HL Deb 20 May 1986 vol 475 cc164-212

4.51 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 4, line 9, at end insert— ("( ) two pupil governors, in the case of a school admitting pupils of 14 years of age and over").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am afraid that this amendment is again somewhat of a recapitulation of a debate that took place in Committee, but again it is a recapitulation of a debate that took place in a more confused way because a number of different issues were dealt with at the same time. In putting down this amendment now, we feel that we are not abusing in any way the traditions of the House, because this will enable a debate to take place on much more clear-cut lines than was possible before.

The issue of pupil or student governors aroused, I suppose, only a modest amount of interest on the previous occasion. The more that I have thought about the matter since the Committee debates, the more it has been borne in on me that much of the other debate in Committee, particularly on political education in our schools and on partisan political indoctrination, ought to have been informed by consideration of the issue of pupil governors.

If there is one overwhelming argument for pupil governors or closer pupil involvement in the government of our schools and colleges, it is the need for young people at as early an age as is practicable to feel that they are involved in the democratic government of the institutions in which they spend their time in order to gain experience of the democratic government of the society in which they are to live when they are adults.

I am sorry to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is not here, but I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who spoke eloquently on these matters in Committee, to consider whether there is not a connection between an early appreciation of democratic responsibilities in the government of our schools and an appreciation of the checks and balances, restraints and opportunities that are bound to exist in politics and in public life at a later stage.

In 1976 the Taylor Committee did not go so far as to recommend that there should be full pupil governors in our schools, because it received advice from the Department of Education that there were legal obstacles to under-18s serving as full governors. Instead it recommended that: secondary school pupils should participate in school government to the fullest extent allowed by law until they are eligible for membership". Yet the subsequent 1981 Education in School (Governing Bodies) Regulations include provisions relating to pupil governors and there are, as we know, pupil governors in quite a number of education authorities in England and Wales.

Indeed, when my youngest son read the report of the Committee debate he was most indignant that I had not referred to the fact that he was a statutory pupil governor in a Haringey comprehensive school, and I believe a very good pupil governor. Certainly the head and the others with whom he came in contact and with whom I also came in contact felt that he and other pupil governors in Haringey—and we have had pupil governors there for 10 years at least—have fulfilled a useful function and contributed to the democratic government of our schools. From personal experience I can say that it has helped the pupil governors themselves and those who elected them to have a better understanding of the issues involved in responsible public life.

I speak from personal experience. I am able to say with some confidence that there is no practical difficulty about the appointment of pupil governors. We have modified the proposals that we made in Committee to say that they should apply only to those over the age of 16. But the amendments to which I am speaking—and I take the opportunity of saying that they include Amendments Nos. 11, 16, 21, 38, 39, 47, 93 and 97—provide for additional pupil governors to the numbers already provided for in schools.

We have put forward the amendments in this form for the benefit of clarity. I read again the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in response to the debates in Committee. She made reference again to the difficulty that the Government think that they have with pupil governors, in that it is held that to be a governor is an office of public and pecuniary trust—I think that I am quoting it correctly—and a minor is not eligible for that. I appeal to the noble Baroness to say that this is a matter in which Parliament should be sovereign and not one in which the lawyers who have made these interpretations should be sovereign.

If it is the wish of Parliament that a minor should share the responsibility with other governors for the management of our schools, the difficulty of an office of public and pecuniary trust is surely overriden by the will of Parliament, because it is Parliament which makes our laws. I appeal to the noble Baroness not to use that argument again, but instead to look at the issue on its merits and to advise the House as to how far the Government are prepared to go to secure what I believe to be an overwhelming case for participation by elder pupils in the government of our schools.

I should be prepared to withdraw the amendments if the Government were to go so far as to endorse the statement made in the Taylor Report. If they were to say that: secondary school pupils should participate in school government to the fullest extent allowed by law until they are eligible for membership", that might not be as far as we should like to go but it would be a step forward from the present position, which is actually backwards. The position as proposed by the Bill is that existing schools which have governing bodies of which pupils are members will no longer be able to have them as members in the future. Any movement that can be made by the Government in the direction of encouraging pupil participation, even without legal status, would not satisfy us but it would go some way to help us feel that we were not moving backwards.

For all those reasons—to encourage responsible involvement in public affairs at as early an age as is practicable and legal and to involve in the schools those who, after all, are, even more than the teachers, most affected by them, because this is the only school life that they will have—I urge the Government to find a way to move the country forward rather then backwards on this matter. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I should like to add a few words in support of what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has said. I should like to begin by a further reference to the Taylor Report, which said: Every effort should be made to draw on pupils' knowledge and ideas for the benefit of the Governing Body.". That expresses the matter well. It is important that the governing body, some of whose members may only visit the school comparatively rarely, should be able to come into contact with and hear at first hand what the consumers (the pupils) have to say about the school. No one knows about a school in the way that pupils do.

I should like to confirm the fact that Haringey is one of the local education authorities which has pupil governors. There are 10 others. There is no doubt that has been working. If pupil governors are needed at any time, they are needed in schools with sixth forms. If a pupil does not become eligible to be a governor until he or she has reached the age of 18, that would mean that they could not become a governor until they had nearly finished their time at school, possibly half-way through their last year, in which case they would have only a matter of weeks to exercise their function.

There is nothing magic about the age of 18. Surely it would be possible for pupil governors to be appointed at the age of 17 so that they could spend their 18th year in that position.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I may have misunderstood the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, when he spoke to an earlier amendment. He read out rather rapidly the number of the amendments to which he was speaking. I though that he was including this amendment in his earlier speech. I apologise for confusing the matter. What I said in my earlier speech applies even more to this amendment because merely adding to the number of pupil governors reduces considerably the proportion of foundation governors.

I must confess that I was not convinced by what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said earlier when he said that we were talking about a few governors only—just one or two. I do not think that the noble Lord would take that line if he were to win his amendment by one vote. He would not then say that one vote was of no consequence.

I emphasise what I said earlier, that this proposal would alter the balance and proportion of foundation governors, which we regard as important. There is much to be said for involving pupils on school governing bodies. I was encouraged by what the noble Lord said when he asked whether the matter could be looked into. I ask your Lordships to resist the amendment because I do not believe the way to handle this matter is merely to add two pupil governors to the number which is at present proposed in the Bill. I believe that it confuses the issue and reduces the proportion of foundation governors.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I often find myself in agreement with the right reverend Prelate, but I do not on this occasion. As I understand it—and the noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong—I think that the 1968 Act allows for governors at 16 plus (the age which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is advancing) in colleges of further education. There therefore seems to be no good grounds for discriminating against those of that age who remain inside the secondary system.

So far as I know, the 1980 Act is silent on that issue.

If the Government do not want to write in 16 or any specific age it would be better to leave matters as they stand rather than to write 18 into the Bill. It means, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has pointed out, that schools which already follow the practice, and have been doing so successfully, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, said, will have to desist from doing so. It seems rather extraordinary to take a backward step of that kind in what is after all a consumer-oriented Bill. In the Bill, we are thinking about parents and pupils. On this occasion, I am afraid that I must beg to differ from the right reverend Prelate and support the amendment.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in preparation for what I might say during the debate on his series of linked amendments I reread what was said during the debate in Committee. I thought it was a long and interesting debate in which a number of important arguments were adduced. The noble Lord has introduced an extra one. We all admire what his son does. He should perhaps have declared an interest in this matter.

An important point has been raised. One of the main points made the last time we discussed this matter was that there were many items which a governing body would discuss where it would be inappropriate for pupil governors to be involved. That point was put by a number of my noble friends and the Government share that view and believe strongly that putting pupils on governing bodies as full members would result in the creation of two categories of governors—governors and pupil governors. The noble Lords, Lord McIntosh, Lord Ritchie and Lord Kilmarnock, made the point that there are currently pupil governors on schools who fulfil a useful role. They ask what the difference is. The difference is that in Part III of the Bill significant powers are guaranteed for governing bodies. As we know from our discussions on earlier amendments and on Second Reading, governing bodies will have more powers. The consequence would be that pupils would have to be asked on numerous occasions to withdraw.

As my noble friend Lord Beloff said on an earlier occasion, before discussing the subject of pupil governors we need to look at the functions of the governing body. When one looks at the functions of the governing body one sees the role of the governors. That is in no way to denigrate the valuable point that has been made, that pupils may have a contribution to make. The Government are by no means averse to the involvement of pupils in the life of the school or, indirectly, with governing bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, quite properly said how important it was to listen to pupils. I should have thought that there would be no good school with good practices and a good governing body that would not do that.

Although I have said that governing bodies need to listen to the pupils' views, that does not mean that they should be invited to become full members of the governing body. Governing bodies need not be prevented from inviting pupils to a governing body meeting as observers, or even holding their own separate meeting with perhaps a school council to enable them to establish the pupils' views when they wish to do so. Nothing need stop those meetings occurring every term or more often if that were thought to be the right way to go forward. In saying that, I hope that the importance the Government attach to the theme behind the amendments will be recognised.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that I rested my argument last time on the legal status of minors as governors. It was correctly pointed out that if the law at present suggests that pupils, being minors, may not hold office of public or pecuniary trust, such as we believe full governors to hold, we could use this opportunity to amend that part of the statute. That was a point made quite properly by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh.

Indeed, we accept that there is doubt over this interpretation, in the absence of any clear ruling by the courts, and for that reason we have included in Clauses 14 and 47 the provision that no minor may hold office as a governor, precisely to put the question beyond doubt. But, as I said earlier, I do not rest my argument on this legal point, but rather on the point of principle that we do not believe that it would be appropriate for schoolchildren to act as full governors on governing bodies as established under the Bill.

There is one further point that I should like to make. The amendments would add two pupils to every governing body of schools with pupils over 14 years of age and would therefore automatically increase the size of governing bodies. We have received representations to the effect that our proposals will already result in over-large governing bodies. We do not accept this, and we believe that the framework proposed in Clause 3 will result, on average, in smaller governing bodies than those at present established under the 1980 Act framework. In any event, the amendments would clearly increase the size of governing bodies under this Bill. I confirm what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said—that for most controlled schools foundation representation, if the amendments were carried, would be taken below the one-fifth minimum guaranteed by the 1980 Act. That would greatly affect the governing bodies of controlled schools. As the right reverend Prelate has said, this would not be welcome to the Churches.

I would also suggest that schools might find it difficult to meet this new requirement. I have in mind particularly schools with an age range of 11 to 16. Perhaps the pupils go on to tertiary colleges or sixth form colleges after their fifth year of secondary school. Such schools may well find only a small number of pupils eligible, by virtue of the noble Lords' subsequent amendment to Clause 14, to serve on the governing body and this will, of course, be in their final year at this particular type of school when they are likely to be sitting important external examinations. One wonders whether pupils would welcome the extra work that serving on governing bodies would imply. I recall that at Committee stage my noble friend Lady Airey suggested that they would not.

To make pupils full members of the new and important governing bodies that we are establishing under the Bill would be inappropriate. We see their involvement in other ways. There is a real problem raised by the amendments in regard to controlled schools. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I hoped in what I said at the outset that I was making it possible for the Government to make some smaller concessions than the acceptance of the amendment. It would have been possible for us to have moved amendments that would have made pupil governors part of the co-opted sector of the governing body that would have relieved the concerns of the right reverend Prelate and the Government about the 20 per cent. laid down by the 1980 Act. It would have been possible for us to have moved amendments that would have fallen short of full membership of the governing body. It may be necessary for us to do that at Third Reading.

I am bound to say that despite every effort that I have made to secure what seem to me modest and reasonable demands—demands that we should move forward into an era of greater responsibility for our young people in public life rather than move backwards—the Government have not felt themselves able to move. The noble Baroness recognised that there was a proper resolution available to the issue of the office of public and pecuniary trust. She recognised that it was within the authority of Parliament to redefine that restriction. But the redefinition that she chose is, in our view, on the wrong side of the fence and is destructive rather than progressive.

I was amazed to find raised again specific points about items inappropriate in regard to the participation of pupil governors. In practice those local authorities that have had pupil governors and teacher governors who are also restricted in certain ways have found no difficulty. It is possible to put all the items that are inappropriate for pupil and teacher governors at the end or at the beginning of the agenda and to secure the exclusion of those who should not participate in the discussion. In practice this has been shown to work. It has not caused any real difficulty. I am surprised that the noble Baroness should have thought it necessary or appropriate to raise that objection again.

We have made no progress in the matter. The sweet voice of reason has not been listened to on this occasion. We shall continue to seek ways, within the limits of what is likely to be acceptable to the House as a whole, to improve the opportunities for young people in schools and colleges to participate in the government of their own institutions as a preparation for responsible participation in public life in later years. We have clearly not yet found a way to do that. I am convinced, however, that there must be a way forward out of this impasse. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 7: Page 4, line 11, at end insert ("subject to section 6").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have spoken to Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 on Amendment No. 2. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, is the word, in fact, "subsection", as printed on the Marshalled List, or should it read "subject to section 6", as it was in the first instance?

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

My Lords, it is probably a printer's error. The amendment should read, "subject to section 6".

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 12, after ("of") insert ("the following (and no others)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 not moved.]

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendments Nos. 12 and 13:

Page 4, line 24, after ("shall") insert ("subject to section 6").

Page 4, line 25, after ("of") insert ("the folowing (and no others)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I am delighted to say that Amendment No. 12 does say "subject to section 6". I thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for spotting the earlier error. I have spoken to this amendment and also to Amendment No. 13 previously.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 14 to 16 not moved.]

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendments Nos. 17 and 18:

Page 4, line 37, after ("shall") insert ("subject to section 6").

Page 4, line 38, after ("of") insert ("the following (and no others)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 19 to 21 not moved.]

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 6, line 23, leave out from ("(1)") to end of line 3 on page 7 and insert—

("The instrument of government for any county or controlled school, or for any maintained special school which is not established in a hospital, may provide that if at the time when the instrument is made, or at any later time when there is a vacancy for a parent governor—

  1. (a) at least fifty per cent. of the registered pupils at the school are boarders; and
  2. (b) it would, in the opinion of the local education authority, be impracticable for there to be an election of parent governors;
the parent governors, or (as the case may be) the parent governor required to fill that vacancy, may be appointed by the authority.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in responding to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, during Committee stage I undertook that the Government would bring forward its own amendments to provide for parent governors of residential and hospital schools to be elected, rather than appointed by the LEA, unless elections were impracticable. Amendments Nos. 22, 23 and 24 honour that undertaking.

For hospital schools Amendment No. 22 restores the position to that of the 1980 Act. I think it is widely accepted that, whereas elections for parent governors may be wholly appropriate for schools in hospitals where the children stay for long periods, they could not be feasible for schools in short-stay hospitals, where the turnover of pupils may be very high. We believe that the same argument also applies to residential schools. In many cases elections there will be perfectly feasible, but in others the pupils' homes may be many miles away from the school and widely scattered, so that is difficult for parents to get involved with the school to the point where elections could not be meaningful. We accept that, for residential schools, the picture may not be constant; sometimes elections will be practicable, sometimes not, Therefore the form of this amendment is deliberately flexible and allows the LEA discretion on whether or not to hold an election whenever a vacancy for a parent governor occurs. I beg to move.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, it is appropriate that at this stage I should express my thanks to the noble Earl for taking to heart the point that I made, both at Second Reading and at Committee stage, about the position of parents of children at maintained boarding schools who were previously excluded from the right to elect their parent governors.

The noble Lord, as he undertook to do at Committee stage, has gone quite a long way to meet what I had in mind. I think that he has almost succeeded. As I understand the effect of this amendment it is to extend the election of parent governors as a general principle which will include boarding schools with the exception of the derogations in this amendment. If I am wrong the noble Earl will correct me. I fully accept that where enough parents do not come forward it is reasonable for the local education authority to fill any gap by appointment. There is no difference between us there.

I am slightly worried by paragraph (b) of the amendment. I take it that the intention is to take care of the schools with an unstable population such as hospital schools, which we all agreed at Committee stage would not be practicable. But I rather fear that the LEA is given almost excessive latitude with the interpretation of what is impracticable.

The noble Earl referred to scattered population and seemed to imply that it might be difficult to engineer an election in such circumstances. However, we have the possiblility of a postal vote. That is the subject of a later amendment on the Report stage of this Bill. I would not accept that that is an impossibility. I shall certainly not quarrel with the amendment of the noble Earl but I shall ask him, before he sits down, to assure me that his department will do everything in its power to see that the local education authorities exercise a reasonable interpretation of the word "impracticable" in his series of amendments.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. I can see his point. Some hospital schools have a very quick turnover of parents and one might have to be elected or appointed in a hurry. I can certainly give him that assurance. If a parent feels that the LEA has wrongly decided not to hold an election he can always complain about it either at the annual parents' meeting or direct to the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State feels that the LEA has acted unreasonably—in the sense of that word as interpreted by the courts—in appointing a parent governor rather than holding an election it would be open to him to direct the authority to remedy the matter by holding an election. Whether or not practicable elections have been held previously would clearly be a factor in such a decision.

I hope that, with those words of encouragement and complete agreement with the noble Lord he will accept this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 23: Page 7, line 4, leave out from ("county") to ("shall"), in line 6, and insert ("controlled and maintained special school at which parent governors are to be, or may be, elected").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 7, line 13, leave out from ("(3)") to ("provide"), in line 14, and insert ("Where, in the opinion of the local education authority, it is likely to be impracticable for there to be elections of parent governors at any maintained special school which is established in a hospital the instrument of government for that school may")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

Lord Irving of Dartford moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 8, line 11, at end insert— ("or; (c) by a panel of representatives of voluntary organisations concerned with special educational needs, appointed by the local authority, or under a procedure established by the local education authority.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord McIntosh moved a similar amendment at the Committee stage, although it was not quite identical. The noble Lord said that the Bill as drafted provided that a governor should be appointed from a voluntary organisation or organisations designated by the LEA in relation to the school as the appropriate voluntary organisation concerned with respect to matters for which the school was specially organised. However, he made the point that there could be several organisations in this category and his amendment placed an obligation on the local education authority to consult where appropriate as many of these as possible, and provided the means by creating a panel.

My noble friend sought for his amendment the support of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who has long and distinguished service in this field. The noble Lord said that, if the word "or" was added to the amendment thereby extending the options, he could give it at least half-hearted support as it would then give him the best of all worlds.

The noble Earl in replying for the Government felt that this would be a cumbersome and bureaucratic way of dealing with the problem of disagreement between different organisations, as the governing body could change its mind, and if they were unhappy the instrument of government could be changed by representation. However, it seems to us to be so simple and obviously sensible to write this into the Bill that we hope, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, to be able to do so. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I rise to say I hope that the Government will be sensible and accept the substance of what the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, has said.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, in this amendment the noble Lord has sought to give my noble friend Lord Renton the best of both worlds that he requested during Committee stage. However, I have to say that we do not consider the amendment to be an improvement on the existing provisions in the Bill.

Clause 6(3) currently provides for the local education authority to designate an appropriate voluntary organisation as the body to appoint a governor to a maintained special school, except a hospital school, where the district health authority is to appoint a governor. Where there is more than one voluntary organisation concerned with the work of the special school, the local education authority may designate two or more such organisations to make the appointment jointly. If relevant, this could be a combination of local and national voluntary organisations.

In spite of what my noble friend Lord Renton says, I am unclear how this amendment usefully adds to this latter course. As I understand it, the necessary appointment would still be made by organisations designated by the local education authority but mediated through some panel or procedures. This seems only to complicate matters by making procedures—as the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, said—more cumbersome than they need to be for what I agree is an important, but relatively straightforward, task of appointing a governor from time to time. Perhaps there may be some haste to appoint this governor. This process might delay matters rather than help.

In all the circumstances I feel that the amendment of the noble Lord is unnecessary. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw it.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, it is perhaps unnecessary for me to say that I am disappointed at the reply of the noble Earl. It seemed to us that it would widen participation in a quite critical field and prevent disagreements which could be rather bitter and unnecessary. It therefore seemed a small thing to do to avoid these matters. I should like to test the House and the support of the noble Lord. Lord Renton, by calling a Division.

5.29 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 25) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 100; Not-Contents, 148.

Airedale, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Amherst, E. Kirkhill, L.
Ardwick, L. Listowel, E.
Aylestone, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Barnett, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Bernstein, L. Lockwood, B.
Birk, B. Lovell-Davis, L.
Blease, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Bottomley, L. McNair, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Mar, C.
Bruce of Donington, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Buckmaster, V. Mayhew, L.
Caradon, L. Mishcon, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mulley, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Nicol, B.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Parry, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Dean of Beswick, L.
Denington, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Raglan, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Ennals, L. Rochester, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Sefton of Garston, L.
Ezra, L. Serota, B.
Feversham, L. Shepherd, L.
Foot, L. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
Gallacher, L. Stedman, B.
Galpern, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Gladwyn, L. Strabolgi, L.
Glenamara, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Greenway, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Grey, E. Tordoff, L.
Hampton, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Underhill, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hayter, L. Walston, L.
Hirshfield, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Whaddon, L.
Hughes, L. White, B.
Irving of Dartford, L. Wigoder, L.
Jacques, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jeger, B. Willis, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
John-Mackie, L. Winstanley, L.
Kennet, L. Winterbottom, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Abercorn, D. Kinnaird, L.
Abinger, L. Kitchener, E.
Alexander of Potterhill, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Ampthill, L. Lawrence, L.
Annan, L. Layton, L.
Arran, E. Loch, L.
Astor, V. London, Bp.
Auckland, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Bauer, L. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Beaverbrook L. McFadzean, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Beloff, L. Malmesbury, E.
Belstead, L. Mancroft, L.
Blake, L. Manton, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Margadale, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Marley, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Broxbourne, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Buchan, E. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Butterworth, L.
Caccia, L. Merrivale, L.
Caithness, E. Mersey, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Middleton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Molson, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Mottistone, L.
Chelwood, L. Moyne, L.
Coleraine, L. Munster, E.
Colwyn, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Onslow, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Orkney, E.
Cottesloe, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Cox, B. Pender, L.
Croft, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Cromartie, E. Plummer of St Marylebone, L.
Cross, V.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Porritt, L.
Davidson, V. Portland, D.
De La Warr, E. Radnor, E.
Denning, L. Rankeillour, L.
Derwent, L. Reigate, L.
Donegall, M. Renwick, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Rodney, L.
Ebbisham, L. Romney, E.
Eden of Winton, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Ellenborough, L. St. Davids, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Salisbury, M.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Elton, L. Sandford, L.
Faithfull, B. Sempill, Ly.
Ferrers, E. Sharples, B.
Fortescue, E. Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Soames, L.
Gainford, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Gainsborough, E. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Gisborough, L. Sudeley, L.
Glanusk, L. Swansea, L.
Glenarthur, L. Swinton, E.
Gray, L. Terrington, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Teviot, L.
Gridley, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Haig, E. Torrington, V.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Tranmire, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Trumpington, B.
Harvington, L. Tryon, L.
Hastings, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hives, L. Vickers, B.
Holderness, L. Vivian, L.
Hood, V. Waldegrave, E.
Hooper, B. Ward of Witley, V.
Hylton-Foster, B. Whitelaw, V.
Inglewood, L. Wolfson, L.
Ingrow, L. Wynford, L.
Kimball, L. Young, B.
Kimberley, E. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
King of Wartnaby, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.38 p.m.

Clause 7 [Governors' proceedings and tenure of office]:

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 26: Page 9, line 4, at end insert ("or from being disqualified, by virtue of regulations made under subsection (5) below, for continuing to hold office")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, during Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, withdrew his amendment No. 30 on the understanding that the Government would look again at the drafting of Clause 7 to see whether the interrelationship between subsection (2), which provides for a standard four-year term of office for all except ex-officio governors, and any provisions in subsequent regulations, which would prevent people either from taking up office as a governor or from continuing in office, was as clear as possible. Amendments Nos. 26, 27 and 28 are the result of the Government's consideration of the matter.

Amendment No. 26, which amends subsection (3), makes clear that the four-year term of office will not apply to anyone disqualified under any provision of the regulations. Amendment No. 27 puts beyond doubt that the regulations may make provision for governors to be disqualified from holding office; while Amendment No. 28 removes paragraph (d) of subsection (6), which, as I recollect, was the source of the confusion at Committee stage. I believe that these amendments adequately clarify the position. Therefore, I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I suppose we must be grateful for that as far as it goes. I would prefer to have said that the amendments provide the framework whereby the position might be clarified, because the intention of the original amendments was to ensure that, where parents cease to be parents and where teachers cease to be teachers, they would no longer be eligible to be governors, even though their four-year term had not expired.

If we are to accept the assurances given by the noble Baroness, I am sure that what we need to be told is what the regulations are going to say, and to be given some assurance that they will be drafted in such a way as to achieve the objectives of the amendments originally proposed. It is no good having the framework without some indication of the Government's intentions of what to put into the regulations which will be framed under subsection (5).

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the Government will take into account as many points of view as possible, and certainly the views expressed here in your Lordships' House in the course of this Report stage and the debate at Committee stage when deciding what provision to make in the regulations, which will in any event be the subject of wide consultation in draft form.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, since we are at Report stage may I say that I am grateful for that small mercy, but it is incumbent upon the Government to indicate their attitude towards the content of the amendments put at Committee stage. Unless she is prepared to write to me—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, would wish to be involved as well—and indicate the Government's starting position before consultation about the eligibility of parents and teachers after their connection with the school has expired, we may well have to consider further action at Third Reading.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I think I can certainly agree to write to the noble Lord as he requested.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hooper moved Amendments Nos. 27 and 28:

Page 9, line 17, at end insert ("and the circumstances in which persons are to he disqualified for holding office as governors of such schools.").

Page 9, line 31, leave out from beginning to ("and"), in line 33.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 8 [Grouping of schools under single governing body]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 29: Page 11, line 26, after ("Act") insert ("and the authority consider that the grouping should be continued").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment. Clause 8(4) requires the LEA to review a grouping in the light of changes in local circumstances. Paragraph (b) then requires them to report to the Secretary of State the results of such a review where the grouping would require his consent.

There is point in the Secretary of State being informed and deciding whether to consent to the continuation of the grouping only if the LEA wish it to continue. If they have decided otherwise, the grouping can be brought to an end under subsection (7). This amendment therefore provides for the result of a review of grouping to be reported to the Secretary of State only if the LEA wish the grouping to continue. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Review of constitution of governing bodies of county, controlled and maintained special schools]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendments Nos. 30 and 31:

Page 14, line 4, after ("16") insert ("(1)").

Page 14, line 5, leave out from ("sites") to end of line.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendments 30 and 31 are both drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 32: Page 14, line 31, leave out from ("shall") to ("consider"), in line 34.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is consequential upon Amendment No. 22. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Effect of change of circumstances on instrument of government]:

5.45 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 33: Page 16, line 41, after first ("to") insert ("subsection (lA) below and").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with Amendment No. 33 I should like to speak to Amendments 34 and 37. This series of amendments looks highly complicated, but in fact take care of a relatively simple point concerning schools which, after a change such as enlargement, build up to their maximum number of pupils over a period of years. I think that the purpose and effect of the amendments can best be shown through an example.

Let us take the case of a secondary school which has been the subject of a proposal for a significant enlargement. The statutory proposals under Sections 12 or 13 of the 1980 Act will perhaps have stated that the school is expected to cater for 700 pupils eventually, but that it will build up by admitting, say, 30 extra pupils a year for the next seven years. A review of the governing body will be triggered by the implementation of the statutory proposal and the new subsection (1A) now provides that, at that review, the pupil numbers will be assumed to be 700 (the maximum referred to in the proposal) rather than, say, the 520 actually in the school. The governing body therefore has the composition specified in Clause 3 for a 700-pupil school.

Four years later, another review is due. The school still has not built up to its maximum numbers and 700 is still deemed to be the relevant figure for the pupil numbers. Three years after that, the school should have reached the 700 figure. If it has, subsection (1A) ceases to apply automatically. If it has not, and if it looks unlikely to do so, under subsection (1B) either the LEA or, in the case of a voluntary school the governing body, may determine that subsection (1A) ceases to apply. By virtue of subsection (5A) any adjustment that needs to be made to the composition of the governing body because of higher or lower pupil numbers than those planned is picked up at the next four-yearly review—in the case of our example, one year later.

The provisions are analagous to those for new schools in paragraphs 3(2) and (3) of Schedule 2 and will, we believe, help the stability of governing bodies for schools which have seen significant changes. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Government are trying desperately to claw their way out of the trap they have dug for themselves with overprecise legislation. This is exactly the kind of difficulty that we anticipated when we saw that every single detail of the composition of governing bodies was going to be laid down by statute. I am sure that there will be subsequent amendments along this line when the draftsmen discover other examples, or other examples are referred to them, of exceptions which cannot be dealt with within the framework of the Bill as drafted.

It was a delightful explanation that we had from the noble Earl, and we do not wish to dissent from the improvements that he is making. However, is it not the case that the statute book should not be encumbered with detail of this kind, because detail feeds on itself and becomes a veritable forest. That is what we are getting now.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 16, line 44, at end insert— ("(1A) Where a proposal of a kind mentioned in section 10(2)(a) or (b) of this Act has been implemented in relation to any school, the number of registered pupils at the school shall, for the purposes of subsection (1) above and until the number of registered pupils at the school reaches the maximum number of pupils provided for by the proposal, be deemed to be that maximum number. (1B) Where subsection (1A) applies in relation to any school, the local education authority or (in the case of a proposal under section 13(1)(b) of the 1980 Act) the governing body may determine that it shall cease to apply (but without prejudice to its operation in relation to the implementation of any further proposal).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendments Nos. 35 and 36:

Page 17, line 17, leave out from ("school") to ("shall").

Page 17, line 22, leave out from ("school") to end of line 23.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendments 35 and 36 are consequential on Amendment 22. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 17, line 29, at end insert— (" (5A) Where subsection (1A) above has applied in relation to any school but the local education authority or (as the case may be) governing body have subsequently determined that it should cease to apply, subsections (2) and (5) above shall have effect as if a change in the number of registered pupils at the school had occurred at the time when that determination was made.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 33. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14 [Miscellaneous]:

[Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]

Lord Irving of Dartford moved Amendment No. 40: Page 18, line 28, at end insert ("subject to guidelines provided by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord McIntosh moved a similar amendment at Committee stage designed to secure guidelines from the Secretary of State on the election of parent governors. He indicated that there were many cases where the head teacher influenced the election of parent governors, and that that was undesirable. The Advisory Centre for Education has carried out a survey on this, and found a great variety of practice. In some cases the head teacher is responsible, and in others the clerk to the governors. It seems to us that most head teachers and clerks to governors would welcome guidelines on how to conduct democratic elections.

The noble Earl in his reply thought that detailed guidance was neither practical nor desirable. We are not asking for detailed guidelines but that the Secretary of State should describe a number of ways in which the election could take place, and leave it to the authority to decide which of those ways is the most appropriate in its circumstances. This would be practical help for what is indeed a complex matter. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, introduced a similar amendment to this at the Committee stage, he indicated that the Opposition would refer to these amendments again. At the Committee stage the noble Lord agreed that it would be inappropriate for the Secretary of State to issue detailed guidelines, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, has confirmed that this afternoon. But he suggested that the guidance might set out a number of options, one of which an LEA or governing body would adopt. We do not believe that such guidance would really be doing any more in many instances than stating the obvious, and it remains the Government's view that guidance in this area would either be so detailed or, indeed, so superficial that it would not fit the Bill in either instance.

I accept that there have been teething troubles with governor elections held under the 1980 Act, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Irving, agreed to that. To the extent that these should not be overstated, we believe they were due in fact to inexperience, and that hurdle has now been overcome.

In other cases the local education authorities may have been taking rather different views of the fairly open provisions of the 1980 Act, and in this connection I would draw your Lordships' attention to the new provisions in Clause 14(5), which would make quite clear who is to be entitled to participate in an election for a parent governor. We believe that this provides helpful information on the face of the Bill. If in fact something goes wrong under the elections, there is of course the first remedy available, which is a complaint to the Secretary of State. In fact, few complaints have been received on governor election matters, but in the event action by the Secretary of State was not called for because the appropriate authorities had already set action in hand to remedy the difficulties.

However, under this Bill there is a new element of self-regulation and that is the form of the annual parents' meeting under Clause 25. At that meeting the arrangements for the elections would have to be justified to the meeting directly, and if the parents did not like what was being done they would be in a position to put it right. I hope that with those two assurances the noble Lord, Lord Irving, will indeed feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I wonder whether she is aware that it is not really a matter of the number of queries tailing off after the 1980 Act but both the Advisory Centre for Education and the National Association of School Governors and Managers report that there is a continuing high level of queries about the conduct of elections for governing bodies, not necessarily or indeed usually alleging any sort of ill-doing or mismanagement on the part of local authorities but actually seeking genuine guidance. In those circumstances, would she not feel able to say a word or two more of comfort about the willingness of the Secretary of State, in the great wisdom available to him in Elizabeth House, to find ways of helping those who are looking for guidance and not looking for adjudication?

Baroness Young

My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to respond to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I am aware that there have been these complaints both by the Advisory Centre for Education and by the Association of School Governors and Managers. I think this was, of course, because the whole idea of elections was a new one under the 1980 Act.

However, if I may what I should like to do is to take away what the noble Lord has said and consider it in Hansard, and consider the point that he has raised. Clearly it is in everybody's interest to make the elections work as well as possible. This is the intention of the Bill. If indeed it does not seem that the provisions under Clause 14 are enough, I think I should like to consider what the noble Lord has said. I hope that with that assurance he might withdraw his amendment.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, the amendment was indeed a result of some queries and some misunderstandings. We are indebted to the noble Baroness for the undertaking she has given, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 18, line 28, at end insert— ("(c) to decide, for the purposes of an election of parent governors or teacher governors to the governing body, whether the election shall be conducted under the principles of proportional representation.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we are still on the subject of elections, and particularly methods of election. At the Committee stage I moved an amendment which would have required elections of governors to the governing body to be conducted under the principles of proportional representation, using the single transferable vote system. In her reply the noble Baroness said (and I shall quote her if I may): I do not think the Committee will be surprised to hear me suggest that it would not be appropriate to require proportional representation in the election of parent and teacher governors. But I should like to reassure the noble Lord and his noble friends that neither are we requiring the first past the post system."—[Official Report, 25/3/86; col. 1382.]

I was rather impressed by the argument of the noble Baroness. I thought on reflection that in fact she was right, and I therefore decided, at this stage of the Bill, to go down the optional road. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Blake, sitting in his place. He has already piloted one Bill through your Lordships' House which would allow optional proportional representation in local authority elections. My noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich was here a moment ago: he did a similar thing at an earlier period. So, in this amendment, I have selected the optional road.

If the noble Baroness is going to tell me that this is not necessary because it is already open to governing bodies to conduct their elections in this way, I just want to make one point to her. It seems to me that if the Bill is totally silent on methods of election there is likely to be a presumption in favour of first past the post, which is, after all, the most widely used system in this country. Therefore, it seems fair to me to give the proportional representation option a status on the face of the Bill, and without, of course, requiring it to be used in all circumstances or in all places.

That is the object of this amendment, and I rather hoped that the noble Baroness might look at it sympathetically. As I said, I accept the point she made. I think that it would be wrong to require proportional representation in all cases; but I think it should he abundantly clear to governing bodies that they can adopt this method if they feel so inclined. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for his kind remarks on my response to his earlier amendment on this subject. But in fact I think in a sense he has answered the point of the second amendment which he has put down. I appreciate that the point of his amendment is to draw attention to the possibility of the elections to a governing body being by proportional representation without compelling those who are voting to have a system of proportional representation. Nevertheless, for the reasons that I adduced before it is perfectly possible under the Bill to conduct the elections by proportional representation or by the first past the post system, whichever the parents decide they would prefer to do.

It seems to us that this is in fact the correct way of dealing with this matter. Clause 14(2)(b) quite clearly places on the local education authority or, as appropriate, the governing body the responsibility for making all the necessary arrangements for (here are the key words) and to determine all other matters relating to, parent and teacher governor elections. This of course gives them the opportunity to determine whether or not the elections are by proportional representation or by the first past the post system.

I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, who I think I congratulated before on his activities in promoting PR, should be too shy on this matter. I feel certain that he and his friends can put up these proposals where the decisions are being taken and can argue for them, as they are entitled to under the Bill, and others who wish to have the first past the post system can do that. I really think this amendment is unnecessary, and I hope the noble Lord will withdraw it.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, before making up my mind perhaps I could ask the noble Baroness one thing, with the leave of the House. I take her point that this is written into the Bill, but you have to know your way around the Bill pretty well to find out where you are covered if you want to use the proportional representation system. That is why I suggested that it he written more prominently on the face of the statute.

If the noble Baroness does not want to go down that road, may I ask her whether this is an option which could be mentioned in the post-Act circular to authorities which I understand it is the intention of the Government to issue, giving detailed advice on practical issues? The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, referred to the post-Act circular on 17th April, at col. 828, not, I hasten to say, in this context; but it strikes me as being a perfectly reasonable vehicle in which to point out to governing bodies the choices that are at their disposal. If the noble Baroness can give me an assurance that this will receive mention in such a circular, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment.

6 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I think that it would be very difficult for me at this stage to commit the Government to something like that in the circular. We have all listened to the point that the noble Lord has made and we are all aware of it. I should have thought that if he wished, as he clearly does, to make sure that local education authorities are aware of this, he would have plenty of colleagues in the local education authority world who would be able to do just that. I should have thought that that would be the way. However, I shall note what he had to say and pass on to my right honourable friend the point that he has made.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for the tiny way that she seemed to come towards me. I should like to assure her that I do not want to get PR a bad name, so I am not going to divide the House at this stage. But I shall read the debate and perhaps come to a final decision at the last stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 43: Page 18, line 34, at end insert ("and shall make provision for a postal vote.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is necessary to move Amendment No. 43 because of the inadequacy of the Government's response at Committee stage. When I moved a comparable amendment at Committee stage I referred to subsection (5) of this clause, which imposes on the authority an obligation to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that every person who is known to them to be a parent of a registered pupil at the school is … given an opportunity to vote at the election".

I put to the Government the position that if I were a parent and if, for example, I were working the night shift or were disabled and could not attend the meeting I would feel, in the absence of a postal ballot, that the authority had not taken such steps as were reasonably practicable to secure that I had an opportunity to cast my vote as a parent. This point was borne out by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who referred to his experience in Huntingdonshire where parents serving in the RAF had children in local authority schools but could hardly be expected to come to meetings when off duty or when they were stationed somewhere else in order to vote.

I invited the Government at that stage to confirm that the provision that the authority should, take such steps as are resaonably practicable would include, and would have to include, a postal ballot—not a postal ballot as an alternative to a vote at a meeting but a postal ballot as a supplement to a vote at a meeting. I am sorry to say that the noble Baroness in her reply referred to the expense of a postal ballot as opposed to a ballot box and voting in person. I hope that her right honourable friends and noble friends in the Department of Employment who have been putting forward trade union legislation have taken in that point.

She said that in schools serving tightly-knit communities personal voting could well be a perfectly satisfactory method of conducting elections; whereas I think that I have shown that there are examples of cases where even in tightly-knit communities they would not be satisfactory and, indeed, there are no circumstances where those who are disabled or unable to go to meetings ought to be disqualified from voting for parent governors.

It is in the light of that unsatisfactory reply and the failure of the Government to give the interpretation of subsection (5) of this clause which I believe to be justified by the wording of the subsection and which I believe to be absolutely essential as a protection of the democratic right of parents that I am obliged to move this amendment again.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I ought to explain that I did not move my Amendment No. 42 because I withdrew it really in favour of Lord McIntosh's Amendment No. 43, which on consideration after reading the debate at Committee stage, I think is an improvement. My amendment at that stage was for an obligatory postal ballot but considerations of expense were indicated and, as the noble Lord himself said on that occasion, obviously parents coming together at meetings can clearly vote on the spot in a secret ballot. Therefore it seems that the postal ballot should be there as an alternative for those who could not get to the meeting. I think that the noble Lord has come up with the right answer. I cannot see what the Government have got against it and I very much hope that they will accept it.

Baroness Young

My Lords, once again, I too reread what had been said at Committee stage on these amendments which were moved on that occasion. The reason that this provision has not been written on to the face of the Bill is that the Government wish as far as possible to avoid central prescription and the provisions in subsection (5) in this case are what we think are appropriate.

The fact is that it is perfectly possible in any of these elections for there to be a postal ballot. The point at issue is whether or not this amendment should be written into the Bill and that at every election provision should be made for a postal ballot. Clearly, as my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out, there are very different circumstances. There are schools which serve a rural area with many families living a long way from the school; there are schools in which quite possibly many of the parents will be on shift work or for whom it might be difficult to come to the school for an election or however the particular election may be organised; or the election meetings themselves might be poorly attended.

In fact, this again would be one of the issues which at the annual parents' meeting could be considered if the parents involved thought that the arrangements that had been made were not satisfactory. But if one looks at the provisions of Clause 14(5), which make it clear that the parents must be informed of the vacancy which is required to be filled by the election, must be, informed that he is entitled to stand as a candidate, and vote, at the election and … given an opportunity to do so this must imply for the person who is handicapped that provision will be made for him to have a postal ballot or some means of voting which does not presumably involve obliging him to come to the school.

I think that the point that has been made has been covered in the provisions in the Bill and I hope, because the Bill makes it plain not only that there must be a secret ballot but that there could be a postal ballot should people wish it, that the noble Lord will accept that we think this amendment is unnecessary.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I find that a most puzzling answer. Why on earth should the Government resist this amendment? The noble Baroness has found it quite impossible to give any coherent answer to that question, save only that she wishes to avoid prescription by central government. Surely one of the objects of the whole exercise we have been discussing in terms of this Bill is to ensure the maximum involvement of parents with the school. In many rural areas it will be difficult, as the noble Baroness has acknowledged and as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, on a previous occasion, for parents to come to meetings. Many rural bus services, as we are aware, are being axed. In a situation of this kind it seems wholly reasonable that the Government should make it absolutely clear on the face of the Bill that there is a duty to ensure that people who wish to cast their vote in a postal ballot should be able to do so.

This is not an issue of great principle separating Members in different parts of the House, and I hope that the noble Baroness will say that she will look at this matter between now and Third Reading because, with respect, she has failed to answer why it would be damaging to accept an amendment of this kind, the only purpose of which is to ensure that people have a right to use their votes in postal ballots. With great respect, I do not think she has met the point at all.

Baroness Young

My Lords, by leave of the House, in view of what the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Harris, have said, I will take this back and look at it again. I think there is a very real point about postal ballots for teachers, who are in a rather different position from that of parents. It is an area that needs looking at, but I sense the feeling of the whole House about this and I will look at the matter again between now and Third Reading.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for those last words. I must apologise to her for my unseemly laughter during her earlier remarks, when she said the Government were anxious to avoid central precription. The whole of this Bill—clause after clause, subsection after subsection and line after line—consists of central prescription as to how local authorities and governing bodies should blow their own noses, let alone control their own affairs. But it was valuable to have her recognition that subsection (5) already provides in the case, for example, of handicapped parents that a postal ballot would be necessary in order to secure their rights.

What she has now said in response to my remarks and those of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, indicates a movement which is most welcome and provides a basis on which I now beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendments Nos. 44 and 45.

Page 19, line 4, leave out ("controlled") and insert ("voluntary").

Page 19, line 7, leave out ("controlled") and insert ("voluntary").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, perhaps I may move Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 together. These are essentially technical amendments. We do not intend to make any proposals in the Bill or to necessitate changes to instruments of government for aided and special agreement schools. However, such instruments invariably already include the provisions in Clause 14(6) and (9). It therefore seems sensible to ensure that they should continue to do so, and I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 19, line 29, at end insert— ("(11A) In subsection (11) above, references to co-opted governors are to governors required to be co-opted by virtue of section 3 of this Act and do not include references to co-opted foundation governors.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a purely clarifying amendment. Some foundation governors are appointed through co-option by other foundation governors and there may of necessity have to be some restriction on the choice of these governors: for example, that those to be co-opted are members of the church concerned with a school. This amendment makes clear that the bar on restriction of choice in co-options does not apply to such foundation governors byt only to those who will be co-opted by virtue of Clause 3. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

Clause 15 [General responsibility for conduct of certain schools]:

6.15 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 48: Page 20, line 7, leave out from first ("provision") to ("by"), in line 8, and insert ("of the articles conferring specific functions on any person other than the governing body, and to the provision made (otherwise than in the articles)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is yet another result of the meeting between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the Bishops. Your Lordships may recall that at Committee stage the Government argued that anything not specifically assigned in articles of government or in primary legislation came within the ambit of Clause 15(1) as part of the conduct of the school and was thus the responsibility of the governing body.

It was subsequently pointed out to us that this could perhaps be made a little clearer, as is, we hope, achieved by this amendment. In particular, reference is now made to "specific functions", and this means that any non-specific allocation—perhaps a provision purporting to allocate all unspecified functions to the LEA—could not be reconciled with this clause as amended and thus could not remove from the governing body their responsibility for the conduct of the school. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Duty of local education authority to state policy]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 20, line 36, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert— (" (2) The governing body for each county, controlled and maintained special school in an authority shall, in consultation with the head teacher, consider and agree the curriculum policy to be adopted in the school within the lines of any general policy for the secular curriculum determined by the local education authority, leaving the final detailed arrangements and organisation to be the reponsibility of the head teacher and his staff").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is an improved version (because it says "controlled" instead of "voluntary" schools) of an amendment which I moved at Committee stage. It was one to which there was really no adequate response from the Government. I am conscious that the Government have put down a series of amendments and notably, if I am interpreting their wishes correctly, No. 60. These are intended to overcome the difficulties which were found on all sides of your Lordships' Chamber with Clauses 16 and 17. Your Lordships will recall that at the Committee stage there were very significant queries about a particular provision contained in Clause 17(4) (b) (i), where the responsibility was laid on the head teacher to ensure that the curriculum is compatible with the policy of the authority or, where it is incompatible with that policy, with the policy of the governing bodies.

Those words have now been removed from the Bill in Amendment No. 60; and it is necessary to refer to this in advance of its being moved by the Government, because we are talking fundamentally about the same thing; the control of the curriculum. The wording now proposed is: is compatible with the authority's policy (as expressed in their statement) or, to the extent to which it is incompatible, is compatible with that policy as modified by the governing body's statement".

That is a difference in wording, but I really must question whether it is a significant difference in effect. A number of noble Lords commented not only on the obscurity of the preceding provisions but also on the fact that, in management terms, they failed to lay down an acceptable basis for how somebody ultimately had to have the last word. I argued at that time that Clause 17(4)(b)(i) provided that the governing body had the last word, and I believe that is still the case in Amendment No. 60. But if that is the case and if I interpret correctly the Government's intentions we still have what I believe to be a totally unacceptable position.

We cannot, I suggest, have a position where the governing body of a single school in a local education authority service is permitted to have a curriculum policy which is radically at variance and possibly even in conflict with the policy of other schools in the authority's area. One hopes this will not happen on a significant number of occasions. I am convinced that the goodwill of those in the education service will secure that, with proper consultation and proper discussion between the governing bodies and the local education authority, there will emerge a consensus about curriculum policy which will provide for the pupils in the area a coherent range of curriculum possibilities suitable to their needs and to the facilities which the local education authority can make available.

But the whole of this section of the Bill allows for the possibility that, with the best will in the world, or even sometimes with bad will, there may result a conflict which cannot be resolved by agreement, and in those circumstances somebody has to have the last word. The Government are suggesting here, unless I misunderstand them gravely, that it should be the governing body that has the last word, and that the governing body should have the power, in effect, to direct a head teacher to implement a curriculum which is at variance with the stated policy of the local education authority.

In place of that, in this amendment we put forward what seems to be a much more straightforward, logical way of dealing with the issue. It states that there are a number of stages in the determination of curriculum policy, the governing body has the first responsibility, and, The governing body … shall, in consultation with the head teacher, consider and agree the curriculum policy to be adopted in the school", but it does so, within the lines of any general policy for the secular curriculum determined by the local education authority". So that gives a restricted but proper role to the local education authority in considering, as properly elected representatives of the people of the area, the needs of the area as a whole. Then at the end the amendment states: the final detailed arrangements and organisation to be the responsibility of the head teacher and his staff

That is a relatively simple statement of the three roles of the three participants in this decision. It does not involve the convoluted to-ing and fro-ing which is set out even in the proposed amendments, and certainly the complexities which are proposed in the Bill as it reaches this House after the Committee stage.

I suggest to your Lordships that the matter of the determination of the curriculum is one of the basic issues about our educational service. It is one of the issues which has caused most dissatisfaction. There are many noble Lords, including some noble friends of mine, who feel that the determination of the curriculum should be taken away from local authorities altogether and given to central government, in the interests of greater coherence and the achievement of national objectives.

I respect those views, the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and by my noble friends Lord Houghton of Sowerby, Lord Stewart of Fulham and others. I do not go along with them wholly, but I see the force behind the point that they are making, which is that somebody has, in the end, to make decisions about the curriculum and has to make them on the basis of a wider interest than the interest of the school itself.

If the logic is towards a recognition of wider public responsibilities for the curriculum and a dissatisfaction which is felt widely throughout the country about the existing curriculum and the choices available to the pupils in our schools, then surely the least that can be done is to say that the elected representatives in local authorities shall have the ultimate responsibility, when it comes to the point, for the general curriculum policy in our schools.

I suggest to the House that this amendment, apart from being simpler and apart from bringing the ultimate responsibility down where it needs to be, is the right balance which can be achieved at the moment, the only balance which can be achieved at the moment, between individual initiative at the school level and the achievement of the wider objectives which we all have for our educational system.

I appreciate the difficulty of considering this amendment without having heard the Government's arguments on Amendment 60. I hope that it will be possible for the Government to anticipate at any rate the debate on their own amendments, in order that we can have as coherent a debate as possible on this issue. As I say, it is possibly the most important issue facing our schools today. Certainly it outweighs in importance a large number of the provisions of this Bill. If we get it wrong, I do not believe we shall be forgiven. My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has I think contrived to suggest that this is a sort of mean, a mid-point between those like myself and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, who believe that there should be a bigger role for central government in the curriculum, and those who would prefer that it should be wholly a matter for individual schools. I must say that if I am appealed to in that way I am not prepared to go along with the noble Lord, because my own feeling is that, of all the partners, the local authorities are the least qualified to deal with matters of curriculum.

It seems to me that the record shows that they can be arbitrary, misled by current fashions and indifferent to national needs; and if I have to choose, therefore, between the local authorities and the individual school—its governors, its parents, its teachers, as the governing body now is—I must tell the noble Lord that my preference, having failed to get national control of the curriculum, would be the individual schools.

Lord Alexander of Potterhill

My Lords, I am a little puzzled about this question. I may have misunderstood, but I had the impression that the Bill created a situation in which the local authority indicated its policy relating to the curriculum and the governing body could either agree or disagree, and if they disagreed the head teacher was to be put in the impossible position of choosing between them. I may have misunderstood the Bill, but that is how it seemed to me and that, I think, is putting head teachers in an impossible position.

We are asking them to referee between two bodies, either of which can sack them. I can imagine that a referee at a football match who was clearly in favour of one team and against the other would not be allowed to referee again. I imagine that this would lead to more dismissals of head teachers, and certainly more unhappiness for head teachers, than any other provision.

I am not sure that I agree with the amendment. My own belief is that the authority should indicate its general policy; that the governing body should, by all means, have the right to say whether it disagrees and to indicate what it regards as the right policy; and that the head teacher should decide what he believes is in the best interests of the school.

Baroness Young

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, quite properly said in introducing this amendment, it is one which goes very much to the centre of the proposals in this Bill which is before your Lordships' House. I am very glad that it presents the Government with an opportunity to try to clarify what are the proposals as regards the curriculum in this Bill, and to relate them to some of the amendments which follow this one and which have, as their purpose, making and writing on to the face of the Bill certain proposals on certain subjects in the school curriculum.

It has been suggested that the distribution of responsibility in the Bill for the secular school curriculum is complicated. We do not believe that there can be a simple solution. We could, for example, give responsibility for the curriculum entirely and solely to the head teacher—and I listened with great care to what my noble friend Lord Beloff said on this matter—but the Government think that this would not be right. The whole purpose of a school is to offer the right curriculum effectively. We cannot leave it to individual professionals to have total control over the purposes of our schools.

6.30 p.m.

Another solution would be to give total responsibility for the curriculum to the governing body. There are those in your Lordships' House who no doubt might think that that, too, was the correct solution. It is true that in aided schools the Bill gives the governors control over the secular curriculum. But the governors of such a school are in a special position. It is their school, they are responsible for its premises, they employ the staff. The governors of county, controlled and maintained special schools are not in that position. In their case it is the local education authority that is responsible for all capital as well as all current expenditure and that employs the staff. It is on its schools that the LEA mainly relies to discharge its duty to secure enough efficient schools in its area. One could well ask how it could discharge that duty unless it had a say in the curriculum of those schools.

The question then arises, which is the centre of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, whether we should give sole responsibility for the curriculum to the LEA. That, too, would not be right, because it would deny the principle that each school should have a life of its own, with meaningful responsibilities entrusted to both the governing body and the head. They, too, should have some say in the curriculum because, as I have said, the whole purpose of the school is to provide the right curriculum effectively.

It is therefore inevitable, and right, that responsibility for the secular curriculum in county, controlled and maintained special schools should be shared between the local education authority, the governing body and the head. Any sharing of responsibilities can be made to look less than tidy. This point has been made this afternoon. But tidiness is not an overriding principle. We also ought to place responsibility where it belongs.

What the Bill does is to make the headteacher solely responsible for organising the curriculum—that is a professional job. He also has to determine the curriculum which he has to organise. It is in that determination that the LEA and the governors play their part. The head has to determine the curriculum in a way which is compatible with the policy of the LEA or with that policy as modified by the governors. The governors may not have modified it; probably in most cases they will not modify it. But the fact remains that they could modify it. In that case the head does not have to choose between the LEA's policy and the governors' modification. But he may have to choose. That may indeed bring him into conflict with either the LEA or the governors. That is not necessarily a comfortable position.

But what is the alternative? The alternative is either to allow the LEA to override the governors or vice versa. In that situation the head would have to determine the curriculum in accordance with the policy of the LEA, if it could override the governors, or of the governors, if they could override the LEA. I believe we can all think of situations in which it would be unwise to give such power either to the LEA or to the governors.

In most cases the proposed distribution of functions will work smoothly because the three parties will be agreed, or will reach agreement as a result of the duties to consult each other imposed by the Bill. In those cases where they do not reach agreement there will be a tension. Ultimately the LEA, as paymaster and employer, is likely to be in the strongest position to resolve the tension in its favour. That is right, given the LEA's overall responsibility for securing sufficient and efficient schools for its area, and the fact that it is answerable to its electors. But the LEA will not simply be able to set aside the views of the governors or the head on the curriculum to be followed; and it will have no locus, nor will the governors, in how the head organises that curriculum. The Bill is a compromise between several sensible principles. It lacks the tidiness of a central curriculum policy as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, at the Committee stage, but we believe that it reflects the spirit and the realities of English and Welsh school traditions.

Perhaps I can give a clearer picture of how the Bill's curriculum provisions will work if I take one controversial area of teaching—for example, peace studies as a separate subject—and consider what will happen under the Bill if one of the education partners wishes to include the subject in the school curriculum. Let us suppose that a local education authority adopts a policy that a course in peace studies should be taught in all schools. At present the authority would be able to require that policy to be followed in all its schools. The secular instruction offered in all except voluntary aided schools is by virtue of the 1944 Act under the control of the local education authority.

Under the noble Lord's amendment the authority would have a similar power. Schools would be obliged to operate within the lines of the general policy of the authority and an authority could readily claim that "peace studies for all" was a general policy. Only the courts could determine at what level of detail such a policy became less than general. But under the Bill's provisions school governors could decide that their aims for the school required some modification of the authority's policy in this respect, and so omit the teaching of peace studies in applying that policy to their school.

What of the governors? We must remember that under the terms of the Bill the governors will not as at present be mainly appointed by the authority itself and so will be likely to take a more independent line on such issues. They will contain substantial parent representation. They will be parents who under the terms of this Bill will be trained in their duties. They will be held regularly and publicly accountable to the full parent body. We believe that they will be a much more effective counterweight to an extreme local authority.

But it is conceivable that the body of governors might come under the influence of some extreme educational view, and if the governors, against the LEA policy, wished to adopt as an aim the teaching of peace studies to all pupils, what would be the outcome in that case? In county and controlled schools the headteacher would be able to exercise his or her discretion in determining and organising the detailed curriculum of a school to follow the authority's policy on this issue rather than that of the governors, and again peace studies could not be imposed on pupils.

We come finally to the case of a headteacher who wishes for his own reason to include courses on peace studies in the school curriculum. If the authority's and governors' policies are silent on this issue, he may be able to do so for a time, but if the authority adopts and the governors endorse a policy which makes it clear that they do not accept this as a separate subject, the head would be obliged to cease offering it to his pupils and to secure that no other teacher at the school did so, since the head's duties extend to the determination, organisation and delivery of the whole curriculum.

Your Lordships will see therefore that these clauses which have been the subject of considerable criticism already offer a much improved first line of defence against extremism in the curriculum which I hope my noble friends will applaud and not seek to dismantle. It may well be that they will say that this first line is not enough; and indeed we shall propose later an amendment to the Bill to secure explicitly that political issues are dealt with in a responsible manner. If the checks and balances that I have outlined do not work, if a headteacher convinces his governing body to support an unwise policy, or an authority and its governors join to impose a biased approach to certain topics, then our new clause will bite directly and will ensure that there is an overriding duty to approach all such issues responsibly. But it would be perverse while making that amendment to do away with the carefully constructed clauses on the curriculum which are designed to go such a long way to prevent the kinds of problems that the amendment will tackle.

I have spoken at great length and with considerable difficulty on the subject. I would not have spoken at such length had I not been aware that this is a complicated but important matter, that the total provisions of the Bill must be seen together and that the amendments must be considered against the background of the whole of the Bill. Your Lordships will appreciate that although the provision is complex, it writes on the face of the Bill a series of checks and balances for all those who have a responsibility towards the curriculum, which, after all, is at the centre of the education debate, the centre of the whole of education—the LEA, the school governors and the headteacher, the school governors strengthened by the proportion of parents, and the parents themselves trained for the first time in their responsibilities.

I wanted to set out very fully the Government's reasons because I take absolutely the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, when originally moving his amendment, concerning the complexity. I wanted to explain the reasons why the Government believe that it is a way of meeting what has proved to he a concern of parents, a way of meeting the problems of the curriculum, and to explain in detail what the Government believe to be right.

With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment. I hope also that my noble friends who have been very worried about what the Bill says, and about what is possible, will understand that the arrangements made are there to cope with the curriculum, quite apart from other Government amendments that are to be moved in response to the detailed anxieties that have been expressed.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that was a fascinating reply. Indeed, it was several fascinating replies. In the first instance, I felt that the noble Baroness was speaking in support of my amendment. We entirely agree with everything that she said about shared responsibility between the governing body, the local education authority and the head teacher. Indeed, the amendment specifically sets out in comprehensible terms—and I apologise if they are also tidy—the nature of the shared responsibility between the local education authority, the governing body and the head teacher.

The amendment specifically states that the local education authority will be responsible for the lines of general policy and that the curriculum policy shall be considered and agreed by the governing body and implemented by the head. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, who spent a considerable part of his distinguished career dealing with heads, if anybody thinks that a governing body will easily and lightly formulate a curriculum policy without the very definite input of the head teacher, then he has another think coming. Clearly the consideration and agreement of curriculum policy by a governing body will be instigated, spurred and influenced very deeply by the head teacher and his staff. To that extent, the Government and ourselves are in complete agreement.

We do not share the Government's antipathy to tidiness because we believe that on some occasions tidiness can be related to comprehensibility. We do not feel that in many cases the Government have succeeded in producing forms of words that are comprehensible.

We then come to the second interesting part of the Minister's speech, when she defined what will happen when there is a dispute between the local education authority and the governing body. The noble Baroness stated specifically that the kind of studies she had in mind—peace studies—could not be imposed by a governing body on a head teacher, but that the head teacher would have the ability to resist the policy of an extreme governing body and that the governing body would have the ability to resist an extreme local education authority.

6.45 p.m.

I find it difficult to square the Minister's remarks with the provisions that I have to anticipate (there is no other way) of Amendment No. 60, where the head teacher has the responsibility of ensuring that the curriculum, is compatible with the authority's policy (as expressed in their statement) or, to the extent to which it is incompatible, is compatible with that policy as modified by the governing body's statement". If the governing body makes a statement that there will be peace studies, then what power will the head teacher have to resist that statement? I see the point that the noble Baroness is arguing, but I do not see it in the text of her own amendment or in the Bill as it would result from the Government's proposals. Clearly we will need further debate on that issue, although perhaps not on this amendment but when we reach Amendment No. 60 and the related amendments.

The third fascinating part of the Minister's speech was where she sought to reassure her own Back Benches that the Government's intention in settling the responsibility for curriculum policy was to avoid extremism in the curriculum. I would have thought that that was a very serious departure from the fundamental business of our schools. All the debate we have had about political indoctrination in our schools has been from the premise clearly stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, as well as by others. That is, that while there is some indoctrination—of course there is—it is done by a tiny minority. That has been said by a number of people. There have been plenty of examples of the minority that have been responsible for such indoctrination, but there has been common ground between all of us in our consideration of that matter.

If the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is now telling the House that it is a serious objective of the Government, in laying down how the curriculum should be determined, to deal with indoctrination by a small minority, then I fear that they are going far away from their much more important responsibility for the curriculum as a whole, to which all schools are subjected for a large part of their time. A small number of schools have unacceptable courses, and a small amount of the time in those schools is affected by them. However, that should not be the prime consideration as to the way in which we determine the responsibility for the curriculum.

The whole of the debate that there has been about the relevance of education to the adult world, about the relationship between the Department of Education and the initiatives of the Manpower Services Commission, about the initiatives in schools of the TVEI, about the CPVE, and about all the other developments that are taking place in our schools as we realise the defects of the existing educational system—in respect not only of academic achievement but also of the other requirements of the adult world—are the fundamental curriculum issues with which this House should be concerned. They are all enormously more important than the ravages of a small number of extremist teachers to whom so much attention has been paid. If we allow our curriculum system to be influenced by that consideration rather than by the longer term and more fundamental demands of our changing society, then we shall be at risk of making a seriously wrong decision about the control of the curriculum.

I repeat that I am not satisfied that we have found the right solution. It may be necessary to consider that point more in relation to Amendment No. 60. Certainly it would seem appropriate to withdraw Amendment No. 49 at this stage. On the basis of the arguments that have been put forward, and that the case for the governing bodies to have the last word in the way that is now proposed has been based on inadequate logic and on secondary arguments rather than on the most fundamental arguments that ought to be confronting the House at this time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 20, line 39, at end insert— ("( ) It shall be the duty of every local education authority, governing body and head teacher to forbid the pursuit of partisan political activities in their primary schools as part of school life, whether in their schools or elsewhere.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it has been agreed through the usual channels that in moving Amendment No. 50 I should speak also to Amendments Nos. 51, 61, 62 and 86. Therefore I shall speak primarily to Amendment No. 50 on political activities in primary schools and then I shall refer briefly to the other amendments.

In Amendment No. 50 we are not seeking to prohibit any discussion of politics in primary schools, but there is evidence that primary schools have been used for partisan political purposes; for example, for the distribution of CND badges, for storing food for striking miners, and for staff to demonstrate against local police for attempting to arrange an open day. Surely such activities for children of primary school age—we are talking about children aged between 5 and 11—is totally unacceptable.

This also introduces a more general point, which is that both the professional experience of teachers in primary schools and research have demonstrated that children of primary school age are not sufficiently intellectually mature to appreciate the complexity that lies behind controversial political issues and that any participation in political activities must therefore involve oversimplification and a distortion of those issues. That is something which surely is not educationally desirable.

The only arguments that have been used in earlier discussions against this amendment are that it would prevent Members of Parliament or local councillors from visiting primary schools to talk about political activities or arranging visits such as visits to Parliament. If that is the price to be paid we believe that it is worth it. Pupils of primary schools do not need such activities as part of their education. There is time enough for that when they reach secondary school age. Surely it is far better to keep primary schools as politics-free zones and allow children to pursue their basic education undistracted by political controversy and activity.

As I have said, while moving this amendment I wish very briefly to refer to a general issue concerning not only this amendment but also other related amendments on politicisation in education. I refer particularly to the problem of justiciability. We argue that this particular amendment, Amendment No. 50, does not run into this problem because it deals with questions of fact and not of opinion; so justiciability should not be a stumbling block to Amendment No. 50.

So far as concerns Amendments Nos. 51 and 62, we have given very careful consideration to this matter and we are assured that the wording does not pose insuperable problems. However, the amendment that is proposed by the Government—Amendment No. 86—is, we suggest, much more problematic. For example, the Government's amendment rests on the notion of "responsible" and that seems to us to raise far more problems. For instance, it begs the very question of the meaning of "responsible". I suggest that a Militant Tendency teacher is likely to define the word "responsible" in a very different way from that which I suspect the Government amendment intends.

Conversely, the wording of the other amendments, Amendments Nos. 51 and 62, is less problematic. In Amendment No. 51 the phrase, the promotion of partisan political views is used. This implies a systematic and sustained bias which is demonstrable. Amendment No. 62 uses the concept of a balanced presentation of views, and a balanced presentation is also something which is capable of assessment. The findings of a recent Gallup poll were that members of the public from all political parties voted two to one in favour of an amendment to this Bill which would prevent political indoctrination in schools. Therefore I sincerely hope that Members of your Lordships' House will also support these amendments.

Of course, we do not claim that the evils they are designed to prevent are occurring in all schools. Of course not. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, has said, the majority of teachers are conscientious and would not violate their professional position in this way. But as the recent debate in your Lordships' House on the politicisation of education showed very well, there are many schools, and a growing number of schools, where young people are being exposed to indoctrination which undermines their commitment to our country's traditional values, including commitment to parliamentary democracy and our cultural heritage. Moreover, in many cases the methods used are those of indoctrination, not of education.

As the leader in The Times this morning suggested, to vote for these amendments is to vote for education. I hope very much that your Lordships will feel able to do precisely that. I beg to move.

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

My Lords, I think we can all be grateful for some of the amendments to this Bill that the Government have put down, but I fear that they have not suggested anything worthwhile to meet the argument, which was put forward by noble Lords on all sides of the House, that we ought to legislate specifically to prevent our children from being indoctrinated with partisan political views.

It cannot be said too often that the legislation that we are proposing, and in particular Amendments Nos. 50 and 51, is designed as a protection against such indoctrination from either the Left or the Right. Both are equally reprehensible. At the moment it happens that the threat comes mainly from the extreme Left who are trying, by indoctrinating young children, to destroy their belief in the democratic principles on which this country is founded. It is my belief—which I think is a belief shared by a large proportion of the people of this country and a very large proportion of parents—that the threat is real and that something ought to be done about it and done now.

I also believe that any legislation which stands the smallest chance of providing a defence against such subtle and pervasive indoctrination must be both narrow and negative, such as that contained in Amendments No. 50 and 51, because only such legislation, I think, could be justiciable. It is a matter of saying that there are certain clearly defined things which are not allowed. Surely that wording is more justiciable than what is proposed in Amendment No. 86, as tabled by the Government. How difficult it would be to determine what is or is not "reasonably practicable". Partisan political activities, which are forbidden in primary schools by Amendment No. 50, are surely very much easier to detect and pin down.

There seems to be a widespread conviction in this country that there is something rotten in the state of some of our schools in the maintained sector, not only because of partisan political indoctrination but also because of a general sapping of moral standards. I believe that the best cure is to allow market forces to bring their influence to bear. Indeed, this is one of the very worthy purposes of this Bill; that is, to give more influence to those who really mind—parents and the good teachers.

I believe that Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 will greatly strengthen the hands of parents and good teachers. They will give them the confidence to take positive action where they know things are going wrong. These amendments will not put matters right at a stroke but they might—they just might—start the process, which will be long and hard, of restoring some teaching and decent values to those of our schools where those virtues are no longer practised.

I am not sure whether the Government recognise that the threat is real or whether they believe that we are just a bunch of unbalanced scaremongers. I hope that the noble Earl will enlighten us in that respect. If they acknowledge that the threat is real, I am simply amazed that they cannot accept the amendments, which, if there is no threat, cannot possibly do any harm anyway. I have an uncomfortable feeling that the Government do not or will not take the threat at all seriously and that Amendment No. 86, with its woolly conditional subsections, has been put forward not with the intention of doing anything practical to curb evil but as a nice, soothing tranquiliser to keep those who smell danger quiet and biddable.

7 p.m.

Lord Denning

My Lords, I should like to visualise a teacher in a class giving a talk or an address on citizenship. I should think that he would say that this country has always depended on the rule of law. He would say that law and order are fundamental in our society and in support of that we should all support the police in doing their duty. That teacher would be responsible if he went that far. He would be equally responsible if he went on to say "But you must remember that violence is always justifiable in a good cause". He may go on to say "The violence that you may have seen on the picket lines is justifiable if it is in a good cause and there was the wrongful suggestion to close the pits".

He could say all that and he could also say that it would be justifiable to resist the police in those circumstances and to do what one could to stop them doing their duty. That would be regarded by a judge as being a responsible lecture. It would no doubt be entirely coloured by the teacher's partisan political views, but it would be responsible, expressing the views of a responsible person to his class.

In answer to that I would say that that lecture would be entirely wrong. The only way to prohibit it would be by an amendment such as that which my noble friend Lady Cox has put down. It would obviously be partisan political propaganda. It is asked whether it can be justiciable. It can be. If a case such as that which I have described is reported to the head teacher by a parent or whoever else it may be, he could be asked, "Did you forbid partisan political lectures?" If he said, "No", he could be taken straight to the court, because the statute said that he was to forbid it. If the head teacher said that he forbade it but the teacher went against that, he could be told, "You get on and do your duty. You discipline that teacher for promoting political views".

If that was not satisfactory, the matter could be taken further to the governing body or the local education authority and they could be asked whether they had done their duty. If they had not, we have a long-tried system of law—our judicial review—where by the old mandamus, we can command any public authority and any school governing authority whatever to do its duty, and that duty is well set out in Amendments Nos. 50, 51 and the like. I hope that your Lordships will support those and reject completely Amendment No. 86.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I think that one of the problems that we have to face is a realisation of what is happening. It is easy as we sit here and debate these weighty matters to get out of touch with reality and to fail to realise the difficulty of the situation that is facing teachers and head teachers particularly in, for example, London schools. In rural areas, teachers avoid those subjects like the plague; they are terrified of them. They do not want the children going home and telling their parents that they have been subjected to Marxist talk or to Right-wing propaganda.

However, it is very different in the inner cities—and I am thinking particularly of London—where political involvement is so intense (racism, sexism and other "isms"), that it can no more be shut out of schools than one can shut out the air, even though it may be polluted. It is there and the children are living with it. It is not merely invading primary schools, but even infant schools. A report in The Times Educational Supplement, if it is to be believed, tells stories of how at the infant age children are insulting each other with "Pakis stink" and "Darkies reel home drunk". How does one cope with such a situation? Let us not underestimate it.

I should like to talk for a moment about the difficult question of peace studies and nuclear disarmament. Young children should be protected from having to consider the terrible issues occasioned by the existence of nuclear weapons. When the young reach an age at which they begin to ask questions, that is the age at which those issues must be discussed and teachers have to provide answers. What the teachers say will depend on what they think, and they are unlikely to be able to be objective.

As an ex-teacher, I take the view (which is the traditional professional practice) that if an opinion is expressed on one side, a corresponding one should be expressed on the other side so far as that is possible. If one speaker takes one view on, say, the question of nuclear disarmament and advocates non-nuclear defence, another should explain the policy of NATO. I take that stand because that is the traditional view in the teaching profession. What we are all afraid of is extremist views of the Right or the Left; and the racist and anti-racist issue is a terrible one at the moment.

The idea of balance is the traditional approach, as I say. That is why I have put forward my amendments, Nos. 61 and 62, for your Lordships' consideration.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I find this subject rather harder than the usual issues that arise in the House. Like the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, I was educated at Eton, though I am afraid that I have not risen as high as Provost. When I look round this House, I see many old Etonians, some of them no doubt more recently taught than me.

I do not know whether this issue will interfere with the kind of Etonian culture that was administered to me when I was a boy, or to the noble Lord, Lord Soames, and others of later generations. Certainly there was a strong Conservative ethos and some of the best masters were known to be very active Conservatives. That was the case in my time, and I should be surprised if it were not the case now, though I must say that I have been asked to speak to the political society there as, I believe, was Mr. Ken Livingstone. There is no doubt that the school is broad-minded according to its lights. The great public schools of this country are strong Conservative strongholds. There is nothing against that. One has only to look at their products to see that they do their work extremely well. I do not know where this proposal would land us. Would it interfere with the type of culture that was administered in the old days and which I should think is administered now?

The trouble is that when people think about British traditions they sometimes have rather different ideas. I was sent a document a day or two ago in relation to a later amendment. I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that I shall support one of her later amendments. The document comes from the Conservative Family Campaign. For some reason it thought that I would be sympathetic to its ideas. It has not kept pace with my development over the past half century. I think that the document would be considered suitable for schools. It states: Socialism enshrines a belief in the state as provider of all things and arbiter of all issues. It is no coincidence that we find the Left so active in all movements which subvert the authority of parents, the responsible behaviour of young people and the natural order of society". The document is full of ringing declarations. It seems to have some sort of official blessing. It includes this sentence: For Conservatives the family also has a profound economic dimension as the essential component of a free market economy". We had a reference to the free market, which I did not follow, from the noble Lord, Lord Charteris. As I was saying, the document states: For Conservatives the family also has a profound economic dimension as the essential component of a free market economy because the savings of families"— this is in heavy type— are the capital of capitalism". I take it that that is the kind of medicine that is to be administered as being more or less in accordance with British traditions.

We all have different ideas of traditions. People who have Conservative traditions, in which I was brought up, feel that their traditions are what are called nonpartisan or neutral. Anybody who disagrees strongly with them is partisan or non-neutral. I need not go on because the point is obvious.

That should be borne in mind when we hear from Conservatives eloquent denounciations of the subversion that is alleged to be going on. I feel safer in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I do not know what he will say on this issue or on the ones that will follow, but for the moment I am ready to agree with him.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, in following the noble Earl, Lord Longford, perhaps I may say on behalf of my noble friends that there are a substantial number of non-Conservative Members of the House who regard this matter as extremely serious, who regard what is happening in a number of schools, particularly in inner London, as alarming, and consider that it is time that Parliament began to take the matter seriously.

I want to give two illustrations of the type of problem which we are facing. I say that in the context of this debate on the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and a following amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Ritchie of Dundee. I illustrated part of the problem in Committee when I referred to a publication called Auschwitz, published by the Inner London Education Authority. I think that this is a perfect illustration of the remarkably passive approach by the Department of Education and Science. That publication related the deaths of 5 million, 6 million, or 7 million Jews to the contents of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the dispute over GCHQ. I regard that comparison as nearly obscene.

I am concerned about the extraordinary attitude of the Department of Education and Science, after the matter had been ventilated first by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and subsequently in the debate on this Bill. I wrote to the Secretary of State. I reveived a reply from him after two months. He told me that he had asked the Inner London Education Authority for its comments. I then put a Question down to the Government and received an Answer from the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, saying that the ILEA had not so far bothered to reply to that, presumably, serious communication. That small example of what is happening at public expense in London is an indication of the problems that we are now discussing; it is just one example.

A few moments ago we had a speech from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. He talked about the justiciability of the amendments that we are debating. As a non-lawyer but as one who has had some small dealings with some of these issues, I agree with the point that he made about the first amendment—the forbidding of political activities in primary schools. It seems to me clear that if there were gross impropriety it is the type of issue that could be taken to court.

We are talking about activities of gross impropriety. Let me define what I mean by "gross impropriety" by quoting from the Islington Gazette of 9th May in relation to the conduct of members of the National Union of Teachers at Drayton Park Primary School in Islington. I say at once that I am grateful to the Government for the amendments that they have tabled in response to the amendment that I tabled with the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in respect of problems which had arisen between many schools and the police, in particular, in London. We shall obviously discuss those amendments in a few moments. I shall illustrate what is happening in one school in inner London by quoting from that news report of only two weeks ago: Teachers at an Islington primary school have voted to prevent the police from giving talks to children. The decision by militant members of the National Union of Teachers at Drayton Park Primary School, who accused the police of 'racism', has upset some parents. One father said: 'The teachers have no right to ban the police from schools. Our schools should be open to everyone. That's what education is about. By this ban they are encouraging children to grow up with a negative view of the police'.". That, of course, is the purpose of the entire operation of those militant teachers. The report continues: A spokesman for the NUT said: 'In the present climate teachers are not willing to allow police officers into the classroom. There are a number of reasons for this, including the police attack on the Holloway teenagers, racist attacks, attacks on pickets"' of course— and the way in which the police are charging into people's homes. We want the police to do what they are paid to do—helping old ladies across the road and protecting people from criminals' That is an indication of what is happening at one school in inner London. As we know from the previous debate, there are over 20 other schools where that type of behaviour is occurring because the Inner London Teachers' Association is under the influence of the hard, undemocratic Left. It has the deliberate intention of ensuring that it uses the muscle and power that it has to distort the teaching in the schools where it has influence. I welcome very much the fact that we are having this important debate so that Parliament can, for the first time, insist that this sort of impropriety is brought to an end as speedily as possible.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I wish genuinely and warmly to congratulate my noble friend Lady Cox on a remarkable and highly effective campaign that she has waged on this subject of indoctrination. I can perhaps say, and I think that I should, that the department for which I speak was slow to react. The noble Baroness certainly convinced me personally of the dangers. She has also, I believe, convinced the Government as a whole. This is largely due to the energetic and remarkable manner in which she has carried out the campaign.

The House has now had a series of debates about the need to outlaw political bias and indoctrination from the teaching and other activities of maintained schools. The debates began with that instigated by my noble friend Lady Cox on 5th February. They were continued at both Second Reading and Committee stage of this Bill. It is a subject on which a great many of your Lordships—not just on this side of the House, I can tell the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who was in fact contradicted by the noble Lord, Lord Harris—have expressed deep concern. I want to make absolutely clear that the Government share that concern and the abhorrence felt by so many of your Lordships at political bias in the school classroom. We agreed at Committee stage that we would look again to see whether something should be done through legislation. The amendment to which I shall shortly be speaking represents our conclusions.

Before that, I want to make a general but I think vitally important point that our earlier discussions have perhaps obscured. The disagreements that have been voiced are not about the problem but about its solution. This is not some competition about who can show the strongest feeling against indoctrination in the schools or who can wax the most eloquent on the need to eradicate it. The competition, if there is one, is about who has a legislative answer, not a theoretical answer, that is most likely to prevent indoctrination without doing damage to other things that are important and valuable. If we enacted legislation which did that kind of damage, we would surely have given another victory to those who wish to indoctrinate our children.

We would be cheating ourselves if we believe that there is a ready legislative formula that will achieve the common objective. The Government continue to doubt whether any formula can wholly achieve it. We believe, however, that we now have a formula that goes as far towards achieving it as any formulae that noble Lords have proposed, that is not technically defective and that does not do unintended damage in other respects.

Before moving on to our own amendment, I can perhaps say a few words about the various amendments that we are also addressing. I start with the amendment of my noble friend Lady Cox, Amendment No. 50. There is a problem of definition here. How are "partisan political activties" to be defined? What criteria can be used in deciding whether particular activities are partisan? These are questions which those on whom the duty is placed, the Secretary of State, to whom complaints will be made, and ultimately the courts will have to decide. The words represent, in our view, a recipe for confusion. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, mentioned, I believe, gross impropriety. Those words are not in the Bill. They are not in this amendment. There is a very serious risk of excluding any form of political education from primary schools.

Given the difficulty that head teachers and their staff will have in defining what is and what is not covered by the amendment, some primary schools may simply drop any activity or teaching associated with politics. As my noble friend Lady Cox said, it might well happen that Members of Parliament, Members of this House and even local councillors would not be able to go into their local primary schools. My noble friend was perfectly honest and admitted that this was the price that we might have to pay.

I would point out that this is honestly too high a price to pay. I enjoy, as I am sure do other noble Lords, coming here in the morning. Sometimes, going through the Lobbies or through the Chamber, we see parties of primary schoolchildren being shown round the House. Your Lordships may feel, as I do sometimes when I am trying to get to the loo, that they are a damned nuisance, these little perishers whom I trip over. On the other hand, when you see their cheerful little faces looking up and listening, often to their local Member of Parliament who is taking them round, you then think that all this might have to stop if what is proposed were agreed—

Noble Lords


The Earl of Swinton

Oh yes, my Lords. Noble Lords may say "No, we do not like that", but it has indeed to be considered. This could well be interpreted as a clandestine means of persuading the children of the virtues of our own political parties. If any form of political education was dropped from the curriculum of primary schools, it would present a serious loss to the education of the pupils. The responsible treatment of political issues in a way suited to the maturity and judgment of the pupils is part of the right of those pupils if they are to be helped to understand the world in which they live. Primary children are not fools. Nor are they incapable of thinking of how the country is governed and the problems of the world in which they live.

One job of the primary school is to help them to do so in a responsible and sensible way. Political issues arise naturally in the classrooms of primary schools as in secondary schools. Children of that age watch the news on television and see parts of the newspapers. They also hear their parents and older brothers and sisters talking. What they heard about the Chernobyl disaster, for instance, could easily have prompted questions next day about the use and dangers of nuclear power. Sports Aid, just like Bob Geldof's Live Aid, leads them to ask about the needs of the third world and the extent to which they are being met by the wealthier nations. The fertile minds of the young will lead them to ask these and many other questions as they try to make sense of the world in which they live.

What happens when questions like these arise in the primary classroom? Is the teacher to say, "I am sorry; I am not allowed to discuss them"? Surely not! The question should be dealt with in a way that suits the children's age, maturity and judgment. Not should we underestimate primary children's ability to reach their own balanced understanding of political issues.

There are also three problems of coverage in my noble friend's amendment. First, I have to say that I cannot understand why she seeks to outlaw the pursuit of partisan political activities in primary schools, which must include what is taught in those schools, but only, so far as secondary schools are concerned, the promotion of partisan political views in what is taught in the schools. I would certainly want to outlaw many forms of partisan political activities from secondary as well as primary schools. We are back with the problem of definition.

There is a second problem of coverage because my noble friend's amendment conflicts with the control of the secular curriculum of voluntary aided and special agreement schools which Clause 18 gives to the governors of those schools, not to the LEA and the head teacher. Does she mean that there should be an exception to the governors' control of the content of the curriculum which enables the LEA to forbid partisan political teaching in the school? I find it hard to believe that this was her intention. Yet, if that is not to be the case, the governors themselves should surely be required to forbid partisan political activities so that voluntary aided and special agreement schools are on all fours with county and voluntary controlled primary schools.

The third problem of coverage arises because my noble friend's amendment refers to "their primary schools". Does she mean that in an 8–12 middle school, which by law is deemed to be a primary school, partisan political activities should be forbidden for 11 and 12 year-olds whereas that prohibition should not apply from as young an age as 9 in a 9–13 middle school which is deemed to be a secondary school? My noble friend Lord Renton may be interested in this. What are not covered by the amendment are all-age maintained special schools. Those are not classified as primary schools and presumably my noble friend Lord Renton, of all people, would join with me in saying that these children least of all should be indoctrinated.

I wish now to turn to Amendment No. 51 in the name of my noble friend Lord Renton. I am bound to say that I do not believe that the amendment would satisfactorily achieve the objective. It has the same problems and defects of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Cox. There is the same problem of definition and a similar danger of unsatisfactorily inhibiting the amount of political education offered to pupils. There is the same problem of voluntary aided and special agreement schools where I would not have supposed that my noble friend would want to restrict the governors' control of the content of the secular curriculum in the way that the amendment implies.

But the amendments that frighten me most are the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, Amendments Nos. 61 and 62. There is again the problem of definition. There is a technical problem because a duty is not imposed on the head teachers of voluntary aided and special agreement schools. However, I think that this is a most important point. There is the real risk that the wording which the noble Lord proposes would give opportunities for the small minority of teachers who want to indoctrinate children and promote partisan views. Since even commonly held political views—such as respect for the law and the value of parliamentary democracy—are political issues for the minority who do not share them, the amendment would enable that minority to claim the right to have their own views stated whenever those values were discussed.

I think that it could well become a Marxist or Militants charter. I am quite sure that neither the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, nor his noble friends, nor indeed my noble friends behind me, would wish to see that.

If I may now turn to our new clause, it is couched in terms which reflect the way in which political issues crop up in schools. They occur much more frequently and in quite a natural way in the course of other lessons—in history or geography, in English or in RE, for example. Children ask questions covering political matters in a great variety of contexts, and a good teacher answers their questions responsibly—to use the language of the new clause.

The Government's amendment will require the LEA, the governors and the head teacher, all of whom will have their responsibilities for the curriculum defined by Clauses 16 to 18 of the Bill, to take such steps as are reasonably practical to secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils in primary, secondary and special schools, those issues are dealt with in a responsible manner. This duty will apply not only to what the school teaches in its classrooms, but also to all the extra-curricular activities which are provided organised by or on behalf of the school, in or outside the school premises.

I believe that this amendment goes as far as it is possible to go in meeting the substance of what is sought by the noble Lords who tabled amendments at Committee stage, and who tabled similar amendments for today. Moreover, it has the advantage of laying a positive duty on LEAs, governors and head teachers, rather than the negative one of simply requiring them to forbid certain kinds of teaching and school activity. Many of your Lordships were attracted by this positive route when we debated the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, at Committee stage.

I judge that there are four other grounds on which to commend the Government's amendment to your Lordships and to ask for your support. First, it provides the best solution to the important and considerable problems of definition to which the Government have referred in earlier debates. How is a partisan political activity to be recognised? What does it mean to promote partisan political views? What are to be the criteria for determining whether presentation of political views is impartial and objective?

We can all use phrases and words such as these fairly easily in debate. But, while we all know broadly what meaning we would ourselves attach to them, I suspect that this would not always be the same meaning. I suspect too that many of our definitions would differ in some degree and that we would not all agree about whether they applied to particular activities.

The Government amendment goes as far as possible to avoid the risk by requiring that political issues are dealt with in a responsible manner. In deciding whether a particular matter has been dealt with in such a way, the courts could consider expert evidence as to whether what was done was consistent with how, the teaching profession or LEAs viewed their responsibilities. In other words, it would be the courts and not the Left-wing teachers—as was pointed out—who would be helped to decide whether a political issue was partisan, or whether it had been presented impartially, and who could look at and base their decision on acknowledged good and common practice. We judge that the phrase "in a responsible manner" will be interpreted as far as teachers are concerned as meaning "in a professionally responsible manner". This has two substantial advantages. It means that the duty placed on the head teacher requires him to take all reasonable steps to secure that the representations of political issues by nonteachers—for example, outside speakers—are set in a context which constitutes a professionally responsible presentation. Also the Government amendment covers every aspect of school life where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils. It includes not only what is taught in the classroom, but also such matters as displays of posters around the school and all forms of extra-curricular activities.

My noble friend Lady Cox has sought to require LEAs to forbid the pursuit of partisan political activities as part of the life of their primary schools. One of the problems of definition to which I referred earlier was what was meant by, and how the courts would construe, "partisan political activities". The Government amendment will achieve a similar end with less of a problem of definition, because the pursuit of partisan political activities hardly goes hand in hand with professional responsibility. However, it goes further than my noble friend would have us go—as I believe it must—by applying the same principle to secondary schools.

We accept therefore that legislation is needed. The new clause hits the target so that if evidence of indoctrination is forthcoming the Secretary of State or the courts have the best possible prospect of putting matters right without giving to the enemies of our society the uncovenanted benefit of damaging our judicial system or offering the kind of access to the minds and hearts of our children which a responsible school system should deny them.

I should just comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, said on the matter of whether this was defined, and whether it was not justiciable. Amendment No. 50 requires every local education authority, governing body and head teacher to, forbid the pursuit of partisan political activities". But what does that mean? What, for example, happens if those pursuing the activities take no notice—and these are just the kind of people who, if it does not suit them, will not take notice. Is there any further duty to take steps to stop those activities from taking place?

Amendment No. 51 is drafted in similarly unclear terms. It strikes me that these amendments are little more than declaratory in the sense that they could not be enforced through the courts. The Government's amendment, on the other hand, imposes a duty in clear terms on each of the education partners to, take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure responsible treatment of political issues in their schools. There can be no doubt that such a duty would be enforceable through the courts and it is in the Government's view a lot more effective than either Amendments Nos. 50 or 51.

I would not take issue with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, on a point of law. But I am told, on legal advice, that on the question whether Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 could be enforced by the application of criminal sanctions, the simple answer is that there is a criminal sanction available to enforce a statutory duty which would be imposed by either of those amendments. It would be equally available to enforce a duty which would be imposed by the Government's new clause.

Lord Denning

My Lords, may I intervene? I was not suggesting any criminal sanctions. I said that it could be enforced in our courts by the civil sanction of an order of mandamus.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I said that I was probably foolish to try to argue with the noble and learned Lord, but we live and learn.

Even so, in all the circumstances I hope that I have convinced your Lordships' House that the Government amendment is the right way to proceed. I am extremely worried by Amendment No. 50. My noble friends behind me gave a great groan of protest when I said that, but if one reads the amendment it applies to both inside and outside primary schools. It would stop parties of school children coming around these Houses among other pretty appalling things. I am very worried about the fact that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, might well give a charter to Marxism and allow people to come in and put the contrary point of view.

In all the circumstances I hope that my noble friend will give our amendment at least a chance and I hope that she will withdraw her amendment.

Lord Renton

I rise only to say that in spite of the efforts of my noble friend, I am unable to accept this argument. I shall in due course move Amendment No. 51.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, these matters have been debated in your Lordships' House on a number of occasions in the last six months with a very considerable and clearly genuine passion.

On each occasion we have felt it necessary,—indeed have wished—to say very clearly from these Benches that we are totally opposed to indoctrination of the Left or the Right—as the noble Lord, Lord Charteris quite rightly said.

The question which faces the House now is, what can we do about it? I have listened with great care to the speech of the noble Earl. I am bound to say to him that there is one respect in which I support the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, rather than him. That is in relation to Amendment No. 62. which is in her name and that of the noble Lords, Lord Ritchie and Lord Annan.

I think that the arguments for Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 can be dismissed fairly rapidly. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has gone into them at some length. From our point of view the fundamental point is that they are negative; they seek to forbid rather than to encourage and permit the good. To seek to forbid the bad in matters of this sort, in matters of opinion, is always a dangerous side towards another form of authoritarianism which we might find as objectionable as the form of authoritarianism which we seek to avoid. Therefore, we on these Benches would certainly oppose Amendments Nos. 50 and 51.

Amendment No. 62 is another matter. It has been amended since the Committee stage. It refers to "a balanced presentation of opposing views". I believe that that phrase is central to our democratic thinking: there is no possibility of discussing political matters in our schools or anywhere else without the expression of opposing views. The noble Earl referred to issues such as nuclear energy. They may not be partisan in themselves, but parties take up positions on matters of nuclear energy and on many other matters, and it is the views which political parties take which very largely contribute to the debate, and therefore debate in that sense becomes partisan.

However, a balanced presentation of opposing views seems to us to represent the reality of the way in which all of us who are in our way partisan about different issues, and who have opposing views about different issues, will be able to contribute to the growth of political ideas among our young people. To that extent I think that the argument which the noble Earl advanced against Amendment No. 62 needs further elucidation if we are to be persuaded that Amendment No. 62 is wrong.

The important point about balance is that it is recognised that there is a particular disease of hard Left indoctrination. However, my noble friend Lord Longford made it clear that over the years there has been political indoctrination of the Right as well as of the Left, and he gave a very concrete example. Perhaps I may refer to the current activities of the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who has expressed the view that there should be better economic understanding in our schools, and in consultation documents has encouraged local education authorities and others to pursue economic understanding in our schools, including such matters as the market mechanism. Some of us may think that the market mechanism is itself an expression of political issues where there might be differences of opinion, but in different parties, about the relevance of the market mechanism under some circumstances.

To that extent the effect of Amendment No. 62 would be to secure that when the Secretary of State's objective of economic awareness on these matters is secured, there shall be an expression of the views of Socialist economists as well. That seems to us to be a very worthwhile objective for the study, and we are delighted to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, support that idea.

It is far too late to go into more detail about this. In summary, we would not support Amendments Nos. 50 and 51. If pressed to a vote, we would support Amendment No. 62. Failing that, we would support the Government amendment, No. 86.

Lord Annan

My Lords, I realise that Members of your Lordships' House want to bring this discussion to a close and probably, I hope, to a vote. I simply want to say that I have listened carefully to what the noble Earl said. He had a very hard task in putting forward highly technical doubts which are expressed by the department, with all the experience of the Department of Education and Science. However, I sometimes think that the experience of the department is partially formed by a desire to guard the Secretary of State against embarrassment and also to ensure that relations with the local authorities are as cosy as the department always hopes them to be. I find some of that thinking in what the noble Earl said.

I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, was right when she said that political issues should not play a very large part in primary school education. We want the three Rs taught in our primary schools. However, always accepting that there are bound to be occasions when political questions must raise themselves in our primary schools, I should like to draw the noble Earl's attention to that one word which is crucial in this amendment: "partisan". It is no more difficult to define "partisan" in the courts than it is to define "responsible" in the courts. If I understood the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, correctly, he thought that it was probably much easier to define "partisan" than to define "responsible".

Lord Denning

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right.

Lord Annan

My Lords, in that case, greatly reassured by the noble and learned Lord's response, I hope that we shall move this amendment. Therefore I shall not take any further time except to say that I would vote for the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, for two reasons. First, this is now a matter which goes across parties, and I hope that the support of the Alliance Parties can be assumed from that amendment. The second reason for voting for that amendment is that again it puts this balanced presentation as an ideal, which I hope your Lordships' House will accept, and which again does not conic into question when we consider, as anyone who was taught knows, how to make a balanced presentation.

It is very easy to speak from these Benches in the sense that we have no Whip; we have no difficulties of party allegiance. However, I have spoken and put my name to these amendments because I have been assured that there are others on the Cross-Benches who feel, as I do, that this is a matter of principle which ought to be decided this evening.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in support of these amendments. I know that other noble Lords would have voiced their support but have foreborn to do so because of pressures of time. I must also thank my noble friend the Minister for his kind opening remarks to me personally, but I regret that I have not found his arguments or his criticisms convincing. Nor do I find the Government's alternative amendment convincing. Therefore, I must ask that I may test the opinion of the House.

7.48 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 50) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 117; Not-Contents, 87.

Alexander of Potterhill, L. Digby, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Donegall, M.
Annan, L. Donoughue, L.
Ashbourne, L. Dulverton, L.
Astor, V. Dundee, E.
Attlee, E. Eden of Winton, L.
Bauer, L. Ellenborough, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Fortescue, E.
Beloff, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Blake, L. Gainford, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Gainsborough, E.
Bridgeman, V. Gisborough, L.
Broxbourne, L. Glanusk, L.
Buckmaster, V. Grantchester, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Gray, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Greenhill of Harrow, L.
Chelwood, L. Gridley, L.
Chorley, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Coleraine, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Combermere, V. Harris of High Cross, L
Cork and Orrery, E. Harvington, L.
Cox, B. [Teller.] Hastings, L.
Craigavon, V. Hayter, L.
Craigmyle, L. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Croft, L. Hives, L.
Cromartie, E. Hood, V.
Cross, V. Hunter of Newington, L.
De La Warr, E. Hylton-Foster, B.
Denning, L. Ingleby, V.
Inglewood, L. Raglan, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Reigate, L.
Kitchener, E. Renton, L.
Lauderdale, E. Ridley, V.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Rochdale, V.
Loch, L. Rodney, L.
MacLehose of Beoch, L. St. Davids, V.
Macleod of Borve, B. Salisbury, M.
Malmesbury, E. Sandford, L.
Mancroft, L. Shannon, E.
Marley, L. Sherfield, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Soames, L.
Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Stedman, B.
Mersey, V. [Teller.] Stodart of Leaston, L.
Middleton, L. Strabolgi, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Swinfen, L.
Monson, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Mottistone, L. Thurlow, L.
Moyne, L. Tranmire, L.
Munster, E. Tryon, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Onslow, E. Vickers, B.
Orr-Ewing, L. Vinson, L.
Pender, L. Waldegrave, E.
Plummer of St Marylebone, L. Wellington, D.
Winterbottom, L.
Porritt, L. Wynford, L.
Portland, D.
Airedale, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Ardwick, L. McFadzean, L.
Arran, E. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Belstead, L. McNair, L.
Birk, B. Margadale, L.
Blease, L. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Merrivale, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mishcon, L.
Butterworth, L. Mulley, L.
Caithness, E. Nicol, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Parry, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Prys-Davies, L.
David, B. Radnor, E.
Davidson, V. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Denington, B. Rochester, L.
Elton, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Seear, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Serota, B.
Gallacher, L. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
Galpern, L. Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Glenamara, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Glenarthur, L. Strauss, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Swinton, E.
Gray of Contin, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Gregson, L. Teynham, L.
Grey, E. Tordoff, L.
Haig, E. Trefgarne, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Trumpington, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Underhill, L.
Holderness, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hooper, B. Westbury, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Whaddon, L.
Jeger, B. White, B.
John-Mackie, L. Whitelaw, V.
Kagan, L. Willis, L.
Kimball, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Kirkhill, L. Winstanley, L.
Long, V. [Teller.] Young, B.
Longford, E. Young of Graffham, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

7.56 p.m.

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 20, line 39, at end insert— ("( ) It shall be the duty of every local education authority, governing body and head teacher to forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in any of their schools.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, this might be a convenient time to have a little sustenance. Most of mine will be liquid. I suggest that we return to this Bill at 9 o'clock. I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

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