone in any part of the House would wish to argue against that principle. Where we differ is over how far governors of county and controlled schools should be given a truly independent voice in setting the ethos for their individual schools. We believe we have found a formula which gives them that independent voice while ensuring that (through their overall curriculum policy and in their role as paymasters and employers for the education service) local education authorities continue to be in a strong position to ensure a sensible coherence of policies within each county or borough.

This seems to us to be a significant improvement on the current position to which the noble Lord's amendment would have us revert. I hope on reflection that he will agree to withdraw his amendment and that my noble friend Lord Renton, who has expressed concern about this particular part of the Bill, will see what the Government have intended. The intention is to meet some of the many anxieties which he has himself expressed during the progress of the Bill through your Lordships' House. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will withdraw this amendment.

Lord Denning

My Lords, perhaps I may add one word. It seems to me that the word "modified" is quite correct here. "Modified" does not mean complete change, it means suitable variation; whereas the word "interpreted" means no variation at all. Therefore in a way it is much better to give that little bit of the governing body's voice to make suitable variations, not changes, in the policy.

Lord Renton

My Lords, perhaps I may have your Lordships' leave to make one brief comment. I am impressed by the argument which my noble friend has put forward; but I am nevertheless left with the feeling that modifications could be very wide. I am wondering therefore whether it might not be a good thing to say, perhaps by amendment in another place, "modified in necessary detail" or some such wording while retaining the general principles of the local education authority's guidance.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am sensible that the whole question of the interpretation of single words such as "modified" or "interpreted" is an extremely difficult one. I am grateful as always to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, for his advice on the matter. However, even speaking as a non-lawyer, I do not feel that we have got to the bottom of the issues that we are considering. The matter goes far wider than the use of words. There is behind it all the rather fundamental issue of the control—and ultimately the democratic control—of our education system.

I am not at all impressed by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I do not mind at all having the words "if at all" put before any word that is inserted into the Bill. It is up to a governing body to interpret or not, as it thinks fit. It does not in any way restrict the governing body to have the words left in. I was surprised by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Somers. It is not my understanding that local education authorities' policies are normally devised only by local authority officials who have no understanding of the education process. Surely the essence of our local government is that it is a democratic local government where policies are decided by democratically elected members of the local authority itself, who submit themselves at regular intervals, prescribed by law, to the electors.

If they are foolish enough not to have policies about the curriculum to be followed in our schools, or if they are foolish enough, having described those policies, to go against them in the cirriculum that they have set in the schools, then I suggest that they would be opening themselves up to rejection at the next elections. The whole basis of our local government system is that there are in it people who are responsible for all the children in the schools and who are responsible for ensuring the best policies and the best education for all of them.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for what she said about the meaning of the word "modified". I am grateful for the phrase that the policy could not be modified "out of all recognition". That is something which deserves to be recorded, and it is good that it has been recorded. Nevertheless, at the end of the day we still come to consideration of what are the relative responsibilities of the local education authority and of the governing body. As I said before, a local education authority has statutory responsibilities under education Acts to secure the best education possible within the resources that are available to the authority for all the pupils in its area.

A governing body, despite all the changes that have been made as a result of this Bill, or are being made, is responsible to only a particular group of pupils in the area. It may therefore be tempted to put the interests of a particular school, or of a particular group of pupils at a school, higher in its consideration than the interests of all the pupils in the area. I believe it is the statutory responsibility of the local education authority that makes it essential that it should have the last say on the matter of the curriculum.

I am aware of the difficulties of the issue, and I am conscious of the fact that the Government are seeking in many ways to protect the educational interests of all the pupils in a particular area. However, I do not believe that the Government have gone far enough, and I think it is necessary to seek the opinion of the House on this matter.

4.14 p.m.

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

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 56; Not-Contents, 127.

Ardwick, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Bacon, B. John-Mackie, L.
Birk, B. Kearton, L.
Blyton, L. Leatherland, L.
Briginshaw, L. Listowel, E.
Brockway, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Caradon, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Nicol, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Oram, L.
David, B. Phillips, B.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Plant, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. [Teller.]
Ennals, L. Shackleton, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Shepherd, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
Fitt, L. Stallard, L.
Gallacher, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Galpern, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Strabolgi, L.
Strauss, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Heycock, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Irving of Dartford, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacques, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Jeger, B. White, B.
Ailesbury, M. Lawrence, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Layton, L.
Amherst, E. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Ampthill, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Annan, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Attlee, E. Lovat, L.
Auckland, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Aylestone, L. Lyell, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Beloff, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Belstead, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Bessborough, E. Mancroft, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Manton, L.
Braye, B. Margadale, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Mayhew, L.
Buckmaster, V. Merrivale, L.
Butterworth, L. Mersey, V.
Caithness, E. Molson, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cathcart, E. Moran, L.
Chelmer, L. Morris, L.
Coleraine, L. Onslow, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Cottesloe, L. Penrhyn, L.
Cox, B. Portland, D.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Rankeillour, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Renton, L.
Davidson, V. Richardson, L.
De Freyne, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] St. Davids, V.
Denning, L. Sandford, L.
Diamond, L. Savile, L.
Dowding, L. Seear, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Seebohm, L.
Ellenborough, L. Sempill, Ly.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Shannon, E.
Elton, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Gainford, L. Slim, V.
Gibson-Watt, L. Soames, L.
Glanusk, L. Somers, L.
Glenarthur, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Stedman, B.
Grey, E. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Gridley, L. Sudeley, L.
Grimond, L. Terrington, L.
Haig, E. Teviot, L.
Hailsham of Saint Teynham, L.
Marylebone, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Hayter, L. Tordoff, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Tranmire, L.
Holderness, L. Trenchard, V.
Hood, V. Trumpington, B.
Hooper, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hunter of Newington, L. Vickers, B.
Hylton-Foster, B. Vivian, L.
Jessel, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Killearn, L. Westbury, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham,
Kimball, L. E.
Kinloss, Ly. Wolfson, L.
Kinnaird, L. Wynford, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Young, B.
Lauderdale, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.22 p.m.

[Amendment No. 2B not moved.]

Clause 19 [Information for parents]:

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 23, line 13, leave out from ("prescribed") to end of line 18 and insert— ("(a) such information as to any syllabuses to be followed by those pupils; and (b) such other information as to the educational provision made for them by the school; as may be prescribed.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is tabled in response to a concern expressed by my noble friend Lord Renton when the Government's amendment on information for parents was debated on Report. The Government amendment said, among other things, that the regulations to be made "may" in particular prescribe information as to any syllabus to be followed by the pupils. My noble friend wished the clause to say that the regulations "shall" prescribe such information.

We have looked at this matter again and, as my noble friend Lord Swinton undertook at an earlier stage that we would, we have brought forward the amendments which are intended to accept this point and to tidy up the drafting of the clause. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lady Young and her colleagues for moving this amendment. It is undoubtedly an improvement to the Bill. It would be churlish of me to say that I should have preferred our original, simple method but the Government want flexibility and are doing this by regulation. Therefore, if it is to be done by regulation this is a better way to do it. One must follow the drafting very carefully indeed to ensure that the whole of the clause is now governed by the word "shall" in the first line, but we accept that it is so and are therefore grateful.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Airedale)

My Lords, it should be pointed out that Amendment No. 3 having been agreed to it is not possible to call Amendment No. 3A. Therefore we now come to Amendment No. 4.

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 4: After Clause 23, insert the following new clause:

("Sex education.

. The local education authority by whom any county, voluntary or special school is maintained, and the governing body and head teacher of the school, shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that where sex education is given to any registered pupils at the school it is given in such a manner as to encourage those pupils to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, tabled an amendment at Committee stage concerned with this sensitive but important aspect of school work: namely, sex education. In responding to that amendment, I emphasised that the Government were firmly committed to the view that schools should approach sex education responsibly and sensitively and in a spirit which is supportive of family life. In short—as the White Paper Better Schools put it—sex education should take place "within a moral framework".

The noble Viscount returned to this subject at Report stage and the mood of your Lordships' House was, I think, that some specific reference to sex education might be justified in legislation. We agreed, therefore, to consider what might be appropriate. The amendment which I am moving today takes on board the core of the noble Viscount's own previous amendment and recognises the case he presented, with support from other noble Lords, that there is something special about this subject which sets it apart from other school activities.

We accept that sex education is an essential aspect of preparing young people for the realities and responsibilities of adult life. Schools would be failing in their responsibilities if they did not seek to inform and, where necessary, reassure pupils about the physical and emotional changes associated with growing up. Teaching about the physical aspects of sexuality cannot, however, in the Government's view, be seen in isolation and must be set within a wider moral context of an education system which encourages young people to understand the importance of self-restraint, self-respect and respect for others; and also lays the foundations for loving and caring relationships and a stable family life.

When so much which children see around them in their everyday lives—in the media, in advertising and, regrettably, sometimes even in the behaviour of their elders—appears to cheapen and devalue the concept of lasting and meaningful relationships and to disregard questions of moral values it is difficult but schools can play an important role. Pupils should acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and qualities of character needed to make responsible choices about their own lifestyles both now and as adults.

On this basis I commend the Government's amendment to your Lordships and ask for your support. I beg to move.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, I am indeed grateful to the Government for this amendment and I think I can say—my noble and learned friend Lord Denning will correct me if I am wrong—that it breaks new ground, in that never before in this country has there been a statute on morals and family life. Therefore, I welcome this new clause, but with two important reservations. Millions of parents throughout the country will, I think, welcome it, too.

However, first I want to thank all those noble Lords, who spoke in support of my amendment on Report. Without their backing I do not think that this government amendment would have been produced. I am particularly grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Denning, who stressed that there is nothing more important in our society today than the promotion of stable family life.

But what has happened to that key word "stable"? It was chosen with great care and it is crucial to my original amendment. I ask the noble Baroness: is it a drafting error or is it an attempt to emasculate the amendment? In my view, without that vital word the amendment loses much of its punch. For example, one can bring to mind many cases of family life which are anything but stable. One can think of families where there are unloving, unfaithful parents and rebellious teenagers and yet they live together as a family. Surely this can still be called family life. The image that we want to promote in our schools is one of family life based on stable, loving and adaptive relationships and of the family as a life-giving unit, and not some of the modern variants which are accepted on occasions. How sad it is that the amendment does not make this clear. Perhaps the noble Baroness will be good enough to give me her views on that.

I should also like to thank very warmly the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for his most valuable contribution. I am sorry to see that the spiritual Bench is empty once again. Having raised this very difficult and delicate matter of sex education and guidance for teenagers on no less than three previous occasions in your Lordships' House, with a total absence of episcopal participation. I had become increasingly saddened by the silence of the spiritual Bench. It might be of interest to those right reverend Prelates who may appear later to know that a recent MORI poll which was commissioned by the newly-formed National Council for Chistian Standards in Society found that no less than 34 per cent. of the people questioned, which was the largest sector, considered that the Church had a very important role to play in setting and maintaining moral standards in this country.

My noble friend Lady Masham made two very important points. First, she said that more parents were concerned about permissive sex education in schools than about political indoctrination. This confirms my own view, which is reinforced by the views of others who know more about this subject than I do. Indeed, it is the concern of such parents and their failure to get head teachers to accept their views which has led me to pursue this matter in the way that I have. And surely it is the widespread concern of parents which is the principal justification for this amendment.

Secondly—and this is also a point that is well worth considering—the noble Baroness recommended the centralised production of acceptable literature on sex education with a moral balance. I hope very much that the noble Baroness the Minister will see fit to pursue this suggestion. The problem here is how one can produce material of this kind which is acceptable and based on sound principles. If the Government are considering it seriously, no doubt they will agree that organisations such as Family and Youth Concern should be represented. May I also express the hope that if this centralised production of such material is agreed to, then sex education in schools should not be considered a compulsory subject, since there are many educationists who feel that the home is the right place for such instruction, provided of course that the parents are able to give it intelligently.

But somehow or other we must get the prescription right. Some parents are concerned that all too often one finds the coupling of sex education with the provision of contraception, in the mistaken belief that the wider provision of contraceptives reduces unwanted teenage pregnancies. I know that on occasions contraceptives have to be provided, but I think that it is relevant to say that during the decade from 1974 to 1984 the number of illegitimate births to girls under 20 rose from 20,900 to 33,100, which is an increase of 58.8 per cent., despite widespread peddling of the Pill.

I said at the outset that I had two reservations about this clause. The first was my objection to the omission of the word "stable". The second is my objection to the words, such steps as are reasonably practicable". To be perfectly frank, this is the type of phrase which causes me to groan inwardly because it provides a convenient let-out. For example, let us imagine a situation in which there is a very able teacher at a big comprehensive school in an inner city area who has ultra-permissive views and believes in using sex education material that is based on the type of literature to which I have referred on earlier occasions. What happens? The local education authority, the governing body and the head teacher say, "Oh, we cannot possibly impose our standards on this teacher. Oh no; he is a marvellous teacher and he gets marvellous examination results. Therefore we consider that it is not reasonably practicable to curb him in this way." So I hope that the noble Baroness will give me her views on this matter too.

I feel that these words seriously weaken an amendment which in any case will be none too easy to enforce. For example, "moral considerations" are particularly difficult to define and are liable to a wide range of interpretation. I hope therefore that Her Majesty's inspectors will do their best to ensure that this new clause is enforced.

Finally, as we all know, we are at the Third Reading stage of this Bill, and since it cannot be amended further in your Lordships' House may I express the hope that when it reaches another place it may be amended in the ways that I have suggested. I have great pleasure in commending this new clause to your Lordships.

Lord Denning

My Lords, I should like to say just a few words. The institution of marriage is the foundation of a healthy family life and nothing is more important in our civilisation than that we should bring people up on the basis of a sound family life. But the institution of marriage is much under attack. Divorce by consent on paper is freely available; there is no stigma at all on divorce and there is now no stigma on illegitimacy. In a way, the pillars of marriage have almost been broken down.

In our schools we must do everything we can to build up the children's respect for family life. Your Lordships will be told by probation officers and the like that many delinquents come from broken homes, and unfortunately many abuses and matters which go wrong in marriage are due to ignorance in sex education. As president of the National Marriage Guidance Council I soon learnt that education for marriage is most important for all of us. I therefore welcome the Government's acceptance of this new suggestion and their having made quite clear that the right principle is to encourage pupils to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life. It may be said that that is merely a pious aspiration, which is not good enough for a statute that is passed by Parliament. On the contrary, it is very proper that Parliament itself should endorse the right principles and that they can be enforced by law.

Suppose that a teacher is teaching his pupils the wrong things—my noble friend Lord Buckmaster gave illustrations—and is using pornographic papers and such literature. The remedy is clear. Let the parents report it to the head teacher, who will and should discipline that teacher. If the head teacher does nothing then the courts can interfere because it is a duty laid down by this provision that they, shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure those good aims. It is not merely a pious aspiration; it is a duty which can be enforced by law if need be. I hope that it will never have to be. But this is a valuable provision to have on our statute book.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, as I was not present during the original debate I, too, should like to welcome the new clause. I am a little curious as to why it is in this position, as it sits rather uncomfortably between "Discipline" and "Finance". I should have thought that the provision was more relevant to curriculum. This is how a curriculum would be composed, and sex education included. But I sincerely welcome the new clause. In a Bill about which I am not enthusiastic it seems to be one of the better clauses.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I stayed cautiously clear of this debate at earlier stages. I am not much of an expert on high minded words or what the noble and learned Lord calls pious aspirations. I am inclined to think, however, that the only piece of sex education that will have a real effect on pupils is if they can be convinced that a happy sex life is possible only in a loving and stable relationship. If that could be secured by statute, we should be achieving something.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, let me say just a few words before the Minister replies. I, too, should like to welcome this variant of the noble Viscount's amendment which he moved and withdrew on a Front-Bench undertaking on Report. I would only say that on my reading the word "value" in the phrase "the value of family life" can have a neutral meaning. I know that these are difficult concepts to put into statutory words, but I should have thought that the mere use of the phrase "sound and healthy family life", which comes from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and the phrase "stable family life", which comes from my noble friend, only indicates the weakness of the word "value" without support or qualification.

I should like to see, for instance, the word "importance" substituted for that word. If nothing like that is done, I can see that many teachers may like to promote discussions as to whether family life has any importance; they could discuss the value of family life in those terms. A great many people do not consider that it is so self-evidently valuable as some of your Lordships think it is. I shall not quote the words, but Philip Larkin has a totally contrary view of the value of family life.

Having said that, I welcome the new clause and hope only that its wording can be made more precise during the Bill's passage through another place.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am happy that the noble Viscount was able to welcome this amendment, as were other noble Lords who have spoken. We must hope that it has the maximum beneficial effect. The Government and others concerned with the education process will no doubt take into account the remarks made by the noble Viscount and others both now and at other stages of the Bill in interpreting the effect of the new clause.

With regard to the two specific points that he raised, any reference to the value of family life must intrinsically imply a good, stable, healthy and well balanced family; and I beg to differ slightly with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. On the second point raised by the noble Viscount about the use of the words "reasonably practicable", it is impossible to legislate for any and every given situation, particularly where moral considerations are involved. At least by using the phrase, which is well known to lawyers and in courts of law, it leaves it open to teachers to take action and to recognise that they have a duty to make their action fit the need. I commend the amendment to your Lordships.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, therefore Amendment No. 5A cannot be moved.

[Amendment No. 5A not moved.]

4.45 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 6: Before Clause 38: insert the following new clause:

("Duty to secure balanced treatment of political issues.

. The local education authority by whom any county, voluntary or special school is maintained, and the governing body and head teacher of the school, shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils while they are—

  1. (a) at the school; or
  2. (b) taking part in extra-curricular activities which are provided or organised for registered pupils at the school by or on behalf of the school;
they should be offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is a combination of the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and the one tabled by myself at the Report stage of the Bill. I have been advised that it is not inconsistent with the two amendments already accepted by your Lordships on the subject of politics in schools. If I may remind your Lordships, the first of those related to political activity in primary schools only. The second amendment on this subject related to the promotion of partisan political views. The vital words are "promotion" and "partisan".

If I may talk briefly about the second word first, I maintain that the word "partisan" must be taken to mean in particular extremist views, whether of the Right or the Left, both of which have in common that they are anti-democratic. In my submission it is the promotion of such views as those that your Lordships have sought to outlaw. However, we cannot and do not intend to prohibit the presentation and discussion of all political opinion—what one might call mainstream political opinion. Indeed, we should be failing in our democratic duty to the young if we did and we might even be exposing ourselves to the charge of totalitarian intentions. I maintain therefore that we need the present amendment to complement the amendments already accepted by your Lordships by establishing a guiding principle which can be borne in mind when questions arise over the treatment of what cannot help being very contentious issues. I believe it to be reasonable and necessary, and I beg to move.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, let me briefly say that I am pleased to support the amendment on educational grounds because I believe that it embodies the fundamental principle which differentiates education from indoctrination. Education in a free society is traditionally committed to encouraging pupils and students to consider all aspects of complex or controversial issues and to make up their own minds on the basis of all available relevant evidence. Indoctrination, by contrast, seeks to instil predefined attitudes and opinions, closing rather than opening minds. Therefore, the requirement, as in this amendment, to present a balanced range of views is consistent with sound educational practice.

Some teachers claim that they find it impossible to present an impartial account of issues about which they feel passionately. I do not hold to that position because I believe that it is possible for a teacher to teach with integrity a variety of different viewpoints. However, if a teacher feels unable to do that, provision should be made for people who hold alternative views to present their opinions so that pupils can truly make up their minds freely on the basis of different viewpoints. Because the amendment enshrines that principle of balance, whether in the teaching of one teacher or by different people, I believe that it is educationally sound and important and that it is both principled and practicable. I am happy to support it.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, let me say a few brief words on the amendment. The House may recall that I was slightly unhappy on Report as to whether this amendment or a previous variant of it was compatible with the amendments which had been moved into the Bill by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton. The Leader of the House kindly undertook to inquire as to whether there was any conflict. He has done so, as one would expect, and on advice he has come to the conclusion that there is no conflict. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, for having introduced the amendment today, because, as I said on Report, I have great sympathy with its intentions and I do not wish in any way to oppose it. It was purely as a matter of form that I asked whether it conflicted with the previous amendments.

I have to say that I am still unhappy as to the possibility of conflict between the words "promotion" and "partisan" used in, if I may so call them, the Cox and Renton amendments as opposed to the phrase in this amendment, a balanced presentation of opposing views". I took the dictionary sense of the word "partisan" from the Oxford English Dictionary. The first use is substantive: One who takes part or sides with another". It is only secondarily "a zealous supporter" of a party or cause. So it is when it is used attributively or in an adjectival sense. It is merely: of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a partisan". That is, one who takes part or sides. When there is to be a balanced presentation of opposing views, I want partisan—that is, "taking sides"—arguments put to the pupils by the teacher or, as the noble Baroness said, those whom the teacher thinks it right to call in to discuss political matters in schools.

I do not object to the amendment—far from it. I still object, however, to the word "partisan" in the Cox and Renton amendments. I hope that in the House of Commons some other or some clearer word can be substituted in those amendments. I have no quarrel with any of the amendments that have been put down but only with the wording. I should be grateful if that could be looked at.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment. There is great difficulty with a word such as "balanced" when talking about politics, unless one has text-books. If one has text-books, presumably the teacher has to stick to them. I should have thought that the most important political issue in the country today is the state control of the economy as against private competition. I realise that today we need a mixed economy. Perhaps I am being a little absurd, but if I were writing a text-book on the economy, which is a simple subject of which people become very frightened, I should discuss the advantages to the state of complete state control of the economy and the advantages to the state of the private economy.

If a private company makes about £1 million profit, where does that profit go? Some goes to the Government in corporation tax, perhaps about 20 per cent. is put to reserve, and the rest goes to the shareholders who have taken the risk. The shareholders are taxed on their dividends from the profit and so, hopping and trotting, one can almost guarantee that two-thirds if not three-quarters of the profit goes back to the Treasury in tax. If that company goes bust, the Treasury does not suffer; the shareholders suffer.

Let us take the state economy. Nationalised industries cannot go bust because the Government and the taxpayer feed them all the time with subsidies. As we all know, many of our nationalised industries have spent millions and millions of pounds, if not billions, of the taxpayers' money because they have never made a profit. That should be explained to schools, but it will not be done unless it is done in text-books. We must have a mixed economy. But it is difficult to deal with this subject in text-books. If teachers are not bound by text-books some will teach the state economy only. If they do that, they should tell their pupils that under the nationalised economy they have only one employer and they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder. Therefore, to all intents and purposes—perhaps this is an exaggerated word to use—they are enslaved to the state.

I support the amendment, but I do not know whether its purpose can be carried out as one would wish.

Lord Denning

My Lords, I am a little unhappy about the amendment. I agree entirely with its motivation. Anyone who teaches anything about politics should give a balanced view. The teaching should not be too much in favour of the Conservatives, the Labour Party or anyone else. How are we to monitor the teaching? That is the trouble. If we have a person monitoring who has strong Labour views, he would say that the teacher has not given prominence to Labour views; the teaching was not balanced; it was all pro-Conservative; and vice versa.

I think our earlier amendment about "partisan" was a good one but I fear that there will be some difficulty in monitoring the matter because one person's view of what is a balanced presentation would not be another person's view. I have some hesitation about the amendment. I should like to know what the Government think about it.

Baroness Young

My Lords, it will be for the convenience of the House if I explain at the outset the Government's position on this amendment. Noble Lords will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, tabled on Report an amendment which is virtually identical to the amendment that he proposes today. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, suggested that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, was inconsistent with amendments to the Bill which had already been made in the same subject area; namely, the treatment of political issues in schools. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, took the view that to move the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, would be contrary to Standing Order No. 36, which provides: An amendment to a Bill must not be inconsistent with a previous decision given on the same stage of the Bill. For the avoidance of doubt, my noble friend the Leader of the House proposed that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, should not move his amendment, and he undertook to look into the matter and come back to the question on Third Reading. My noble friend the Leader of the House is returning from Russia today and regrets that he cannot be here. Before he went, he took advice from the Department of Education and Science, and from the Clerks at the Table. He came to the view that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, did not conflict with the amendments already made. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, imposes a general duty, while the amendments to the Bill which had already been made relate to specific duties in connection with the prohibition of partisan political activities in primary schools and of the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in schools.

My noble friend the Leader of the House has asked me to say that he is entirely content that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, should move his amendment. Had the amendment been moved on Report, it would have been accepted by the Government, and the Government do not seek to oppose the amendment now proposed by the noble Lord. There are, however, two further points that I should like to make. I speak now only because the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, has moved today is different from that which he tabled on Report. He has chosen to insert a new clause rather than to change Clause 17, and to use the words of the amendment which the Government had tabled on Report, substituting only, they should be offered a balanced presentation of opposing views for its final words.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, however, the fact that the amendment now uses most of the wording which the Government had proposed earlier does not change our earlier opposition towards legislating to secure a balanced presentation of opposing views whenever political issues arise in schools. The reasons for our opposition were explained fully by my noble friend Lord Swinton at that time. I was interested to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, refer to that point.

We accept only that this is a point which your Lordships wished to write into the Bill, and we judge it right that the Bill should proceed to another place for consideration in a form which fully reflects your Lordships' views.

5 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, it is such an unusual experience to hear such words from the Front Bench that I do not know how I should receive them except to say that I am very grateful. I trust that the amendment as proposed will have a safe voyage in the other place.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Appraisal of performance of teachers]:

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 7: Page 43, line 18, at end insert ("including the provision of an independent appeals procedure").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment reverts to an earlier concern which I expressed on Clause 38 (which was then Clause 37) on the appraisal of the performance of teachers. At an earlier stage of the Bill I strove to obtain the consent of your Lordships to the requirement to have an independent assessor on each board of assessment brought in from outside the local education authority.

This proposal did not find favour with your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, asked who I was proposing should fulfil this role—HMIs or some other person from other education authorities—to which I replied, yes. However, I see that there would have been a considerable manpower problem in providing an outside assessor for every case.

I am now proposing simply to fill a lacuna in the clause in which there is no provision for an appeals procedure at all against an unfavourable assessment which may, for example, have been motivated by personal animosity or some other improper consideration. It would seem to me that elementary attention to natural justice would require this. We know that teachers are not happy with this clause, and if it is ever activated they are even less likely to accept it without proper protection against unfair treatment.

I have left it to the Government to choose what type of appeals procedure is appropriate. That is not specified. The Government will almost certainly say that the clause is a reserve power which they hope they will never have to use. We have argued that it was unwise to introduce it at all while the ACAS talks are still continuing. We must all hope that these will be successful. However, it has to be recognised that the Government may at some time want to activate this clause. It is my contention that it would be wrong—in fact quite improper—for them to do so without an appeals procedure. The clause is in their view a longstop clause; but the longstop clause must also have that longstop provision against unfair treatment.

I would remind the House that your Lordships rejected my earlier proposal that regulations under this clause should be subject to the affirmative procedure in both Houses. We are therefore most unlikely to have any further chance of influencing the appraisal process. In those circumstances, I think that we must have this very minor but significant safeguard written into the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I have noted the remarks of the noble Lord and realised that his present amendment differs, as he explained, from his previous draft. Nevertheless, I must repeat that the Government have no blueprint to impose and want the framework and nature of an appraisal scheme to evolve discussion among the parties concerned and from field trials. The Government have been trying to get these trials going since the summer of 1984. The Government have their own thoughts on the outline of any scheme that may come about. These were set out by my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Education in his speech to the Industrial Society on 14th April. These views were being put forward in the ACAS-assisted talks which, following the 1985 pay settlement, began in March of this year under the guidance of a three-man independent panel.

Four working parties have been set up, one of which is on appraisal and training. The National Union of Teachers joined the talks in mid-May. The three-man panel is to make its final report to both sides and to ACAS later this year. I hope that these talks will produce an agreed outline of a national appraisal scheme to be supported by early field trials.

I do not intend to prejudge the outcome of either the ACAS talks or the field trials except to assure the noble Lord that safeguards to ensure fairness to the individual are high on the agenda. I have no doubt that his comments, and those of other noble Lords expressed during the course of this Bill's progress, will be taken into account. With these assurances that the Government too are wholly committed to ensuring fairness, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that. I do not think that one can describe it as a "blueprint" if one is simply trying to establish a very broad framework within which certain procedures ought to happen. As drafted, local authorities would be able to establish their own appeals procedures. There is no rigid system which is set down in the amendment.

I would agree with the noble Baroness that we all have the highest hopes of the ACAS talks. I hope that those hopes will be fulfilled. I should not have thought it would do any harm to have this provision. As I said in my earlier remarks, if the ACAS talks fall through, this clause then becomes operable. I should have thought that it would be desirable to have this safeguard in the Bill. However, the noble Baroness has given me certain assurances. I am therefore not proposing to press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 39 [Grants for teacher training]:

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 44, line 35, at end insert— ("( ) By regulation under this section the Secretary of State shall pay in grant to local education authorities all of the costs of training educational psychologists. ( ) By regulation under this section the Secretary of State shall pay in grant to local education authorities all of the costs of educational psychologists who are seconded full or part-time to teach on educational psychology training courses.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns the training of educational psychologists. As drafted, Clause 39 enables the Secretary of State to make certain regulations for the provision of the training of teachers to become educational psychologists. Instead of leaving that in a permissive state, this amendment would oblige him to make this provision. The clause refers not only to educational psychologists but also to other groups. It refers to teachers, youth and community workers, local education authority inspectors and education advisers employed by local education authorities. Your Lordships may well ask why a special exception should be made for the educational psychologists. Why should they receive special treatment?

There are three main reasons. First, they are a very small body of approximately 1,200 people in all sustained by a flow of about 100 trainees at any one time. At present—until this Bill becomes law—local education authorities can claim the costs of their training on a 100 per cent. basis from the INSET pool. But the new proposal, as written into the Bill, would replace this with a bid/grant system which could produce an uneven and probably reduced flow, making it extremely difficult to sustain training courses at all.

Even more important than that, the educational psychologists have certain statutory duties under the 1981 Education Act. That Act made various provisions with respect to children with special educational needs. In particular, Section 4 imposes a general duty on LEAs to determine what special educational provisions should be made for children for whom they are responsible. As part of the assessment of the appropriate provisions the local education authorities are required under the Schedule 1 regulations of that Bill to seek medical, psychological and educational advice. Furthermore, in preparing reports and notifying parents under Sections 5, 6, 7 and 8 the local education authorities must give the name of an officer of the authority from whom further information and advice for parents and others is available.

Unfortunately, as we all know, there is a large number of children with special educational needs. That is perhaps the most important reason of all for the amendment. It would seem to me to be disastrous for those children if they were to be deprived of the expert assessment that they need to ensure that they receive the right education which is suitable for them. Therefore, although I confess that this is a piece of special pleading, it is special pleading for a very small but very crucial little area of the education system. We want to ensure that it is not in any way crippled by the provisions of the clause. I hope very much that the Government will see fit to accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, the Government recognise the valuable contribution made to the education service by educational psychologists, and the importance of adequate training for them. The Government's policies for the education of children with special education needs in particular depend, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has said, upon this key group of staff. It is for this reason that educational psychologists are included within the scope of the present pooling regulations and that we are now seeking powers to enable the Secretary of State to include them within the new grant scheme. The Government therefore fully share the concerns which underlie the amendment.

However, the noble Lord's amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to pay 100 per cent. on all of the costs associated with the training of educational psychologists. I find it difficult to agree that the training of educational psychologists should be put in a preferential position in this way to that of the training of the other groups which it is proposed to cover by the powers which we are seeking through this clause. I must also say that I see difficulty if the proposal were that the terms of the noble Lord's amendment should be applied to all those groups.

The general objectives of the new scheme are to facilitate and encourage local authorities' planning and provision of in-service training on a much more systematic basis than is possible under the present arrangements. It would therefore be an important feature of the new scheme that local authorities should contribute a proportion of the aided expenditure from their own resources. The precise rate of grant is one of the matters for consideration by Ministers later in the summer in the context of the overall settlement of expenditure by local authorities.

If better planning by local authorities is to be promoted, as is the prime intention of this clause, it is also essential that there should be no automatic entitlement to grant and that local authorities should have to submit reasoned proposals, related to the particular needs, circumstances and priorities in their area, for the Secretary of State to assess before deciding his allocations of grant. Authorities would of course have complete discretion to devote as much of their own resources to the training of educational psychologists as they saw fit.

We recognise the good intentions behind this amendment. However, I hope that your Lordships will agree that the proposal to make grant aid for certain training mandatory, to fix the grant at 100 per cent. and to require preferential treatment for one group of trainees is in conflict with our primary aim of promoting more systematic planning and provision of in-service training, and would pre-empt a significant amount of inevitably limited resources. However, I can assure the noble Lord that in considering whether the new scheme should cover educational psychologists next year the Government will also consider carefully whether alternative arrangements for this group might be more appropriate in the circumstances. Therefore, I hope that with those words the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. My understanding is that at present the costs of training educational psychologists are fully recoverable on a 100 per cent. basis under the 1981 Act, and that that arrangement is threatened by the current Bill. I fully understand the desire for local authorities to have a reasonable degree of decentralised decision making in this matter. However, I should like to remind the noble Baroness of a letter written by the British Psychological Society to Sir Keith Joseph when he was Secretary of State. The letter was written on 30th April and in it they urged on Sir Keith a number of considerations which I hope very much the new Secretary of State when he comes to review the matter will take very seriously into consideration. Among their submissions was the following point: A national overview and central source of funds is required to prevent large random fluctuations from year to year in the supply of funds for Educational Psychology training. Courses could not survive if, as a result of many decentralised decisions, one year LEAs wished to fund say 50 students and 150 the next. Fluctuations of this order are likely when such small numbers are involved and there are 100 plus LEAs taking independent decisions". It seems to me that there is a danger of serious variation in the supply. I shall not press the amendment to a Division, but I hope that the Government will take those points seriously into consideration and that the new Secretary of State will look at the matter very carefully when he comes to review the position. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 9: After Clause 44 insert the following new clause:

("First aid skills in schools.

. Every local education authority shall secure that, where no qualified medical or nursing personnel are available in a school, sufficient members of teaching or non-teaching staff (at least one per school, the level of provision to be approved by the Health and Safety Executive) shall be trained in first aid skills to a standard to be approved by the Health and Safety Executive.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise again reluctantly to speak to this amendment because I did not find satisfaction in the answers given by my noble friend the Minister at earlier stages of the passage of the Bill. I shall not rehearse the arguments as regards the case for adequate first aid cover in schools. Suffice it to say that the present situation is not satisfactory either in regulations or in practice.

So far as regulations are concerned, the DES regulations cover only teachers and employees, while the care of pupils is relegated to a "moral duty". However, that moral duty is in practice being interpreted in widely differing ways with widely differing standards ranging from excellent in some places to frighteningly inadequate in others.

As I have previously pointed out, children in school are vulnerable in a wide variety of potentially dangerous situations. Inappropriate first aid response can lead to exacerbation of the injury, perhaps fatally, or with long-term tragic effects, such as brain death.

My noble friend the Minister justified the present situation in part on the grounds of lack of complaints to date. However, surely we do not want to wait until a catastrophe occurs before remedying dangerous anomalies and ensuring at least minimum standards everywhere. Remedies could be provided relatively easily through the help of voluntary organisations, such as the St. John Ambulance Association and the British Red Cross Society. If some expense were to be incurred, I believe that parents would put a high priority on adequate protection for their children. Indeed, they would probably put a higher priority on their children's physical safety than on many other issues, and rightly so. I, therefore, beg to move.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I take the point which the noble Baroness is making and in view of her own professional interest I appreciate her reasons and I respect them. However, I am a little amazed that she does not seem to know—unless the situation has changed—that part of a teacher's training is, or certainly was, basic first aid skills. I am bound to say, that when I was teaching I always had the idea that if you did now know enough about a subject, you could do far more damage by doing something rather than by doing nothing. I do not think that any child ever suffered as a result of what I did not do, but certainly a child may have suffered if I had attempted to set a broken leg.

If, as the noble Baroness proposes, we are to have certain trained personnel, whether they be teachers or non-teachers, surely she would agree that first aid skills to the standard imposed by the Health and Safety Executive would be rather too low for this type of situation because again, as the noble Baroness will know, each school must at present appoint a health and safety officer.

Baroness Hylton-Foster

My Lords, I, too, should like to support the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, as indeed I did on Second Reading, and for the same reasons. I shall not repeat those reasons, but in modern times children are exposed to a great many hazards, and of course those working in schools, or any institutions where there are a large number of people, are also open to hazards. I previously listed at least nine or 10 of them. It is necessary that the standard of first aid that they are taught is up to the standard required by the Health and Safety Executive, which is not basic first aid, but is serious first aid, so that in an emergency people can, if necessary, save life.

I know that it cannot all be done at once, but I am sure that the one or two members of the staff necessary from the schools, according to the number in the schools, could be trained by the Red Cross or St. John's in the industrial first aid courses that they now run. These give the holders of the certificate a high standard.

Baroness Young

My Lords, at this stage of the Third Reading debate I do not wish to repeat all the arguments that I have used on the two previous occasions on which we have debated this amendment. There is a general legal cover for the protection of the health and safety of school children in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and in the detailed requirements set out in the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 and the approved code of practice.

There is an important reinforcement from the general common law requirement upon local education authorities to act in loco parentis, and in exercising their responsibilities local education authorities are of course subject to the general powers available to the Secretary of State from the education Act 1944 requiring them to act in a reasonable way. I listened with great interest to what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said on this subject, speaking as someone who has been a professional teacher and knows the circumstances.

I hope, too, that it will be a reassurance to your Lordships if I repeat what was said earlier—that the Department of Education and Science has no record of having received any complaint arising from the treatment of a pupil or student after an accident on school or college premises. The policing of the existing requirements is in fact even more thorough than in some areas of activity: two inspectorates are at work, both Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools and inspectors concerned with health and safety at work. It is the view of both Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools and the Health and Safety Executive that there is no serious cause for concern with the existing arrangements.

We sympathise with the reasons behind the amendment, but we are reluctant to accept it both because we believe it to be unnecessary in offering no improvement on existing general good practice and because it attempts to specify in too much detail the matters which can best be decided at the local level. There would be serious difficulty in attempting to frame regulations which dealt adequately with the very considerable variations in size and character of schools.

However, I appreciate the strength of feeling on the part of my noble friend Lady Cox and the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, who has spoken in support of this amendment, and others of your Lordships. I can undertake to my noble friend that the Government will review the guidance issued with the aim of putting out better and more up-to-date advice on first aid provision. We shall do this as a matter of urgent priority in collaboration with the various professional interests involved. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, may I first thank those who have supported this amendment both at this stage and previous stages during the passage of this Bill. Whatever the form of provision may be in terms of the requirement for adequate coverage of first aid, the situation now pertaining shows a lack of systematic implementation because of the wide variation in the provision currently found in many schools.

So far as teacher training is concerned—raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips—I have checked with the voluntary organisations. They tell me that few teachers now come forward for systematic training in first aid, and I do not think that systematic first aid is provided to any adequate level in basic teacher training. There is a problem. Some teachers, out of a sense of professional responsibility, go forward for first aid training, but the members are few, and certainly it is sporadic.

I am grateful for the undertaking given by my noble friend the Minister that the guidelines will be examined again, and that this will be done as a matter of urgency and in consultation with those who are experts in this field. In the light of that firm reassurance, and the sense of urgency in which it was offered, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 9A: After Clause 48, insert the following new clause:

("Duty of local education authority to disclose information.

. The local education authority shall give reasons for proposals made under sections 12 to 15 of the Education Act 1980 and shall make available to any statutory objector all papers, submissions, reports, minutes of meetings and other material relevant to the proposals.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have had to table this amendment again because the situation still seems unsatisfactory to me. The amendment reads: The local education authority shall give reasons for proposals made under sections 12 to 15 of the Education Act 1980 and shall make available to any statutory objector all papers, submissions, reports, minutes of meetings and other material relevant to the proposals. Those proposals in the sections of that Act concern the establishment, discontinuation, or alteration of a school, and the principal matter of concern is usually one of school closures.

The object of the amendment is to secure for parents the right to know on what grounds, and on what advice, local education authorities have forwarded to the Secretary of State proposals for the closure or the alteration of schools. Parents are at present caught between the upper millstone of the Secretary of State, who is not obliged to state his reasons, and the local authorities, which often will not.

It is difficult for parents to state their objections if the reasons given by the LEA to the Secretary of State are wrapped in secrecy. Misinformation, disinformation, and non-information by public bodies is quite out of keeping with the whole spirit and purpose of this Bill, which is directed at greater involvement by parents in matters affecting their children's education, and nothing affects a child's education more than the closure or change in some other way of a school.

At Report stage of the Bill the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, prayed in aid the new Local Government (Access to Information) Act, which I think became law on 1st April this year. The noble Baroness was correct when she said that the Act requires disclosure of the report and background papers to the general public when that report is discussed by a council, or by one of its committees or sub-committees. These provisions are welcome, and they go some way to meet our concerns.

However, I would submit that this amendment is still desirable for two principal reasons. It imposes a duty on a local education authority to disclose the reasons for any proposals it may make under the 1980 Act to establish, discontinue, or alter a school. It is true that there is recourse in common law should a LEA fail to disclose its reasons, and parents can go to the High Court. But as we all know, if you go for judicial review, it can be an expensive process. Most parent groups do not have that sort of money.

Of course good local education authorities will automatically disclose their reasons, but others may not. This amendment will have the effect of imposing on them a clear statutory duty thus reducing the chance of their failure to disclose.

The second point is that under the Local Government (Access to Information) Act disclosure of background papers is restricted to those which, in the opinion of the proper officer have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report. Copies of such background information are to be made available only, as soon as is reasonably practicable". So there is considerable scope for unhelpful local education authorities restricting or obstructing the availability of background papers. Again, the good local education authorities will do it automatically and the purpose of this amendment is to try to reduce the incidence of obstruction by the less helpful LEAs.

The Government previously rejected this amendment not on the grounds that it was harmful but that it is unnecessary. My submission is that in fact the amendment will strengthen the current obligation on local authorities to disclose this type of information which is of vital importance to parent groups seeking to influence the provision of education in their areas.

I do not think that the new Secretary of State should underestimate the strength of parental feeling on this issue, and I hope that the Government will now feel able to accept this amendment. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Hooper explained when your Lordships considered this matter at Report stage that recent High Court decisions have established that parents have a legitimate expectation that they will be consulted on proposals under Sections 12 to 15 of the 1980 Act, and this is enforceable to the same extent as a statutory requirement to consult. Where consultation has been inadequate, the Secretary of State will not approve the proposals. It would therefore we believe be entirely otiose to make a requirement in statute that local education authorities should provide reasons for their proposals: they are already under such an obligation. So far as the disclosure of information is concerned, that obligation to disclose extends to any report considered by a council or its education committee and even to background papers on which the report or an important part of it was based and which have to be relied on to any material extent by those who prepared the report. I regard this as a far-reaching provision which I hope will meet the noble Lord's concern. I take his point about parental interest in this matter.

Perhaps I may add that the Secretary of State encourages local education authorities to make their submissions to him available to objectors as a matter of routine, as a number of already do. Where these comments have been the subject of a report to the education committee, the LEA are already of course obliged to make them available for inspection, as I have just explained. In any case not covered by this requirement where the LEA is unwilling to disclose its comments voluntarily, if its submission has raised issues previously unknown to the objectors which are likely to be crucial to the Secretary of State's decision, his policy is to ensure that the objectors are given a further opportunity to comment. I believe that, taking all of this into account, to impose a further duty of disclosure on LEAs would be superfluous.

I hope therefore that in the light of what I have said to the noble Lord he will believe that the existing legal obligations on LEAs provide a sufficient safeguard which will enable him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I must confess that I am not entirely happy. Certainly the experience of parent groups has not been as happy as the answer of the noble Baroness would lead one to suppose. They have found a lot of obstruction on this matter. The noble Baroness said that the Secretary of State will not approve proposals when proper consultation has not taken place, but that is of little comfort to parents who are not privy to the mind of the Secretary of State or to the advice that he has received. I agree that we are possibly entering a slightly new ball game with the recent coming into operation of the Local Government (Access to Information) Act. But I hope very much that the Government will keep this matter in mind. It is all very well to say that the High Court decision has supported the parents' contention that they have a right to this information. Legal proceedings are extremely expensive, as I have said on a number of occasions, and in many cases are beyond the means of the interested parties concerned. I do not think that is a great deal of help to them.

I hope that the noble Baroness may be able to tell us that the new Secretary of State will take to heart the expressions of concern which have come from various parts of the country on this issue and keep the matter under review. It might perhaps be reasonable to leave it for a year or so to see how the Local Government (Access to Information) Act works in this field. If there is further evidence of the unsatisfactory withholding of information by authorities we should then perhaps look for some kind of amending legislation. I wonder whether the noble Baroness will be able to give' me some assurance on that.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am sure that I can give the noble Lord an assurance that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education will read very carefully the debates which have taken place in your Lordships' House, including the debates on this particular amendment. I shall draw them to his attention.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. On those grounds, I shall not press the amendment this evening. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 5 [Repeals]:

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 10: Page 70, line 37, at end insert—

("S.I. 1981/909. The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1981. In Schedule 4, paragraph 3(3).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I feel I should apologise for raising an important issue at a rather late stage in the Bill, but the matter of school closures has been debated by your Lordships during the course of our deliberations. I have been advised that it is admissible and I do so in response to urgent representations from concerned parents.

I quote first the paragraph to which this amendment refers. It is paragraph 3(3) of Schedule 4 of Regulation 8 of the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1981. This refers to a table from which I shall give your Lordships the only relevant figure. This is the provision: Where the relevant total number of pupils at a school is 80 or less, the aggregate of the areas for the age groups specified in the second and third columns of the following Table, determined in accordance therewith, shall be increased by 70m2.". The area specified in the second and third columns of the table are 1.8 square metres per child aged between five and 11. If your Lordships have absorbed that information, your intellectual capacity is even greater than I thought it was. But if you will go along with me for a moment this means that for a small school of 80 or fewer (in other words many primary schools) this allowance has to be increased by 70 square metres overall. If there are 80 children, each child thus has 2.675 square metres to himself. This I believe is reasonable.

But let us suppose there are only 31 children in a school—as in one school of my acquaintance—each child would have 4.058 square metres, and this is excessive. The school I am talking about is threatened with closure partly on the grounds that the space allowance would not conform if the school were full, with paragraph 3(3) of Schedule 4 of Regulation 8 of the 1981 regulations.

It seems that the fact that many small schools do not have this amount of space per child is sometimes made a pretext by some authorities for closing them. There is considerable opposition to proposed closures on the part of parents, teachers and of the local community whose village schools are an essential part of their heritage.

The objects of closure are given as, first, saving expenditure; and, secondly, giving children better education. Does it achieve these objects? Closures are assumed to be economic moves, but it is worth noting certain points. Many rural schools are owned by the Church and are leased for a peppercorn rent. The main saving comes from teachers' salaries, but if teachers are made redundant they become a charge on the state and on unemployment benefit. If they are redeployed, they still have to be paid somewhere else, anyway. So that seems doubtful, According to an HMI report, Primary Education in England, a survey dating from 1978, vandalism is five times as common in urban schools as in rural ones; and vandalism is expensive. One wonders whether these factors are taken into consideration when the economic advantages of closure are reckoned.

As regards the alleged educational disadvantages of small primary schools, I could cite numerous well-authenticated refutations of the notion but I shall confine myself to three. I quote from a survey, Small Schools, carried out by Edmunds and Bessai and published in the Head Teachers' Review for March 1978: The results of tests in basic skills show conclusively that there was no significant difference of attainment between the small schools and other elementary schools. The learning environment of the small rural school is perceived by the teachers in them to be a highly desirable one".

My second quotation is from an article published by the Centre for Information and Advice on Educational Disadvantage, dated 1980: In a survey of teachers' opinions, the larger school was considered to be superior in some degree in provision for team games, organised sport generally and extra curricula activity. The small school, however, was preferred across a broader range of items including the maintenance of discipline, personal knowledge of pupils, development of the co-operative spirit, the pupils' attention to learning tasks, provision for children with learning difficulties, development of social skills, opportunities for staff to try out innovative ways of teaching, and, surprisingly, also in providing for the needs of the occasional gifted child".

My third quotation is from Schools Under Threat by R. Rodgers, published by the Advisory Centre for Education in 1979: Given that there are so many alleged educational and economic disadvantages involved, it is surprising that so many parents, teachers, and local communities actually want to keep their small schools open. But parents are not stupid. They do not fight to ensure that their children have a poor education. The fact is that the closure of small schools is now being vehemently challenged because there are powerful arguments for their continuation and enhancement".

I must be satisfied with having touched on this very important issue in the course of urging that this anomalous paragraph should be removed so that local education authorities do not have this pretext for proposing closures most feelingly opposed by parents, teachers and local communities. I hope that in replying the noble Baroness will agree to draw the attention of her right honourable friend the Secretary of State to the issue, in the hope that he will give sympathetic consideration to any appeals which he may receive from concerned and distressed parents and local communities. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I recognise the noble Lord's concern and I think that we are all concerned with the role and future of small schools in this country. The current school premises regulations with which this amendment is concerned were introduced in 1981 following extensive consultations with local authority and teachers' associations and other interested bodies. The regulations were based on extensive research into the requirements for school premises related to curricula needs and they therefore reflect the broad agreement that was reached on what those requirements should be. The proposed amendment would abolish the provision which is designed to ensure that all schools, however small, had a reasonably large space available for a variety of uses, including indoor physical education.

Nevertheless, I fully agree with the noble Lord in the complexity of interpreting the detail of the regulation. However, I feel that his particular worry is concerned with the actual closure, or possible closure, of the smaller schools, and therefore I will not go into the dazzling figures that I had thought to produce at this stage. But I should like to offer complete reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, and to any noble Lords who fear that the provision in question jeopardises the future of some small primary schools; because in fact it does not. No local education authority can close a school, whatever its size, without publishing notices under the Education Act 1980 and, if there are objections, obtaining the approval of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Before giving his approval, he considers all relevant factors including not only the suitability of the accommodation but also the quality of the education provided and the value of the school to the local community.

So far as accommodation is concerned, since this is what the amendment specifically refers to, he has power under Section 10 of the 1944 Act in appropriate circumstances to dispense with the requirements of the school premises regulations when it would be unreasonable to require conformity with them in a particular case. With that, and the further assurance that the noble Lord requested of me—to draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State the real anxiety which he has expressed—I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her words of encouragement, interest and concern. It was really my main object, I must confess, to air the matter, and to ask her to be kind enough (which she was) to say that she will draw the attention of her right honourable friend the Secretary of State to this issue, about which there are many very concerned parents. Your Lordships may be interested to know that the school which has 31 children (though I think it may be 32 children by now) and which is under threat of closure had within it, in the 1870s, 100 children happily installed. In view of those matters and the kindness of your Lordships in listening to me at this late stage on this major issue, and in the hope, as I say, that the Secretary of State, if appealed to, will take a sympathetic view of the concerns of parents, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An amendment (privilege) made.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

It seems a long time since we had the Second Reading of this Bill and I should like to express to all your Lordships the regret of my noble friend Lord Swinton, that he is not with us today. The Bill's main purpose is to put into effect proposals relating to school government and teacher quality. The provisions on school government contained in Parts I to III of the Bill provide for the re-establishment of the governing body as a force for good in the life of the school and of the community it serves. They remove the scope for local education authorities to appoint the majority of governors to allow for a more balanced composition; they guarantee these reconstituted governing bodies effective powers to work in the necessary partnership with local education authorities and head teachers and they strengthen the parental voice in the running of their children's schools.

A vital component of a school's success is the quality of teaching. We accept that there is already much excellent teaching in our shools. But Clauses 38 and 39 provide powers for appraisal and in-service training which can be used to promote the greater professionalism of teachers to their own and to schools' advantage. We recognise that higher standards cannot be secured by prescribing them in legislation; but what the Bill does is to create better arrangements than now exist for all those responsible for standards to do their job for the maximum benefit of the pupils and the nation as a whole. The Bill's provisions have to be taken together with the interrelated and non-legislative action on the curriculum and on examinations. These measures combine to form the strategy for improving standards in schools, as described in the White Paper Better Schools.

The Bill goes to another place amended both to clarify its provisions usefully and to extend it to cover in particular additional matters such as corporal punishment, political indoctrination in schools, and many other matters. However, I should also like to reaffirm the Government's intention, following the necessary consultation with the partners in the education service, to introduce in another place amendments to meet points raised in this House. These amendments will deal with the clarification of the position of non-teaching staff at aided schools and local education authorities consulting an education body in all cases where it has it in mind to order the immediate reinstatement of an excluded pupil and to express the right of parents to make representations against their children's exclusion from school on disciplinary grounds.

At this late stage I should like to say only that I believe that this is an important piece of legislation which, with the new opportunities it provides for progress in partnership, will help to make a reality of the Government's declared aim of raising standards at all levels of ability and securing the best possible return for the substantial resources that are deployed in our schools. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

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

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, in speaking to this Motion I should like first to say with complete sincerity that it has been a pleasure to face the team from the Government Benches. The noble Baronesses and the noble Earl have been unfailingly courteous and punctilious in responding, where they have undertaken to do so, to questions which could not be raised in debate. They have indeed made a number of significant concessions as a result of our debates and my sincerity in saying this can be gauged by the fact that I could not have said it on a number of Bills on which I have been engaged from this Bench.

I think the Government would have been happier had they called this Bill the "School Government and Teacher Quality Bill", which is what the noble Baroness described it as just now. As an Education Bill, frankly, it is no great shakes. The Bill does not produce the dramatic changes in the government or quality of our schools which had been trumpeted when the Secretary of State orginally published its text. It has a number of quite useful additions and improvements, many of which we have supported in principle, and even in detail, as the Bill has proceeded; but it is not earth shattering and it is not dramatic. I believe there is still a great deal to be done, in terms of thinking more than in terms of legislation, in ensuring that we have in our country the quality of schools that the pupils and our society really deserve.

If we look at Part I on school government, it has to be said that opposition to detailed provisions, which was not opposition in principle, has not resulted in any significant change. It remains to be seen whether the Bill as drafted will be the rigid provision which some of us on these Benches have feared, or whether there will be a sufficient degree of goodwill among those partners in the education service to ensure that greater democracy in school government, which is the wish of the Government and of those of us on these Benches, is actually achieved.

So far as curriculum, disciplinary and appointments matters are concerned the really critical question will be whether we have achieved the right balance so that matters can be resolved without conflict or whether the great degree of precision which has been written into the Bill's provisions will result in conflict. I suspect there will be elements of both. In some cases precision will turn out to be valid, but in matters such as the appointment of head teachers, for example, or the provisions for parent meetings or indeed for the exclusion of pupils, there will still be considerable problems which will have to be resolved by further amendment in another place or else they will cause difficulties when the Bill is enacted. The noble Baroness referred to the Bill as being one concerned with appraisal and training, but of course these are still only reserve powers and I would submit that they have not fully grasped the nettle of how we are to achieve better teaching quality.

These are matters which cannot be solved purely by legislation. They will have to be resolved by a constant exercise of goodwill on the part of Government, local authorities, the teaching profession and the parents. That is the crux of the matter because, unless one has an undue faith in legislative prescription, it has to be said that the Bill leaves on one side the fundamental problems facing our education system. These are problems not of the details of school government or even of the control of the curriculum; they are problems of the resources which our society chooses to make available to our education system. There are rumours around that the new Secretary of State is increasing the bids for resources for the education system. There are also rumours that he may be more persistent than his predecessor in supporting his bids and seeing that they result in a higher priority being given to education. If so, we can only give him our wholehearted support from this side of the House because it is those resources, as well as the proper government of our schools, which are essential to the improvement of our education system. If we are simply to pass legislation which deals with relatively peripheral matters of this sort and not give the education service the resources and the public support which it needs, not only will the Government suffer politically (as they have already suffered) but the nation as a whole will suffer, too.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, from these Benches I, too, should like to say just a few words and indeed to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, as to the unfailing courtesy shown by the Government Front-Bench spokesmen over this Bill. In doing so I should like to withdraw the expressions of amazement which I indicated when they showed signs of being conciliatory over the amendment that was proposed earlier today on the subject of political education in schools. In fact, this has happened on numerous occasions and the Government spokesmen have not only been courteous but have also done their best to address the concerns that we have shown.

When the Bill was introduced it was a dark hour for education in this country. I think that the light has now dawned. I say "a dark hour" because it was before any proposal of the ACAS sittings came up, or, rather, it was before the arbitration service had begun to sit. Now they are doing so and we can have hopes that they may succeed in solving the appalling problem of the teachers' dispute.

I should like also to express our hope that the rumours of increased funds from central government materialise. Therefore, a lighter hour has dawned at the time when we have fully considered, revised and. I hope, improved and packaged the Bill that we now send to another place with our best wishes.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, I rise from these Benches to say that I am not happy about this Bill. When it was first published and when the White Papers were published earlier, I welcomed them. In the beginning I welcomed the Bill to some extent and said that it needed improving. During the passage of the Bill I have sat in the Chamber right from the beginning to the end and have listened to everything that has been said from all sides. Therefore, I can speak from the position of having listened and of having spoken from time to time, but only when I thought it was wise to do so. I do so now because I feel that we on the Back-Benches have been let down to some extent. A lot of the things that we were proposing were not political but were there to try and improve the Bill. We have improved it a little, but by no means as much as I would like. Nevertheless, I know that the Bill is now going to another place and I hope that the Members there will take up where we have left off and improve it still more before it is enacted.

Another point that I should like to make—and I cannot avoid saying this—is that I have been saddened by the lack of representatives of the Church in the Chamber during the course of the Third Reading of this Bill. Apart from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, who I believe has come in to take part in the next debate, there has been no other right reverend Prelate here this afternoon. I believe it is sad, after all the Church has done for education over the years, that they have not been here to listen to what has been going on. Nevertheless, I hope that this Bill will be straightened out in another place; and I hope it becomes good in the finality of it.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, the few words that I want to say are in no way critical of the four speeches which have been made on the passing of this Bill; but I feel a certain concern about the way the House as a whole has dealt with the Third Reading. I have been in your Lordships' House some 12 years only, but I have seen a deterioration even in that short time in what I think (and I hope it has been inadvertent) has been the misuse of our ability to produce amendments at Third Readings. It is very proper that this House, which is usually the last port of call before a Bill become an Act, should have that ultimate power that the other place does not have of moving amendments on Third Readings. However, I think it is up to us to use that power a little more circumspectly than we have been using it today.

I am really referring to the amendments from the Back Benches that were moved from almost every Bench and which took up a considerable amount of time. These were all points that had been dealt with in Committee. They were Committee stage points, and I believe that to use Third Reading to re-hash and reappear in the form of an amendment arguments that are very proper Committee points which have been dealt with in Committee, will, if we are not careful, undermine the value of this House in playing its full part in getting matters on the statute book. I hope that the two Front Benches will give us guidance on these matters by considering this.

There are two Second Reading debates now to come with 30 speeches indicated to be made and the hour is now 6 o'clock in the evening. We have spent so much time talking about matters which were discussed in Committee that I believe it is an abuse of Third Reading powers which we have, and I hope that in the future we will be more circumspect.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, as I observe the Marshalled List I do not think there are any amendments from the Back Bench. They are all from the Front Bench. There may be one exception, but the reference was to Back-Bench amendments.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and my noble friend Lady Cox and the special amendment that had to be drawn from the Government, all of those—

A Noble Lord


Baroness Seear

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock is one of the Alliance Front Bench speakers on education.

Baroness Young

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to respond to the very generous remarks that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, about the procedures of this Bill. Coming back, as I have, to the debate on education, it has been very valuable to discuss these matters with people who are so knowledgeable about education, and I hope that between us we have been able to improve the Bill. I am glad too that the Government have been able to respond to the amendments which my noble friends have established and about which they have felt so strongly.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.