HL Deb 20 May 1986 vol 475 cc215-82

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Lord Pitt moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 21, line 4, at end insert— (" (4) The statement referred to in subsection (1) above should include a declaration of a commitment to the principles of "Education for All", to the development of a pluralist approach to the curriculum and to countering the influence of racism.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment which stands in my name on the Marshalled List. I hope that your Lordships will note that the wording of the amendment is identical with the wording in the Swann Report, because what I am asking the House to do is to insert into this Bill the request that has been made by the Swann Committee that there be a commitment on behalf of local authorities to do the things mentioned in the amendment. It is important that the House should respect the recommendations of the Swann Committee. The Swann Committee sat for over two years and wrote a very long and comprehensive report dealing in great detail with the problems that they saw.

The Swann Committee recognised that society had a dual problem, and it is important to recognise that there is a dual problem: first, eradicating the discriminatory attitudes of the white majority, on the one hand, and, on the other, evolving an education system which ensures that all pupils achieve their full potential. It recognised further that, while the responsibility for the first lies in the short term with the law, the Government, housing authorities, employers, unions, the Commission for Racial Equality and many others, in the long run it is a matter for the schools to bring about the much needed change in attitudes among coming generations. This is crucial.

As for the second problem—that is, evolving an education system which ensures that all pupils achieve their full potential—this is specifically a job for the education system. The report said further that while a start has been made in recent years, there is still a long way to go before schools bring out the full potential of all their pupils, particularly their ethnic minority pupils. That is a fact.

I believe that, in order to do that, certain things need to be done. It requires the development of a meaningful education curriculum which involves and relates to the ethnic minority child and tackles the issue of racism in curriculum practice and curriculum material—that is, in the books you read, the pictures you see and the things that are presented to you. The curriculum resources which give due recognition to ethnic and racial differences should be positively reinforced in all aspects of educational activities. It is of no use pretending that there are no differences. What you have to accept to make this positive is that activities should promote the development of positive images of all the children in the classroom so that children can have their own self image positively reinforced by the recognition of others within their group.

All these things are necessary; and, in addition to that, you need the largest possible number of teachers from ethnic minority groups in order to provide the children from ethnic minority groups with authority figures with whom they can identify. They need that. But teachers from ethnic minority groups should not be confined to schools with a high percentage of ethnic minority pupils. They should also be in the so-called all-white schools and, àpropos of that, I have decided to read to your Lordships, if I may, the section in the report dealing with curriculum content as it relates to the all-white schools. I will read it in its entirety so that your Lordships who may or may not have read it will get the point. The report says: Almost without exception the schools visited saw the concept of multicultural education as remote and irrelevant to their own needs and responsibilities, taking the view that such an approach was needed only where there were substantial numbers of ethnic minority pupils. The concept of being part of a multiracial society appeared to have impinged little on the consciousness of the schools, which were in many respects inward looking and concerned primarily with immediate local issues. Whilst there was a greater awareness of the multiracial dimension in the schools which were close to areas of ethnic minority settlement or where there were ethnic minority pupils, little consideration had been given to the need to amend their work to take account of cultural diversity. Indeed, such needs were often seen as being too controversial and too inflammatory to contemplate. However, there were indications from several of the schools that teachers would welcome and respond to a positive lead with appropriate definition and guidance from the DES and LEAs about education for life in a multicultural society. It seemed that an emphasis on providing good education rather then concepts like multiracial or multicultural, which had little immediate reality in such areas, would be most likely to have an impact".

This is what the report said, and the Swann Committee decided they would deal with it and the other problem by what they call "the concept of education for all". They said further that this concept of education for all is, an attempt simultaneously to change attitudes amongst the White Majority and to develop a pattern of education that enables all pupils to give of their best. They went on to make certain specific recommendations. They said, The essential steps on the argument for our concept of Education for All' are … The fundamental change that is necessary is the recognition that the problem facing the education system is not how to educate children of ethnic minorities, but how to educate all children; that, Britain is a multi-racial and multi-cultural society and all pupils must be enabled to uderstand what this means; that, This challenge cannot be left to the separate and independent initiatives of LEAs and schools: only those with experience of substantial numbers of ethnic minority pupils have attempted to tackle it, though the issue affects all schools and all pupils. They went on further to say that education has to be something more than the reinforcement of the beliefs, values and entity which each child brings to the school. It is necessary to combat racism, to attack inherited myths and stereotypes and the ways in which they are embodied in institutional practices. Multi-cultural understanding has also to permeate all aspects of a school's work. It is not a separate topic that can be welded on to existing practices.

That is very important. Only in this way can schools begin to offer anything approaching the equality of opportunity for all pupils, which must be the aspiration of the education system which it provides. The committee went on—and this is where we come to my amendment—in A Strategy of Change: The response of schools, both 'multi-racial' and 'all white', to cultural diversity has to be seen as a central feature of the current debate on the balance and breadth of the school curriculum. The Secretary of State should focus on this issue when considering responses to DES Circular 8/83 and in any further statements that he may make and any agreements that he may seek about the curriculum".

They went on to say what I have got in my amendment: that all LEAs should declare their commitment to the principles of Education for All, to the development of a pluralist approach to the curriculum and to countering the influence of racism.

I take it that this statement which local education authorities are expected to produce under subsection (1) is an appropriate place for this declaration. That is why I move this amendment. I hope the Government will agree with me. I can see no reason at all why they would disagree, they having accepted the Swann Report. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, for having called our attention to something which must be in the forefront of any government's consideration of the educational problem; namely, the importance of recognising that one of the clear dangers in our schools is the evidence, which is unfortunately growing, of degrees of racial prejudice which tend to make education more difficult for both those who are the victims of prejudice and those who express it. Nevertheless, I would find myself unable to support this amendment in the way it is phrased, because I find it very hard to see that the Swann Report tackles all the issues which are raised by this serious question.

There seem to me to be in it a certain number of intellectual flaws, of presuppositions, insufficiently examined. I find, for instance, even in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, a confusion between what is a physical and an objective fact which one can observe anywhere—namely, that this is, and will remain, a multi-racial society—and the much more obscure sense in which we must regard it as a multicultural society, because that has quite different connotations in many parts of the world.

If I may be personal—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, will not mind me being personal, because he knows that I am friendly towards his basic objective—when he as a practitioner of medicine receives patients in his surgery, the fact that he is, or may be, of a different race from most of them, or some of them, is self-evident. But I doubt whether in the practice of medicine he is in a different cultural world from any of his medical colleagues who may be of a different, white or other, race. In other words, in medicine we are part of a single culture. There is no multiculturalism in medicine, nor indeed in the natural sciences.

So it comes to the question of whether in our curriculum we make allowances, and if so what allowances, for differences in religion—and with this, of course, we have been concerned in this country for a long time; we have our solutions, perhaps imperfect to religious differences—for linguistic differences in people's own families, in their home backgrounds, and how we treat the problems that arise from this.

The fear I have is that if we accent too much the multicultural aspect, if we say it is important that everyone should recognise that Urdu or Sanskrit are as good as Russian or German, and that equal place should be allowed in the curriculum for the languages of the ethnic minorities, we may be satisfying our own moral sense of being even-handed and judicious, but we may be sacrificing the best interests of the children concerned.

It seems to me that if we think of these children growing up into an adult world, demanding and hoping for respect from their fellow citizens, what is most likely to give it to them is the capacity to manage and get along in a highly technical, highly advanced, society. Anything which diminishes their chances of this kind of promotion, through occupations or through the professions—for instance, by diminishing the importance attached to their learning the language of the majority, which is the language in which they will have to work—might be regarded as a handicap and I do not myself believe that the Swann Committee adequately faced that fact.

It can be argued either way. I can see people conscientiously arguing the way the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, did, but I think that this may be a short-sighted view, because we do not wish to develop what has been in other parts of the world a characteristic of multicultural societies; that is to say, what the anthropologists or political scientists call plural societies in which the various groups live to and for themselves. I have in mind much of South-East Asia, Malaysia and many countries where there are sufficient members of a single racial group for them to supply all that society's needs and where, in the words of the anthropologists, they neither inter-marry nor inter-dine with their fellow citizens. I would regard this on the whole as a development to be eschewed, because the political stability of plural societies has been weakened.

Therefore I think it is important certainly to recognise the existence of this problem, to consider the ways in which our education system can help towards eliminating prejudice—this may call for some attention to curriculum—but to remember that the children entrusted to the care of education authorities are children who above all others need the skills and the pathways to advancement which alone are capable in the long run of giving them the kind of recognition in society which the skill in medicine of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has given to him.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I had expected it only to be necessary for me to stand up and support my noble friend with my small experience of living in perhaps one of the most multiracial boroughs in London, having had the pleasure of all my children being at primary and comprehensive schools in that borough where there were significant numbers of pupils from other countries and having felt in my own family and in the friends of my children the pleasure of the immense cultural and intellectual vitality which was given by the mixture of their friends and associates and my own friends and associates. I had thought that my personal testimony on that score would be the most that I could contribute to the support of my noble friend's amendment, which I clearly and openly support.

However, I find myself in a puzzling position in having to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff—not that I in any way doubt his friendship to the cause that my noble friend espouses. I am puzzled that he should seek to erect this intellectual barrier to what is proposed in the Swann Report and what has been welcomed in, for example, the response of the Commission for Racial Equality to the Swann Report.

I did not think my noble friend was suggesting—nor do I think Swann was suggesting—that the basic disciplines of our curriculum should be taught in languages other than the English language. I do not think he was even suggesting that a major part of the curriculum should be devoted to the study of other languages; though when you come to it the wealth of literature available in Greek, for example, is at least equivalent to that available in other languages more commonly and traditionally studied in our schools. I should have thought that the interest of the pupils themselves, from wherever they come, whatever their national or racial background, would see to it that the noble Lord's objectives had no difficulty in achievement; that pupils from Greece, Ghana, Tobago or wherever it may be who want to go into medicine, the law or whatever discipline they choose will take adequate and effective steps to see that they are not disadvantaged by the curriculum they are taught.

There is no danger of our becoming a society of the kind which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, seems to fear where there is a real disadvantage to pupils under those circumstances. What can and should happen, and what I understood the Swann Report to be saying, is that we should rejoice in and take advantage of the addition to the cultural range available to our schools; that we should rejoice in the fact that we can open our eyes to other cultures and to the way in which people live in other countries, from the examples of those living in our midst who come from those other countries and other cultures. I cannot for the life of me understand why that side of it should cause concern in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, or any other noble Lord.

I may have misread the small part of the heavy Swann Report that I can claim to have studied. I may be misinterpreting that report altogether, though from the speech of my noble friend I think not. Surely the requirement that my noble friend proposes—that there should be a commitment to the principles of that report made objectively by all education authorities, so that as time goes on that statement can be tested against reality, and so that the objective not so much referred to of combating racism in our schools can be achieved—follows from the conclusion of the report.

It falls naturally into the way in which our schools will wish to operate. It could cause no difficulty to the Government, and it happens to be framed in a way that, so far as I can see, gives rise to none of the procedural difficulties that there has been in preceding amendments. I should have thought, and I hope, that my noble friend's amendment will commend itself to the Government on that basis.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, having spoken several times in your Lordships' House about the ethnic minorities in Britain and about their problems, it gives me great pleasure to support the noble Lord, Lord Pitt. There are pockets of racialism in this country. I am in touch with a number of people from the ethnic minorities, and one has to bear in mind how extraordinarily sensitive they are. A slight word that might not offend anyone in your Lordships' House may be interpreted as being a deep offence to them. We need something on the statute book to counter that situation.

On the other hand, I must say that in London, for example, ILEA has taken remarkable steps towards promoting integration. There are in our London schools no fewer than 161 different languages spoken. When I raised this matter in a debate that I initiated in your Lordships' House two-and-a-half years ago the figure was 146. It is now 161.

It is so encouraging to see schools with mixed nationalities. I see them because I do a voluntary job in Kensington, and I see schoolchildren streaming into the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. There may be a group of 30 or 40 children comprised of perhaps 15 or 20 different nationalities. Much has been done, and I hope that the example of London will be imitated elsewhere. Nevertheless, and as I said initially, there are serious points of racialism and of racial discrimintion in this country, and I therefore support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I understand and sympathise with the feeling behind this amendment, and with those who have supported it. However, it is one of a number of amendments that seek to pursue essentially desirable results through what we see as inappropriate means. The Government's commitment to equal opportunities for all pupils regardless of ethnic background, gender or other factors is clear and unequivocal. However, I am sorry to have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, that I doubt very much whether the wording of his amendment is sufficiently precise to be effective.

The arguments against central prescription on curriculum matters have already been rehearsed at some length in relation to other amendments. This Bill is intended to give a sound basis for the development of thinking on the curriculum at a number of levels. Local authorities are obliged to make such policies, governors to establish curricular aims for the school, and head teachers to determine and organise the detailed curriculum and its delivery. We have deliberately not thought to constrain this process, and indeed at an earlier stage your Lordships rejected an amendment which would have obliged local authorities and others to act within central curriculum guidelines. We remain convinced that local policies based on wide consultation at a local level and subject, under the provisions of this Bill, to greatly increased accountability to the community served by the authority and by the individual school offer the best hope of developing the curriculum in the right way.

Of course we must ensure that children are prepared through their education for life in the ethnically diverse society which we find in Britain today. Schools need to consider how the content of the curriculum can best reflect ethnic diversity, how it can be presented without bias or prejudice and how the ethos in schools can promote understanding and respect for different ethnic groups and different cultures, as my noble friend Lord Beloff underlined in his very sincere and interesting contribution.

But legislation cannot guarantee the achievement of this end. It is essentially a matter of changing attitudes and perceptions and of winning hearts and minds. Substantial progress has been made in a number of ways since the publication of the Swann Committee's report Education For All on which the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has based his amendment. The Government accepted the Committee's finding that many ethnic minority pupils were achieving below their potential. They are striving to improve the position through three broad lines of policy and I welcome the opportunity to iterate these.

First, we are determined to reduce underachievement wherever it occurs. Our policies for schools are designed to raise the performance of all pupils. As they take effect, ethnic minority pupils will share in the benefit and share in the contribution. Second, we are determined to give ethnic minority pupils the same opportunities as all others to profit from what the schools can offer them. Third, we want the schools to preserve and transmit our national values in a way which accepts Britain's ethnic diversity and promotes tolerance and racial harmony.

We have taken a number of measures in support of these three lines of policy. For example, the need to take account of the ethnic diversity of our society has been written into criteria for the new GCSE examinations and will be incorporated in the objectives for the relevant subject areas of the school curriculum which we are formulating in co-operation with the education service. The Secondary Examinations Council and the School Curriculum Development Committee have agreed to co-operate with each other on multi-ethnic matters. The SCDC has agreed to ensure that all its projects have due regard to ethnic diversity in schools. Furthermore, the role of teachers is vital in this as in all aspects of school life. New criteria for the approval of initial teacher training courses state that all students should be prepared through their studies to teach the full range of pupils that they are likely to encounter in schools with their diversity of ability, behaviour, social background and ethnic and cultural origins. The aim is that students will learn how to respond flexibly to such diversity and to guard against any preconceptions based on the ethnic origin of pupils.

Training for teachers who are already in post is just as important. Local education authorities can make and are making a valuable contribution through their own in-service programmes and through the work of their advisory staff. Nationally, the Government's in-service teacher training grant scheme is to be extended from next September to include teaching in the curriculum in a multi-ethnic society. The new courses will be aimed at heads and senior teachers with curricular responsibilities in primary and secondary schools. We expect over 600 teachers to take part each year. The Government also fully share the noble Lord's concern that there should be more ethnic minority teachers. A consultation document was issued on the subject last summer and the Government will be considering how to proceed in the light of the comments on it.

As those and other measures take effect, so the noble Lord's objective in putting forward the amendment should be achieved. I hope that he will feel that all that amounts to a sufficiently positive lead to counteract a situation which we all deplore but a solution to which will take time and patience to achieve. I hope therefore that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we on these Benches very much regret that the Government do not see their way to accept the amendment. As the noble I.ord, Lord McIntosh, said, it is extremely difficult to see what harm it could do and it cannot but he advantageous to have this on the face of the Bill. The noble Baroness said that the Government have many extremely good ideas and recommendations as to what should be done. But over the past 20 years we have all been anxious to see improvements in race relations. It is difficult to believe that the position is getting better in our schools as a result of this. Something much more definite needs to be done.

Any of us who are at all aware of what is happening know that a great many members of ethnic minorities are failing to take advantage of the opportunities that there are at school. They feel alienated. A positive commitment in the Bill to deal with these matters, as is suggested, ought surely to be good. We greatly regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, with the leave of the House, although I understand very well the remarks of the noble Baroness, I wish to point out that many of the initiatives to which I referred are of fairly recent date and certainly stem from the Swann Committee report. We feel that it will need time and patience to achieve the desired results.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, I am very sad. Having been involved in community relations in this country for a long time, I am always saddended by the way that people say, "We have a problem. It will take time to solve. It requires careful action and a certain change of attitude", but the moment that one suggests anything that leads in that direction they say that there is a flaw in it and therefore it cannot be adopted.

Of course this one report is not perfect, but it gives us a programme to educate all the children of this country towards accepting that we live in a multiracial society. It is an attempt to break down barriers and thus allow the whole of society to advance together. Listening to the Minister one gained the impression that the Government did not recognise that there were two sides to the problem. There is the problem of dealing with the attitudes and prejudices of the majority of the community and at the same time helping the ethnic minorities to achieve as they should. A great deal is being attempted to tackle the second problem and everyone is ignoring the first, but the first is as important as the second. The virtue of this committee report is that it attempts to tackle both.

I shall tell the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, a story which I hope will illustrate my point. Before I started my practice in Euston I was an assistant in Chiswick to a Dr. Stout from Barbados. One day he came to the surgery and told me a story. He said that he had been visiting a patient in a block of flats and there were two kids playing in the courtyard. One said to the other, "There goes a black man", and the other one said, "Don't be a fool! That's no black man. That's the doctor". I hope that the noble Lord understands the point I am making. Of course the doctor was accepted. It was not a case of accepting black people. He was not a black man; he was the doctor.

We need to educate society into also accepting the bus driver, the bus conductor and the roadsweeper. It is no use saying that we want everyone to become a doctor, as if the education that ethnic minority children are receiving is in some ways flawed and will not enable them to obtain the qualifications to become doctors.

I shall read another paragraph of the Swann Report which will answer the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. It says: We believe that essential to equality of opportunity to academic success and, more broadly, to participation on equal terms as a full member of society, is a good command of English and that first priority in language learning by all pupils must therefore be given to the learning of English. I wish that the Government would give the matter the serious attention that it requires. The Government say, and it is perhaps their only valid argument, that they do not want central prescription. I say that the clause provides for a limited central prescription because the Government are asking local authorities to prepare a statement. All that the amendment suggests is that the statement should include a commitment. I admit that that is a limited central prescription. As the Government are demanding a statement from local authorities, I cannot see what is so wrong in asking them to include a point that the Government say they would like included. Therefore I cannot see that I have any choice other than to test the will of the House.

I hope that your Lordships, regardless of which side of the House you sit, will recognise that in voting for the amendment you are inviting local authorities to make a statement committing themselves to educate the children of this country so that we can all live in the type of society in which we should wish to live. I ask the House to indicate its opinion on this amendment.

9.43 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 52) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 45; Not-Contents, 73.

Airedale, L. Mayhew, L.
Birk, B. Mulley, L.
Blease, L. Parry, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L. [Teller.]
Buckmaster, V.
Combermere, V. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
David, B. Seear, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Serota, B.
Falkland, V. Shackleton, L.
Gallacher, L. Sheffield, Bp.
Gregson, L. Stedman, B.
Grey, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hacking, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Strauss, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Kagan, L. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Kilmarnock, L. Underbill, L.
London, Bp. White, B.
Longford, E. Willis, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
McNair, L. Winstanley, L.
Mar, C. Ypres, E.
Alexander of Potterhill, L. Hooper, B.
Bathurst, E. Inglewood, L.
Bauer, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Beloff, L. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Belstead, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mersey, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Butterworth, L. Mottistone, L.
Caithness, E. Mountgarret, V.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Moyne, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Coleraine, L. Pender, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Cox, B.
Craigavon, V. Porritt, L.
Craigmyle, L. Radnor, E.
Croft, L. Renton, L.
Cross, V. Rodney, L.
Davidson, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Denning, L. St. Davids, V.
Digby, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Donegall, M. Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Eden of Winton, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Elton, L. Swinfen, L.
Fortescue, E. Swinton, E.
Gainford, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Gisborough, L. Tranmire, L.
Grantchester, L. Trefgarne, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Trumpington, B.
Haig, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Harris of High Cross, L. Waldegrave, E.
Harvington, L. Whitelaw, V.
Hives, L. Wynford, L.
Hood, V. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.50 p.m.

Viscount Buckmaster moved Amendment No. 53:

After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause:

("Sex education in schools.

Such sex education as is given in schools shall have due regard to moral considerations and the promotion of stable family life.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a difficult and delicate subject to raise but I submit to your Lordships that it is of immense importance. Not long ago your Lordships demonstrated by a substantial majority your determination to stifle harmful political influences in schools. I would submit that it is equally important—indeed, probably more important—to curb harmful moral influences.

The amendment which I have tabled is on the same lines as that which I tabled at the Committee stage. But I have removed from it everything which I felt might be in any way objectionable on the basis of the reply which I received from the noble Baroness the Minister. I think that your Lordships will agree, looking at this amendment, that there is nothing to which anyone can possibly object. I am emphasising the importance of the moral aspect in sex education. This is the fourth time that I have raised this subject and on two occasions I have been told by the Government Front Bench that their guidelines to schools are that sex education should be within a general moral framework. Indeed that instruction is embodied in the White Paper, Better Schools.

As for the promotion of a stable family life, what could be more important than that, with one marriage in three ending in divorce? I have heard that the promotion of stable family relations is to be one of the principal planks in the Conservative Party's electoral policy.

Why is this amendment necessary? It is necessary because, despite these admirable guidelines which the Government have issued, as I tried to indicate when moving my Amendment No. 49B, there is in the country a great deal of sex education which is amoral, if not downright immoral. I want to be quite clear here. It is not taking place in every education authority or in every school. But it is apparent in certain areas.

There are certain themes which appear to be running through much of this education, and particularly in London. These are that homosexual relations are just as acceptable as heterosexual relations; that there is nothing basically wrong with under-age sex provided one takes the appropriate precaution; and that incest can on occasions be regarded as a loving relationship.

At the Committee stage I quoted extensively from leaflets and booklets on the above lines, and from letters from parents complaining about this. I shall not weary your Lordships with all this again. But I must refer to one horrible pamphlet to which reference was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, when she was speaking on 7th May in the admirable debate initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. This pamphlet, which was reported in the Sun, had a full front page of two homosexual men naked in bed with the daughter of one of them between them. Can there be anything more repulsive than that? Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that this was in a booklet issued by an authority in north London, a booklet designed for use by six- to eight-year-olds.

The point I want to make here is not that many parents and teachers complained, but that one of the officials responsible for this booklet said quite clearly, according to the report in the Sun, that he saw nothing harmful in it.

Parents are also objecting—and I think rightly—about the detailed studies of contraception and sexually-transmitted diseases which are incorporated in the latest biology syllabus for the GCSE exam. What possible justification can there be for including such subjects in a biology syllabus? I am sure that many children—and I have heard this from parents—find it deeply disturbing to have these delicate matters rammed down their throats with no moral guidance at all.

A point which I think is of great importance is: how widespread are these harmful influences? I have received a number of letters which have supported me, and when I was speaking on 7th May I made allegations about the general moral standards and so on in schools. A teacher who has been associated with London schools for all her teaching life said that I was in no way exaggerating and that in fact I had not presented the full picture. On the other hand, other letters have indicated that the picture I presented was rather out of focus.

It appears to me—and I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, will support me—that there are many harmful moral influences circulating in our London schools and perhaps in certain other cities. Manchester may be one and, possibly, Birmingham, but probably not Liverpool. However, I think that this problem is confined to the inner cities. In conversation with friends I was told that there is nothing like this in Wales; it appears that there is nothing like this in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where religious education is much more widespread and much more strictly enforced than it is in England. I think that there is a very important point here and I have heard it from various teachers and indeed pupils. It is that in the Church schools there are far fewer teenage problems—teenage abortions, teenage rapings, and so on.

The point I want to make before I conclude—and it is a vital point—is as follows. The noble Baroness the Minister told me, when I moved my Amendment No. 49B at the Committee stage, that the existing arrangements for countering these harmful sexual influences were adequate. I cannot accept that. Only today I received three letters from parents who were all most distraught because they had tried to impress on headteachers and governing bodies the fact that they considered this education harmful and they wished to withdraw their children from it. However, they received no response at all. Indeed, in one letter which I received a headmaster was described as being totally unsympathetic. In another letter a parent governor was described as being extremely hostile. Therefore, with great respect to the noble Baroness, the system of consultation between parents and governors, headteachers and so on, does not appear to be working. Therefore, I feel it extremely important that there should be something on the statute book to enforce what this amendment lays down.

I can see nothing in any way difficult about this amendment. Not long ago the Prime Minister said that there are still dragons to slay, and indeed there are. Is it not possible that one of the most powerful dragons that we have to slay is the dragon that we have been considering in the last series of amendments and in this amendment, too? It is perhaps a two-headed dragon, with a political head and a moral head. Therefore, I would invite the noble Baroness the Minister who is to reply—I know that she is basically sympathetic to my view—to take up her silver sword and make the first cut at this dragon by approving my amendment. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Denning

May I say a word in favour of this amendment? There is nothing more important in our society today than those few words, the promotion of stable family life". In our time the institution of marriage has lost its old supports. Divorce is readily obtainable on paper. It is no stigma at all for there to be a divorce nowadays. Illegitimacy is no longer a stigma. There is no reproach over any illegitimate child. Indeed, all the Victorian supports have gone altogether.

I was president of the National Marriage Guidance Council for many years. As a result of that experience I can see that it is no good attempting reconciliation once a marriage is broken down. The most important thing of all is education of the youngsters for marriage beforehand, so that they know what to look forward to in the future. That is why the proper education of our young people in sex matters, and in the social and moral considerations, should be done most carefully and well in all our schools. I should have thought it would be unnecessary to have a statute about it, but my noble friend Lord Buckmaster has just told us with illustration after illustration how in schools the most improper considerations are being given with no proper emphasis on moral considerations or stable family life.

It may be said—and I can see the argument—"You do not need this in a statute. We can give proper guidance to everybody like that". But if you put it in a statute, you have strong support. Supposing this were passed and you were brought before a court, and my noble friend Lord Buckmaster's illustrations were given, and it was said, "Look what this book is doing which is being produced to the youngsters". I am sure that the court would say, "Well, I can now look at the statute. I can, when there is a statute on the matter, order a mandamus. I can order the governors of that school and the teacher to have due regard to moral considerations and the promotion of stable family life."

There is value in a statute because the courts and the judges can do their best. They cannot punish, or anything of that kind, but they can do their best to support the proper principles laid down in this amendment, and therefore I would support it.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment very strongly.

Stability in family life is one of the foundations of the state. Perhaps your Lordships will remember—I was hardly horn then—that during the Bolshevik Revolution you could go into a post office and pay two or three roubles, be married on Monday and go in again on Wednesday, pay another two or three roubles and be divorced. I have made a study of the Soviet Union because it has always interested me. What happened was that the whole country in a few years was overrun with thousands of homeless children and of course the government had to reverse that decision.

I even believe that one of the reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire (though it took a long time) was the collapse of family life. I have often wondered whether schools are the right places for people to explain to children about sex. It always used to be the families who did that. I would not know about that, but it is the schools that apparently do it now.

I should like to support the amendment of the noble Viscount very strongly because today the young people marry and are divorced in three or four years and it is disastrous: it is very bad for a civilised state.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, when I first read the amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, of course it gained my wholehearted support for what it said. I must confess that I then had certain reservations raised in my mind. I found myself asking the question: is statutory legislation really the right place for what at first sight appear to be statements of general principle? Should not legislation be confined to more precise indications of what can or cannot be done?

But then I put all these purist scruples behind me and I said, "No, the need is so great in this country at the moment that a statement of this kind is absolutely necessary." But more than that, when I looked at it carefully it was not simply a general statement of principle or a moral exhortation; it is actually a requirement that sex education should be given in a particular context. That, I believe, is a very right and proper thing to be included in statutory legislation and I was very glad indeed to hear the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in what he said about the appropriateness of the statute for this kind of provision.

I say it is urgently necessary for one main reason. It is, I believe, quite essential, whatever one's particular creed, that there should be a positive affirmation of the truth that the sexual element in human life must not be treated simply as a physical matter. That, I believe, is quite untrue to human nature. It does not accord with the way we are, what we are as people, as human beings. It must be exercised in relation to and by our whole personality, and taking account of the personalities of others. Therefore it cannot be treated simply as part of biological instruction or as a way in which one can obtain the greatest pleasure for oneself.

For that reason, it must be set in a moral context. For that reason, I believe that it must also be in a context which promotes stable family life. Again, that accords with what we are as human beings. It is no accident that the human young need longer to mature, grow up and be supported than any other young living creature. For that stable family life is essential. I believe that for those two reasons it is right for us to consider this amendment which links sex education to these vital considerations.

I appreciate what the noble Baroness the Minister has said against prescription. But this would not be simply a statement of a general principle; nor an unnecessarily detailed prescription. It would be a statement by the Government that sex education should be given in this context. It would make the context clear. I hope that we shall have the courage to affirm this absolutely vital truth not only for our society in general terms but for the people of this country, because I believe that for sex education to be given in this way is the best possible way in which children can be helped to grow and live as full human beings.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I think that tonight's vote on political issues being taught in schools has shown that there is concern by many parents about what is being taught. I believe that there are more parents worried about some of the permissive literature dealing with sex education which is going around some schools than there are about political issues. Is it not time that central government brought out some acceptable literature with moral balance rather than leave it to individual local education authorities? This wish is now coming from all sides of the House on different issues. Are we not striving for better standards of teaching throughout the country? In Britain today one in three families experiences divorce, as has been said by the noble Viscount. Is it not important that the unfortunate children of broken families should realise that a happy married life is something that they themselves could aim for when the time comes for them to have their own families? I support the amendment.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, very briefly, I support this amendment on two grounds—those of moral education and health education. On moral education, there is widespread concern about the recent developments in the teaching of sex education, particularly under the rubric of so called anti-sexism. Too often this is used to attack the concepts of traditional family life and of heterosexuality. The recent edition of Teaching London Kids, which is written by teachers in London schools, specifically advocates the promotion of gay issues in the school curriculum. One teacher claims that she tries to use her opportunities as a teacher to undo the damage caused by the conditioning process which makes children regard heterosexuality as the real world. Similar attempts to undermine traditional family life have been quoted by the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster; in particular, that extremely damaging book, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, which describes in detail how a little girl lives with her father and his male homosexual lover over a weekend. That kind of material produced by teachers for teachers and used and recommended by teachers is deeply offensive to many parents.

If, very briefly, I turn from that to health matters I cannot imagine how on earth in this age of AIDS we can be contemplating promoting gay issues in the curriculum. I think that beggars all description.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I rise to support this amendment very strongly. I am glad to think that there is one voice raised from the Back-Benches of the Labour Party. We are strongly represented on the Front Bench and on the ex-ministerial Benches, and I was going to say that I can speak for 100 per cent. of the Back-Benchers here; but I see that I speak now for only 50 per cent. of them.

At any rate I am glad that one voice should be raised because although I support the idea and tradition of family life, I would be horrified if it began to be associated with the Conservative Party from the standpoint of the document that I quoted earlier. This document, which I read out this afternoon, seems to treat family life as a sort of Conservative monopoly, as though there were the only people who were never divorced or who had never got into trouble in other ways. Of course, that is not so. They are at least as fallible as anybody else. From that point of view I am glad that it is possible to speak as a Christian Socialist from these Benches.

I cannot really add anything to what has been said; it has been said so well. Here we are; there has been this sex education. It has been a tremendous development in the lifetime of the older Members present. I had never heard of it before. Something of the kind may have existed in a sort of underground way, but in the last 50 years sex education has become a fashionable industry. What are we to suppose will be the effect of all this sex education? It cannot be neutral, it cannot be nothing; it must have either a good or a bad influence. If it is taught in the way that was denounced by the Lord Bishop of London, on the basis that it is purely a factual matter, treating people as machines or animals, obviously it will do a great deal of harm. No one can doubt that sexual morals in this country have deteriorated in recent years. I cannot put all that down to sex education; but let the Minister give some sort of ringing declaration in favour of genuine sex education, including a moral element. I beg the noble Baroness to accept this amendment.

Baroness Hooper

This amendment concerns an issue about which many people have strong and deeply held feelings, as has been evidenced by the contributions. I believe that many who have supported the amendment are in favour of the intention behind it, as indeed are the Government.

What we have been trying to show is that the whole point of the present Bill before your Lordships is to seek to ensure that the curricular policies of individual schools will be more flexible and more responsive. The new governing bodies with substantial parent representation and accountable to the full parent body should play a major role in ensuring that schools adopt a sensitive and commonsense approach to controversial issues such as sex education. Nevertheless, in view of the feeling expressed in the House this evening I shall undertake to take back this particular issue and reconsider it before the next stage of the Bill.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for that constructive remark and I greatly look forward to seeing the amendment which will doubtless appear at the Third Reading of the Bill. I therefore beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 54: Page 21, line 12, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 54 and to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 55 and 56. These are the first of a number of amendments to Clause 17, because concern was expressed in the Committee that its provisions were unclear and that local authorities would he unable to exercise their general co-ordinating role if school governors could disregard their LEAs' general policies.

We have already explained why it would not be appropriate to give local authorities ultimate power to control the curriculum, but we are concerned that the role of school governors should be seen not as establishing their own curricular policies but as forming their own aims for the schools in the light of the authority's policy and only then considering if these aims require some modification—and I stress that word—of the authority's policy. This does not mean complete freedom for the governors. An authority's curriculum policy cannot be changed out of all recognition by modification. Governors might be able to take a different view on a number of topics and so extend or amend the policy offered, but they cannot demolish that policy and erect one of their own.

The effect of Amendments Nos. 54 and 55 is to change the order of presentation of two of the three matters which the governors are obliged to consider in determining their curricular statement. They must first consider the local authority's curriculum policy, but our amendment provides that the governors shall then consider the aims of the secular curriculum for the school and, lastly, how far, if at all, the aims they have established would require the authority's curriculum policy to be modified in relation to the school.

This makes it clearer than the present wording that we do not intend governing bodies to consider in the abstract the full range of an authority's curriculum policies and reach their own conclusion. What is intended is that governing bodies should establish, against the background of the authority's published policy, a set of curricular aims for their school. Only where these specific aims cannot be readily reconciled with the authority's policy need governors take a view as to whether that policy should be modified in relation to their own school.

Amendment No. 56 requires that the governors' curricular statement should cover their conclusions as to the aims of the secular curriculum and any changes they propose to the authority's policy as it relates to their school. This, again, is a point of clarification. The present draft refers only to the statement of aims. I hope that these amendments will help to make the clause more readily understood. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to .

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 21, line 15, at end insert ("and (cc) how (if at all) the authority's policy should in their opinion be modified in relation to the school;

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 56: Page 21, line 17, leave out from ("conclusions") to end of line 18.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Airedale)

My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 57, I have to point out that there is a printing error. In the second line of paragraph (ii) the word "which" should be inserted after the word "and".

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 57:

Page 21, line 22, at end insert—

("and to have regard—

  1. (i) to any representations which are made to them, with regard to any of those matters, by any persons connected with the community served by the school; and
  2. (ii) to any such representations which are made to them by the chief officer of police and which are connected with his responsibilities;

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we had a full debate in Committee on the importance of fostering a good relationship between local police forces and schools. This was another area in which, while we had much sympathy with the motive behind the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, we could not agree to its specific provisions. I am conscious, too, that even now there are other amendments tabled which seek to deal with this point.

I should like first to set the concerns expressed in the earlier debate in a wider context. If schools are to become the responsive local institutions which we all wish them to be, and to which end we are making the fundamental changes in school government in this Bill, then they must be receptive to representations from the community they serve. We are building this receptiveness into the structure of governing bodies by increasing the number of parent members, and adding a category of co-opted members who will be able to reflect other local interests. The public availability of annual reports from school governors, and their debate in the annual parents' meeting, are similarly intended to increase the opportunity for dialogue between the school and the community it serves. However, we have been convinced by the arguments which have been put to us that we should do more.

The present amendment, together with Amendment No. 60, which places a similar duty on head teachers, and Amendment No. 78, which requires the governors' annual reports on schools to mention links with the police, and to which we shall come later on, ensure that interested groups and ndividuals in the area served by the school will be able to make representations to the school governors and the head teacher about the discharge of their curriculum responsibilities, and require school governors to have regard to any relevant representations made to them about the secular curriculum from the local community and from the police.

I do not intend to suggest that governors and head teachers at present systematically ignore representations from the local community; indeed, I am sure that in most cases they welcome them and are happy to discuss points of concern. But the formalisation of this right to be heard, and the recognition in statute that the local community has a right to express its views on what it wants from its schools, is, I think, a valuable step forward.

As regards the police, in the light of the views expressed by noble Lords at Committee stage the Government propose that there should be a specific requirement for the governing body and the head teacher, when carrying out their duties with respect to the curriculum, to have regard to any representations made by the police on matters connected with their responsibilities. Such matters will include crime prevention, road safety and the very important topic of drug abuse. This is a significant step. It represents the first time that the police have been specifically mentioned in any education legislation.

What we have not done is to propose a statutory right of access by police into the classroom or a statutory duty on schools to comply with police views on the curriculum. It is the Government's clear view that the responsibility for what is taught in schools, how it is taught and by whom, must rest with the head teacher. These are matters which require professional teaching expertise; it would be quite inappropriate for this responsibility to be transferred to the police—nor would the police themselves want it.

In the vast majority of schools there is in any case no problem. The willing co-operation with the police which exists at present will continue and develop. I understand that there may be concern that in the tiny minority of schools where this is not so the present amendments do not go far enough—because, for example, it is felt that the school might brush aside the representations of the police without taking any notice of them. I think any such concern is misplaced, for two reasons. First, a statutory duty to "have regard" to representations—a well-established formula in legislation—is a serious matter, which can if necessary be enforced in the courts. It will simply not be open to school authorities just to go through the motions of receiving representations with no intention of properly considering them. Secondly, if a school were determined to be thoroughly irresponsible, a statutory right of access to the classroom would not solve the problem, because the staff at such a school could no doubt find ways of ensuring that the visits were not a success. The police want to be welcomed into schools and a statutory right of access will not achieve this.

It seems to me that the views of the police themselves in this matter are extremely important. The Home Office has consulted closely with the police service about the original amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and about possible alternatives, including the amendments we are now considering. The House will therefore wish to give due weight to the fact that the official spokesman on this subject for the Association of Chief Police Officers and senior officers in the metropolitan police—who are perhaps most conscious of the problems—favour a provision in the terms we now propose. They welcome the fact that the amendment gives statutory recognition to the important police contribution to the educational process while at the same time leaving individual forces free to make such commitments as they consider appropriate in the light of local circumstances.

The report recently published by the Association of Chief Police Officers and Society of Education Officers on Liaison between Police and Schools will help to improve that input, in co-operation with the teaching profession. The Government's amendments to the Bill will provide a framework for progress in the direction of greater co-operation, but to go further, as some noble Lords have suggested, would cut across these present efforts. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, perhaps 1 may first say that I welcome these amendments. As I have already made clear, I think that this represents a substantial improvement of the Bill. It is right to say, as the noble Baroness said a few moments ago, that this is the first time there has been any explicit statutory position for the police in any education legislation. I welcome that, but having said that I welcome it I am bound to say that 10 years ago I should have regarded it as quite inconceivable that we needed to have a debate on this issue in the first place. We have needed it because of the well publicised cases in London and elsewhere where a militant minority of teachers have tried to make the position of the police totally impossible.

As the noble Baroness has indicated, we have all found it very difficult to get this matter right. I accept, of course, what she says about the difficulties involved in the statutory right of entry. That was indeed the form of words I put down on the last occasion, but the reason for my doing so was to ensure that a debate took place at all on the issue. I found on that occasion that the Government's position was entirely unpersuasive, and I think that was the view of the overwhelming majority of Members in all parts of the House.

Since then, the Government have had discussions with the police service, as I have, to try to secure some middle ground that would be effective, and that would not in any way raise substantial difficulties either for the police service or for those involved in education. By and large we have got that right.

This also should be said. First, there is no difficulty in most areas of the country. In the shire counties and elsewhere, there is no problem. The example I gave on the last occasion, from the Thames Valley, indicated the very cordial relationships that exist between the police service and most education authorities, most branches of the National Union of Teachers, and the other teachers' organisations.

However, in London, as we know, the situation in 20 or more schools is very different. What I very much hope will happen is that parents who are deeply disturbed about what has been going on will, as a result of this group of amendments, for the first time have the opportunity of raising these issues at annual meetings of parents. That is the great advantage of this series of amendments. For the first time, parents will have the opportunity of raising these matters, given that they will be doing so in a statutory context.

The second advantage, as the noble Baroness mentioned a few moments ago, is that if there is particularly outrageous behaviour in some schools, then, again for the first time, it will be possible to have that issue heard in court. Again I agree with the noble Baroness, and on those grounds the amendments represent a substantial improvement in the legislation.

It may well be that we shall eventually find that we have to go further still in the future—I would not rule that out at all. I hope very much that we shall not have to do so; I should much prefer to leave, matters as they are. I repeat that in the overwhelming majority of cases throughout the country, there is no significant problem. Relations are cordial, and there is a trusting relationship between the police, headmasters and teachers. In other areas that is not so, and I hope that the amendments will have the effect of ending some of the acute difficulties that have arisen.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I should like to praise the Government for having accepted this amendment. We raised this matter at Committee stage and, over the three months that we have been negotiating with the Government, it is nice that they have been able to find some solution.

Although I personally—not being a lawyer—prefer the rather succinct Amendment No. 65 that was down, I will accept a point about which I was previously uncertain. I am assured by the lawyers that the words "to have regard" have the full force of law behind them. To non-lawyers, the words "to have regard" seem to be an excuse for someone saying, "Yes, we had regard to that matter but we totally rejected it and did what we were going to do anyway". However, having received an assurance from the Front Bench that those words have the full force of law, I should like thoroughly to support the amendment. I hope that we shall be able to pass on to other and more important matters ahead.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 58: Page 21, line 23, leave out ("local education").

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

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 59: Page 21, line 33, leave out ("determining") and insert ("discharging his duties in relation to").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a further minor amendment of clarification to Clause 17. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 21, line 35, leave out from ("consider") to ("and") in line 4 on page 22 and insert—

("the statement of the local education authority under section 16 of this Act and that of the governing body under this section;

(b) to have regard—

  1. (i) to any representations which are made to him, with regard to the determination or organisation of the secular curriculum, by any persons connected with the community served by the school; and
  2. (ii) to any such representations which are made to him by the chief officer of police and which are connected with that officer's responsibilities; and

c) to ensure that that curriculum— (i) 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").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a more substantive amendment that I beg to move. When we were discussing Amendment No. 49 the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said in his closing remarks, I think, that he was looking forward to hearing what the Government might have to say on this particular amendment, and he also drew attention to the point (with which I entirely agree) that of course the curriculum in schools is not only central to the education system but central to this Bill, and many of the matters that we have discussed are not the central subjects of the curriculum, which of course this and other amendments address.

This amendment covers at least two issues relating to the duties of head teachers in respect of the curriculum. Most of the amendment reflects earlier changes to the Bill on which we have already had considerable debate, and I shall not rehearse our previous arguments but focus on the new issues. I should like to divide the amendment into three parts, reflecting the proposed division of Clause 17(4) into three paragraphs.

First of all, there is paragraph (a), which requires the head teacher, in exercising his responsibilities for the curriculum, to consider not the authority's and governors' policies but their statements in respect of the curriculum. As I said in moving earlier amendments, we do not wish to suggest that authorities and governors may offer two alternative policies. All that the governors can do is to modify the authority's policy if it cannot be reconciled with their aims for the school.

Secondly, we come to a new paragraph (b) of Clause 17(4). It focuses this time on the head teacher who must have regard to representations from local groups and individuals, including the police, in carrying out his responsibilities for determining and organising the curriculum. Thirdly, there is paragraph (c) of Clause 17(4), which replaces the old paragraph (b) which was much criticised at an earlier stage of our deliberations, in our discussions in Committee. This paragraph is at the heart of a complex system of checks and balances which characterise the Bill's provisions regarding control over the curriculum.

I think that we are all agreed that authorities, governors and head teachers each have a role to play in curriculum matters, but it is much more difficult to say who should control that curriculum. Is it acceptable to give any one of these partners the final say in all circumstances over what our children should be taught?

The Government have fully considered this question and have concluded that it is not possible to give that final say to one group or individual. Let us consider first the authority and the governors. A local authority could wish to impose on its schools curriculum policies—in respect of peace studies, for example—which some school governors find at variance with their legitimate aims for their school. Equally, governors could, despite the safeguards built into the Bill, take an eccentric view of the curriculum, which could, for example, make the transition of their pupils to other schools in due course very difficult. We should not want either group in such extreme cases to have the final say.

Clauses 16 and 17 inevitably appear complicated when they have to be drafted in legislative terms in order to cover all the eventualities. First, the LEA has its policy. Second, the governors decide what the aims of the curriculum should be for their school and the extent to which, if it all, the LEA's policy should be modified for their school. Third, the responsibility of the head teacher is not to formulate his own policy but to determine, organise and deliver the school's curriculum either in accordance with the LEA's policy or with that policy as modified by the governors. That is his choice under the provisions of this clause. Noble Lords may think that it is unfair to leave such a choice to the head teacher, but he or she has traditionally had considerable scope to determine, organise and secure the delivery of the curriculum, and the clause does no more than recognise this fact.

Why not then give the head teacher in all circumstances the final say? The Bill reflects the Government's view that local authorities and, for the first time in most cases, school governors should have a very clear role to play in establishing curricular policies and aims. In the large majority of cases there will be no incompatibility between the overall policy of the authority and the governors' aims, and in such cases we feel that head teachers should be obliged to reflect both that policy and those aims in the curriculum offered to pupils. The head teacher will of course be given professional freedom to determine the detailed organisation and delivery of the curriculum, and this is expressly provided for in the Bill. But it would not, I think, be right to allow him to establish his own policies in areas where the local authority and governors have reached their own, compatible conclusions.

Perhaps I may now explain how we have changed the provisions of what was Clause 17(4)(b) and is now Clause 17(4)(c) in order to reflect the points that I made earlier. This paragraph no longer refers to two separate policies for the curriculum. We must, for clarity, retain the word "incompatible" to describe how the authority's and governors' statements may differ. But we use the phrase, to the extent that it is incompatible", to give the sense that we are not talking about two statements which are so different that it is impossible to recognise one as a modification of the other. I hope that this sense is conveyed throughout this clause.

We discussed this on an earlier amendment. I tried to set out fully the Government's position. I recognise that this is a clause about which your Lordships have been concerned. It is one which we promised to look at once again, and we bring forward these amendments to clarify the position. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness White)

My Lords, I should point out that there is a printing error in paragraph (b)(ii) of the amendment. The word "which" should be inserted after the word "and". I should also point out that should this amendment be agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 61

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker: Amendment No. 62, the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I wonder whether I may raise a point of procedure before the noble Lord moves his amendment and ask the Leader of the House whether he will consider the terms of Standing Order 36, which are paraphrased in the Companion to the Standing Orders, which says: Amendments proposed during the course of Committee or any other stage must not be inconsistent with a decision already taken at that stage". The House will recall that Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 were agreed to and they forbade the pursuit of partisan political activities in the first case in primary schools and in the second case in any of the schools subject to the local authority. Amendment No. 62 presupposes that there is treatment of political issues in the schools. But the House has already at this stage decided to forbid the pursuit of partisan political activities.

If we are to stand strictly by Standing Order 36 and the Companion to the Standing Orders, an amendment which modifies that should not be allowed to be moved at the same stage of the Bill. I say that without prejudice to the substance of the amendment, with which I have great sympathy. Indeed, I voted for Amendment No. 50 in the realisation that it was itself defective and that the Government would be taking the whole thing back and considering it. I do not honestly think that it makes much difference, except as a point of form, whether we accept this amendment.

I have seen the most appalling muddles; I have seen a Bill with a hole in it, where an amendment has been moved into a Bill and then taken out at the same stage of the Bill. I am happy to say that that was not in this House. But by the same token we do not want to put inconsistent amendments into a Bill at the same stage, and I therefore ask whether the Leader of the House can give guidance as to whether the amendment should be moved.

10.45 p.m.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, tells us that we may be committing some error of which we have all probably been utterly innocent in our belief that we were doing what is best, it is my duty as Leader of your Lordships' House to seek to take account of an important view.

I should like to emphasise that when the discussions on Amendment Nos. 50 and 51 took place it was clear from the vote on Amendment No. 50 and what was said during that debate that there was a strong feeling in the House, stronger indeed than the feelings about Amendments Nos. 50 and 51, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made clear, that Amendments No. 62 had widespread support throughout your Lordships' House. I am not quite sure who its opponents were, but there were some, and I am not absolutely certain whether I was not going to be one of them; but that possibility did not occur.

We were prepared immediately to accept, as I thought right and proper and the will of the House, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie. However, if there is a possibility of conflict, may I suggest that the right course for me to take is to look into the matter personally with the department to ensure that we have it right and to come back to your Lordships after consultations with all those involved, including the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, before Third Reading.

I hope that your Lordships' House will think that I am doing what is best to try to balance, on the one hand, what is clearly the will of the House with the need, on the other hand, to ensure that the legislation which we pass through your Lordships' House and which is of particular importance does not contravene some point which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, thinks that it might. I hope that I am making myself clear and doing something which is in the best interests of the House.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 22, line 7, at end insert— ("and (c) to ensure that in the treatment of political issues in his school, pupils should be given a balanced presentation of opposing views.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment—

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, I thought that what I was suggesting—I hope I was right—was that the amendment should not be moved at this stage on my personal undertaking that I should look into the matter and seek to meet the will of the House and, at the same time, not offend any rule that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, thinks that we might infringe. I must make it absolutely clear that I give an undertaking that I shall be personally responsible to the House to ensure that I shall seek to get this matter right in all the circumstances and express the will of the House on the one hand and not offend the rules on the other.

I hope that the House will trust me until the next stage, and if the House does not like what comes at the next stage, I shall then fully explain the position.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, takes whatever action he thinks fit, I hasten to say I should be the last to question in any way the experience of either the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, or the noble Viscount. If the noble Lord were still the Clerk of the Parliaments, I am sure we should be treating his advice even more formally and with the respect that it deserves, but I should point out to him that the amendments which have been carried refer to partisan political activities and not to political activities in the more general terms in which they are referred to in Amendment No. 62.

Apart from the possibility of a disagreement about the meaning of the words and about whether there would be a conflict, I feel that it would be unfortunate if we were to use a Standing Order to come back to a matter and reintroduce the possibility of conflict at a later stage—which would not be in conflict with Standing Order No. 36, as I understand it—instead of expressing the view of the House, as it stands, on Report. With the deepest respect to both noble Lords, I should have thought that it was entirely appropriate for the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, to continue to move the amendment.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, if that is the wish of the noble Lord and of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, I could not possibly stand in their way. I could not advise my noble friends on the Government Front Bench to resist in any way an amendment which I understood it to be the will of the House to pass.

On the other hand, I have been further advised—this is, I believe, important in the light of the unrivalled experience of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton—that the argument that the noble Lord has put forward is certainly very arguable. If it is arguable, it is my duty to tell your Lordships that this is so. If, therefore, it is arguably wrong, I do not believe that we should put it in the Bill. Your Lordships have it absolutely in your own hands to do so if you so wish. I wonder, however, whether it would not be better to rely upon my guarantee that I will come back at the next stage of the Bill to try to sort this out rather than put it in the Bill and then at a later stage have to say that it was wrong. If I was to go back on my guarantee to your Lordships' House, it would be a serious matter indeed, but I do not believe that your Lordships think that this is likely to happen.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, all of us who know the noble Viscount are aware that if he gives his word he will of course honour it. The noble Viscount has made perfectly clear the position arising from the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. It seems to me that we should accept what the noble Viscount has said. We know that he is a man of his word. We shall come back to the matter on Third Reading. It would be a profound mistake, given the generous words that he has used, not to accept what he has offered.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships for having misunderstood what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House said. We are more than prepared to accept his guarantee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 63:

After Clause 18, insert the following new clause:

("Information for parents.

.—(1) The Secretary of State shall make regulations requiring the governing body of every county, voluntary and maintained special school to make available to parents of registered pupils at the school, in such form and manner and at such times as may be prescribed, such information as to the educational provision made for pupils by the school as may be prescribed.

(2) The regulations may in particular prescribe (as information to be so made available) information as to any syllabus to be followed by any such pupils.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I must thank my noble friends Lord Orr-Ewing and Lady Cox and the noble Lord, Lord Charteris. Their initiative in pressing at an earlier stage for some addition to the Bill to assist parents wishing to obtain more information about their children's education, an initiative which I welcomed in principle in Committee, lies behind the new clause which I now commend to your Lordships.

I said in Committee that the Government would be prepared to consider the use of their current powers to make regulations in this respect. However, we have been persuaded by the arguments advanced in Committee that it would be better to impose a new duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding the information to be made available to parents by the school governors. That is the effect of the new clause. The duty is put on the governing body, which has responsibility for the conduct of the school. The governors would be required to make the arrangements within the school which will ensure that if Mrs. Smith wants to know what her daughter Linda will be studying in the year ahead, she can easily obtain that information.

It is possible to argue that a duty imposed by regulations is not as effective as one imposed by statute. That is a sound argument if the Secretary of State is free to make or not to make the regulations. But the argument has no force if he bears a duty, as here, to make regulations for the purpose specified in the Act. A duty imposed on the governors by or under a regulation has the force of law in the same way as a duty imposed by an Act. It is subject to enforcement by the Secretary of State or the courts in exactly the same way.

It is also possible to argue that a right given to parents by regulations is not as visible to them as a right given in the Act. The Government will meet that point by another amendment to the Bill. I shall be moving in due course an amendment to Clause 24 of this Bill to require governing bodies to include in their annual report, which goes to all parents, a statement of the information to which parents have a right. This will ensure that parents who might not otherwise realise it become aware that they can have access to this information if they want it. Since the governors' report is considered at the parents' annual meeting, parents will have a regular opportunity to consider how the requirements have been met and to make representations if they are dissatisfied.

The principle which underlies the amendment is likely to command general assent within the education service and in the country at large. Since it is right that parents, who are educators just as the schools are, should be constructively involved in the work of the schools, it is also right that they should know what the schools are teaching their children and thus have the essential basis for a meaningful discussion with the school about their child's education and about his or her progress.

What the school is teaching should not remain a professional mystery. Most schools do give some effect to these principles and provide information to parents on demand. But not all do as much of this as one could wish; the arrangements are not systematic; and above all the information does not reach the parent as of right.

If we are going to give the parents a new right to information we need to make sure that it is a useful right in practice and that the information to which they are entitled is actually that which is helpful to particular parents concerned with what their sons and daughters are actually being asked to do at school. The right to information has to be expressed in terms which ensure that it fits all the situations which arise; it has to fit the primary school as well as the secondary school, where teaching is organised very differently; and it has to fit differences in practice between particular primary and particular secondary schools. Regulations are the only legal vehicle which will ensure the necessary detail and flexibility. Regulations are the means of making effective the general duty to provide information which the new clause in effect imposes on governing bodies.

Let me explain the kind of situation which we want to achieve through the regulations which will have to be made by virtue of the new clause. What we have in mind is that parents might be able to request from the class or subject teacher each year—or perhaps even each term—a brief statement of the educational programme to be followed by their child. Such a programme might include a description of the educational aims and objectives for the period, together with some indication of the topics to be covered and the teaching approaches to be adopted.

It is clear that much of the information that parents ought to have can be contained in the syllabus to be followed by their child. The new clause says in effect that the regulations will enable the parents to know about that syllabus where this is appropriate. The concept of a syllabus is not a precise one. It could have a fairly restricted meaning: for example, simply a list of the items of knowledge to be covered. It might not tell the parent what kind of things the child would be doing, how far the work would be practical, for example, or would involve visits outside the school, or which approaches the teacher intended to use. So it is better to make the information requirement extend beyond syllabuses, as the new clause does. I may add here, in discussing syllabuses, that it is in my view a mistake to consider legislating in terms of the syllabuses for the school. We need to think in terms of what is, in effect, the syllabus for each pupil—that is the level of information of value to parents.

Getting the wording of the regulations right to achieve our purpose will not be easy. We want to base the new duty on good practice, and we do not want to create something which looks nice on paper but is bureaucratic, expensive in teacher time and still does not give the individual parent what he or she needs and ought to have. We want something which puts the minimum extra burden on teachers and schools with the maximum benefit to the parent and, as a result of both these things, to the child. We shall need the help of local authorities and teachers to get the details right. We shall need to consult them about the regulations. They are entitled to be consulted on the practical aspects, which are bound to affect them, of giving effect to a principle to which I am sure they subscribe as much as the Government and this House. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker

A manuscript amendment to subsection (2) of the new clause has been submitted in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Charteris of Amisfield, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Does the noble Lord, Lord Renton, wish to move the amendment?

11 p.m.

Lord Renton moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 63, a manuscript amendment: ("In subsection (2): leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the manuscript amendment which I must apologise for having tabled only an hour ago, with my noble friend Lady Cox and the noble Lord, Lord Charteris of Amisfield. However, perhaps we may be forgiven in view of the exacting nature of our legislative duties on this Bill for spotting only at this late stage that subsection (2) of this proposed new clause does not go far enough. Having heard what my noble friend Lord Swinton has had to say about it I suggest to my noble friend and to your Lordships that the intentions of the Government would be more faithfully fulfilled if, instead of the word "may" in subsection (2), we had the word "shall".

I say that for two reasons which flow from the speech which my noble friend has just made. The first reason is that he says that this new clause will impose a duty on the Secretary of State. The first subsection does impose a duty to make regulations, but when it comes to subsection (2), far from being a duty, it is a mere optional power. In addition, it is an optional power which relates to perhaps the most important matter which the regulations should contain—namely, information for parents as to the syllabus to be followed. Therefore, I would very much hope that on reflection my noble friend will agree that, in order to make this new duty a reality, we should have there the word "shall" instead of the word "may".

Having said that, may I hope to reinforce my argument somewhat by referring to Amendment No. 66, which is in the same terms as that which was tabled by the same noble Lords and by my noble friend Lady Cox at the Committee stage. It refers to the duty of the governing body of every school: to prepare up to date written statements of the school's syllabuses and to make copies available to parents on demand. That seemed to us to be a very reasonable suggestion which the Government could easily have adopted. Indeed, it might have been a much simpler way of performing the task to which my noble friend has referred than the one contained in his new clause. However, let us use the new clause and make the best of it. We shall be making the best of it if we insert "shall" instead of "may". I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, as Amendment No. 63A is a manuscript amendment to Amendment No. 63, I should read it out to your Lordships. The amendment is: In subsection (2): leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, we had not understood the use of the word "may" here as implying the uncertainty to which my noble friend has referred. However, in the light of the views expressed by my noble friend we shall consider the point again and come back to it on Third Reading. I hope that my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw his amendment in the light of that assurance.

Lord Renton

My Lords, in view of that undertaking I happily ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, if that little local difficulty has been got out of the way, perhaps it would be appropriate for us to say that this may be one of the occasions when the Government have got the balance right between matters on the face of the Bill, matters to be prescribed in regulation and matters not even to be prescribed in guidance. Clearly, the whole complexity of regulations about the publication of information could be very great. It could be as complicated as Part II of the Bill, and I do not think that noble Lords would wish to get themselves involved in complex drafting of that sort, particularly at this stage in the passage of the Bill.

It is a welcome move towards greater information. It is important that parents should have as much information as is practicably possible to enable them to make decisions about the choices which their children will have to take in the schools. In relation to the amendment to the amendment, I am bound to say that if the regulations were to provide for the circulation of this information to all parents and if it were then to be required that they shall always contain information on all syllabuses followed by all pupils, we would be destroying another 50 forests a year. I do not think that that would be in the best interests of the parents, the schools or the budgets of the local education authorities. I have no doubt that this is one of the matters which the noble Earl will take into consideration when he considers the amendment to the amendment. Meanwhile the amendment, as it stands, has our support on these Benches.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Masham of Ilion moved Amendment No. 64:

After Clause 18, insert the following new clause:

("Health education.

The articles of government for every school provide for the teaching of courses of health education.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 64 I should like to say that I was most grateful to all the noble Lords and noble Baronesses who supported my amendment on health education at the Committee stage of this Bill. In case there are some noble Lords now in the Chamber who were absent at Committee stage, I should like to explain briefly what the amendment means.

I consider that in this country for years we have not done enough to try to prevent ill-health and accidents. Health care has become very expensive, and no one should know better than the Government Ministers how much health care costs and how many demands there are on the service. We have ever-increasing demands because of the growing elderly population. Only this morning I listened to a programme on the increasing number of people who are living to be over 100 years of age.

We also live in a complicated society with increasing violence in the home and on the streets, and with drug abuse growing to alarming proportions. Medical research has come up with the finding that tobacco smoking kills millions of people from cancer which could be prevented. New findings also show that cervical cancer, which is a growing problem among young women around 20 to 30, can also be promoted by smoking. Alcohol abuse can also damage the health by causing cirrhosis of the liver, and the unattractive behaviour of the growing numbers of alcoholics can cause break-up of the family. My previous amendment included basic anatomy, first aid and basic nursing skills, responsible sex education and child care, diet and hygiene, accident prevention and teaching on the dangers of drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse. Since that time there has been the radiation disaster in Russia. I think that children should also be taught the basics of what to do in a radiation emergency, such as with the dangers from contaminated milk, and how to treat the skin.

I feel strongly that there is a need at different stages and at different ages throughout the education system for children to be given the chance of the basic needs of health care so that they grow up appreciating the marvels of their own bodies, and hopefully learning to respect them and others so that they do not abuse them. In many families throughout the country we sadly have a cycle of deprivation which is passed on from one generation to another. I feel that education is the only hope of breaking this cycle.

We sometimes underestimate children. Only yesterday I read of two children aged four and six, one with a wrist fractured in three places, who with their parents were involved in a car crash. Both parents were unconscious, and the children climbed out of a broken car window to get help. Children should learn how to stop bleeding, and how to put someone in the recovery position. They can save lives, and sometimes it may be their own. They should be taught the dangers to avoid. At least then if they are dying of cancer or drugs they can say, "It was my own fault. I should have listened."

The Government are doing a good job in promoting education on drug abuse. They have brought out a teaching pack and have organised a publicity campaign. I believe they can bring out more health education manuals approved by the Secretary of State on the different subjects I have mentioned. There are bodies such as the British Red Cross Society, the St. John Ambulance Service, the British Heart Foundation and many other organisations which would be only too pleased to help. Parents also could benefit from what their children learn. There would be many useful spin-offs to help many people. Health education is a real, live subject, and as the young grow up good health practice is somehing which should grow with them. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am sure we all listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, when she moved a somewhat similar amendment at the Committee stage. We have listened with great care once again when she has moved a rather shorter version of it on Report.

There will be few in your Lordhips' House who would not accept the valuable role which health education in schools can play. At this late hour I shall not rehearse all the arguments about this subject; they have been, I think, gone over before. But I hope that I can meet the noble Baroness's point. The Government intend to bring forward an amendment to the Education (School Information) Regulations 1981 to cover the point that she has raised. Those regulations, made under the Education Act 1980. require the publication of a range of information relating to individual schools, including information as to the manner and context in which education as respects sexual matters is given. We intend to amend the regulations so that they refer more broadly to health education, including sex education. Such an amendment will make clear the importance of a school's policies with regard to health education and will also ensure that parents are fully informed about those policies. The provisions of the present Bill will take this further and ensure that parents are able to influence those policies where necessary.

I hope very much that with this assurance the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Porritt

My Lords, before the noble Baroness withdraws her amendment, if she does, I should like to put a few points on this suggestion, because I think it is really something quite new. I am not sure that all that has been said so far really puts across what we are aiming at. It seems to me that this is a completely new concept, if we accept it. The Bill gives us a golden opportunity as a government, rather than perhaps as local authorities, to do something new, something constructive, and to improve the education system which I rather imagine most people here will feel has not had great success in the past few years.

This particular amendment, I think, exposes and would fill a gap in the present statutory syllabus. The amendment deserves, I believe, much greater priority than perhaps the simple and brief proposal the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has made appears to give it. The subject of health education is of vital importance to all children and should be a continuing process from the ages of 5 to 6 to the ages of 16 to 17. It received very valuable mention by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, in that excellent debate on disability prevention that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, initiated last week. I know that it also received certain attention from the Health Education Council. Their efforts, largely of an audio-visual nature and with a presentation that is a bit sporadic, to say the least of it, should be an adjuvant to a progressive graded course of teaching to all children in all schools, starting at the very impressionable age of about 6. Surely, there could be no more worthy objective in education than to teach the young the incalculable value of their bodies and their minds. Without this knowledge, these invaluable assets are all too easily squandered by the multiple temptations of modern life and, similarly, as a result, the ability to gain advantage from other subjects in the curriculum is correspondingly reduced. It is the old cliché again of mens sana in corpore sano. Health education encompasses the teaching of elementary anatomy, physiology, biology and psychology but in the early stages these terms would not be applied as such or used as such.

Young children react naturally to interest in the make-up of things, to mysteries, to adventure, to the analogies of animal life and, particularly today, to machines. Just think of the toys that one sees today that children get and use! All of these approaches could be suitably used in providing essential information about the human body, how it works and how it is made. Again, may I say that the appeal of sport and games and recreational activities plays a very large part in a child's life. To stress the invaluable importance of a healthy, undamaged body and mind would be a very obvious approach.

To care for and to protect this marvellous machine which we call the human body, whether it is one's own or somebody else's—and this brings in the question of the prevention of violence—would become a natural way of life so as to allow an enjoyable participation in normal activities without unnecessary risks. Hence, secondly and most importantly, it would inculcate moral behaviour patterns that could vitally affect the child's life and also the community in which he or she lives. One appreciates that such teaching would make considerable demands on a teacher's intelligence, ingenuity and dedication. But I believe, and I am sure, that there are many excellent teachers who would be attracted to and challenged by a scheme of progressive health education; or we could easily train them to cope with such a humane and basic concept.

I apologise for speaking a little longer than I usually speak, but I feel that this is an opportunity which the Government should snatch. It is a big concept. If we start at the beginning and go on working with children, we shall avoid a great many of the things that now appear necessary. Sex education, for one thing, would take its ordinary, natural part in such a scheme as this. It would need no separate consideration whatsoever. Many matters would fit into a course like this where it is carefully worked out. I sincerely hope, despite the late hour, that your Lordships will give this, as I call it, most worthy amendment the consideration and approval that I think it thoroughly deserves.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I hope that the Government will listen very carefully to the wise words of my noble friend Lord Porritt. I should like to say how grateful I am to him. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, has asked me to say how strongly she supports this amendment. Since the Committee stage, I have had two meetings with the Minister, Mr. Bob Dunn, and I am happy that a little progress is being made. It is a start but I can assure your Lordships that we who are keen on health education will not let this matter rest. I thank the noble Baroness for what she has said and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 65, 66 and 66A not moved.]

Clause 19 [Terms, sessions and holidays]:

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 23, line 26, at end insert— ("; provided that the governing body shall consult the local education and take account of its views when determining the dates and times at which the school sessions, terms and holidays are to begin and end.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment, unlike the high-flown amendments of great importance that we have had, is a very simple and practical one which I hope the Government may feel they can listen to. There is in fact an error in the amendment. It should read, in its second line, provided that the governing body shall consult the local education authority and". I do not quite know how the mistake came about: there seem to have been one or two other errors.

Local authorities are responsible for providing school meals and transport for pupils at aided and special agreement schools, as at other maintained schools. Extra costs could be incurred if the dates and school hours varied widely and avoidably. Thus, this amendment seeks to make it the responsibility of the governing bodies of aided and special agreement schools that they should consult the LEA before determining their local arrangements for the times at which school sessions, terms and holidays begin and end. If that is not done, it could add greatly to the expense of the local authority, if it was out of the pattern of that for the ordinary maintained schools.

It seems a small point, and one is really only calling for consultation. I do hope the Government might be able to accept it. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, may I very briefly express entire agreement with the noble Lord's amendment, which would bring a degree of reason to sessions, terms and holidays, which could well escape if the Bill as drafted were to proceed without amendment? It is in the interests of the local authorities and it does no injury at all to the autonomy in important matters of the aided and special agreement schools.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, before dealing with the proposed amendment, I should first make it clear to my noble friend Lord Mottistone that the provisions in Clause 19 are not new. They are essentially a re-enactment of Section 23(3) of the 1944 Act, which would otherwise have been left in limbo as a result of the fresh provision made in this Bill for the secular curriculum.

I am glad my noble friend's amendment does not seek to disturb this small but significant part of the 1944 Act's settlement, which underpins our valuable dual system of county and voluntary schools. Indeed, the thrust of the amendment is entirely reasonable. He wishes to ensure that any views of the local education authority are taken into account by the governing body when they are setting the dates and times of sessions, terms and holidays. However, I have to say that it is not necessary to write anything on to the face of the Bill for this to happen. There is absolutely nothing to stop a local education authority making representations about the times and dates of sessions and terms to the governing bodies of the aided and special agreement schools. Of course, it cannot—nor does this amendment seek to let it—instruct a governing body what to do. But it can ask them to bear certain aspects in mind, perhaps energy-saving possibilities, when choosing when winter terms begin and end, or the views of local transport companies when deciding on the times of the school sessions.

It is a basic principle of our legal system that such reasonable representations have to be considered by those making the decision, and the local education authority will, of course, be represented on the governing body of the school. They do not have to agree with the representations, but they cannot simply ignore them. Indeed, I would suggest that leaving the initiative to the local education authority to make representations, rather than requiring the governing body to take the first step by consulting it, is probably the more effective way of proceeding.

As I have indicated, the Government could not quarrel with the essence of the amendment, but I have shown that it effectively would add nothing to the present position. If there is, however, any doubt about local education authorities' general powers in such matters, the Government would certainly be ready to consider reminding them of this in the post-Act circular of guidance. Against this background I would invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mottistone

That is extremely disappointing, for two reasons. First, my noble friend says that she thinks this whole thing is very reasonable and that there is no very good reason why it should not be there; and, secondly—and much more importantly—she reminded us that this provision came out of the 1944 Act. So local authorities have been having to deal with this situation for the last 40 years or so.

I put down this amendment because it was represented to me by my county council, who have consulted the Association of County Councils, and they do not propose amendments just out of their heads, particularly if they are doing it against a background of something that has been in force for 40 years. They must have had some sort of experience which caused them to think that it would be a good thing to have this in the primary legislation, instead of just in circulars from the Department of Education and Science. This view must have come from some practical experience.

If this was a new bit of the Bill and one could, therefore, say that it had come straight out of the air, that would be fair enough. But the fact that it is based on experience makes me think that the balance of my noble friend's argument is the wrong way, and that this is something which ought to go on the face of the Bill. As she said, it would not make any difference to it and, as she also said, it would be acceptable on the face of the Bill. She just did not want it there because it had not been there in 1944. But life moves on, Lord Butler is dead; so can we not have another think? I reserve the right to come back at Third Reading if the Government do not pull themselves together and do something at Third Reading themselves, So, very reluctantly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 [Discipline]:

11.30 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 68: Page 25, leave out lines 29 to 31.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, may I also speak to Amendments Nos. 69, 70, 71 and 72? Amendments Nos. 68, 69 and 70 are clarifying amendments which relate to county, controlled and maintained special schools. As drafted, paragraph (c) of subsection (5) would allow an authority to turn an indefinite exclusion into a permanent one; that is, the authority could, in effect, expel a pupil when that was not the wish of either the head or the governing body, which is certainly not the Government's intention. Paragraph (c) would also allow an authority to turn a permanent exclusion into an indefinite one, or to allow an indefinite exclusion to remain indefinite, thereby undermining the whole purpose of subsection (5), which is to ensure that pupils are not excluded for unnecessarily long periods of time without action being taken to resolve matters. The Government amendments would require the authority to confirm a permanent exclusion or else to bring it to an end, and to bring any indefinite exclusion to an end, either immediately or within the period specified in the authority's direction. There will be related, but different, arrangements for aided and special agreements schools which I will explain in a moment.

This is how the amended provisions for county, controlled and maintained special schools might work. Let us say that a pupil has made his presence intolerable by constantly disrupting lessons; the head teacher does not want to go as far as expelling the pupil, but on the other hand he sees no point in excluding him for a week or two, after which the pupil may come back and behave as badly as ever. What the head teacher wants is time to reflect, to consult the pupil's parents and to seek their co-operation—and perhaps most of all he wants to avoid further disruption of normal school life while a solution is sought. On the other hand, it may be a case of a pupil with a Mohican hairstyle which will take who knows how long to grow enough to be cut in an acceptable style. Here the head teacher may order him to stay away until he looks presentable again. In either case, the head teacher may see no alternative but to exclude the pupil indefinitely until conditions attached to his return are met.

If the governing body does not intend to direct the head teacher to reinstate the pupil, the local education authority will be obliged to consider the position. It may not always be practicable to take a decision straightaway, but the real point is that the authority will now be fully informed of the exclusion and the reasons for it and must in due course decide when it is to end. Meanwhile, formal responsibility for providing education will remain with the authority.

In the case of a permanent exclusion the authority of course has the option of confirming the exclusion, and if it does do so it must see that education is provided for the pupil somewhere else. But whether the exclusion is permanent or indefinite, there is a duty on the authority to consult the governing body, and with the more difficult pupils that consultation might well include the head teacher, the parents and, if appropriate, professional advisers. That is a point on which we will advise authorities in the post-Act circular.

Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 are also clarifying amendments, and are concerned with the local education authority's duty in relation to indefinite exclusions of pupils from aided and special agreement schools. The amendments will have the same effect in respect of indefinite exclusions as those for county, controlled and maintained special schools which we have just discussed. The local education authority will be under a duty to consult the governing body and, if the governing body does not intend to have the pupil reinstated, the authority will have to direct the head teacher to reinstate him immediately or within a specified period.

These amendments do not cover cases of permanent exclusion from aided and special agreement schools because we do not wish to distort the present position, which is that in such schools the governing body, not the local education authority, has the last word as to whether pupils should be expelled. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, these are exceedingly complex matters and I am not satisfied that I yet understand all the details of the amendments that the noble Earl has moved, although I am very much predisposed to agree with them and to support them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, wrote to me on 29th April and a copy of her letter was placed in the Library. She made a statement about this matter which accorded very much with my views. I should be very grateful if the Minister could indicate to me whether the understanding that I have of her intentions accords with the position as it will be in the Bill as amended by these amendments. The noble Baroness wrote to me that: the crucial consideration has to be the authority's ultimate responsibility for securing the education of pupils in its area. A school's continuing exclusion of a pupil, however justified it considers this to be, would impose an obligation on the authority to find a solution: depending on the circumstances, this could be a transfer to another school, re-instatement, or the provision of home or other tuition. We are clear that a decision on the appropriate solution has generally to be taken with the wider perspective of the local education authority". That accords very well with what I understand to be the position and what I would wish to be the position as the result of the Bill. Does the Bill as amended in the way proposed secure that this is the location of responsibility; that the most important consideration is the local authority's ultimate responsibility for securing the education of pupils in its area?

There was a lot of discussion at Committee stage about Poundswick and about who ultimately had to win out in a situation of conflict. My understanding from the letter of the noble Baroness is that in circumstances where there has to be conflict—and nobody wants it—it would be the local education authority which would make the ultimate decision. Is that the case? If the noble Earl is, with the leave of the House, permitted to reply, will he say whether that will be the case after these amendments have been inserted into the Bill?

The Earl of Swinton

Yes, my Lords.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendments Nos. 69 to 72:

Page 25, line 33, leave out ("or indefinite")

Page 25, line 37, leave out from ("pupil") to end of line 3 on page 26 and insert ("but the authority consider that he should be reinstated—

  1. (i) to direct that he be reinstated immediately; or
  2. (ii) to direct that he be reinstated within such period as may be specified in the direction;

(d) for it to be the duty of the local education authority, where they have been informed of the indefinite exclusion of a pupil from the school, to consult the governing body and, where the governing body do not intend to direct the head teacher to reinstate the pupil—

  1. (i) to direct that he be reinstated immediately; or
  2. (ii) to direct that he be reinstated within such period as may be specified in the direction;

(e) for it to be the duty of the head teacher to comply with any direction given in exercise of the duty imposed on the local education authority by virtue of paragraph (c) or (d) above; and

(f) for it to be the duty of the governing body and the local education authority to inform each other of any direction, of a kind mentioned in this subsection, given by them.")

Page 26, line 17, leave out paragraph (b).

Page 26, line 27, at end insert—

("(e) for it to be the duty of the local education authority, where they have been informed of the indefinite exclusion of a pupil from the school, to consult the governing body and, where the governing body do not intend to direct the head teacher to reinstate the pupil—

  1. (i) to direct that he be reinstated immediately; or
  2. (ii) to direct that he be reinstated within such period as may be specified in the direction;

(f) for it to be the duty of the head teacher to comply with any direction given in exercise of the duty imposed on the local education authority by virtue of paragraph (e) above; and

(g) for it to be the duty of the governing body and the local education authority to inform each other of any direction, of a kind mentioned in this subsection, given by them.")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 73:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

("Appeals concerning exclusion from school on disciplinary grounds.

  1. .—(1) Every local education authority shall make arrangements for enabling the parent of a registered pupil at any county, controlled or maintained special school for which they are responsible to appeal against exclusion from the school on disciplinary grounds.
  2. (2) The governors of every aided or special agreement school shall make arrangements for enabling the parent of a registered pupil at the school to appeal against exclusion from the school on disciplinary gounds.
  3. (3) Joint arrangements may be made under subsection (2) above by the governors of two or more aided or special agreement schools.
  4. (4) Any appeal by virtue of this section shall be to an appeal committee constituted in accordance with paragraph 1 of Part I of Schedule 2 to the Education Act 1980.
  5. (5) Part II of that Schedule shall have effect in relation to the procedure on any such appeal but with the following modification—paragraph 7 (matters to be taken into account by appeal committee) shall have effect as if for paragraphs (a) and (b) there were substituted "any representations made by the appellant".
  6. (6) An appeal committee hearing an appeal by virtue of this section may either
    1. (a) order that the exclusion shall cease forthwith, or
    2. (b) inform the local education authority that it does not consider reinstatement appropriate, giving its reasons in writing.
  7. 253
  8. (7) The decision of an appeal committee on any such appeal shall be binding on the head teacher.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I may not be pressing this amendment this evening but might bring it back on Third Reading. I am in some difficulty because I do not know what is the Government's view, so the House will bear with me very briefly. This is an amendment that I moved but did not press at Committee stage. It concerns the parental right to an appeal concerning exclusions. I do not want to repeat the arguments I made in Committee, and anyway it is objectionable to quote oneself. However, I will paraphrase briefly what I said on that occasion.

Clause 21 as drafted merely allows parents, in the case of voluntary, controlled or maintained schools, the right to appeal against the exclusion of a child where the articles of government provide for an appeals procedure. Because there is no requirement for the articles to incorporate any such procedure, it seemed to me, as I said, in Committee, that it was extraordinary that so fundamental a matter should be left purely to local whim.

In reply, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, stated that: We do not believe, however, that there is any single system appropriate to all authorities".—[Official Report, 17/4/86; col. 828.] The noble Baroness suggested that different authorities would no doubt adopt uniform systems for the schools in their areas. That might be acceptable, although I do not like it because I am not convinced that different rights in different authorities in matters affecting the right to education are desirable.

I find it especially unacceptable that there could be no parental appeal procedure at all, which is what Clause 21 as drafted would permit. It simply states that where the articles of government specify an appeals procedure, the decision should be binding on the head teacher—but it does not require governing bodies to have any such mechanism in the first place.

In her final remarks on the same day, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, stated that: The Government, while agreeing that there should be an appeals procedure, concluded that it should not be mandatory".—[Official Report, 17/4/86; col. 830.] That is a contradiction in terms. If there should be an appeals procedure then it cannot be merely permissive, as in Clause 21. The noble Baroness went on to add: Bearing in mind the points that have been made, I will take it away and consider it carefully". Whatever the result of the noble Baroness's deliberations—and here she is—which I am sure were careful, she has not given us the benefit of them in the form of an amendment, as I had hoped. I therefore suggest to your Lordships that we need the proposed new clause in the Bill if natural justice is to be satisfied. I shall certainly have to return to this matter unless the noble Baroness or the noble Earl (I am not sure who is to reply) can tell me that the Government are prepared to take it on board. In effect, I am simply moving the amendment in order to discover where the Government now stand. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, the Government agreed at Committee stage to consider this matter further, and I believe that I can be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, because we certainly take his point about the importance of natural justice. At the same time, we must take account of the view held in some quarters that formal arrangements for appeals introduce an adversarial element into an area where achieving a better understanding between schools and parents is in fact of the first importance.

We have therefore proposed to our partners in education that the Bill should require a school, when notifying parents of a child's exclusion, to inform them that they may make representations to the LEA or, in the case of an aided or special agreement school, to the governing body. The LEA or governing body would then be under an obligation to consider the matter without delay.

Such an arrangement would still leave the LEA free to establish parental appeals machinery should it so wish. This would be one way of building on what we described in Committee as the framework provided by the Bill, and it could well be that in an area which adopted this course there would be parents who, while hesitant about becoming involved in the formality of an appeal, would welcome this alternative opportunity to make their views known to the LEA. We await the comments of our partners with interest.

I have also listened very carefully to what the noble Lord has said this evening. I can say to him that I shall give a firm undertaking that the Government will introduce an amendment on this matter in another place. In the meantime, we should like to reflect further on the exact form such an amendment would take. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. I detect that she seems to be giving me half a loaf. Obviously I shall want to look carefully at what she has said. It certainly was not my intention to press this amendment at this time of night, and she has fulfilled exactly what I hoped the Government would do, which was to let me know where they stood on the matter.

Very probably when I have read the record of this debate I think I shall not feel that it is necessary to come back at Third Reading, in view of the undertaking of the noble Baroness that an amendment will be introduced in another place. But obviously I reserve the right to think the matter over carefully and possibly probe the Government again a little further at the next stage. In the meantime I am very grateful to the noble Baroness and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 74:

Insert the following new clause:

("Appeals about exclusion from school.

  1. .—(1) Every local education authority shall make arrangements for enabling the head teacher of a county, controlled or maintained special school for which they are responsible to appeal against the refusal of the governors or the local education authority to confirm an exclusion on disciplinary grounds.
  2. (2) The governors of every aided or special agreement school shall make arrangements for enabling the head teacher of the 255 school to appeal against a refusal to confirm an exclusion by the governors or the local education authority on disciplinary grounds.
  3. (3) Joint arrangements may be made under subsection (2) above by the governors of two or more aided or special agreement schools.
  4. (4) Any appeal by virtue of this section shall be to an appeal committee constituted in accordance with Part I of Schedule 2 to the Education Act 1980.
  5. (5) Part II of that Schedule shall have effect in relation to the procedure on any such appeal but with the following modification—paragraph 7 (matters to be taken into account by appeal committee) shall have effect as if for paragraphs (a) and (b) there were substituted "any representations made by the appellant".
  6. (6) An appeal committee hearing an appeal by virtue of this section may either—
    1. (a) confirm the order for reinstatement made by the local education authority or the governing body, or
    2. (b) direct the local education authority or the governing body that reinstatement is not appropriate.
  7. (7) The decision of an appeal committee on any such appeal shall be binding on the local education authority, the governing body and the head teacher.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, though I listened, as I thought carefully, to what the noble Earl said about Amendments Nos. 69 to 72, I am still not quite clear whether the situation that has arisen at Poundswick School is really covered by this. I do not need to go through the whole of that distressing story for your Lordships, who must be very well aware of it, but perhaps I may remind you that it began last June and it is still going on. The object of the present amendment is to make an attempt to resolve such a situation, if it should ever arise again, by an appeal committee.

As your Lordships know, the situation is that the teachers who were insulted by the obscene graffiti written by the five boys concerned refused to teach them, and one of the groups of teachers—the NAS-UWT—is still refusing to teach them. Members of the NUT and the AMMA have gone back to work, but the members of the other union are refusing to teach the boys, who have thus missed a great deal of schooling. It is not just the boys who were guilty; the other pupils in their classes have also missed a great deal of schooling in their fifth year, when they were facing O-levels.

As I say, this situation has arisen because the local education authority ordered the reinstatement of the pupils in a manner in which the staff were not prepared to accept it. The amendment is an attempt to resolve such a situation should it ever arise again, and I should be grateful to hear what the Minister has to say about it. I beg to move.

11.45 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, here again we appreciate the view that has been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, and I hope that we may be able to be helpful to him. Wherever the final decision on exclusions lies, there is bound to be occasional scope for conflict among head teachers, governing bodies and the LEAs about the reinstatement of excluded pupils. Leaving the last word with governors, as some would like, would not in our view provide an effective alternative, and indeed we must bear in mind throughout that it is the LEA and not the schools which has the ultimate responsibility for the education of pupils in its area. As the LEA is the employer of teachers, except in aided schools, there is something slightly incongruous about providing for head teachers to appeal against LEA decisions.

We need to have regard to the relationship between governing bodies and the head teacher. This must depend not only on a formal assignment of functions, as the Bill will provide, but also on a mutual respect and understanding. A right of appeal against the governing body could weaken the position of governors in disciplinary matters, contrary to the aims of the Bill.

I referred in response to the last amendment to proposals which we have made to our partners in education, including the teacher associations. One proposal is for the Bill to provide that before seeking to reinstate a pupil excluded form a county, controlled or maintained special school a LEA should first consult the governing body. Such a requirement is already built into subsection (5)(c) for pupils excluded permanently or indefinitely, but it does not at present extend to pupils who have been excluded for a fixed period. Similar arrangements have been proposed for aided and special agreement schools but without undermining their right to exclude pupils permanently.

We hope that these proposals will go some way to meet the concern of the noble Lord which lies behind the amendment. However, the Government will consider the matter further in the light of the responses that we get from our partners and the arguments that have been put in the House today. I think that we should all like to study again what he said. I can confirm that the Government's conclusions will he reflected in an amendment that will be introduced in another place. I hope that that assurance will meet the noble Lord's concerns and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I ask the noble Baroness to think again and perhaps explain this to us again. She said that there was something incongruous about the headmaster having a right of appeal against the decision of the LEA because the LEA was the employer. After all, in all industrial disputes where there is an appeal to a third party it is the employee against the employer taking the dispute to a third party. That is the nature of an appeals procedure. What is so different about a headmaster against a local authority and an employee in the ordinary sense appealing against a disciplinary decision and taking it to an industrial tribunal?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I fully appreciate the point that the noble Baroness makes about an industrial tribunal and about the way that industrial matters would be dealt with. In the education world it would be seen as a more unusual procedure. We are concerned to try to find a way to resolve a point that she and her noble friend have identified—namely, the right of head teachers to appeal in such circumstances. The noble Lord asked an important question about Poundswick. In this, that case is not answered. That is one of the matters that we are considering further.

As I said, I should like to take away the amendment and what the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have said and consider these matters further in consultation, as I am sure the noble Baroness will appreciate, quite properly, with our partners in the education service to see whether we can bring forward an amendment to meet what we all recognise as a real concern.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her helpful words. The position of a head teacher is difficult, and only he knows when the time has come that he can no longer contain pupils within his school. I made that point when we were discussing the matter in Committee.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I am sure that we can leave the matter in her hands and that she will take it away and return with something that will resolve our concern. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 75 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Finance]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 76: Page 28, line 11, leave out from beginning to ("to"), in line 13.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the Government are proposing this amendment because it was apparent in our discussion of Clause 23 in Committee that the words we now wish to remove were a source of potential confusion. The words were intended to be helpful in explaining the purpose of the duty laid upon all LEAs by paragraph (b) of the clause. They were not in any way intended to limit the freedom which LEAs would have under our proposals to put in the hands of the governing body of a school responsibility for as great a proportion of funds allocated to that school as they wished and as circumstances suggested. But this is how they have been seen and we have felt that to remove them would avoid the risk of misunderstanding.

The clause without these words remains unambiguous both as to a LEA's freedom to go beyond the minimum requirement for financial delegation which will be placed on all LEAs and our intention to place some financial responsibility with the governing body. It continues to safeguard the position of the LEA which wishes to make continuous progress into an area of policy which is still relatively novel in our schools. In due course, guidance on the implementation of our proposals will serve to make assurance doubly sure. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it is only right that I should express our appreciation to the Government and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, who took the trouble to write to me twice about the matter. There was, indeed, confusion. I do not think that it was confusion in the minds of the Opposition but in the wording of the Bill as orginally drafted.

The noble Earl is correct: to remove that paragraph also removes the confusion which gave rise to debate in Committee. None of this resolves the real difficulties which will occur as local education authorities try to implement the procedures for devolution of financial responsibility to governing bodies. It is therefore welcome to hear that the Government will issue guidelines for them.

I am sure that we will all have received representations from those in Cambridgeshire who have had experience of those matters. It is clear that even where there are experimental periods there is no easy resolution of the problems, but we hope that the guidelines will be helpful in encouraging local authorities to experiment responsibly with the powers which are being granted under the clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24 [Governors' annual report to parents]:

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 77: Page 29, line 40, leave out ("and")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it may be convenient if I speak also to Amendment No. 78. Amendment No. 77 is merely a minor drafting point. The amendments may be seen as a logical development from amendments that we have already debated and agreed upon to develop or strengthen a school's links with the community, including the police. They require two additional elements to be included in the governors' annual report over and above the range of information already required under Clause 24.

We have been over much of this ground already, and I hope that your Lordships are now content to make these valuable but consequential amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I wish to make one fairly minor point. I welcome this amendment as I did the previous ones. The only assurance I should like is that the whole issue will be monitored by Her Majesty's inspectors. I hope that will be done because it would reassure many were we to receive that guarantee.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I can give the noble Lord the assurance that monitoring will take place.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 30, line 4, at end insert—

  1. ("(j) to describe what steps have been taken by the governing body to develop or strengthen the school's links with the community (including links with the police); and
  2. (k) to draw attention to the information made available by the governing body in accordance with the regulations made under section (Information for parents) of this Act.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 26 [Reports by governing body and head teachers]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 79:

Page 32, line 31, at end insert—

("(2) The articles of government for every aided school shall provide—

  1. (a) for the local education authority to notify the governing body of any requirement of a kind mentioned in subsection (1)(b) above which is imposed by them on the head teacher; and
  2. (b) for the head teacher to furnish the governing body with a copy of any report which he makes in complying with the requirement.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, we indicated at Committee stage that we would see whether we could produce an amendment that, while recognising that there needed to be a free flow of information between the head teacher of an aided school and the LEA which maintains it, would also safeguard the employee/employer relationship between the head teacher of an aided school and the governing body. We believe that this amendment does what is required. It ensures that the governing body of an aided school is always aware of transactions between the LEA and head teacher under this clause, and thereby enables the governing body to intervene if it thinks fit.

If an LEA attempted to obtain information on a matter that was not the head teacher's responsibility, he could rightly refuse to supply it. If the LEA subsequently attempted to use information legitimately obtained from the head teacher to trespass on a province of the governors, they could take appropriate action, including if necessary complaining to the Secretary of State who, if the complaint was well founded, could issue a corrective direction to the LEA.

We believe that this amendment provides a useful safeguard for aided school governing bodies while at the same time allowing information to flow freely. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 80:

Page 32, line 31, at end insert—

(" (2) Subject to subsection (3) below, any such reports shall be available for inspection at all reasonable times and free of charge at the school.

(3) There may be excluded from the copies of reports made available in pursuance of subsection (2) above any information relating to—

  1. (a) a named teacher or other person employed or proposed to be employed at the school;
  2. (b) a named pupil at, or candidate for admission to, the school;
  3. (c) any matter which, by reason of its nature, the governing body or, as the case may be, the head teacher consider should be regarded as confidential.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should perhaps move this amendment more than formally, if only to give the Government an opportunity to confirm what I believe to be the case—that the provisions for regulations on information about schools which have already been agreed under a preceding amendment would make possible the kinds of reports and the kinds of exclusions that are proposed in this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, this amendment is similar to one moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, during the Committee stage. When withdrawing it, he indicated that he was less than happy with the Government's reply, which he suggested implied a roundabout way of getting at information. My arguments on this occasion are very much on the same lines. I cannot give an assurance at this point that the matter will be dealt with in the post-Act circular but I am sure that it will be considered.

Before inviting the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment, I may offer him one crumb of consolation. His amendment implies an availability of documentation beyond those most closely connected with the school—the staff, parents and pupils. The regulations will consider providing for copies of signed minutes and governing body agendas to be available at the school for inspection by ratepayers of the authority, as well as staff, parents and pupils. This goes some way, I believe, to meeting the noble Lord's request.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful for that. I had thought that there was a connection between this and the preceding amendment. I am happy to have it confirmed that the Government's general move in the direction of better information about schools and the operation of governing bodies includes those matters. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 [Appointment and dismissal of staff introductory]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 81: Page 34, line 7, leave out ("and").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, during the Committee stage the Government promised the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely that we would bring forward our own amendment to make abundantly clear that the important provisions of the 1944 Act concerning the appointment and dismissal of reserved teachers in controlled and special agreement schools were not affected by this Bill, and would continue unchanged. These amendments honour that undertaking. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

12 midnight

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 82:

Page 34, line 10, at end insert ("; and

(g) this section is subject to the provisions of sections 27 and 28 of the 1944 Act (which relate to religious education).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 31 [Appointment of head teacher]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 83: Page 36, line 7, leave out from ("them") to ("and") in line 8 and insert ("for the senior elected representatives of the authority present to exercise a casting vote.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if I had any doubt about the necessity for a revision of the procedures for the appointment of head teachers these doubts would have been dispelled by a speech made by the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, to the Industrial Society yesterday. I have the benefit of the press release which arrived this morning. He said: The Bill strikes a fine balance between the LEA and the governing body. So important is the head to the life of the school and to the education provided in the school that neither party should in our view be able to impose its will on the other in the process of selecting a candidate for appointment".

If we take that literally that is a recipe—in the case of disagreement—for no appointment at all, for complete inaction. Even if we do not take it literally it points to the defect in the Government's thinking where, in the case of a disagreement which cannot be resolved at the time, the only solution that the Government have is a most damaging readvertisement of the post and a repetition of the entire procedure. At Committee stage we moved a comparable amendment to say that in the case of a deadlock of votes there should be a casting vote to be held by the senior representative—it should be the singular "representative", not "representatives"—of the authority present. My view that this is the right way to avoid damaging and unnecessary deadlock is confirmed by the speech of the Minister of State.

If the Government continue to resist this modest suggestion of how to resolve unnecessary deadlock I fear that it may be necessary for us to consider the matter again and to propose that the appointment of head teachers should be a matter for regulation rather than spelt out on the face of the Bill. This seems to be one of the cases where we have excessive precision leading to unnecessary delay. I hope very much that the Government will think again about the nature of the provision they are making and the necessity of having it in this way on the face of the Bill where local arrangements could very well be agreed which would be preferable and speedier.

There is nothing worse for a school than to have an unnecessarily long interregnum between the departure of one head teacher and the appointment of a new head teacher. As Mr. Patten says in the remainder of his speech, the quality of leadership provided by the head teacher to the school is fundamental to the success of the school, and the absence of a head teacher for a prolonged period is damaging to the whole ethos and success of the school. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, this amendment is substantially the same as the one put forward by the noble Lord at the Committee stage. I appreciate the point that he is making. I can understand the desire to prevent a stalemate in the appointment of a head teacher. But, as the noble Lord himself said at the Committee stage: It is all a matter of balance. There is no perfect solution in these matters. We would rather cut short the procedure at a certain price to the equality between the governing body and the local education authority. The Government tend to take the other view of where the balance of preference lies". That is the difference between us. As indicated in the quotation that he gave from the speech of my honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, we continue to believe that the post of head teacher is of such vital importance to the general welfare of the school that it cannot be equitable for the authority to have its way. The governing body must be fully involved in the making of that particular appointment. If it takes time, then so be it. In the meantime there will not be a gap or an interregnum; the acting head will be in charge.

I could comment on the detail of the noble Lord's amendment, but I do not think that at this late hour this is what the House would wish. I know the sincerity of the view which has been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, but there is a difference of opinion between us. However, I hope that the noble Lord will accept the reasons that I have just given and which have been given by my honourable friend in his speech yesterday—that the Government believe that it would not be right for the local education authority to have a power of settlement in this way and that the governing bodies, because of the role that they play in this Bill, must be fully involved in the making of such an important appointment as the head teacher. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am very disappointed. After reading the Minister of State's speech I am hardly surprised, but it makes me think that we have not found the right solution and that the whole complicated procedure set out in Clauses 30 and 31 will not work as the Government think. The only consideration that we can continue to give to this matter must be to see whether it should not be dealt with by regulation rather than on the face of the Bill. We shall give consideration to that alternative before the Third Reading. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendments Nos. 84 and 85:

Page 36, line 39, at end insert—

(" (2) In this section "head teacher" does not include an acting head teacher.")

Clause 33, page 40, line 18, at end insert—

("(4) In subsection (1) above "head teacher" does not include an acting head teacher.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments No. 84 and 85 en bloc and at the same time speak also to Amendment No. 96. These are drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 86 not moved.]

Clause 37 [Appraisal of performance of teachers]:

Lord Irving of Dartford moved Amendment No. 87: Page 43, line 4, leave out ("requirements as may be prescribed") and insert ("arrangements as they may determine")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Bill proposes that the appraisal which is to be established under the conditions of this clause should be, in accordance with such requirements as may be prescribed". and obviously this is to be done by the Secretary of State.

Teachers have felt that this was one more example of the lack of trust in teachers which appears to them to have characterised the Secretary of State's attitude for some long time and they have felt threatened. They believe that if there had been any prospect of the Secretary of State being able to negotiate appraisal freely, Clause 37 would never have been included in the Bill. We have been saying for some time that appraisal can be achieved only with the co-operation of teachers. Until last week that clearly was not likely. However, the interim settlement has changed all that and what is needed is a new look at Clause 37.

In any case it is not suggested that the content of the appraisal should itself be determined by the Secretary of State. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh said at the Committee stage, appraisal is a matter fundamentally between the teachers themselves, collectively and individually, and their employers, the local authorities, and therefore the impetus which persuaded the Secretary of State to include Clause 37 is no longer relevant. Indeed, the most vital thing at this moment is for the Secretary of State to restore the morale in our schools. As Mr. Harry Judge, the director of the Department of Educational Studies at Oxford has said, morale is lower in our schools than at any time he could remember and arguably for 100 years.

In the new beginning made possible by the interim settlement the Secretary of State has the opportunity to make a gesture which could help to improve dramatically the atmosphere in our schools between himself and teachers. If he wants to improve the atmosphere and secure the co-operation, without which he cannot achieve his objective, there are few ways more likely to bring this about.

In any case after the turmoil of the last months what the Secretary of State needs to do is to allow the professionalism of teachers to emerge and take control of the situation. He has claimed that Clause 37 was needed to provide a national framework, but this can emerge from the discussions that are taking place or are about to take place.

The National Union of Teachers has made it very clear that it is in favour of appraisal for professional development. We hope that the Secretary of State can rise to the situation. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, we have already made it abundantly clear that the Government's preference is for appraisal to be introduced voluntarily on the basis of agreement between the teachers' unions, the local authorities, and the Government. I think I made that clear to the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, on the Statement on which he crossed swords with me the other day. Even with this desirable outcome, it might well be appropriate to use the enabling power to set up a national framework to ensure that the many teachers who move about the country should have their performance appraised in a broadly consistent way. I am surprised that the noble Lord should take exception to this.

When I drew the analogy of appraisal with probation in the discussion of this clause in Committee, it was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that the analogy was not valid. This is an important point to which I must now return. The noble Lord set the case of probation apart on the grounds that it was "providing teachers for the school system as a whole". But a teacher's mobility is not set in stone with his first post. Teachers can move around different LEAs and many do so—often teachers whose abilities justify promotion but who cannot obtain it within their own LEAs because there are no vacancies. The Government believe it essential that there should be a sufficient consistency between the schemes of different LEAs to allow this desirable movement of teachers to be based on a firm foundation of common appraisal criteria.

The Government want no more than regulations which guarantee this bottom line of consistency between schemes without stifling local initiative. What we are working towards in the ACAS talks is making appraisal the common currency of decisions on the professional career development of teachers and the management needs of LEAs. All six teacher unions are working with management to make the talks bear fruit. This clause is designed to underpin that desirable agreement, not to hobble it in any way.

My Lords, this amendment would sweep away the aim of guaranteeing this bottom line of consistency between the ways in which different teachers are appraised. Instead of a common national currency there would be a confusion of local coinages. I would ask the noble Lord, in the light of those reassurances, to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, I am sorry that my efforts last week and again today have not persuaded the noble Earl that this amendment has merit. We have suffered the longest and most agonising period of upheaval that our schools have ever experienced. Parents and teachers desperately want a period of peace. This will not happen without a conscious effort, and we believe that there is one way, one gesture, that could help that process.

We feel also that what the noble Earl sees as an essential need to underpin this in legislation is not really relevant. There must be many agreements in the educational world which are not underpinned by legislation. If the talks succeed, that ought to provide the national framework and the Secretary of State ought to be satisfied. But at this late hour I do not wish to divide the House. We may wish to return to this at another stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 88 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Grants for teachers training]:

12.15 a.m.

Lord Irving of Dartford moved Amendment No. 89:

Page 44, line 11, at end insert— ("( ) education welfare officers and social workers in education; ( ) education support staff including particularly technicians in educational establishments, nursery nurses, administrative and secretarial staff.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment to Clause 38 of the Education Bill seeks to provide training opportunities for other professional and administrative staff than those currently specified. Certain groups of staff such as technicians, nursery nurses and librarians, education welfare officers and social workers in education, work closely with teachers in developing the curriculum, structuring activities and providing resources for use in the classroom. Other groups such as administrative staff have considerable responsibilities in relation to the smooth running of the school.

There are about 20,000 nursery nurses employed in nursery, primary and special schools. The majority of these hold the Nursery Nurses Examinations Board certificate.

The NNEB has recently launched a new qualification for experienced nursery nurses, the Certificate in Post Qualifying Studies, but opportunities for nursery nurses to undertake post-entry are extremely limited. This is despite the fact that studies undertaken on behalf of the Department of Education and Science show that nursery nurses usually work as a team with teaching staff, and the work of nursery nurses is broadly similar to that of nursery teachers.

Approximately 13,000 technicians are employed in laboratories and workshops in schools. A recent study conducted by the joint secretaries to the National Joint Council for Local Authorities Administrative, Professional, Technical and Clerical Services staff in local authorities in England and Wales demonstrated the involvement of technicians in development and delivery of the curriculum. Technicians were involved in adapting, modifying and constructing equipment and in devising experiments. The study also showed that many technicians undertook evening classes at their own expense to keep up to date with the rapidly changing technology now available. This is clearly unsatisfactory, and proper training could be of considerable benefit to individual technicians and the schools.

School libraries are seriously underfunded and understaffed. Changes in teaching methods and the development of the school library as a learning resource centre have resulted in an enhanced role for the library and library staff, and they should be able to receive training to assist them.

Administrative staff: there are well over 30,000 administrative secretarial and clerical staff in schools. The trend to devolving more and more managerial responsibility to schools has resulted in new duties and responsibilities for administrative staff, whose contribution could be enhanced with proper training.

The same applies to education and welfare officers and social workers in education. There are, my Lords, currently only limited opportunities for support staff in schools to receive post-entry training and many authorities provide no training at all.

The introduction of new technology in classroom and school offices could be much more effective if staff were properly trained. The introduction of curriculum changes and particularly the GCSE examination is another area where the contribution of support staff could be improved by proper training. Initiatives by local authorities such as financial devolution could also be introduced more smoothly with good training. My Lords, I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I can fully understand the reason why the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, has moved this amendment. But I am sure that he will appreciate that Clause 38 of this Bill is designed to promote the professional development of teachers and so improve the quality of teaching in our schools, as set out in the White Paper Better Schools. This clause, and the new in-service training grant, which, as he will know, is a specific grant which will be introduced next April, are key elements in the Government's policies for improving teaching. They will encourage local education authorities to make arrangements for more systematic in-service training for their teachers.

The present unsatisfactory arrangements for the "pooling"—that is, sharing between all local education authorities of some training costs of teachers and certain other staff are an obstacle to this. As discussed in paragraph 173 of Better Schools, these arrangements have serious defects. They do not encourage well-focused and well-considered local authority programmes for the training of teachers.

The replacement of these pooling arrangements by the new grant is therefore an important feature of the Government's policies for schools. The defects of the present pooling arrangements apply equally to closely" related staff also listed in Clause 38(1). The Government have therefore decided to include in the new arrangements all those who are covered by the present pooling arrangements. This is why the draft clause includes certain other groups besides teachers.

Turning now to the detail of the noble Lord's amendment, the Government recognise the importance of appropriate training by local education authorities for all their employees in the education service, and indeed we recognise the valuable contribution made to that service by those specified in the noble Lord's amendment. I can say to him that my right honourable friend will be consulting shortly about the most appropriate form of training for education welfare officers.

Consequently, while I recognise the intention behind this amendment, which I think is a good intention, the Government consider that it is essential to our policies that we do not lose the present focus in this clause on the professional development of teachers, nor diffuse the impact that the available centrally supported expenditure will have to this end. I hope very much that the noble Lord will recognise that we will be considering these points in consultation shortly.

It is right that while we are concerned in thi,, Bill quite specifically with teachers, we should leave that position as it is with the specific grant for the new in-service training grant which will, we hope, enable the better training and development of teachers in our schools. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her help in respect of at least some of the categories of staff that I have mentioned. She mentioned education welfare officers. Does the undertaking and understanding that she has given cover all the classes that I mentioned in my amendment, or is it limited to only a small number?

Baroness Young

My Lords, my understanding is that the consultations will only cover education welfare officers. Although we recognise the point that the noble Lord has made as to the other groups of people, my understanding is that they are not covered and that it is only the education welfare officers.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, may I ask that the noble Baroness gives consideration to the other classes as well? In the meantime, I would wish to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 90:

After Clause 43, insert the following new clause:

Support for training of governors.

  1. (" .—(1) The Secretary of State shall have power, in order to support the effective training of governors by local education authorities and governing bodies of aided and special agreement schools—
    1. (a) to commission research into, and development and dissemination of learning materials on, the duties, responsibilities and functions of governing bodies; and
    2. (b) to make such payments and grants to appropriate persons and bodies as are necessary to secure such commissions.
  2. (2) In this section "appropriate persons and bodies" includes universities and establishments of further education, voluntary bodies and other persons deemed by the Secretary of State to have specialist knowledge of or interest in the good government of schools and colleges.
  3. (3) An institution shall not be debarred from being commissioned under subsection (1) above by reason of its being maintained or assisted by a local education authority or authorities.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we had a constructive and helpful debate at Committee stage on Amendments 86E and 92, which referred to the necessary support for the training of governors since in Clause 43 the Government lay down that training should be available for governors who wish it. The purpose of this amendment, which is different from those moved at Committee stage—it is in a sense an extension of them and an extension of the thinking behind our Committee stage amendments, which were received with something less than antagonism by the Government—is entirely to be helpful.

The number of governors who are going to be apopointed to these new governing bodies, particularly in the early period of implementation of the Act, is going to be vey large indeed. They are going to be spread, by definition, all over the country and the task which is placed on local authorities of providing training for them is going to be quite substantial. Indeed, this seems to us to be one example—a very good example—of where distance-learning techniques would be entirely appropriate for part of the training of governors under the new system.

If that is to be done, it would have to be done through research and development of materials, and if that were achieved, and if it were done well, the result would be a very significant saving in the training costs for local authorities in later years as they come to deal with the training of new governors appointed to the schools. To commission research and development in dissemination-of-learning materials (which is what the amendment asks for) seems to us to be a rational way of saving money for local authorities in providing effective training from an early stage of the implementation of the Act. We hope that this idea will commend itself to the Government.

I may say that if the Department of Education and Science does not undertake this kind of training there are probably people in the Manpower Services Commision and the Open Tech unit of Manpower Services Commission who would take up the challenge. I hope that the amour propre of the Department of Education and Science would lead them to think kindly of this amendment as a way of keeping what is, after all, an important part of the education service within the purview of the department itself. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I fully agree with all that the noble Lord has said about the importance of training for school governors in order that they may be as effective as possible. I hope the noble Lord will be pleased to hear that the Government accept the intention of his amendment, which is to empower the Secretary of State to grant-aid the development and dissemination of governor training materials. However, we believe that the necessary powers are already in place under existing legislation. For example, as regards research generally, the Secretary of State has appropriate powers under Section 100 of the 1944 Act and the grant regulations of 1983 made thereunder. It was those powers that were used, for example, to assist the development of the Open University's course for governor training under the 1980 Act, as well as some other related research. Maybe that goes some way towards meeting the noble Lord's point about distance learning.

Those powers do not extend, however, to grant-aiding local education authorities and the institutions they maintain. To fill that gap, the Education (Grants and Awards) Act 1984 was put on the statute book. That Act allows for the making of regulations under which education support grants are paid. It is with the support of such grant that high-quality pilot schemes are under way in 10 local education authorities in this and the next financial year. The results of those projects will be widely available in time for the new general training duty in respect of governors under Clause 43.

As I hope I have shown, the grant-aiding powers proposed in the noble Lord's amendment are already in place and are being used, as they will continue to be used as necessary. The Government would see it as both unnecessary and undesirable to make specal mention of school government as a particular use of those powers out of the whole range of potential uses. I therefore trust that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful for that reply, which indeed covers a very large part of the intention of the amendment. It is useful to have confirmation that the powers already exist.

If I may clear up one very minor possible source of confusion, it is not the intention of the amendment to secure grants for research or development to local authorities themselves, but simply not to debar research establishments because they are also grant-aided by local authorities; in other words, not to exclude the public sector of higher education. However, on the assurances given that the powers already exist, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 91:

After Clause 43 insert the following new clause:

("First aid skills in schools.

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

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak very briefly to this amendment because the arguments for the provison of adequate cover of first aid have been made at earlier stages of this Bill and have received widespread support from all parts of your Lordships' House.

My noble friend the Minister argued at Committee stage that this amendment was not necessary; but I must say I am afraid that on consideration, having looked very carefully at the points which she made, her arguments have not been found convincing. I have, for example, consulted with experts in this field and I would point very briefly to three examples of the deficiencies in the Government's position, as it was presented at Committee stage. First, it was argued that present legislation provides adequate cover for children. However, as I say, having consulted with experts, the view is that the present legislation does not provide adequate cover for all children. Of course the Health and Safety Executive can enter schools and can comment on the provisions they find there; but that is not the same as a requirement that there should be a minimum standard of people available on the site who are adequately trained for first aid cover for emergencies.

My noble friend the Minister also said that the modest standard that would be required for the provision of first aid cover that was indicated in the wording of the amendment might lead to an actual reduction in standards for areas where people are already trained and on location. However, that argument does not really hold, I believe, because although some local authorities are very good and require very high standards in the provision of cover—Devon is an extremely good example—other authorities have no specification and no requirements whatever. Therefore the provision is extremely patchy and I think it is preferable to have a standard, adequate, minimum requirement rather than this very erratic provision that pertains at the moment, which may leave children very vulnerable.

12.30 a.m.

Finally, my noble friend the Minister, by way of example, referred to the fact that first aid kits are always available and are standardised in their requirements. However, the kits that are available by law are those which are meant to be provided for adults at a place of work. They are not designed particularly for children, or for the contingencies of school life and the particular hazards which might accompany school life. Therefore, the provision as it now stands is not adequate. It does not cover children for the risks to which they might be exposed at school. I think it is very unsatisfactory and very disturbing that we should have in this country a situation where children may be in danger from the kind of accidents and incidents which have been outlined in earlier discussions, where people may not be available to provide adequate first aid cover and, therefore, where children may well be vulnerable to exacerbation of injury or even to death from inadequate provision. I really feel that this is something that we must take very seriously and I know that that concern is very widely shared. Therefore, I beg to move.

Baroness Masham of Ilon

My Lords, I do not think it would be practical to provide in legislation for at least one person per school to be trained in first aid. That member of staff might be ill or leave. That is insufficient. Would it not be much more practical to provide first aid training for all teachers as part of their teacher training? They would then be trained to teach children first aid when it became part of the curriculum. My wish is that everyone is trained in first aid—teachers and children. We would then have a much more useful and responsible society.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I have arrived just in ti me to support the noble Baroness opposite on this amendment. I feel that it is the least we can do. I am sure that she has already pointed out the really important need to have someone to cope with emergencies, in order to avoid possible tragedies. But there are also quite practical reasons for having a trained person on the premises. For one thing, it saves doctor time, both in hospitals and in general practice, and it also saves teacher time. It saves teacher time because if there is no trained person on the premises, a teacher may have to take a pupil to hospital or to a doctor's surgery, instead of being able to cope with the problem on the premises.

An emergency also causes alarm for parents, because children patients may have to be taken home, or parents may have to be called from work when there is nothing very much wrong with the child and he or she is just too ill to stay at school. If there was somebody trained to look after them, it would be possible to cope until the end of school.

In addition to the words in the amendment there should be in some Act—and I am not sure whether there are any words in existing Education Acts—words requiring schools to provide a place where people who are not feeling very well can lie down. There are a lot of schools where pupils who are feeling ill have to sit up and grin and bear it until the end of school. It should be written in somewhere that there should be provision for them at least to lie horizontally. I have no hesitation in supporting the noble Baroness's amendment and I hope that the noble Baroness the Minister will feel that there is cross-party support for this and that this will make her more likely rather than less likely to agree to it.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I, too, went back to re-read the report of the debate that we had in Committee on the similar amendment that my noble friend Lady Cox moved on that occasion. This evening she has raised three points which she felt were unsatisfactory in the answer that I gave. I, too, have considered the legislative position and I hope that I shall be able to reassure her on the three points that she has made.

First, if I may make a general point which I hope will be of reassurance to everyone who has spoken, the department has no record of any case of complaint over the treatment of a pupil or student after an accident on school or college premises. That should act as a reassurance in regard to the general state of the provision in our schools.

I turn to the three particular points that my noble friend raised. My noble friend said that the present legislation does not provide an adequate cover. There is a general requirement for local authorities to make adequate provision for first aid in their schools. There is, as I said before, a general common law requirement. There is also the Health and Safety Act 1974, which imposes an obligation both on employers and on employees to have proper regard to the health and safety of others at work. Indeed, LEAs have a common law responsibility, in loco parentis, to look after the children in their care.

The Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981 and approved code of practice are framed to allow employers considerable scope in deciding how to tailor first aid provisions to the particular circumstances of their establishments. General advice on the criteria to be used by employers in deciding the appropriate level of provision for their employees is given in the approved code. The most important questions to be considered relate to the number and type of first aid personnel to be employed and whether a first aid room should be provided. The main criteria which apply to these questions are on the number and location of staff, the nature of the hazards to which they are exposed and the accessibility of NHS emergency facilities. These principles should apply equally to facilities provided for pupils, students and other non-employees.

In primary and secondary schools which may be regarded as establishments with relatively low hazards the approved code suggests that a first aider would be required only where there are 150 or more employees, and a first aid room where there are 400 or more. Consequently, most schools will not need a first aid room for employees, although many have medical rooms or rest rooms, and few will need qualified first aiders. However, this does not prevent trained first aiders being appointed in primary and secondary schools where this is considered appropriate.

Where the number of employees is below 150 employers may consider the total number of people on the site in assessing first aid needs. Where no first aiders are provided the regulations require appointed persons to be available to look after first aid equipment and to take charge of a situation if an accident occurs. No training is specified for appointed people although the Health and Safety Executive recommends the value of instruction in emergency first aid, resuscitation, control of bleeding and treatment of unconsciousness for such people. Such instruction is especially valuable where the appointed persons are responsible for children. Schools have to have a medical room under the 1981 school premises regulations. I hope, therefore, that this clears up the legal point. Perhaps I may confirm that in the case of special schools specific requirements are laid down by regulations. Requirements already exist for the kind of facilities which are now being proposed in special schools.

My noble friend's second point was that we were lowering standards in some places because we had not set a specific minimum requirement. As I am sure she will be aware, a minimum requirement can quite easily become a maximum requirement. In some schools we can do better than the suggestion that has been made. Although I accept that this means an uneven level of provision, it seems better to allow schools which already maintain a higher level of training to try to continue that level and for the others to try harder.

Finally, my noble friend asked about the provision of first aid kits in schools. This is a matter on which, if she will agree, I should like to write to her because it is a detailed provision. I shall be happy to write to her on that matter.

The Department of Education issues guidance from time to time on first aid provision and will review it so as to ensure as far as possible that schools are provided with the appropriate staff and facilities under the existing regulations and guidance. This ought to be the kind of assurance that my noble friend seeks from the Government, and I hope very much that, with that assurance and with the explanation, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I am most grateful to those who have supported this amendment at previous stages of the Bill and now. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for being here so late in order to speak to and support the amendment.

In response to my noble friend the Minister, I have taken careful note of the points that she has raised. One of the reasons why perhaps there have been no complaints is that given by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. It is a point that has been made to me by many people. In many cases when mishaps occur at school and there are accidents and injuries pupils are taken to accident and emergency departments or to a GP's surgery. As the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, that is not an ideal way of coping with such situations in human terms—because both the pupils and their parents grow worried when children have to be taken to hospital accident and emergency departments—and it is an expensive use of both teacher and medical resources. The argument about no complaints is not therefore entirely convincing.

The suggestion that schools are low hazard areas is one that I find slightly surprising. If accidents do not occur there regularly, it is not necessarily because the children are not in a vulnerable situation. When pupils are working in domestic science kitchens or in science laboratories where they have access to strong chemicals, and are playing hard body contact games, they are in a very vulnerable situation. Anybody who knows about the hurly-burly of school life would not regard schools as low hazard situations.

I accept my noble friend's point concerning the special schools. On the other hand your Lordships will be aware that a growing number of pupils with special needs are being integrated into our ordinary schools. They may therefore be particularly vulnerable. I believe that there ought to be a provision to ensure that care for such pupils, who are particularly vulnerable, is at an adequate level.

I come, finally, to my noble friend's point that we should not necessarily go for a minimum standard because that might preclude the maximum. That argument does not convince me because it seems to me that nothing will prevent people who are committed to excellence from attaining that excellence. The fact that there is a minimum standard does not necessarily inhibit people from working towards a higher standard. I would like to feel that the professional responsibilities and sense of commitment of teachers and of others responsible for the wellbeing of children would enable them to strive for maximum coverage rather than stay at the minimum level just because a minimum was required.

I still have serious reservations about the defence, as it were, put by my noble friend the Minister. However, I shall consult experts in the field, in particular those representing organisations such as St. John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, who feel very real concern about the issues underpinning the amendment. I should like also to consider my noble friend's suggestion concerning the guidelines and to look further into that aspect. In the meantime, and at this late hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.45 a.m.

Baroness Serota moved Amendment No. 92:

After Clause 45, insert the following new clause:

(" Application of Part III of Local Government Act 1974 to governing bodies.

. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 of the Local Government Act 1974 shall cease to have effect and any reference to an authority to which Part III of the Local Government Act 1974 applies shall also include a reference to governing bodies established in accordance with Part III of this Act.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 92 with the object of inserting a new clause into the Bill after Clause 45 in order to enable the local ombudsman service in England and Wales, which was established under Part III of the Local Government Act 1974, to investigate complaints of injustice about internal school matters arising from maladministration by local education authorities.

Such complaints are at present outside the jurisdiction of the local ombudsmen because of Schedule 5 (5) to the 1974 Act, although the local ombudsmen can and do deal with the actions of local authorities on all other matters relating to the education service, including, for example, the choice of school, school transport, requests for boarding education, maintenance allowances, awards to students, the youth service, adult education, and several other matters of that kind.

I listened very carefully to the debate which was initiated by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey at the very beginning of the Committee stage of this Bill on 25th March when he argued the case for a specialist children's ombudsman in every authority. Though there was some general support for the need to provide some form of independent complaints machinery for the investigation of complaints dealing with internal school matters, the concept of providing a completely new service for this purpose was criticised on a number of grounds.

For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, pointed out that such a proposal should not relate solely to schools, and she also suggested that young people of the ages of 16, 17 and 18 would find the suggested,title of "Children's Ombudsman" somewhat insulting. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, opposed the proposal mainly on the grounds of the sheer cost of setting up some 103 children's ombudsmen in the offices of every local authority, if such a statutory duty were to be laid on all local education authorities.

Looking carefully at col. 1290 of Hansard, of that day, he appeared to be under the misapprehension that parents have a general right to go to the local ombudsman on all education matters, but, as 1 have already explained, that is not so. He also indicated that the proposal for a children's ombudsman as envisaged might also need to provide services for children in care which are at present covered by the Social Services Department. There was also a discussion on that day of the ILEA's proposed pilot scheme for the London education service, which I see as a very welcome initiative for setting up a comprehensive local complaints procedure.

All the experience in these last 12 years since the local ombudsman system was established confirms the need for all authorities to have clear and well publicised arrangements for dealing speedily and effectively with complaints at the local level. I very much hope, too, that the proposals in the Bill for revising the role and function of school governors will also assist the very steady general trend over recent years for local authorities to improve their own procedures. But in the last resort I would submit to the house that there is no substitute for a fully independent and impartial ombusdman system which is quite separate from the local authorities themselves to deal with those complaints that cannot be satisfactorily settled at local level.

This amendment would enable the local ombudsman to receive and, where appropriate, investigate complaints relating to internal school and college matters as they now do in any matters relating to an internal local authority establishment such as a children's home or a home for elderly people.

My belief in the need for change is based on three statutory reviews of the 1974 Act, on my own nine years' working experience as Chairman of the Commission for Local Administration and local ombudsman for Greater London and the South-East, and also on the long held view of the Commission that complaints about all administrative actions of local authorities should be investigated unless there is some overwhelming reason for excluding them. In this case I believe the exclusion to be illogical, and therefore I beg leave to move the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am trebly grateful to my noble friend for moving this amendment in the way that she has—firstly, because in order to move the amendment she has sat patiently through so many hours of debate when I know that she is not in the best of health; secondly, because of the extremely eloquent and lucid way in which she has moved the amendment; and thirdly, because of her kindness in not referring to the mess—frankly—that we made of this issue at Committee stage. There were a number of defects in the amendment that we proposed, not least—as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy—that for pupils of 16 or over the idea of a "Children's Ombudsman" was not appropriate.

My noble friend has the, in this House, unique experience of nine years' service as a commissioner for local administration, and she referred to the three internal reviews, in all of which the English commission reiterated its view that those matters should be within the remit of the local authority ombudsman. It is nonsense that a complaint about an allocation to a school can be investigated but a complaint about an allocation to a form cannot. It is nonsense that a complaint about the management of a children's home can be investigated but a complaint about a school attended by the same children cannot.

The objections that have been raised to the extension of the responsibilities of the local authority ombudsman have been made by the representative bodies, and the Government have consistently taken the view that to extend the remit in that way would be unnecessarily expensive and add enormously to the responsibilities of the local authority ombudsman. There may be many thousands of children in schools, but there are also many, many thousands of council houses. Nobody has ever suggested that the powers of the local authority ombudsman should not extend to the public housing service.

The Bill proposes many more safeguards for parents to obtain access to the government of schools and to have a means of redress for any complaints that they may have through the procedures of the governing bodies. That is the Government's intention in the Bill, which we applaud. But one of the effects will be that the number of potential complaints to a local authority ombudsman will be reduced. That is not to say that they will ever be removed entirely. The local authority ombudsman forms a backstop, if one likes, for the normal processes of judgment and complaint to which parents and pupils have access. Now we surely have the opportunity without significant additional expense to rationalise the powers of the local authority ombudsman, to provide a final safeguard to parents and pupils and once and for all to put the law straight on this matter after a period of 12 years. I hope that the Government will find it possible to support my noble friend's amendment.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, first I should like to agree with the noble Lord about one thing, and that is the splendid example of the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, who told me at lunchtime that she was not feeling well, yet she has sat here throughout the debate. It is a splendid effort. We heard on the last amendment about first-aid in schools, but she survived all this without needing first-aid!

This amendment would bring within the scope of local commissioners of administration—the local ombudsmen—those matters relating to educational establishments ruled out by paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 to the Local Government Act 1974. These matters are the local education authority's functions in respect of the secular curriculum and, inside schools and establishments of further education, the giving of any instruction and matters of conduct, curriculum, internal organisation, management or discipline.

These provisions were not lightly put in the 1974 Act. They reflect four main considerations. The first is the relevance of the concept of "sustaining injustice through maladministration"—the raison d'etre of the local ombudsmen—in what, for shorthand, could be referred to as "internal school matters". In this context, it is interesting to note that the Inner London Education Authority's proposal for a children's ombudsman (which I think may have prompted the Committee stage amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh) does not seek to import such a criterion: as I understand it, it is simply an enhanced complaints procedure.

That brings me to my second point, which concerns the relevance of the local ombudsman's necessarily detailed and time-consuming method of investigation to matters which, by their nature, tend to involve complex and delicate matters of judgment, often arising on only an ephemeral basis.

Arising from these two, my third point relates to the existence of alternative means of dealing with concerns and grievances. There are various such means both locally through the general right to make representations as well as provision for specific appeals and also nationally, by complaint to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. It is important here to consider not only means of dealing with complaints in particular cases but also means of preventing them arising in the first place. I agree with the noble Baroness that, here, considerable weight can be placed on the arrangements for school government particularly as it is to be developed under this Bill.

We shall have governing bodies made much more accountable to the community served by the school in terms of both membership and the new duty to hold an annual meeting of parents. These reinvigorated governing bodies will be intimately involved in the matters addressed by this amendment. As well as providing a forum for considering representations on such matters, they will doubtless ensure that the initial determination of the matters is most sensitively done.

Finally,—I cannot avoid this—there is the issue of resources. There are currently three local commissioners for England and I understand that they are supported by 26 investigators. They currently manage about 200 formal investigations a year—about one in 10 of the cases brought to their attention and within their scope.

This amendment contemplates adding to the matters in scope a wide variety of complex and sensitive issues. In England alone there are 27,500 maintained schools. I was fascinated when the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that there may be a few thousand school children, in fact there are 7.5 million. That is a great deal more than a few thousand. There are 400,000 teachers and several hundred maintained colleges, with over a million students. As well as seeming, for the reasons I have indicated, an inappropriate and unnecessary extension of the local ombudsman's remit, it is clear that this amendment could create quite unnacceptable burdens for the local ombudsmen as well as the schools and colleges.

In bringing my remarks to a close, I have to say that this is not a new suggestion. I am sure the noble Baroness is aware that the commissioners themselves have suggested an extension to their jurisdiction of this sort under the formal reviews of their remit built into the 1974 Act. The Government have, of course, given this serious consideration but, for the reasons I have indicated, have rejected the suggestion, most recently in the formal response of last September.

Finally and most importantly, I must mention that the committee of inquiry into the conduct of local government business, chaired by Mr. David Widdicombe QC, was, inter alia, asked to consider the public right to challenge a local authority's actions. The committee reported to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on 9th May. The report, which has yet to be published, will doubtless touch on the matter we are discussing.

I can give the noble Baroness an assurance that the Government will be looking at this issue openly at that time. Against that background, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Serota

My Lords, I must first thank the noble Earl for his concern for my welfare. I only hope that the high temperatures on the first floor compared with the low temperatures in the Chamber will not have affected it adversely. I must also thank him for his reply to my amendment, although I know that he will understand when I say how deeply disappointed I am to hear the same old arguments that have been dragged out for the past 12 years whenever this subject has been tackled.

My noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey kindly answered in advance some of the arguments. He anticipated that we should be hearing the usual arguments against the extension of the local ombudsman's jurisdiction. The noble Earl made a number of points. At this time of day I shall not attempt to refute them all. I should like to refer to two points. They relate, first, to resources and, secondly, to the local ombudsman's ability to distinguish between the professional judgments that are made in internal matters in the education service and administrative acts.

With regard to resources, I shall say only that we all hope, with this development of the powers of governing bodies, as embodied in the Bill, that we shall surely see not a great increase in the number of complaints going to the local ombudsman but a decrease, as we hope that they will be dealt with more effectively locally.

The resources argument really does not hold water, particularly in view of the point made by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey relating to complaints on other aspects of local authority services which affect as many, if not more, members of the public than does the education service. I was particularly disappointed to hear reference to the inability of the local ombudsman to distinguish between professional judgments, in this case of teachers, and administrative acts of local authorities when, for 12 years, they have been doing this daily in relation to the professional judgments of other local authority professional staff such as lawyers, planners and social workers, to name but a few, and apparently quite successfully.

I take heart, though, from the last words of the noble Earl relating to the forthcoming publication of the Widdicombe Report. I am sure that that report will deal with this subject among others in depth and in detail. It may provide the opportunity for the House to return to this question. But this is not the occasion to test the feeling of the House on what I regard as a very important principle. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 [Minimum age for governors of establishments of further education]:

[Amendment No. 93 not moved.]

1 a.m.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 94.

After Clause 47, insert the following new clause:

("Duty of local education authority to disclose information.

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

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment relates to the extreme difficulty that parents are experiencing in obtaining necessary information on proposed closures or amalgamations of their schools, in particular from their own local education authorities. I spoke to the same amendment in Committee. In fact, we had a substantial debate. I shall not repeat all the arguments at this time of night, but I wish to probe the Government on their current position.

Where proposals for closure, amalgamation or rationalisation are put up by a local authority to the Secretary of State, the parents in many cases do not have access to the arguments advanced or to the proposals made by their own authority to the Secretary of State. Nor is the Secretary of State obliged to publish what he receives from a local authority. We are therefore in a situation where the county will not publish the documents it has sent to the Secretary of State. He will not publish the questions that he has asked the authority and the authority will not publish the answers. Each will say that there can be no publication without the permission of the other. As a result, parents have no guarantee that their objections will he included in any submission, and their voice may he completely mute.

At Committee stage the noble Baroness. Lady Young, in a reasoned reply, confirmed what I had suspected—that the Local Government (Access to Information) Act does not cover what we seek here. It makes council minutes available but not the correspondence or background papers behind them which are essential for parents in presenting their cases. Sometimes, considerable expenses are incurred by parental associations in going to judicial review on matters of this sort. Obviously, their chances are much decreased if they do not have access to full information.

The noble Baroness, in her reply at Committee stage, reiterated the Government's position as it then was and said: The existing legal requirement on local education authorities with respect to consultation and the present arrangements for ensuring that both sides have an opportunity to put their case to the Secretary of State are, we believe, adequate to ensure informed and balanced consideration of the merits of the proposal". (Official Report, 1/5/86; col. 489.)

That is not the impression of large numbers of parents up and down the country who feel themselves crushed or caught between the upper and the nether millstones of the Secretary of State and the local authority. There are certainly strong feelings on the issue. We were not satisfied with the reply from the noble Baroness, although we understand that she was trying to answer our concerns at Committee stage.

My purpose in raising the matter again this evening (I had thought of not moving the amendment at this stage and bringing it back at Third Reading) was that I thought it would be wise to see whether the Government—in view of the very strong feeling that exists among parents' associations up and down the country—have thought that they might reconsider this matter. I must tell them that if the Government's position remains the same I shall certainly be bringing the matter back at Third Reading. I am glad to see that we get a nice piece of prime time in the early part of the afternoon for the Third Reading of the Bill. On that occasion I shall be able to make a "big bang" of the issue. Before I do that I should like to hear where the Government stand at the moment.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I must to some extent reiterate what was explained when your Lordships considered this matter at Committee stage: that it would be superfluous to impose a duty on local education authorities to give reasons for their proposals under Sections 12 to 15 of the Education Act 1980. Recent High Court decisions have established that parents have a legitimate expectation that they will be consulted on such proposals and this is enforceable to the same extent as a statutory requirement to consult. Therefore the position is covered at common law. The Secretary of State has at all times made clear the importance he attaches to proper consultation: where consultation has been inadequate, the Secretary of State will not approve the proposals. There is thus no need for a statutory provision for local education authorities to provide reasons for their proposals: they must already do so.

So far as the disclosure of information is concerned, on the previous occasion in Committee I understand that we somewhat understated the extent of the obligation already imposed on authorities by the Local Government (Access to Information) Act. I can give further reassurance to the noble Lord on this. As he stated, my noble friend Lady Young said then that council minutes were covered by the Act, and must be disclosed. I now understand that the obligation to disclose extends to any report considered by a council or its education committee and even to background papers on which the report, or an important part of it, was based, and which have been relied on to any material extent by those who prepared the report. This is a far-reaching provision which should surely meet the noble Lords' concern.

In the light of all this, I trust that the noble Lord will conclude that the existing legal obligations on local education authorities do provide a sufficient safeguard and that this will enable him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I shall certainly withdraw the amendment but not with any undertaking that I shall not come back. I find it very surprising that the noble Baroness should use the word "superfluous" when the experience of parents has been extremely adverse in these matters over a long period of time. I found that an odd adjective to use.

It is quite true that they may have recourse in common law. They can go to judicial review and that kind of thing. But all this is very expensive indeed. I am obviously interested in what the noble Baroness has said about their revised interpretation of the scope of the Local Government (Access to Information) Act. I shall obviously want to look at that Act and at what the noble Baroness has said. If it is the case that any report from the local education committee considered by a council is fully available, as she suggests, that rather changes the situation. We shall want to go into the matter to see whether that is the case. Obviously the best situation is that local authorities adopt a full and frank attitude to their electors over these matters. Unfortunately not all of them do so.

However, I shall certainly read very carefully what the noble Baroness has said. I do not undertake not to come back on this, because if we are not fully satisfied we shall certainly be back at Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 95:

Before Clause 48, insert the following new clause:

("Freedom of speech.

. It shall be the duty of any university, polytechnic or college of further or higher education to use available resources, including if necessary requesting the help of the police, to prevent serious interference with freedom of speech within the law on their premises.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall not repeat the arguments which I made previously at the Committee stage. However, perhaps I may point out that at that stage my noble friend the Minister offered reassurances that the Government take very seriously the issues of freedom of speech, and reference was made to the guidelines that have recently been circulated by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of Universities and the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics.

However, serious incidents have occurred even since that stage of the Bill. For example, there is the case of the two Oxford colleges which have not found themselves able to give platforms to a Conservative MP; while at Bristol University only very mild penalties have been imposed on those who have disrupted officially scheduled lectures at the university because the lecturer happens to write for a Murdoch paper, and also it is claimed that the campaign against his lectures will continue.

Therefore, this amendment is timely indeed. The need for it has certainly not decreased in any way; it has been shown to have increased. Moreover, it is not incompatible with those guidelines of the CVCP and the CDP. Indeed, it would strengthen their hand in attempting to ensure freedom of speech in our colleges and universities, a freedom which lies at the heart of a free society. I therefore beg to move.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I do not think that there is anyone in the Chamber tonight or in the House if it were fuller who would disagree with the absolute requirement of freedom of speech, particularly on a university campus. Therefore, obviously all right-minded people will be in sympathy with the intention of the amendment. The only reason I rise is to query whether, in fact, it is really cast in exactly the right form. I refer particularly to the phrase: including if necessary requesting the help of the police". The police have a great many problems on their hands already, and in any violent incident they obviously would be called in. However, the even more important consideration is that to write that particular phrase into the amendment and, if it were accepted, into the Bill would, I should have thought, be welcomed by extreme activist groups as a basis for provoking incidents which would bring them additional publicity.

I am not disagreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in what she is trying to achieve, with which I think we all agree, but I am slightly querying the means that she is using, and that particular phrase. The intention is widely accepted by the National Union of Students and by all parts of the political spectrum; but I slightly question whether she has the formula quite right.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I think that at this late stage I can satisfy both my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. As I have previously said, the Government have much sympathy with the views underlying this clause. I affirm again the vital need to uphold everywhere freedom of speech within the law, and especially in our institutions of higher education.

We have carefully considered the arguments put forward at Committee stage by my noble friend and have decided in the circumstances that it would be appropriate to make provision in this legislation to meet the concerns she expressed. We therefore undertake to introduce our own amendment at Third Reading. This will go wider than freedom of speech for visiting speakers and will relate to every aspect of higher education.

Your Lordships will no doubt be aware also of the open letter sent by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to the President of the National Union of Students. The Government hope that this exhortation, backed up by an addition to this Bill in an appropriate form, will secure freedom of speech in our institutions of higher education.

In the light of the Government's firm undertaking I invite my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, before the noble Baroness responds, perhaps I may reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, said about the lack of a necessary connection between introducing police and achieving freedom of speech. I was a graduate student at the Ohio State University for a year. It was conspicuous to me, coming from a British university, that there were campus police armed at all times constantly patrolling the campus.

It was only a few short years after that that the most outrageous breach of freedom of speech happened at Kent State University, also in the Ohio State University system. The combination of campus police and the National Guard actually shot and killed a number of students who were demonstrating their belief in their political opinions and exercising the right of freedom of speech. The argument is not all on one side. It happens to be in the interests of students to have freedom of speech as well as visiting lecturers. It is not just a matter of Left and Right, and it is not a solution to have a strong police presence.

Baroness Cox

It only remains for me to express my appreciation to my noble friend the Minister for his offer to come back at Third Reading with an amendment which hopefully will meet the needs and spirit underpinning this amendment. I welcome that. In the light of that it is not necessary for me to try to respond to the constructive queries from the noble Lords, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord McIntosh. I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 50 [Interpretation]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 96 Page 53, line 9, leave out from ("where") to ("includes"). in line 10, and insert ("provision to the contrary is made").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 84. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 97 not moved.]

House adjourned at seventeen minutes past one o'clock.