HL Deb 24 February 1992 vol 536 cc12-78

3.8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blatch.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools in England]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 6, at beginning insert: ("( ) The following provisions of this section shall have effect after the making of an order by the Secretary of State, and no such order shall be made before the laying before Parliament of a comprehensive review of arrangements for the inspection of schools in England and Wales.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 10. Amendment No. 10 is exactly the same amendment but it refers to Wales rather than England. Perhaps I should first indicate that there is great concern in Wales about the Bill. There is a belief that the Welsh system of education is being dragged down by the English system. We hope that the Government will accept amendments that make the Bill more acceptable in both countries. However, if they are unable to agree amendments that make it more acceptable, I give notice that at a later stage we may wish to move amendments that will remove Clauses 5 and 8 from the Bill and treat Wales in the same way as Scotland so that it is not exposed to some of the less attractive aspects of the legislation that is before us.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 1 and 10. A thorough internal review of Her Majesty's Inspectorate was announced by the Secretary of State on 8th May 1991. The review followed the decision by the previous senior chief inspector, Mr. Eric Bolton, to take early retirement and a public advertisement for his successor. It was conducted by three middle-ranking DES officials including one HMI. The review's conclusions were made known to Ministers in July last year. No invitation was made to the local authorities to make submissions to the review team. Nor was the advice of many outside experts sought. The review has never been published although it was leaked to the Independent newspaper which published extracts from it on 14th November 1991.

The Secretary of State sought to justify the decision not to publish the review on the principle that advice from officials to Ministers is confidential. Indeed, that is what he argued in the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on 19th November 1991. One of the issues that emerged from the leak is the review's recommendation on how many HMIs at national level would be needed. There has been a considerable amount of public debate about the fact that the review recommended that there should be 380 HMIs. The Government have clearly chosen to ignore that recommendation although other recommendations in the review appear to have been accepted.

From what we can gather, the review is a thoroughly had piece of work done in great haste and without any deep thinking. The article in the Independent states: Had the report been published it would have been torn to shreds. The reason is simple: it does not even refer to, let alone address, the central argument against the system that the Government is now legislating to create", namely, that governing bodies can choose their own inspectors. The Independent article continues: No important item of legislation should ever be presented to Parliament on such a slender analysis of the options available. The report concentrates completely on advocating Mr. Clarke's preferred approach—so much so, that it seems like a vehicle for confirming and elaborating on a decision which had already been taken".

Not only is the review of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of July 1991 apparently a weak report, with less than two pages devoted to the alternative of expanding Her Majesty's Inspectorate into a national agency inspecting all schools with its own staff, but the fact also remains that the Education (Schools) Bill is unique in being a major piece of legislation that has not been preceded by some form of proper consultation.

Ministers may say that The Citizen's Charter published in July last year was a form of consultation. But once again it would be difficult to say that any consultation on that document was conducted in a serious fashion by Ministers. The deadline for responses to The Citizen's Charter was after the publication of the Bill. In those circumstances how could we possibly call it serious consultation?

The National Association of Governors and Managers, whose members are profoundly affected by the Bill, and the main parents' organisations were not consulted. A matter as important for the nation's education as the monitoring of standards through inspections should have been the subject of consultation. There should have been a Green Paper, if not a White Paper, preceding publication of the Bill giving people time to respond and to say what they felt about it and to put forward alternative suggestions.

Instead, a review was initiated last May and given only two months in which to report. Apparently the review concedes that those who were consulted—there were not many—considered that the body best suited to undertake independent and objective inspections is Her Majesty's Inspectorate. If that is true, is it not amazing that we have before us a Bill which decimates HMI and sets up an untried system which is flawed in principle? The purpose of the amendments is to ensure the publication of the DES review of HMI before the Bill is implemented and before the role of HMI is fundamentally changed. I beg to move.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I, too, wish to speak to the amendment from these Benches. It is a subject which threatens to involve too long a debate for the Committee stage in this Chamber. I therefore shall be as brief as possible.

School inspections should be thorough, expert, constructive and supportive, independent and reasonably frequent. Over the years HMI has fulfilled all those needs except the last. With that exception it has been a centre of excellence. I believe that that is almost universally acknowledged. It has constituted a tradition like the Brigade of Guards or Eton.

Local authority inspections have been variable. They have greatly improved during the past two or three years. My own county, East Sussex, has brought such inspections to a high state of efficiency. The inspectorate pays regular visits. It produces annual reports. It publishes reviews of particular aspects of school work. It offers advice, development and support. It constitutes a partnership between schools, governing bodies and LEAs.

We appreciate that the inspections by HMI have been far too infrequent. But why not build on what we have? Why chuck out the baby with the bath water? Why cut off the head to cure the headache? Why choose a scheme which threatens standards? The inspection teams appear to lack expertise. Such a situation threatens national standards because those teams will lack consistency throughout the country. Why choose a scheme which threatens the integrity of the teams because of the commercial considerations? Why choose a scheme which exposes the inspections to the possibility of bias of one kind or another—educational bias or possibly racial or political bias?

So grave an issue should have been widely debated. As the noble Baroness said, it should have been the subject of a White Paper or even a Green Paper. It is not fitting that the subject should be treated as though it were some trumpery issue. I strongly support the amendment.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

We have over 206 amendments to discuss at Committee stage. The heart sinks when the very first amendment that we discuss should be what I regard as a temporising amendment; namely, that before the Bill takes effect the Secretary of State shall write a report which will take a very long time. Other amendments before the Committee today, for instance, Amendments Nos. 10 and 99, are in similar form.

I am sure that a number of noble Lords have many anxieties about various aspects of the Bill. We shall debate them through amendments laid before us. The noble Baroness has touched on important points. However, I hope that Members of the Committee will not consider me cynical if I point out that the noble Baroness is a social scientist and was a very distinguished Professor of Educational Administration before taking up her present more distinguished position. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, who will speak to us on various amendments, is a macroeconomist. I am not sure whether it is to the advantage of progress that before the Bill is implemented we should have a report written by a social scientist or a macroeconomist, or whatever.

The Bill has been through a long Committee stage in the Commons. I believe that there were at least 13 sessions. We shall have the opportunity to debate the main elements in great detail in this Chamber. As in previous Bills that I have had the opportunity to discuss at Committee stage, the heart sinks when the first amendment suggests that a long report should be written before anything is done. I oppose the amendment for that reason rather than for the points of substance, which I am sure the noble Baroness will bring forward in her other amendments which are worth discussing tonight.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

I cannot agree with that argument because the Bill, taken together with ministerial statements, sets out to make radical changes in a key area of our educational system. It is vital that we get them right, even if that means spending more time beforehand.

What worries many of us, especially those who have been involved in the educational world, is the speed of the proposed changes, and the apparent lack of careful analysis in their preparation. It seems to me that, for this Bill to be justified, four underlying assumptions must be seen to be true: first, that the situation in our schools is serious; secondly, that LEAs and Her Majesty's Inspectorate are largely to blame for this and should play a reduced role from now on; thirdly, that a heavy formal inspection programme is the solution; and, fourthly, leading on from the first assumption, that the situation is so urgent that it cannot wait for a few months for proper professional consultations and a review of the options. I do not see otherwise how such a major upheaval can be supported.

In the presentation of the Government's case at Second Reading some of these assumptions were put forward, some were not stated, but I believe that none was convincingly backed by argument. In fact, I believe that all four are open to serious challenge. I agree that it is not appropriate to go into all the arguments now. Our point, in tabling this amendment, is that the debate still needs to take place. The unpublished DES review was certainly not an adequate substitute. I shall just try and briefly give a flavour of some of the considerations relating to formal inspections, especially by newly-formed teams, pausing only to comment on the way that the available evidence suggests that the overall situation in schools could fairly be described as "quite good", based as it is on a long and steady period of rising standards followed by an apparent fall in reading levels of a few percentage points at the upper infant stage, whose cause is unknown but tentatively thought to lie outside the schools themselves.

Formal inspection is a cumbersome weapon. Depending on how it is done, it can have advantages which are obvious, such as keeping teachers on their toes, and keeping track of trends and standards. What is not as obvious as it might seem is that formal inspections play an effective role in raising standards. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out on Second Reading that regular testing does not of itself bring about development. Some LEAs have inspectors, while others rely on an advisory service. I do not believe we have any evidence to show that those who have been inspected have done better than those who have been advised. The ILEA had a system of quite heavy inspections, and I do not believe the Government greatly admired its standards for all that.

HMI have always done much more than inspect. A retired inspector has written to me of the importance of the many non-reporting visits, the intimate contact with schools, on which are based the knowledge and understanding which inform the published reports. She has also stressed what a difficult and delicate task inspecting is. I know that it will take a moment but I should like to quote what she said because I think it is important. She said: after 30 years' experience I myself could seldom be quite sure that I had made the right assessment … and I believe that many of my former colleagues would say the same. To come anywhere near getting it right one needs constant experience of schools in situations where one is not required to pass … absolute judgments, plus the kind of cross-fertilisation … which comes from frequent discussion with colleagues and teachers from all over the country. Much of this professionalism, and I might add, credibility, is to be thrown away without proper debate. I can imagine, too, that HMI may have difficulty recruiting people of suitable calibre to a job which will have lost much of its attraction, relying as it will mainly on second-hand news of schools, having lost its close contact with teachers and children. Instead we will have inspection of a kind, inevitably at a less reliable standard, but none of the backup that should go with it if real improvement is the goal. If a school is shown to be in trouble, the LEA will no longer be well placed to go in with a rescue operation of in-service training, and so on: the resources will not be there. In the past a good LEA would have had the central resources and know-how to forestall the problem before it developed. I foresee the possibility of professional stagnation, under the proposed model. It is, as I said at Second Reading, the authoritarian model, and its message will not be lost on an already somewhat demoralised profession. A United States study in 1989 on successful secondary schools made it clear that professionals needed to be committed to change rather than having it forced on them, and concluded that carrots work but sticks do not. If this particular stick comes round every four years the disruption will be considerable: I do not know on what professional advice this figure was based, and how inflexible it will be, but I think it is an unwise one in the case of a full and formal inspection.

On many counts, therefore, there is well-founded concern about what is being proposed. And I have here addressed only one of the four basic assumptions that underlit the Bill. It is, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford said on Second Reading, a risky Bill. It is also, I am afraid, an amateurish one. I am no great believer in kowtowing to professions, and I welcome openness and bringing in the lay voice. But there are areas in education where technical knowledge is essential—the methodology of testing, whether individuals or whole schools, and the way of presenting accurately to your public the results you have found, are two areas of relevance to this Bill—and for the Government to proceed with a major reform on the basis that you can dispense with professional advice, whether from prejudice or pique or I know not what, is surely deeply unwise. It is for this reason that I support an amendment which will bring the arguments into the open and introduce, I hope, some much-needed rigour into the debate.

Lord Glenamara

The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said that he thought the two amendments—one referring to England and the other to Wales—were unnecessary. I believe that they are essential because this Government have not done what we expect all governments to do—that is, to justify legislation which they bring before Parliament. I have talked to many people up and down the country and no one can understand why this wretched Bill has been introduced. I understand that a review of the inspectorate has been carried out by the DES but we have not seen the report. No one has seen it because it has not been published. As a result, every educational body in the country has opposed the Bill—every single one. Nobody has supported it.

I listened to the Minister's memorable winding-up of the Second Reading debate. I stayed for the first 35 minutes but I could not stay for the last 10 minutes. I read the debate afterwards. Nowhere in that debate did she justify these ridiculous changes to the inspectorate. For that reason it is essential that we see the report before the Bill is implemented. The purpose of the two amendments is to enable Parliament to see, to read and to scrutinise the review of the inspectorate before the changes are made. That appears to me to be eminently sensible. Can the Government not accept that? Can they not try to retrieve something from the appalling mess of this Bill and accept these two amendments? That would be a perfectly sensible step and I hope that the Committee will agree to them.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My contribution will be in the nature of a question to the Minister. I hope that she will deal with it in some detail when replying to the debate. I am extremely puzzled about where all these new inspectors will come from. As an LEA education officer I had considerable dealings with inspectors. I found that their expertise, their dedication to the work and everything connected with it was absolutely first rate. During my time I never came across what one might describe as an incompetent HMI. The noble Baroness frowns and I am wondering how much experience she has in this area.

I understand that the Government have said that consultants will be able to provide the HMIs who will be required under the new set-up. During the Second Reading debate my noble friend Lady Blackstone said that she had spoken to a number of consultants who had told her that there was little possibility of their providing such people. I followed that up with my own inquiries and reached the same conclusion; that the provision of those HMIs will not be made. That issue is crucial to the whole business of privatising the inspection of schools. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will explain in detail how this important aspect of the proposal will be met.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness White

The Committee will be aware that the matters which we have been discussing concern Wales as well as England. There was a very long Written Answer in the other place from the Secretary of State for Wales, but a Written Answer is not an adequate response to Welsh anxieties about these matters.

I do not know whether there was a formal guillotine but I understand that the Welsh side of the matter was hardly discussed. That is what our colleagues in the other place tell us. What does the noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate know about the situation in Wales? I find it difficult to believe that she knows anything at all.

Lord Elton

My noble friend Lord Renfrew was right to call this a temporising measure because, regardless of the speeches that are being made, we are being asked to provide an occasion for a Second Reading debate as regards the introduction of the Bill's provisions. We appear to be doing so by having a third Second Reading debate now.

The Bill was read a second time and we should now be trying to ensure that it reaches the statute book in the best order possible. We should not leave that as a legacy for some future Parliament and perhaps another House of Parliament. I hope that the Committee will resist the amendment and that we can get on with discussing the other amendments.

Baroness Blatch

This amendment would delay our important reform until a review of the arrangements of school inspection had been presented to Parliament. I am not sure whether Members opposite would publish a review before their policy document. We have all heard unequivocal statements: "We will establish a standards council", "We will do this for school inspection", "We will do that for school inspection". However, nobody has said that that will be subject to a review, subject to a review of parents or subject to anything.

The need for reform is unarguable. We have said that for a long time. Parents have said it. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, does not believe it, but there are people outside who think it is important to know what is going on in our schools.

The noble Baroness and Members of the Committee opposite must accept that the problems of local school inspection and the activities of HMI are well documented. We now need not reviews but action.

There has been a review. The Audit Commission report in 1989 set out a sorry picture of local authority inspection in practice. HMI is monitoring progress. Indeed, there has been progress and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, referred to his own authority which has made enormous strides in that respect. But as was mentioned at Second Reading, only one third of LEAs have inspection systems in place which offer the prospect of reliable reports. The picture is reported in more detail in the Senior Chief Inspector's report for 1990–91. I do not think we need to second guess HMI's view with a further review.

As for HMI's own work, the SCI's report covers that too. It makes clear both the strengths and limitations of HMI's current role. Seven thousand establishments were visited but only 150 benefited from written reports about their work as a basis for their own planning. The others yielded valuable information which was fed into HMI's database and used in compiling general publications. But they did not receive detailed written feedback.

Those facts about the current system are well known. They demonstrate the need for reform, to which all parties are firmly committed. The only issue is how that reform is to be managed. We have set out our proposals in the Parent's Charter and in this Bill which has had full parliamentary discussion. As regards the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady White, the Bill was not guillotined in Commons Committee and its use at Report stage doubled the time available for debate from that previously agreed. Once the Bill is law it should be implemented forthwith.

I know Members of the Committee opposite want to press their case for publication of the internal reviews which my right honourable friends commissioned last year. But we made clear from the start that these were internal reviews—not for publication—designed to assist policy making. All parties take advice when deciding policy. They have served their purpose, and the policy we have decided upon is embodied in this Bill which has been and is being fully debated.

I do not think the Labour Party or anyone else would wish to deny the need for confidential advice to Ministers as they formulate policy. It is a necessary part of the business of government. The important thing is to hold the policy itself up to scrutiny as this House is now doing.

I have also been tackled on the lack of a White Paper about our proposals. The policy was set out in the Citizen's Charter, and further fleshed out in the Parent's Charter. I accept that time for formal comment was brief. But the Committee is aware that this must be a short parliamentary session and we needed to make progress to introduce the Bill. Time for debate has however been full. I remind the Committee that we allocated more time than the Opposition chose to use in Committee in another place. Extensive public comment has informed our discussions. So I do not think I need apologise for any lack of public scrutiny of the Bill's proposals.

The noble Baroness made reference to the National Association of Governors and Managers. That association was invited to comment on the Bill, as were all LEAs and other interested bodies in a letter of 2nd October 1991 which invited replies by 15th November. Those bodies did comment and we have been in contact with them.

The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, set out four points which he said should form the basis or rationale for the changes. He asked whether the position is serious. One of the interesting problems that that goes on to raise is that we simply do not know. We know that there are problems and that standards could be higher. But there is no inspection system which tells us in a way which is common across the education system exactly what is going on in our schools. That must be a starting point.

The noble Earl went on to ask whether the LEAs and HMI are to blame. We have enough evidence to know that the LEAs did not have a routinely systematic method of inspection. It was patchy and extremely variable. When it was good, it was very, very good, but, sadly, those instances were all too rare.

The noble Earl asked whether formal inspection is a solution. A formal inspection at least tells us what is going on in our schools. That must be a starting point from which one can target resources and efforts to improve the situation.

The noble Earl also asked why the matter is so urgent. It will be at least five years—taking the implementation of the Bill and a four—year rolling programme—before each school is inspected just once. The sooner we get on with that the better. I argue that all four counts are a reasonable basis for going on with the Bill.

The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, also said that inspection is extremely negative. He referred to it as a stick and in other derogatory ways. Schools should look upon inspection as being extremely positive rather than negative. Inspection tells us what is going on and then gives us the opportunity of a sound information database needed to build on strength and address weaknesses. That is a positive way to look at inspection. It should not be looked upon as a penal activity.

There is a gross misunderstanding about the Bill and about the need to know what is going on in our schools. The proposals before us will ensure that inspections are regular and systematic. Information will be made available to a much wider audience; that is, parents, the public, schools, governing bodies and, indeed, Parliament. That will be extremely healthy for our schools. It will be a great service for our young people. I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Dormand of Easington

Before the noble Baroness sits down will she deal with the questions I posed?

Baroness Blatch

The noble Lord asked the interesting question, where the employees of HMI are to come from. I am sure that later this afternoon he will argue that we do not have enough inspectors and will ask what will happen to those HMIs who will not form part of the core personnel. There will be a large number of people who are well qualified to apply for registration under the registration system. There are many more people in the education world who will feel sufficiently competent to come forward and apply for registration. We are confident that the system will work. The noble Lord clearly does not share our confidence.

Lord Glenamara

We are not objecting to inspections. The whole speech was made on the basis that we object to inspections, which we do not. We object to inspections being made by unqualified laymen. That is what we are objecting to. Will the noble Baroness tell us where the mandate is for introducing that rather fundamental change? Was that part of the Conservative Party manifesto? What is the mandate for it?

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may pose the question back to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara: from where does he get his evidence that unqualified laymen will be involved in inspecting our schools?

Lord Glenamara

Can the noble Baroness tell me where in the Bill the qualifications are laid down?

Baroness Blatch

Happily, we truly believe in the independence of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector and HMI. It will be for Her Majesty's Chief Inspector to lay down the qualifications of those people who will be registered to inspect our schools. We have every confidence in the professionalism of HMI. There is grave suspicion in the minds of noble Lords opposite.

Baroness Phillips

Speaking as an ex-teacher, why do we have to have a Bill? When did we stop being inspected? I have not taught since about 1960. We had inspectors and teachers who gave reports. The Government are acting as if they have suddenly come up with a bright idea. To say that reports are not presented to governors is nonsense. For a long time there has been nothing secret in our schools except in the private sector where inspectors cannot go anyway. Unfortunately, I was not present at Second Reading, but I believe that the Bill is a total nonsense because we shall have unqualified people going into schools and making comments. When I was teaching, one thing that I resented was being inspected by somebody who had never done the job that I was trying to do. I would always ask, "Where did you teach?" That will be a relevant question for the kind of people who will now visit schools. I believe it is a slur on the profession that we have to introduce a Bill to get inspectors and HMIs to do a job which is already being done.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

Before the noble Baroness sits down, will she confirm that it is anticipated that there will be 6,000 inspections a year, the reports of which will be published and available generally? The noble Baroness has said that at present there are only about 150 full inspections per year. It is perfectly reasonable to ask who will undertake those inspections. They will be undertaken by registered inspectors who will be well qualified. The same question would arise if they were undertaken by the inspectorate. There will be a significant increase in the number of inspections, and they will be published. I hope that the noble Baroness will confirm those figures.

Baroness Phillips

As the noble Lord has put that question, perhaps I may ask why we have got down to such a small number of inspections. In my view it is due to the Government. Just as they have cut back on the health service, so they have cut back in education, and in the end nobody knows what they are doing. We would have a much better system of education if we left it to the practitioners who know what they are doing. I would quote the words of a friend of mine, a headmaster. He said that if we changed the system often enough the working class would remain illiterate. I sometimes think that there is truth in that old story. In the old days one had regular inspections. One also had fire drills, safety drills and prayers which one does not have today. That does not mean the inspectors are not there to do their job. Teachers and head teachers have nothing to hide. If they wanted to put this in the paper—which is presumably what the noble Lord meant—they would do it.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may say in reply to the noble Baroness, first, that the inspections were not as regular as the noble Baroness's memory serves her. Secondly, we have not cut back on HMI. What has broken down is the system. Inspections were carried out between HMI (who did all too few inspections) and the LEAs. I have given enough evidence to show that the LEAs have not had a consistent approach to inspections. To take the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, some authorities have done an exemplary job but others have done no inspections at all. It was this Government, not any other, that made HMI inspections public. What we are doing now is to combine the skills and professionalism of HMI under a chief inspector who will use a qualified registration system of practitioners, all of whom will be qualified under the system laid down by the chief inspector. We will guarantee a rolling programme of approximately 6,000 inspections every year against common criteria.

Indeed, my final point relates to common criteria. All too often schools were inspected by inspectors and it was not known by what criteria they were being judged. Very often subjectivity crept into the reports and good schools and teachers were at a loss to know how judgments were made. Under this system the criteria will be in the public domain, reports will be constant against a common format and parents, teachers, governors and children will be much better informed of what is going on and being achieved in our schools.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness David

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, was aware that during the last year for which HMIs reported (1989–90) inspection visits were made to 3,274 maintained primary schools, 2,436 maintained secondary schools, 529 independent schools and 692 further and higher education institutions. Perhaps those visits are of more value than a regular four-yearly inspection by people who will not have the qualifications of HMIs.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

The visiting system is valuable and one hopes that it will continue. But I would ask the noble Baroness in reply how many of the inspections to which she made reference were published.

Baroness David

I believe they were made known to the governors of the schools concerned.

Lord Elton

Are we not comparing apples and oranges? The inspections to which the noble Baroness has referred are partial or specialist inspections and the inspections referred to by my noble friend are full inspections, which are entirely different and much more important.

Viscount Eccles

I was sorry that I was out of the country at the time of Second Reading, but I need not have been sorry at all because we are having a Second Reading debate now. When the Chamber has decided on the principle of the Bill we ought to get on with the Committee stage. There have not been inspections on any scale for a very long time. It was 45 years ago when I was the Minister and had the pleasure of knowing the HMI. They were very nice people but they did not often inspect. When they did inspect nobody ever read their reports, but they visited and advised very well—exactly what I believe the noble Baroness, Lady David, said at Second Reading. That is something that they must go on doing.

However, there is a totally new situation, which I suppose is the reason we have this Bill. Parents and employers now want to know what is happening in the schools. In order to tell them what is happening we are trying to mount something like 6,000 full inspections a year. That will not be at all easy. It will not be possible for a very long time, and I am doubtful how valuable it will be when it is done. Still, we have to try, and the Bill tells us how it will be attempted. In my view, to have a report on the whole system before we get on with the Committee stage is, in parliamentary terms, wrong.

Baroness Faithfull

I am the governor of two schools. I am bound to say that one has not been inspected for 15 years and the other has not been inspected for 12 years and received an inspection only when the governors asked for it.

Lord Shepherd

The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, reproved the Committee, with some justification. He then indulged in a Second Reading speech. I intervene with great temerity to draw the Committee's attention to the amendment before us. It is not a wide-ranging issue. It is a simple question as to whether there should be a comprehensive review of the arrangements for the inspection of schools in England and Wales before an order is laid before your Lordships' Chamber and another place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, speaks as always not only with charm but with considerable confidence. I remember she spoke the other day in response to a question with supreme confidence about the council tax and that we were able to save money in terms of valuations using private sector valuers for that purpose. I see in today's paper that some 60 per cent. of the valuations so far submitted have been rejected because they are considered to be completely inadequate by the authorities.

I do not use that example. I simply say to the Committee that one must take all Ministers' speeches, from whichever party they arise, with a pinch of salt. They have their brief and will speak to it. I agree with my noble friend Lord Glenamara and support an extension and improvement of the inspection of our schools if that is the way to achieve a higher standard and quality of output. My anxiety is that we are now entering a new field of inspection, some areas of which are completely and utterly unknown.

The noble Baroness said that we are dealing with the Bill in a tight parliamentary timetable. I am sure that not only on this Bill but on other Bills with which we have to deal the Government will be asking the Chamber to move with a degree of expedition. It is right that Parliament in that position should do so. Equally, it follows that if one is seeking expedition, one needs to take into account that matters may not be as fully scrutinised as perhaps they otherwise would be with more leisurely proceedings.

I make only one suggestion with regard to Amendment No. 1 and I do not know whether the noble Baroness on the Front Bench will agree. I suggest the removal of the word, "comprehensive". It may be thought that that suggestion would abnormally delay the proceedings. But the Chamber is surely not asking too much by saying that the Government should produce a report to the two Houses of Parliament prior to making the orders which implement the legislation that we are approving in broad principle and design. As we know in this Chamber, an order is not subject to any form of amendment; it must be taken as a whole or rejected, and in most cases it is not rejected. I would not have thought that that was asking too much of the Government in the present situation.

Baroness Young

The noble Lord is perhaps being less than fair to my noble friend the Minister who is responding to the debate. When my noble friend rose to speak earlier she answered quite specifically the points raised, and I believe did so fairly.

Most people taking part in the debate have had some experience with education, some of us regrettably perhaps longer ago than we might have wished. Nevertheless, it is a subject which we regard as important and we try to follow events as they unfold. It is important that the underlying case for the Bill, which in a sense is complementary to the education Act in 1988, should be understood.

Nobody is abolishing the inspectorate. The chief inspectors will remain; a number of other inspectors will remain and a number of other people will have to be registered. We are not asking just any old person who cares to put up his or her hand and to say, "I should like to be a school inspector", to come along and do so. They will need to be chosen and selected carefully and trained properly. Having been trained, they will go into schools. Schools now have to publish their aims—which is a good thing—so that inspectors can see how far what they are doing correlates with what they intended to do. That is a valuable practice.

I too have been approached by heads of schools and former HMIs who believe that some kind of outside inspection, with a proper amount of educational input, will be invaluable for schools in the future and helpful to schools, governors, parents, employers and others.

Baroness Blackstone

We have come to expect a robust response from the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to amendments in Committee. She was extremely robust in her response just now. But I must say that she both misrepresented the position of the Labour Party and misled the Committee on one or two other points. I am sure that she will forgive me if I draw them to her attention.

However, before doing so I should like to refer to what my noble friend Lord Shepherd said. He is absolutely right. These amendments are perfectly appropriate for the first day of Committee on a major Bill. There is no sense in which this debate has anything to do with having another Second Reading of the Bill. The point is that the Government have undertaken a secret review of inspecting schools; a report has been prepared; it has been extensively leaked in a newspaper, and yet we are not allowed to see it before the Bill is enacted.

The amendments suggest that that review on this important matter, comprehensive or not—or indeed another review if the Government prefer if they are ashamed of what the first review says in some way—should be laid before Parliament. As the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, said, it is far better on an issue of such importance to get things right than to rush into things without there being adequate consideration and public discussion.

I want to assert yet again that I have no wish to temporise. That is the last thing that is appropriate when making policy. If we want to improve our systems of schooling in this country—and we all agree that we do—we must get on and do it. But we must do it in a way that is sensible and try to build some consensus about what is sensible. I regret to say that there is no consensus on the Bill. If we had a chance to see the review we would perhaps see the arguments made by those advising Ministers.

In no way do I or any of my colleagues on these Benches object to confidential advice being give to Ministers. Of course that must be possible. But after such advice has been given and when Ministers have decided what they wish to do, it is normal on a major issue of this sort, on something which is not in any way subject to national security, to consult those who will be most directly affected. That has not happened in this case.

The noble Baroness said that LEAs were consulted in a letter sent out in October. She said also that the National Association of Governors and Managers was consulted in the same letter. I have seen a copy of that letter. It is addressed to LEAs. The National Association of Governors and Managers is not listed among those to whom it was addressed. Moreover, the National Association of Governors and Managers assured me not once but on several occasions that it was not consulted. Will the Minister confirm that, although there was some consultation as regards the Parent's Charter, this Bill was published before that consultation period came to an end? If that is the case we cannot say that there was even genuine consultation on the Parent's Charter aspect of the Bill.

Baroness Blatch

The issue concerning the Parent's Charter was that there should be a systematic and regular method of inspection. There is a Bill before Parliament and it was certainly in print.

Baroness Blackstone

Had it been published?

4 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I did say that the Bill was in print. We must not become pedantic about words. I said that the Bill was in print, which means that it was available. It has been considered in another place with no time limit. The Bill was not guillotined until the very last night and even then twice the amount of time that had previously been agreed had been allotted. Every opportunity was given in the other place. We believe that there has been enough analysis both in the public domain and as advice to my right honourable friend. We believe that this is a measure which has wide support and this is our opportunity. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness that it is right that we should be discussing the amendment on the Marshalled List. However, we believe that we should not time-waste with any more reviews. Enough is known to show that there is a need for regular and consistent inspection of all our schools and not just of some of them. For that reason we intend to press ahead with this provision.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for confirming that this Bill was published before the consultation period on the Parent's Charter had even been completed. That is a disgraceful way of operating in government.

I wish to return to one or two of the other issues which have been raised. The noble Baroness claimed that the Labour Party would be perfectly happy to introduce legislation of this kind without first publishing a review. She then made reference to our proposals for an education standards council, suggesting that we have said in that document that we shall do this and that. Perhaps I may remind the Minister that we have consulted extensively on that document. We have given an opportunity for local authorities, educational experts, inspectors, local authorities, parents, governors and managers to comment on those proposals, unlike the proposals contained in this Bill.

The proposals in that document will be in our manifesto. When the country goes to the polls the public will be able to judge whether it believes that the proposals are desirable or not. There were no proposals in the 1987 manifesto of this Government as regards the kind of things that this Bill intends to do. There was not a single mention or a signal. Perhaps I may take up something which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. She suggested that this Bill is complementary to the 1988 Act. In the many days of debate that we had during its passage through this House of the Education Reform Bill 1988 I do not remember any suggestion that we were going dramatically to change the system of inspecting our schools along the lines proposed in this Bill.

The Minister has also said that the audit review criticised some aspects of local authority inspection. It did and we accepted those criticisms, which is why we believe that there is a need for change. However, there is nothing in the audit review suggesting the ludicrous proposals which are in the Bill before us. To suggest that that justifies not consulting or undertaking any kind of preliminary review which is then made public is untenable. I read in today's Guardian that the Prime Minister has come round to believing in freedom of information. I do not know whether that is a rumour or whether he really has performed a complete volte-face. If he has, and he is intending to introduce freedom of information, perhaps the first thing he might consider is publishing the review upon which we are told these proposals are based.

Perhaps I may say a brief word to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. He is someone with enormous experience of education. Perhaps I may quote to him something he said in 1959. He said: My Department has the unique advantage of the countrywide experience of Her Majesty's Inspectors. Nowhere in the Kingdom is there such a rich source of information or such a constant exchange of ideas on all that goes on in our schools". Does the noble Viscount deny that he said that in 1959? I was also interested in that he conceded something which no one else on the Government Front Bench has conceded; namely, that it will take a very long time under this system to get 6,000 inspections taking place in our schools. The Government are claiming that we shall have 6,000 inspections straight away. However, I must agree with the noble Viscount on this matter: it will be very difficult to implement the proposals that we have before us. We shall see many schools not getting an inspection every four years. I had not intended to divide the Committee on this pair of amendments, but, having heard some of the things which have been said and the completely inadequate reply given by the noble Baroness, I have no option but to divide the Committee.

Baroness Blatch

I shall not do anything to detract from the noble Baroness pressing for the opinion of the Committee, but perhaps I may put two matters to her. This Government's record for putting information to parents, governors and teachers is unequalled by any other previous government. I should like to pose a question to the noble Baroness. She said that we know all the details of the proposals which will be alternative to those which we have before the Committee. Will the equivalent of the chief inspector be accountable to the Secretary of State for what is going on in our schools or will the quango which will be equivalent to the chief inspector be accountable? Will it be the quango which gives information and which will be the adviser and the information channel to the Secretary of State? Alternatively, will it be the equivalent of the HMI? Whatever the answer, it will be a very interesting one for the purposes of working out the status of HMI and its independence or the status of the quango and its opportunity to put a subjective judgment on the information coming from the HMI.

Baroness Blackstone

I can give a very simple reply. The inspectorate will be fully independent under the proposals that the Labour Party is putting forward and which will be put before the electorate.

Lord Glenamara

The House will have an opportunity to debate our proposals during the next few months when our Bill comes up for Second Reading and when a Bill comes forward which will repeal the Bill now under discussion.

4.7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 95; Not-Contents, 127.

Division No. 1
Acton, L. Jeger, B.
Addington, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Airedale, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Annan, L. John-Mackie, L.
Ardwick, L. Kennet, L.
Aylestone, L. Kirkwood, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Kissin, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Beloff, L. McFarlane of Llandaff, B.
Birk, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Blackstone, B. McNair, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Manchester, Bp.
Boston of Faversham, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Bottomley, L. Molloy, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Nicol, B.
Crook, L. Ogmore, L.
David, B. Peston, L.
Desai, L. Phillips, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Donoughue, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Richard, L.
Ennals, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller.]
Ezra, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Falkender, B. Rochester, L.
Falkland, V. Ross of Newport, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Sainsbury, L.
Fitt, L. Seear, B.
Foot, L. Serota, B.
Galpern, L. Shackleton, L.
Gladwyn, L. Shannon, E.
Glenamara, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Shepherd, L.
Stallard, L.
Greene of Harrow Weald, L. Stedman, B.
Hampden, V. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hampton, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hamwee, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hanworth, V. Thurlow, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Tordoff, L.
Hayter, L. Underhill, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Warnock, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Wharton, B.
Howie of Troon, L. White, B.
Hughes, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jay, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Aldington, L. Brigstocke, B.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Alport, L. Butterworth, L.
Astor, V. Caithness, E.
Auckland, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Balfour, E. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Barber, L. Carnock, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Cavendish of Furness, L.
Bellwin, L. Cockfield, L.
Bessborough, E. Crathorne, L.
Birdwood, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Blatch, B. Dacre of Glanton, L.
Blyth, L. De Freyne, L.
Borthwick, L. Denham, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Denton of Wakefield, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Eccles, V.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Elles, B. Moyne, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Munster, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Nelson, E.
Elton, L. Northbourne, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Onslow, E.
Faithfull, B. Oxfuird, V.
Ferrers, E. Palmer, L.
Fortescue, E. Park of Monmouth, B.
Gainford, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Pender, L.
Geddes, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Gisborough, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Goschen, V. Prentice, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Quinton, L.
Gridley, L. Rankeillour, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Rennell, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Richardson, L.
Havers, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Henley, L. St. Davids, V.
Hesketh, L. [Teller.] Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
HolmPatrick, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Hood, V. Savile, L.
Hooper, B. Seccombe, B.
Howe, E. Selkirk, E.
Hylton-Foster, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Skidelsky of Tilton, L.
Jellicoe, E. Slim, V.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Strange, B.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Strathclyde, L.
Joseph, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Killearn, L.
Kimball, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller]
Knollys, V.
Lauderdale, E. Sudeley, L.
Long, V. Terrington, L.
Lyell, L. Teviot, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Trefgarne, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Trumpington, B.
Mancroft, L. Ullswater, V.
Marlesford, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Marsh, L. Waddington, L.
Merrivale, L. Walton of Detchant, L.
Mersey, V. Windlesham, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Wise, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Wolfson, L.
Morris, L. Young, B.
Mountevans, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 6, after ("the") insert ("independent").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 7, 48 and 73. Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors, both for England and Wales, must be independent. I believe that the Government accept that and that they are anxious to secure that independence. If that is so, the Government will have little difficulty in accepting Amendments Nos. 2 and 48. Amendments Nos. 7 and 73 raise the major issue of directions by the Secretary of State.

Clause 2(5) requires the chief inspectors to, have regard to such aspects of government policy as the Secretary of State may direct".

Such a direction, regrettably, could prevent Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors from providing the Government with independent advice. It is therefore in conflict with the Government's apparent wish to promote the inspectorate's independence. The inclusion of reference to government policy is, as I said at Second Reading, unprecedented in legislation in this country for the very good reason that government policy is not a legal concept and therefore sits uncomfortably in a proposed Act of Parliament. We are back on the same territory that we debated in the Further and Higher Education Bill, where the Government were trying to give the Secretary of State powers to direct the universities. In this Bill, they are at it again, playing the same game, now trying to give the Secretary of State powers which could constrain the chief inspectors.

Let me elaborate a little further, starting with Amendment No. 2 and the identical amendment applied to Wales, Amendment No. 7. The preservation of the inspectorate's independence is vital. The inspectorate must be perceived as independent by the teaching profession, by parents and by the public at large if it is to maintain its credibility. By putting the word "independent" on to the face of the Bill, there will be clearly established, in statutes, the independence of Her Majesty's Inspectorate. It would help to make it clear that the Government have no intention of being partisan, and it would reinforce the commitments the Government have already made about the chief inspectors' independence. The Minister will no doubt repeat that this afternoon when he replies.

Amendments Nos. 48 and 75 delete Clause 2(5), which gives the Secretary of State power to direct Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors to have regard to such aspects of government policy that the Secretary of State may choose to emphasise. Everyone will be aware that there has been a great deal of anxiety about Clause 2(5) among outside commentators, among existing and retired inspectors and among Government Back-Benchers in another place. I am sure that many Members of this House will share those anxieties. If the clause is left in the Bill, the chief inspectors will have nothing like the independence which the Government claim they will have. That means that if they start exercising their independence in a way that the Government dislike, the Secretary of State can start directing them by reference to government policy, which is a vague concept which can be construed in any way that some future Secretary of State might determine. An irresponsible Secretary of State—and I am in no way suggesting that the present Secretary of State is irresponsible—following some whim or other, could quite easily claim that a whim is government policy because he had decided that it should be government policy. After all, Secretaries of State are policy makers.

When the Minister comes to reply, I hope that she will not defend the inclusion of this dangerous and unnecessary clause by saying that it is simply a matter of directing Her Majesty's chief inspectors' attention to specific government policies, as was said by the Minister of State in Committee in another place. Surely anyone appointed to these important posts would be well aware of government policy. They would have access to a huge amount of information about what constituted government policy. They could read government reports and they could read Ministers' speeches in draft as well as after they were made. They would have access to Hansard and newspapers and they would be in regular touch with senior officials as well as with Ministers themselves. Unless the Government wish to exert unacceptable control over the chief inspectors, thereby jeopardising their independence, the subsection is otiose.

Nor will Members of the Committee be reassured that the power would rarely be used and that it is merely a failsafe power of last resort, as we heard when similar attempts were made in the Further and Higher Education Bill to give the Secretary of State powers of direction. If the Government really want independent inspectors they will drop Clause 2(5) and accept the other amendments in this group. If the Secretary of State wishes to be accountable for the work of Her Majesty's Inspectorate, that should clearly be written into the Bill by making the appropriate powers over the work of the inspectorate through statutory instruments that can be debated in Parliament. As it stands, this power allows backdoor and covert manipulation of Her Majesty's Inspectorate. I beg to move.

Lord Beloff

After the rather long debate on the first amendment perhaps we can have a very abbreviated debate on this one because it seems to me that it simply echoes what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said in reply to various interventions during the first debate. She claimed then that we had to rely for the new system on the independence of the new chief inspectors. Whenever we asked how those people were to be appointed and trained and what would be their qualifications we were told to trust the independent chief inspectors. I cannot believe that a few minutes after saying that the Minister will repudiate her own words and not accept the amendment.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

We still do not like Clause 2(5). In particular, we do not like the words, such aspects of government policy as the Secretary of State may direct". HMI has traditionally had regard to government policy. I know that on occasions the frankness of its reports has been an embarrassment to the Government. For example, HMI has criticised the dilapidated state of our schools over the past few years, the shortage of books and equipment and the fact that sections of society in certain parts of the country have fallen far short of the achievement they should have reached. That is really a social problem. On the other hand, the HMI review of July 1991 said that the inspectorate had contributed significantly on policy matters, that it had advised on 80 applications for schools to opt out, that it was largely responsible for the revision of the maths and science syllabuses for the national curriculum and that it had advised on truancy. In other words, it has supported government policy in numerous ways as well as being critical of it.

I support the inclusion of the word "independent" and I think that the clause has an unfortunate resonance, particularly with the words, such aspects of government policy as the Secretary of State may direct". I support the amendment.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

We are all agreed that the independence of the inspectorate and the independence of Her Majesty's chief inspectors are matters of paramount importance, but I think we are also agreed that the ability of the inspectorate to influence policy and to ensure that policy is based on real evidence of what is happening in schools and colleges is of equal importance. One of the unique features of the British education system has been the input of HMI practical experience and knowledge of what is happening on the ground into the making of government policy. It seems to me that the two subsections (5) which the amendments address simply ensure that that can continue.

As the Committee will know, I had intimate experience of the inspectorate from the 1970s until the mid-1980s. Under the various governments who had control during that period it was always the custom of the Secretary of State to make clear to the inspectorate the particular concerns in his or her mind at that time to ensure that the balance of inspection reflected those concerns and that that important direct practical evidence of what was going on was fed back into policy. I suggest that the careful wording of the subsections (5) in the two clauses makes it clear that that practice is intended to continue in a proper way and that the advice of the inspectorate and the work that it does will still be directed towards aspects of government policy. It would be extremely unfortunate if that were to be lost. I therefore wholeheartedly support the way the clauses are written and I wish to reject the amendment.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

Nevertheless, it could be used as a muzzle. If all that has been said is so, I do not see why it should be in the Bill at all. It could be used as a muzzle. If the Secretary of State decided to direct that the chief inspector should have regard, for example, to the Government's financial policies, the inspector would see himself barred from giving an educational judgment that the restriction on, say, capital spending was producing an unfortunate balance in that dilapidated classrooms were affecting the quality of teaching and staff morale. That is perfectly possible. It is a dangerous clause and I see no reason for it to be in the Bill

Lord Elton

I think that the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, would be much more alarmed if the Secretary of State could tell the chief inspector to disregard certain things. Having to have regard is a perfectly proper consideration. I ask Members of the Committee opposite to put themselves in the position—the unlikely position—of a Secretary of State for Education in a future Labour Government. That government might have a distinct policy on equal opportunities in terms of black/white relations but the Secretary of State would not be in a position to direct the inspectorate to have regard to that policy in carrying out its inspections.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Amendment No. 2 would set a rather curious precedent for legislation. Your Lordships' House deals with many measures under which appointments are made. One does not normally spell out separately that those appointed are the "independent" so and so. There is, so far as I can recall, no use of the word "independent" when a judge is appointed. It is assumed that he is independent. Therefore if one puts into the Bill the word "independent" all kinds of questions on other legislation could be raised. It is therefore not only unnecessary but dangerous.

Lord Peston

I wish to make one or two comments on this matter. When the Minister replied to the Second Reading debate she said at least one thing which I did not know. I was most indebted to her for that. She said that the independence of Her Majesty's Inspectorate had no legal foundation. I am quoting from memory, but she said that the present HMI position had precedent but no legal foundation. She said that it was by custom and that it had evolved since 1839. I did not know that. I then read the definitive article on the subject. It is entitled Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools, 1839–1989: the Question of Independence and appears in the Journal of Educational Administration and History. It is written by Messrs Goodings and Dunford and I take it that it is the locus classicus on this subject. It is certainly an extraordinarily interesting article and makes that point and a number of others.

The inspectorate appears to be independent by custom. When we say that it does not have a legal foundation that does not mean that the inspectorate is not independent; on the contrary. I entirely accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. So far as I know—and I am not an expert on such matters—there are no statements in law which say that Her Majesty's judges must be independent; it is taken for granted. I do not know that for a fact, but I am willing to accept that what the noble Lord said is right.

On the other hand, I should be a little taken aback if I were to read a statement in any document which dealt with the way that judges deal with the law and which said that, in exercising their functions, the judges of this country, shall have regard to such aspects of government policy as the Secretary of State may direct". That would be as appalling an interference with our legal system as anything that anyone could dream up. The whole point about the issue is not to say that the inspectors should not "have regard" to such matters—indeed, I would regard that as monstrous with respect to this or any other government—the objection is that it is set out in the Bill, precisely in the sense indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in the point that he made. One is not saying that they should take no regard of policy; in fact, I would regard it as ridiculous if they did not do so. But I would go further, and probably further than the Minister: I do not believe that the inspectorate should contradict in public the stated policy of the Government.

However, there is a fine line in this connection that is referred to in the article which I mentioned between expressing warnings—such as, "Do you know where you are heading? Is it where you want to go?" I regard that as being the role of the inspector. The Secretary of State can then say, "Yes, I do want to do something stupid, if you push me." There is a distinction between uttering warnings and contradicting the Government. I do not think that should happen. With respect to independence, I believe that we can go one of two ways. It is the point of the amendment; and I am surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, does not agree with it. We can accept the argument of my noble friend and actually write the word "independent" into the Bill. I think that that, in many ways, would be the sensible way forward. Alternatively, although Amendments Nos. 48 and 73 have not been tabled as alternatives, we can delete this rather dreadful subsection (5) on Page 2 of the Bill.

In a way, if subsection (5) was not in the Bill I would be less worried—as indeed would my noble friend—with the appearance of the word "independent" in the legislation. We would then have the custom as we have it now. Perhaps I may put the argument simply to the noble Baroness. The Government should not be surprised at the anxiety as regards a subsection like subsection (5). There has been no suggestion that Ministers—I can see at least two former education secretaries in the Chamber, one of whom I was very close to at one time—have worried about that particular matter in the past; indeed, that has not been what has worried them. That is why I, and almost all the professionals, feel rather strongly about subsection (5). It causes one to smell a rat. What is it about?

It is possible that the noble Baroness will become shirty with me and say that it is yet another of my rhetorical questions. But what is it that has bothered the Secretary of State that requires him to put that requirement in the legislation? I cannot think of anything. I have had a little experience in such matters. Therefore, in a sense, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has made my speech for me. With respect to independence, I am happy for the status quo to remain. But, in that case, I do want subsection (5) to remain in the Bill.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Phillips

The intervention of the noble Baroness has made me even more worried about inserting the word "independent" in the Bill. It shocked me to know that inspectors went into the schools or colleges and carried out their tasks, with reference to what governments had told them to do. Surely they went to look at the standard of education; that is, the whole standard of the college or school which they visited. I find that fact totally surprising and shocking. Whatever government is in power, it is the duty of the inspector to look at a totally different set of facts.

I have a question for certain Members of the Committee opposite, two of whom are missing. Where is the rule about not taking part in Committee stage? If you make a slightly longer speech—I have never made a long speech at any time since I have been a Member of this Chamber—why are you then accused of making a Second Reading speech? If the Committee stage was conducted upstairs, we would argue across the table; that is what committees are about. Why should we let all this legislation go through just to suit the Government? We are looking seriously at the issues involved.

It was not my intention to intervene until I heard the speech of the noble Baroness. I find it very disturbing that HMIs visited different schools and colleges, in some of which I have taught, guided by government principles. That is why we have the marvellous phrase in the Bill as to whether or not the finances are being properly spent. What does that mean? Will the HMIs inspect the lavatories and then say there should be more outside lavatories because they are cheaper than inside lavatories? Surely the duty of the inspector is to be independent.

Many members of my family have been distinguished members of the Civil Service. The one thing that they have always been proud of is their independence; indeed, they never even revealed their political beliefs to anyone. That is what an inspector should be. He should be totally independent of the government who appointed him. That is what the Bill appears to contravene.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

In her reply, I wonder whether the Minister can give an assurance on the matter. I, too, have some anxiety. It does not concern the first amendment, which seeks to insert the word "independent" in the Bill; it concerns Clause 2(5). As presently drafted, the subsection refers to the Chief Inspector for England "exercising his functions". That presumably means all the functions of the Chief Inspector for England and would, I suppose, also mean that when giving guidance to inspectors he will, for example, be able to particularise certain "aspects of Government policy". That causes some of us to be anxious. All the way through our concern has been to preserve what the present HMI has achieved; namely, the fearless independence which we greatly admire and respect and which was one of the bulwarks—to put it dangerously in this company—against the professionalism of the educators. I fear that people will refer back to me on that remark. But we need protection in some measure against those educationists.

I do not believe that the subsection is necessary. I say that because if the Secretary of State wishes to draw attention to Government policy, he will do so whether or not the subsection is included in the Bill. It causes us anxiety that the inspectorate will not be as independent as the noble Baroness assured us it would be when she replied to the last debate. Therefore, I shall be most grateful if she will clarify what the clause means and why it is necessary.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may deal first with the question just put by the right reverend Prelate. At the end of the debate, it will be interesting to measure the degree of independence which we believe in on this side of the Chamber. If one looks at the amendments on the Marshalled List, one can see just how much Members of the Committee opposite believe in independence. Many amendments tabled today are wholly in conflict and wholly inconsistent with the amendment now before the Committee which asks for the word "independent" to be put on the face of the Bill. I say that because following amendments would fetter that independence.

I can give Members of the Committee the absolute assurance that what we are talking about here is setting up Her Majesty's Chief Inspector who will have the power to introduce without parliamentary interference—and there is a later amendment which seeks to impose parliamentary interference—a registration scheme determining the qualifications required for someone to be registered as a competent inspector to inspect schools. We shall have a chief inspector who will have the power to determine the criteria against which schools will be inspected and we shall have a chief inspector who will inform the Secretary of State on HMI's findings as regards what is found in schools which, again, will be measured against the criteria determined by the inspectorate. In addition, the chief inspector will be empowered to provide unsolicited information to the Secretary of State. That could take on board the anxieties expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, and the noble Lord, Lord Peston.

One of the things that chief inspectors will be free to do, for example, is to take account of the state of buildings, or the lack of resources, if that is what they believe is what is having a material impact on the delivery of education in our schools. If it is material evidence, they will not have to be asked for it; they will be free to give it. The information will be in the public domain. I do not think that I can spell out the word "independence" in the way that we mean independence. So long as what chief inspectors are doing is within the remit that is on the face of the Bill, they will be able to continue.

My noble friend Lord Elton hit the spot when he defended the wording in Clause 2(5). From time to time any Secretary of State of any party may wish to know how a particular policy is impacting on the schools. It may be science in the curriculum, race relations in our schools—or anything. A Secretary of State must be free to say, "In doing your job as set out in the legislation, and with all your independence, have regard to particular aspects of policy as that impacts on education". I believe that that is what Members of the Committee opposite would do.

I agree with my noble friend—I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter—who said that there would be more worry about a Secretary of State listing matters to which the inspectors must not have regard, as opposed to that to which they must have regard.

I understand that Amendments Nos. 2 and 7 are largely paving amendments to Amendments Nos. 48 and 73. However, I should perhaps explain that a statutory office is by nature independent in the general sense, but independence is guaranteed not by the use of the word but by the detailed provisions on the face of the Bill. Noble Lords will see that my right honourable friends have been careful in establishing the powers and duties of the chief inspectors in Clauses 2 and 4 of the Bill to strike an appropriate balance to ensure the chief inspectors have the necessary independence for the exercise of their functions while having proper regard to the overall context in which they must work.

Turning now to Amendments Nos. 48 and 73, I believe that these amendments are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what Clause 2(5) and Clause 6(5) are intended to achieve —and, indeed, do achieve in law. I have heard concern on all sides about this, so I will explain as fully as possible.

The power of direction of HMCI in these clauses is not an unlimited one: it is in fact extremely limited. It merely allows the Secretary of State to draw to the attention of HMCI aspects of government policy which are relevant to HMCI's functions, and ensures that HMCI takes these into account in exercising his functions. The clauses do not allow the Secretary of State to tell HMCI what he can or cannot do, nor do they restrict what he may or may not say. I believe that that was the understanding of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who said that the Secretary of State can tell HMCI what to do. He does not have that power under the Bill, and nor do we have any desire to give him that power. But if the Secretary of State has asked HMCI for advice on a particular matter, it would surely be sensible for him also to draw HMCI's attention to any relevant government policy and to ask him to take it into account, so that the advice tendered is as useful as possible.

There is absolutely no intention here to circumscribe HMCI's independence. Indeed, the clause is a reflection of the greater independence being given to HMCI. It establishes a new relationship between HMI and the Secretary of State.

At present, HMI are all servants of the Secretary of State—he has unlimited power to direct them in any way he wishes. But as the Committee well knows, successive Secretaries of State have made it their policy to allow considerable freedom and independence to HMI—a point that was revisited by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. It is quite absurd to suggest that we would couple our decision to give this freedom a statutory basis with a power of direction which could be used to tie HMI's hands.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, sought on Second Reading to suggest that either the duty to "have regard" meant nothing —in which case we could do without this subsection—or it meant that HMI were effectively under the Secretary of State's control. That was a very misleading parody of the truth. The true position is at neither of those imaginary extremes. "Having regard" to a matter or policy is a well-recognised legal concept. It will require the HMCI to consider the policy drawn to his attention and act in knowledge of its existence. He cannot simply ignore the policy out of hand—he must give it due consideration. But having had such "regard" to the policy he can act or speak exactly as he sees fit—his freedom is not curtailed in any way.

There are many precedents for the power to make directions in statute. We could easily have included an unrestricted power to direct HMCI, but chose not to do so. We could have used the formulations used for public watchdogs such as the Director General of Fair Trading giving the Secretary of State a power to direct the considerations to which the director should have particular regard in setting his priorities or exercising his functions. We chose not to do so. The power we did choose is probably the most limited possible, consistent with establishing an appropriate relationship between HMI and the Secretary of State with his wider policy responsibilities.

I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, answered my question about who was responsible for informing the Secretary of State. A reading of Raising the Standard shows beyond doubt that Her Majesty's Inspectorate's independence would be wholly compromised by that document. The noble Baroness asserts that the Labour Party's proposals would protect the independence of HMI, but let us take a look at those proposals. They state: we believe that those in HMI responsible for monitoring and inspection should come under the aegis of an ESC"— that is, an Education Standards Commission. However, what does "under the aegis" mean? It looks obscure and it is meant to be. Does it mean that HMI will be in hock to the new statutory body, which is to be based on a quango, or that it is to be wholly independent? If it is to be independent, offering advice to the Secretary of State as it sees fit, what is the point of the quango?

The answer is given away in paragraph 34 of that document which, we are told, is to be translated into the Labour Party manifesto. It states that professional advice to Ministers will come either: from that group of HMI who would work, pro tem, as professional advisers within the DES;"—

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will allow me to intervene?

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I could just finish this point. It continues: in part by having access to advice direct from the ESC and its officials. Ministers are not to get advice from HMI—I see that the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, has again risen to his feet, but perhaps he will let me finish this point. According to the document, Ministers are not to get advice from HMI on monitoring or inspections; it will come from a quango appointed by Ministers and their officials. Who are these officials? What will they know? How should they be interposed between Ministers and Her Majesty's Inspectorate?

4.45 p.m.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

Perhaps the Minister will allow me to intervene.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may be allowed the courtesy of finishing the point and then the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, can comment on my whole point.

The amendment raises a fundamental debate about independence. We have set up a wholly acceptable system, with Her Majesty's Chief Inspector being given real independence. Later today we shall come to amendments that will fetter that real independence of HMCI. I have just read out a legitimate alternative to the system that we have established. My point in raising that was to state that we believe not only in the independence of the inspector, but that we have introduced a Bill to guarantee that. That is where I rest my case. I give way to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, to comment on it.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

I am bound to say that I listened to the latter part of the Minister's speech with absolute amazement. What on earth did it have to do with the amendment? I gather that there has been some reproach about Second Reading speeches being made. The Government wish to proceed with the Bill with due speed, but we have just heard not merely an abuse of Second Reading procedures, but an abuse of any procedures—and I say that advisedly to the Minister. It is astonishing that she should use a narrow but important amendment to discuss something that is apparently in the Opposition's election manifesto. If I may say so with great respect, that is not the purpose or the function of Committee stage or of an amendment that is directed to the specific point of whether the chief inspector should be directed in some way or other —and it is not precise—by the Secretary of State. That is the point.

It is the Minister's duty either to defend or to attack what is in the amendment—not to go into other questions. I am sorry to have to say this to the Minister, but it appears that the Government would like to devise one rule for themselves on such matters, and another for the Opposition. The Minister will not make progress with the Bill if she starts doing such things at such an early stage in Committee.

Baroness Blatch

When we saw the amendments on the Marshalled List, it became obvious that we would not make fast progress. However, perhaps I may advise the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, that everything that I have said in response to the amendment is entirely relevant to the issue of the independence of Her Majesty's Inspectorate—

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

Not to the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I repeat, to the amendment.

The case for independence is well made in the Bill, but the case for independence that has been made by Members of the Committee opposite in the amendment is not only wholly inconsistent with the amendments that we shall consider later, but also with what Members of the Committee opposite have put into the public arena as their alternative to HMCI.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

As somebody not in any way concerned with Labour Party policy on this as I belong to a different party, I should like to support my late leader. In a long period in this House I do not think I have ever heard such a long disquisition which was entirely irrelevant to the debate.

Baroness Blackstone

I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff for what he said, and indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, too. I too was rather shocked by the way the Minister used the response to a specific amendment to attack the policies of the Labour Party in a related area but bearing no relation whatsoever to the specific amendment. When we are in government and in fact bringing a Bill to this House that will allow us to take our proposals further and to legislate, we shall be happy to answer questions on those proposals but not on an amendment to this Bill.

I come back now to the amendment. As my noble friend Lord Peston has said, any chief inspector should take account of government policy on equal opportunities, as was raised earlier, or indeed on any other matter. But it is unreal to imagine that an extremely senior educationist and official of the Government, even though independent, would ignore government policies. What we on this side of the Committee, and I think a number of other noble Lords around the Committee, cannot understand is why there is a need for this new clause. As the right reverend Prelate said, it is the particularising of certain aspects of government policy that causes concern.

Why are we departing from the status quo in this respect? I do not believe that the Minister has answered that question. She spent some time suggesting that later amendments would fetter the independence of the inspectorate. When we get to later amendments we shall tell her why she is completely wrong on that. Again it does not seem to me entirely appropriate to talk in a general way about later amendments rather than answering the issues that relate to the particular amendment.

However, I was grateful to the noble Baroness for clarifying the matter of unsolicited information and saying that this can be provided. I accept that, and I think that it is highly desirable. But why I am still concerned by what the noble Baroness said is that this clause does not simply ask chief inspectors to consider. It gives the Secretary of State powers of direction. The noble Baroness told us a bit about what the clause intends, but again we must be concerned in this Committee not with just what the clause intends but with what it says.

It may not be the intention of this Secretary of State, or indeed of other Secretaries of State, to tie the hands of the chief inspectors, but the problem is that this clause could allow them to do so. We have heard from the Minister that there is no intention to circumscribe. If there is no intention, why is this clause needed? I regret to say that we have not had a satisfactory reply to the concerns expressed from all around the Committee on this clause, and therefore I must divide the Committee.

4.54 p.m.

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

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 97; Not-Contents, 130.

Division No. 2
Acton, L. Blackstone, B.
Addington, L. Bonham-Carter, L.
Airedale, L. Boston of Faversham, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Bottomley, L.
Ardwick, L. Callaghan of Cardiff, L.
Aylestone, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Carter, L. [Teller.]
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Beloff, L. Crook, L.
Birk, B. David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Manchester, Bp.
Desai, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Molloy, L.
Ennals, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Ezra, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Falkender, B. Nicol, B.
Falkland, V. Ogmore, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Palmer, L.
Foot, L. Peston, L.
Galpern, L. Phillips, B.
Glenamara, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Prys-Davies, L.
Richard, L.
Greene of Harrow Weald, L. Richardson, L.
Grey, E. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Guildford, Bp. Robson of Kiddington, B
Hampden, V. Rochester, L.
Hampton, L. Ross of Newport, L.
Hamwee, B. Russell, E.
Hanworth, V. Sainsbury, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Seear, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Serota, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Shackleton, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Shepherd, L.
Hughes, L. Stedman, B.
Jay, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L
Jeger, B. Strabolgi, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Tordoff, L.
Kilbracken, L. Underhill, L.
Kirkwood, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Lichfield, Bp. Walton of Detchant, L.
Listowel, E. Warnock, B.
Lovell-Davis, L. Wharton, B.
McFarlane of Llandaff, B. White, B.
McNair, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Mallalieu, B. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Aldington, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Alport, L. Elton, L.
Annan, L. Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Arran, E. Ferrers, E.
Astor, V. Gainford, L.
Auckland, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Balfour, E. Geddes, L.
Barber, L. Gisborough, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Goschen, V.
Bellwin, L. Gridley, L.
Bessborough, E. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blatch, B. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Blyth, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Boardman, L. Henley, L.
Borthwick, L. Hertford, M.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hesketh, L. [Teller.]
Brabazon of Tara, L. HolmPatrick, L.
Brightman, L. Hood, V.
Brigstocke, B. Hooper, B.
Brookeborough, V. Howe, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Butterworth, L. Iddesleigh, E.
Caithness, E. Jellicoe, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Carnock, L. Joseph, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Killearn, L.
Cockfield, L. Kimball, L.
Coleraine, L. King of Wartnaby, L.
Colnbrook, L. Laing of Dunphail, L.
Crathorne, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lauderdale, E.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Long, V.
Denham, L. Lyell, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Eccles, V. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Macleod of Borve, B.
Mancroft, L. Rennell, L.
Margadale, L. Renton, L.
Marlesford, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Marsh, L. St. Davids, V.
Mersey, V. Saltoun of Abernethy, LY.
Monk Bretton, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Savile, L.
Morris, L. Seccombe, B.
Mottistone, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Moyne, L. Skidelsky of Tilton, L.
Munster, E. Strathcarron, L.
Nelson, E. Strathclyde, L.
Newall, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]
Northbourne, L.
Onslow, E. Sudeley, L.
Orkney, E. Teviot, L.
Oxfuird, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L. Trefgarne, L.
Pender, L. Trumpington, B.
Perry of Southwark, B. Ullswater, V.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Waddington, L.
Prentice, L. Windlesham, L.
Quinton, L. Wise, L.
Rankeillour, L. Wolfson, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.2 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 3: Page 1, line 7, leave out ("Schools") and insert ("Education").

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 8, 22, 47, 52 and 72. The amendment deletes the word "schools" and inserts "education" in its place in Clauses 1 and 5. The subsection would then read: Her Majesty may by Order in Council appoint a person to the office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education in England", and Clause 5 relates to Wales.

The reason for the amendments is that the Secretary of State should be advised about the whole of the education service, including the quality assessment committees for further and higher education proposed in the Further and Higher Education Bill, the youth service and adult education, by one body. The most appropriate body is HMI.

Amendments Nos. 22 and 52 would change in Clause 2(1): the quality of the education provided by schools in England", to: the quality of the education provided by all forms of educational provision". The amendments would not just restate Section 77(1) of the Education Act 1944, they would widen its scope by referring to provision rather than establishments. The former term would embrace units and centres, educational outreach and other informal education. The Bill, as presently drafted, would narrow the focus of HMI and insert more breaks into the educational continuum.

Concepts of quality in education are likely to be universal, although there will be differences of assessment and response related to the various levels of education. HMCI would be the most appropriate custodian of the principles of rigorous, dispassionate and consistent inspection. HMI's report would continue to inform and disseminate good practice around every type of public educational activity. The breadth of focus would counteract the natural tendency to narrowness and introspection of many schools. Many divisions in education have been opened up, including the split between LEA-maintained and grant-maintained schools, and the removal of polytechnics from LEAs. Although the Further and Higher Education Bill would bring the universities and polytechnics together, there will remain a division—a new binary line has been referred to—between them and the rest of the higher education qualities. Yet the Secretary of State still has the apparent unitary duty to promote the education of the people (Section 1 of the 1944 Act). Continuing the concept of an HM Inspectorate across all education would greatly assist the unified discharge of that duty.

The Further and Higher Education Bill, as the Committee will doubtless remember, was amended on Report by the insertion of a new clause to give Her Majesty's Chief Inspector the same powers of inspection in relation to education institutions, other than schools, maintained or assisted by LEAs, as the present Bill gives in relation to schools. It would also give in respect of such institutions the general duty set out in the provisions of the present Bill to keep the Secretary of State informed about the quality of education provided, educational standards achieved, and whether the financial resources made available to those institutions were managed efficiently.

It would be logical in the present Bill, therefore, to give HMCI a duty to cover the whole of education. The separation of a school's inspectorate from the inspection of the rest of the education system weakens HMI as a whole. Acceptance of the amendments would avoid that weakness and strengthen the inspectorate's position. The amendments are reasonable. I hope that the Committee is ready to accept them. I beg to move.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendments No. 22 and 52. It is well known that the Opposition have a policy that they would like to see a unified national single body for the assessment of quality in education. That is a legitimate objective. However, it is to be doubted whether it is a legitimate objective within the framework of a Bill entitled the Education (Schools) Bill. There have been no amendments to change the title or the initial provision: An Act to make provision with respect to the inspection of schools", and so forth. To modify Clause 2(1) (a) to provide: The Chief Inspector for England shall have the general duty of keeping the Secretary of State informed about the quality of the education provided in all forms of educational provision", is going a long way.

To give the chief inspector the duty to inform the Secretary of State about the quality of provision in universities or further education institutions through amendment of a clause in the Education (Schools) Bill is a backward and inappropriate way of proceeding. I am sure that we appreciate that that is the Opposition's general wish and intention, and if they are elected into government in the near future—I make no comment about the likelihood of that eventuality—they will be able to take an early opportunity to introduce a Bill setting up their unified quality assessment quango. That would be an appropriate procedure, but to suggest in this Bill that by amendment we could make the Chief Inspector for England responsible for keeping an eye on universities and further education institutions would be a strange provision.

Baroness David

I did not mention universities.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

With due respect, we are talking about the quality of education for all forms of educational provision. I would claim that the universities are one part of this nation's educational provision. That is the reason I oppose the amendment.

Baroness David

I apologise to the Committee. I forgot to mention the other two amendments which have been linked. Amendments Nos. 47 and 72 were not grouped over the weekend, but they have been grouped today. I mentioned them at the outset but then forgot to speak to them. It might be sensible if I spoke to them before the Minister replies. Presumably they were grouped in her response, and so it will be easier for her if I say something about them now.

Amendment No. 72 is the Welsh equivalent of Amendment No. 47. The effect of Amendment No. 47 would be to give HMCI the leading role of co-ordinating fair comparisons between sixth forms in the schools sector and the small amount of LEA-maintained post-16 provision that is not being moved into the new FE sector by the Further and Higher Education Bill and academic and vocational post-16 provision in the new FE sector. At present there is no provision in that Bill or this for co-ordination between the two sectors of inspection and published information.

I shall now say a few words about the background to this matter. Inspections of institutions in the new FE sector are to be conducted by quality assessment committees of each funding council, except for Wales where Clause 9(4) of the Further and Higher Education Bill provides for the possible involvement of HMCI if asked by the FE funding council for Wales. There is no mention of the role of HMCI in the new FE sector. Amendment No. 72 may be unnecessary for Wales because of that provision if it is to be assumed that HMCI would in all cases be able to operate in two sectors with a view to promoting fair comparisons between them.

Amendment No. 47 for England is certainly necessary. Provision has already been made in what is now Clause 55 of the Further and Higher Education Bill for HMCI to inspect and report on LEA maintained institutions other than schools. Under this Bill and the Further and Higher Education Bill taken together there will be a messy set of arrangements for inspecting post-16 provision and publishing information from those inspections.

This amendment aims to secure at least a minimum of co-ordination so that students can make fair comparisons between post-16 education in schools sixth forms and FE colleges. The amendment urges closer liaison between HMCI for schools and the quality assessment committees of FE funding councils. The leading partner would be HMCI, which would also in case of difficulties have ultimate recourse to giving advice to the Secretary of State. Can the Minister tell us how many members of the present HMI will be used in the quality assessment committees? I believe there are about 170 inspectors who may be allocated to further education inspections. I hope the Minister can tell us how many of the inspectors will be involved in the quality assessment committees. As I have said, it is rather confusing at present to determine how the assessment will work when these different bodies will do the same work in schools sixth forms, the FE sector and sixth form colleges. A slightly different arrangement has already been made in respect of Wales.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Before my noble friend replies, the Committee should understand what these amendments are designed to cover. The noble Baroness intervened at the end of the speech of my noble friend who is sitting behind me to say she had not mentioned universities. That is true as a matter of historic fact. However, it is perfectly plain that unless one is to argue that the universities are nothing to do with education—that would be a remarkable proposition, even coming from the Opposition Front Bench—it seems to me that this amendment would ensure that the inspectors of schools covered universities. I hesitate to speculate on the storms which such intervention on their part would provoke in certain of the universities. Many Members of this House have direct connections with universities and they would no doubt be in a position to say something about that matter.

If it is intended to move the inspectorate of schools to cover the universities, that is a remarkable proposition. It is a still more remarkable proposition to put in the course of moving an amendment without referring to the universities at all and when priding oneself on the fact that one has not referred to the universities. We want to know whether the noble Baroness in moving this amendment wishes to extend the cover and scope of the schools inspectorate to the universities. If that is the case, a considerable argument for that remarkable extension is required.

Lord Peston

Under the Bill the inspectorate will no longer be the schools inspectorate: it will be the inspectorate. It will not be limited to schools in a technical sense, as I understand the position. However, that is by the way. I ask the noble Lord to understand that even up to the present day Her Majesty's Inspectors can inspect polytechnics which hope to be universities in the near future. The idea that has been put forward is not quite as far-fetched as the noble Lord implied. I speak as a university teacher and as someone who knows something about school inspection. I am not at all certain that some of our universities would not benefit from the kind of inspections that schools have been subject to. Having said all of that to make a little mischief, I do not believe remotely that my noble friend's amendment can be read that way. However, if Members of the Committee wish to read it that way, I should say that we can alter that provision purely by means of redrafting the amendment.

I hope we can conduct our proceedings in ways that are relevant to the material before us. What is fundamental is the range of areas that the new inspectorate should occupy itself with. It is a perfectly good technical point to say education includes universities, but that is slightly beside the point of the content of my noble friend's speech. The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, did not say he agreed with my noble friend provided the drafting was changed. He said he did not like the idea that was proposed anyway. However, we should be debating the idea of this matter, that is the range of considerations the inspectorate should be engaged in. I did not intend to intervene here but we should not indulge in toing and froing on other matters when what we should be doing is trying to discuss the essence of this subject and where we differ on it. It is important to clarify where we differ on this matter. I believe my noble friend's contribution made it clear where we stand on this issue.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Is the noble Lord arguing then that the amendment does not bite on the universities?

5.15 p.m.

Baroness White

I hope I may intervene here. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has realised that the grouping of these amendments is, to my mind, rather unfortunate. It is confusing to group Amendment No. 47 and Amendment No. 72—the Welsh equivalent—with the other amendment. If the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has read Amendment No. 47 and/or Amendment No. 72, he will realise that the provision he has drawn attention to is perfectly well spelt out in those two amendments.

Lord Peston

I hope I may respond to the noble Lord. I have admitted that a perfectly good debating point is made if one says that education includes all aspects of education. I entirely accept that education includes the universities. There is nothing between us on that point. I am simply saying that my noble friend is entitled to expect the Committee to listen to the content of her speech. She should be given the benefit of the doubt as regards Members of the Committee interpreting what she has said. After all, the Minister has asked us to accept the intentions of the Government. Therefore I say with respect that it is not a terribly helpful contribution to start making debating points when we are trying to discuss the range of activities the inspectorate should be engaged in. My noble friend is not pressing the point about universities being inspected by the inspectorate. I freely admit I made a similar debating point when I asked why that should not be the case. However, that is not what the amendment is about.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

I would not wish to be accused of pedantry. The truth is that often in reading amendments one has to work hard to infer what they mean. That is not a new experience. It is quite clear that Amendment No. 22 includes universities within its scope.

It is perfectly reasonable for the Opposition to say that, on reflection, they may wish to reword the amendment. I perfectly understand that. However, the interpretation is not inconsistent with what I understand to be the policy of the Opposition, which is that they want a unified quango which will undertake assessment. I am not proposing to discuss that matter. I simply wish to explain that that seems to me a perfectly logical inference. I am certainly happy to understand it is not the intention to extend this matter so far through this amendment. From that I infer that this amendment will be withdrawn.

We have Report stage before us where a more precise amendment can be tabled. However, I do not think we have to address ourselves simply to what the noble Baroness, Lady David, said. We must also address ourselves to what her amendment states. I am sorry if that seems pedantic. It is not intended to be. I am sure this is a matter to which we can return later. I fully understand from the explanation that has been given that a different distinction was intended.

Baroness Blackstone

I hope I may clarify the matter. It is not the policy of the Opposition that Her Majesty's Inspectorate should inspect universities. I wish to make that absolutely clear. The purpose of the amendments is to ensure that inspectors who have to advise the Secretary of State about education as a whole should be able to inspect further education colleges, which after all are teaching 16 to 19 year-old students who are covering similar courses in many cases to those that are being taught in schools and are taking the same examinations. There is a strong case for inspectors being able to compare and contrast the quality of work being carried out in both types of institution and for Her Majesty's Inspectorate, which has always had a duty to inspect the youth and community service, to be able to continue to do so. We want that clarified in the Bill.

In addition, Her Majesty's Inspectorate has always had a duty to inspect adult education, by which I mean not adult education at university level, but lower level adult education courses. The purpose of the amendments is to make sure that Her Majesty's Inspectorate can continue to have an overview of the education system other than in the universities where, in our view, it would not be appropriate for it to be involved.

Lord Walton of Detchant

Perhaps I may make a very brief point. I wholly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said about the necessity of withdrawing Amendment No. 22. If new amendments are introduced at Report stage in relation to the powers of the chief inspector to examine any institutions in the higher education field, whatever they may be, or in further education, it is important that it is recognised that there are certain educational courses in such institutions which are controlled by statutory bodies which have the authority to examine the standards of the education which is provided. I sympathise with some of the intentions underlying the amendments, but Amendment No. 22 would not be acceptable to anyone in higher education at present.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may say that we on these Benches are recipients of the groupings and simply had to accept them as they were presented to us. I should also like to say in defence of my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Renfrew that my admiration for people who apply so much time and energy to understanding such amendments, which, in isolation, often appear to be gobbledegook, knows no bounds. Until noble Lords speak to those amendments in this Chamber all we have to go on is the literal wording of the amendment. It is the literal wording that one has to accept.

It is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord Peston, to deal with the matter in a general way. However, at the end of the day what we are talking about, and what will be culled from the debates and from the determinations of Parliament, is the wording which will appear in the legislation and which will have a real impact on people. It is important that we see the amendments in that light.

On the subject of the scope of the Bill, perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that the Bill simply cannot be extended at this stage to cover aspects other than school education. Giving additional functions to HMI in respect of adult and community education, which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has just said is important, must, for that very reason, be dealt with in the Further and Higher Education Bill. I find it surprising that it was not recalled at this stage that adult and community education will continue to receive attention from HMI and the youth service.

In relation to the transfer of HMI to funding councils and the number of inspectors involved, as is well known, 140 inspectors deal with the further and higher education sectors other than teacher training. It will be a matter for the funding councils to determine which of those will be involved in co-operation and co-ordination between the sectors. It is also true to say that the quality assurance arms of the higher and further education funding councils will deal with inspection in those sectors.

The Further and Higher Education Bill which was recently before this House makes provision for advice to the Secretary of State on quality and standards in further and higher education and for the new funding councils to have the information they need to inform their work. It would be quite inappropriate for us to overturn those provisions, now being considered in another place, by giving the chief inspectors a duty which extended into all sectors of education.

At this point perhaps I may apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady White. I have referred so often to the chief inspector in the course of our debates but much of the time, although not exclusively, I am referring to the Chief Inspector for Wales as well as the Chief Inspector for England. I apologise to the noble Baroness for that.

Baroness White

That apology is accepted, needless to say. However, can the Minister also give an indication as to whether the figures given, such as the reference to 140 inspectors, relate to England only or to England and Wales?

Baroness Blatch

If the noble Baroness will bear with me, in this particular instance I shall come to a distinction between England and Wales.

As I said, it would be quite inappropriate for us to overturn those provisions, now being considered in another place, by giving HMCI a duty which extended into all sectors of education. Indeed, it would be outside the scope of the Bill. I have already addressed that point.

The Bill secures that HMI will oversee provision in schools, and in teacher training. Because of the limited scope of the Bill we had to use the Further and Higher Education Bill to give HMI powers in respect of adult education and youth service provision made by local education authorities. That Bill also empowers HMCI to give advice on such other matters relating to further education as the Secretary of State may request. That fully meets the needs. In Wales, where the further and higher education sector is much smaller, it is accepted that it may be right to use HMI to offer advice to the funding councils rather than have them maintain their own inspectorates. That was fully debated earlier and no case was made in this Chamber for a parallel provision for England. The necessary powers in respect of Wales are already included in the Further and Higher Education Bill.

While the division of responsibility is as I have noted, I accept that parents and students will want to be able to compare provision made for pupils aged 16 to 19 on a consistent basis. The main source of comparative information will be the published tables of performance information in both sectors. It is intended that FE colleges and schools should publish information in a way which will allow such comparisons to be made. Care is being taken to ensure that information on the public examination results and destinations of school and college leavers is, in 1992, published so far as practicable in a common format. HMCI will, of course, have that information available to him or her in addition to published inspection reports relating to the two sectors.

Inspection reports on schools with sixth forms will deal with all subject areas covered for the 16 to 19 age group within the school. In the FE sector, we expect the funding councils to operate, as HMI does now, by commissioning subject surveys across the whole sector rather than general inspections of each institution. It will, however, be possible to generate from that material a document equivalent to a general inspection report for an individual institution, thus enabling comparisons to be made across 16 to 19 age group provision as a whole.

I accept that the division of responsibilities will require a degree of co-operation between HMCI and the quality control arms of the councils. Teacher education and provision for 16 to 19 year-olds are obvious areas where they will need to work together, but I do not see that as a great problem.

I do not intend here to rerun debates on whether sixth form colleges should have been transferred to the further education sector. That Bill has been sent from this Chamber with that provision included and we must now accept that. HMCI will have to know about developments across the whole span of education for pupils from 16 to 19 to put his advice to the Secretary of State in context. He can do that without having specific duties in the FE sector.

Reference was made, not only by my noble friends on these Benches but also by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, to the role of HMI in the proposals of the noble Baroness. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that I thought that he was less than fair in his comments when he appealed to Members of the Committee to keep to the amendments. I do not believe that in the debate on this amendment a single word has been spoken which is not relevant to the subject before us.

I shall read again from the Labour Party document, which states: The Commission and its inspectorate will cover further education, tertiary and sixth form colleges as well as nursery, primary and secondary schools. We are giving further consideration to its role"— it" being HMI— in higher education in the context of the Party's already published Quality Assurance proposals for this sector". That was a perfectly legitimate point for my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Renfrew to raise.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness. I did not say that what the noble Lords said was beside the point; I was trying to be as conciliatory as I could. I just felt that they were being a trifle pedantic, which was the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. My noble friend had made the intention behind her amendment very clear and I am keen to proceed with the business. If we are to scrutinise amendments in that pedantic way we shall be here right through the night. That was all I asked. I do not seek to put a stop on what noble Lords may say, but my noble friend said that that is not what she was talking about. I would have felt it slightly less than generous not to have accepted what she said. That was all that I was raising.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

Perhaps I may intervene at this point to say that there is always the risk that the amendment might be carried. That is what worries us.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I could say in defence of all I said earlier that this is the moment to be pedantic. This is precisely what we are doing. We are now refining our debates. We have finished with Second Reading and debates outside the Chamber. We are determining the precise wording of the legislation. Because of that, I defend entirely the right of my noble friends to be as pedantic as they wish. In fact, I invite all Members of the Committee to be pedantic. In the course of these debates we want to get the wording right. I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Elton

Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps she will clarify a point. I hope she will forgive me if I misunderstood her or misunderstood what she said at Third Reading. I thought at Third Reading that I was given an assurance that colleges and departments of education which train teachers would be subject to inspection. Do I understand her to say that they will be subject to inspection by a different agency from the one set up by this Bill, or is it the same one?

Baroness Blatch

No. I am not sure that I can find the precise words, but I believe I said that it will be across the schools sector and those parts of higher education which are responsible for teacher training—by HMI.

Lord Elton

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. Until we have the teacher training colleges, we shall not get the schools right.

Baroness Blatch

That is right.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness David

I think I have been misunderstood. I said that the quality assessment committees for further and higher education proposed in the FHE Bill, the youth service and adult education should be looked at by a single body. In fact in replying the noble Baroness said that the chief inspector will have to cover the whole span of 16 to 19 year-olds. That is the area in which we have the greatest anxiety because there will be a quality assessment committee for sixth form colleges, the FE sector—there will apparently be 140 or so HMIs still looking at the FHE sector—and there will be the HMI for schools looking at the schools' sixth forms. So there is a bit of a muddle.

Perhaps the amendments could have been worded better, particularly Amendment No. 22 and the corresponding one for Wales, Amendment No. 52. I am not satisfied that the matter has been settled satisfactorily but it may be best for me to withdraw Amendment No. 3 for the time being and come back with a more precisely worded amendment at Report stage. I do not feel that the situation is satisfactory.

Baroness Blatch

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. Perhaps I may remind her that we cannot extend the scope of the Bill. I believe that I gave very good reasons for saying that it could not be extended. She may have in mind to come back with a form of wording that extends HMI into other sectors of education, but it simply cannot be done in this Bill.

Baroness David

Similar amendments were accepted in the other place, and these amendments were accepted by the Public Bill Office. However, I note what the noble Baroness says. I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 8, at end insert: ("( ) The Secretary of State shall make a recommendation to Her Majesty for such an appointment only if the relevant person has been selected by the Civil Service Commission through open competition.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 9. They are simple amendments which put on the face of the Bill what the Government have already said they would do, when asked about the replacement of the last senior chief inspector, Mr. Eric Bolton. Therefore I hope that Ministers will have no difficulty in accepting them.

As the Committee knows, the Civil Service Commission is an independent body with considerable expertise in the recruitment and selection of senior people to work in central government. As such, it seems to us to be the right body to supervise the appointment of chief inspectors. It is also vital that those appointments should take place after open competition. That guards against the danger of political appointments, which I am sure the Committee would consider highly inappropriate and indeed retrograde with reference to what is agreed should be posts filled by people who are independent and experts rather than parti pris in any political sense.

Once selection has taken place under the auspices of the commission, it is for the Secretary of State to endorse the appointment. However, it would be wrong that the Secretary of State could influence such an appointment by choosing someone who he thought would share his political views or educational philosophy. Were that to happen, the independence of the inspectorate as a whole, not just the chief inspectors, would be jeopardised.

The reason why people are worried that that might happen relates, I regret to say, to the current Secretary of State's recent record in appointing highly partisan individuals to certain senior positions, of which the most recent example is the chairman of the School Examinations and Assessment Council. There are now rumours—I admit that they are no more than rumours—that the Secretary of State intends to appoint the head of the Centre for Policy Studies to be the chief inspector for England. I cannot believe that that is the case, since the person concerned is not only extremely partisan but also unqualified. However, I am sure that if those rumours are untrue, the Minister will deny them when replying.

The principle remains that the Civil Service Commission and open competition is the right way to guard against such appointments not just by this Government but by any government. I beg to move.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The effect of the amendments is to transfer from the Secretary of State to the Civil Service Commission responsibility for the choice of this important official. No doubt that is the intention. But I suggest that they also introduce a certain undesirable degree of rigidity. It may well be possible, particularly when the first appointment is being made, for the Secretary of State rightly to select someone in an established position elsewhere. However, that person may not be prepared to enter into open competition before the Civil Service Commission, although he is an obvious choice for the post. I do not know whom my noble friend may have in mind. The amendment will inhibit somewhat the freedom of choice for what I am sure the noble Baroness agrees is a most important appointment. I would much rather see this passage not included.

Baroness White

Perhaps I may draw the Committee's attention to the Written Answer given by the Secretary of State for Wales on 29th January, in which, inter alia, he says: I am strengthening the independence of HMI by creating a separate department headed by HMCI. HMI [Her Majesty's Inspectors] will no longer be members of the Welsh Office"— therefore under the direct control of the Secretary of State for Wales— but will remain civil servants retaining their existing terms and conditions of service".—[official Report, Commons, 29/1/92; col. 577.] If they are civil servants, surely the machinery for appointing civil servants should be employed.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I hope that I shall please the Committee by being brief. As the noble Baroness said, this is a very simple matter. We had to resist these amendments in another place and do so again because they tie the Secretary of State's hands unhelpfully.

The chief inspectors will head their own non-ministerial departments and as such will be Crown office holders. There are no general rules governing the appointment of Crown office holders and it would certainly be unprecedented to lay down in statute the method of appointment.

The posts of chief inspectors are entirely new positions. My right honourable friends want to be able to choose the best person for each post without being bound to one particular method of selection as against another. There is no guarantee that a particular method will necessarily produce the best person. The last senior chief inspector was appointed by open competition but my right honourable friend failed to find a successor to him by that method. Rounds of readvertisement do not guarantee finding whom you need—indeed they tend to downgrade the post in the sight of possible applicants.

A variety of methods have been used to select people for posts of this kind. The heads of OFTEL and OFGAS and the new Director General of Fair Trading were appointed after executive search. On the other hand, an open competition was chosen for the appointment of the new Director of Public Prosecutions, as it was for her predecessor. But in no case does that provision appear on the face of the Bill. I can reassure the noble Baroness and other noble Lords that the Government will do whatever is necessary to secure the right candidate for those important new posts.

The Department of Education and Science is currently in discussion with a firm of executive search agents which they hope to appoint shortly to draw up a short list of possible candidates for the post of HMCI in England. It is the intention to ask a panel chaired by the first Civil Service Commissioner—I hope that that will reassure the noble Baroness—to interview and select from among that short list a name to recommend to the Secretary of State. That is a procedure that we believe will lead to the identification of a good candidate. Decisions have yet to be taken about the selection of the Welsh chief inspector. A different procedure may be appropriate. That is one reason why we are opposed to any one method of appointment being laid down for all time on the face of the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply, in particular for the information that the posts will be Crown office holders. Although there are no general rules at present, it does not prevent us from establishing general rules with regard to those appointments.

I am also grateful to the noble Baroness for saying that the best person for each post will be appointed. However, in my fairly extensive experience of appointing people to a wide range of posts in the public sector, open competition is usually the best way to attain the best person. Through advertisement it opens up to the largest number of persons who may be interested in such a post the opportunity to apply. That method of appointing people is also generally considered to be the most appropriate with regard to equal opportunities. Women as well as men, and people from the ethnic minority communities as well as white people, can apply. I do not believe that it is inconsistent with open competition also to have a system of executive search. That is indeed what often happens. A post is advertised and anyone who wishes can apply; but an executive search to encourage certain people to apply can be instituted at the same time.

The noble Baroness states that it has been impossible to find a successor to the last senior chief inspector after open competition. I am not surprised that no one wants the job in the light of what the Government now propose to do. Having seen what was coming, I suspect that some people felt that the job was no longer as worth doing as it had been in the past.

However, I shall consider again what the noble Baroness said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 5: Page 1, line 10, at end insert ("having regard to the numbers and experience of inspectors required to carry out their duties, with their individual expertise in nursery, primary, middle, secondary or special educational needs identified.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 5 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 11, the corresponding amendment for Wales.

At Committee stage in another place the debate highlighted the need for the number of HMIs to be adequate to function under the new system of schools inspection. The Secretary of State has stated that he and the senior chief inspector of HMI regard 175 as the best estimate of the number required when HMI assumes its new role in England. HMI's own internal review recommended 380. The review undertaken by the Secretary of State for Wales has not yet reported. If the reduction in HMIs is of a similar size as for England, there are serious doubts that HMI will be able to carry out its responsibilities.

The amendments emphasise the need for the number of HMIs to relate directly to the needs of the education system and maintain the independence of the chief inspector to recommend the numbers and experience required by HMI. We also believe that the experience of inspectors should include the need for them to hold the status of a qualified teacher.

In moving the Bill, the Secretary of State stated categorically that the vast majority of inspectors will be qualified teachers. That is essential if teachers in schools are to have respect and confidence in the new system. The widely acknowledged integrity of HMI to date has derived from its individual experience of classroom practice and work of teachers. It is imperative that the specific experience and expertise of inspectors are also recognised.

The organisation and curriculum of primary, middle and secondary schools vary considerably, with additional expertise in areas such as special educational needs and nursery education. To report on the effectiveness of education inspectors need to be aware of the abilities and expectations of particular age groups of pupils. The needs and opportunities for in-service training vary between each phase of school.

In training, registering and monitoring registered inspectors, HMI should at the very least make sure that those paying for the inspection service are aware of the one or more areas of expertise of the registered inspector. That in turn implies that inspection teams will clearly be identified as capable of carrying out inspections in the particular phase of a school. Some schools may have nursery classes attached; others may not. Some schools will have the special educational needs of some children integrated into their main provision. Those and other factors must be taken into account when an inspection is planned.

I believe that it is important that all the factors referred to in the amendment are considered when inspectors are being recruited. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I add the support of these Benches for the amendment. It is generally feared in the education world that there will be a shortage of expertise with the reduced number of HMI. It is most important when one of the new inspection teams goes to a school that there should be adequate supervision, with specialist knowledge of the specific provisions that the school offers. I was considering in particular special educational needs, which is a very specialist subject.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I add my support for the amendment. I too believe that the specialist training and teaching required for children who are classified as partially deaf or deaf and partially blind should be recognised. If they are being used properly, such skills can only be recognised by experts in the field. Those experts should be part of an inspection team.

It is important to recognise that many schools now have pupils with learning difficulties. Not all schools are able to cope. During a recent debate in this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, and other speakers, including myself, referred to the difficulties of schools with children with learning difficulties. Members of the inspection team not only need to understand the problem but they also need to be able to give expert advice and have the ability to report to the Secretary of State the difficulty that the schools may have with regard to shortages of speech therapists and child psychologists. The Secretary of State will then be aware that, while the schools wish to do the best they can for children with special needs, they need more back-up.

Baroness Young

We all understand why the noble Baroness has put the amendment down. The underlying anxiety that runs through the debates on the inspectorate is that the new inspectorate will not be qualified to deal with the variety of educational matters that it will be called upon to inspect.

I do not know what my noble friend will say about the amendment. I suspect that she will say that it is unnecessary. It appears to me that it will be one of the functions of the chief inspectors and the other inspectors to ensure that there are enough suitably-qualified people among the inspectorate to cover all the different types of schools, including special schools. I suspect that many people who become inspectors will have been teachers or will have worked in education and, if not, that they will receive training.

I suspect that the amendment is not necessary and that to lay down the provision in this way is prescriptive. Clearly the inspectors must cover such areas, and I believe that the chief inspector will make it his or her responsibility to ensure that they are covered.

Baroness Warnock

If that is so, I hope that the amendment is at least considered by the Government because the provision ought to be made prescriptive. The Bill should lay down specifically that there should be expertise in all the different areas. It would please me if there were more specification of the type of special educational needs which should be identified. That something can be presumed to happen is put forward too often as a reason for not putting a provision on the face of the Bill. Quite often something does not happen because it is not on the face of the Bill. Therefore, I support the amendment and ask the Government to think carefully about writing it into Clause 1.

Lord Elton

I hope that in reply my noble friend will bear in mind that if we put one measure into a Bill we specifically exclude another. Inclusio unius implies exclusio alterius. The fact that nursery, primary, middle, secondary and special educational needs are identified and no others suggests that all others take second place and may be discounted. That is a dangerous precedent to start. We confront the same argument when setting up advisory boards in this Chamber. Everyone wishes to appoint someone to sit on the board and eventually there are 185 people. One merely has to set out a board with X number of people and leave the specialisms unstated. We are in the same type of country when dealing with this amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may deal, first, with Amendments Nos. 5 and 11. I admit from the outset that I understand the anxieties behind the amendments. However, it is important to make the distinction between HMIs with their individual competence and expertise and the teams who will work with registered inspectors and who will physically visit the schools to inspect different departments, which will include special education among other aspects of education. Once the new system is in full operation we envisage that HMCIs will put forward names to the Privy Council, as the Secretary of State does now, so that Her Majesty may appoint HMIs as necessary. This is part of the chief inspector's new role and he or she will of course want to be satisfied that HMIs have the numbers and spread of expertise necessary to carry out their tasks.

This is the first amendment in respect of which we believe it important to leave the matter to the professionalism of the chief inspector. This is the first amendment that fetters the discretion of the chief inspector.

The numbers of HMIs to be appointed will of course depend on the resources which the chief inspector has available. Like any other head of a government department he or she will negotiate that sum each year with the Treasury in the light of policy priorities. The chief inspectors can certainly ask for what they believe they need and if they do not consider that they have sufficient staff they can say so quite publicly.

As for identifying the expertise of HMIs, some may indeed have a specific expertise in one of the areas mentioned in the amendment but others may be expert in one subject and competent to inspect in various types of school. Others may in future have management expertise and experience. We do not want all HMIs to carry a suffix—HMIP for primary or HMIS for special—which might call into question their ability to operate, as many now do, across phases. I hope that that is not what is envisaged. But I am not sure how the identification of expertise would work otherwise—except, in practice, to inform HMCI in making his decision about whose name to put forward. That surely goes without saying.

This amendment is one of many where Members of the Committee opposite want to offer direction to HMCI where we are content to leave matters to him.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, made an important point and referred to the 1981 report compiled by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. I know that that is a most sensitive subject in this Chamber and one about which Members feel passionate, and rightly so. When the new system is up and running it will do more than the workings of any inspectorate has done in the past to tell us exactly how the 1981 Act is working. I believe that all Members of the Committee will consider that the feedback of such sound information to the Secretary of State is most important. The teams of inspectors who visit the schools with the registered inspectors must consist of people who are qualified for the task. If the task is to inspect a science department, a special needs department or whatever, those people must have skills which make them competent to undertake the task.

I turn to Amendment No. 13 tabled by my noble friend Lord Elton—

Lord Elton

My attention has only just been drawn to the fact that my amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 5. The point which my amendment seeks to make is simple and quite different and I wonder whether Members of the Committee will ungroup it.

Baroness Blatch

I am happy for it to be dealt with separately. I hope that in the light of the explanation that I have given Amendment No. 5 will not be pressed.

Baroness David

Perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the grouping was nothing to do with me. The noble Baroness suggested that the groupings were our fault, but that is not so. I am certain that it is open to the Government to disapprove of the groupings and to choose to have amendments ungrouped if necessary.

Lord Elton

The fault is entirely mine for not having spotted that my amendment was caught up in the group. That was my job and I am afraid that I did not do it.

Baroness David

I thank the noble Baronesses who have supported me. I listened carefully to the criticisms and to the Minister's speech. I should like to read carefully what she said and consider whether I wish to return on Report with an amendment with the same wording or slightly different wording. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 6: Page 1, line 20, leave out from ("by") to end of line 21 and insert ("a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 6, which is a probing amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 12. Members of the Committee are exercised about the independence of the chief inspector and have given some time to the power of direction of the Secretary of State, which was rightly decided not to be a matter of substance. However, what is a matter of substance is the security of tenure.

When I was a Minister in Her Majesty's Government my department gave a new status to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. The drafting which achieved his independence was more elaborate than that proposed in my amendment, but it had the same result. It was to the effect that the removal of the chief inspector should be by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

Will my noble friend say on whose advice Her Majesty will dismiss the chief inspector as is now proposed in the Bill? The fact that dismissal is by Her Majesty provides no security; it is whose advice Her Majesty takes, and on what occasion, which provides the security. I should be obliged if my noble friend could explain that to the Committee.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that my noble friend will not accept the amendment. It would introduce an elaborate and cumbrous procedure. Equally, it would have a great disadvantage if the necessity to change the appointment arose during the parliamentary recess. Let us suppose, for example, that this matter arose at the end of July. The Government would be powerless to do anything until Parliament returned in October. Therefore, that would be a most inconvenient arrangement.

Moreover, to take up the time of Parliament on a personal issue of this kind is perhaps difficult to justify. On the other hand, if the Minister—and this is what the words in the Bill really mean—were wrongly to remove the incumbent of that office, that Minister would be answerable to Parliament in the ordinary way as soon as Parliament returned in October. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will not press the amendment, and if he does, I hope that my noble friend Lady Blatch will resist it.

Lord Elton

I obviously failed to make clear that this is a probing amendment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that the probe will turn out to be blunt.

Baroness Blatch

As regards Amendment No. 13, I have sympathy with my noble friend's desire to place control over the numbers of HMCI.

Lord Elton

I did not speak to Amendment No. 13. I believe it would be quicker to take that amendment separately.

Baroness Blatch

I am sorry. I misheard my noble friend. As regards Amendments Nos. 6 and 12, my noble friend is interested in the powers to remove the chief inspectors from office. Perhaps I may say at the outset that we hope and believe that those powers will not be needed. The Government will naturally try to find the best people to fill the two positions of chief inspector, and we have every confidence that good appointments will be made. However, it would be irresponsible not to make provision for the remote possibility that someone might have to be removed because he is no longer capable of doing the job through incapacity, or that he should not be allowed to continue to do the job because of misconduct. It is important to have that longstop power in the public interest.

I recognise that my noble friend has in his suggested amendments followed the precedent adopted to permit the removal from office of a judge. However, I must say that the cases are not really comparable. The duties of a judge are quite different from those of HMCI, and I cannot accept that what applies to the one must automatically be appropriate to the other. In the case of the chief inspectors, it will be for the relevant Secretary of State to put the case to the Privy Council, which will determine whether dismissal is justified, and recommend appropriately to Her Majesty.

I have stressed already that I expect the powers in these subsections to be used very rarely, if at all. Members of the Committee will notice that the power to remove from office is not absolute. It is dependent upon incapacity or misconduct. It is on that basis that the Privy Council would accept advice and judge whether the decision was appropriate on that basis. That is an extremely powerful protection for HMCI. It provides an adequate safeguard against his removal on political grounds. Of course, if there were any suspicion in the mind of the chief inspector that he was being dismissed on grounds other than those of incapacity or misconduct, he could call for a judicial review.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

As regards the Privy Council, is it more than a formality which the noble Baroness proposes? Normally a meeting of the Privy Council consists of Members of Her Majesty's Government who ratify what is placed before Her Majesty. Is there to be set up a special tribunal of the Privy Council? Is the matter to go to the Clerk of the Privy Council who will adjudicate? What form will that reference to the Privy Council take?

Baroness Blatch

I should be decidedly disturbed if I thought that a recommendation to the Privy Council to dismiss HMCI of either Wales or England were treated in such a cursory manner. I would regard that as being extremely serious business for the Privy Council. It would be for the Privy Council to make the recommendation for dismissal. In those circumstances, I regard it as a matter which should be treated extremely seriously. First, a judgment would have to be made as to whether the Secretary of State's advice to the Privy Council was consistent with dismissal on the grounds of incapacity or misconduct. On that basis, the recommendation would either be rejected or accepted. I would expect it to be rather more than a rubber stamping exercise.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

I wonder whether we have this matter straight. First, the grounds for removal are adequate—in my opinion, at least. They are exactly the same grounds as are provided under the Courts Act to every circuit judge on the circuit judge Bench. I should have thought that to give a greater degree of security of tenure than that would be an anomaly. My noble friend Lord Elton says that this is a probing amendment, and therefore I do not criticise its drafting. However, the resolution of both Houses is usually reserved to High Court judges or above.

I ask my noble friend on the Front Bench about this: I am not sure whether my noble friend is right to say that a Privy Council recommendation approved by Her Majesty, otherwise it would not be a Privy Council recommendation, is subject to judicial review. I should like to be reassured about that. I shall not be happy until I receive such a reassurance.

If the chief inspector were subject to dismissal by the Minister, he would be in the same position as is the Lord Chancellor in respect of a circuit judge. He is subject to judicial review, although I have never been judicially reviewed on that ground.

I am not happy because a decision of the Privy Council, as those Members of this Committee who have attended meetings of the Privy Council will be aware, is completed when Her Majesty actually utters the word "approved" to a draft order in council. I am not sure that anything in respect of which Her Majesty has uttered that sacred word would necessarily be subject to judicial review. I wonder whether my noble friend on the Front Bench has taken proper legal advice about that.

Baroness Blatch

I rise with great hesitation to reply to my noble and learned friend. However, I understand that my description of what happens is correct. It seems inconceivable but we are talking about most exceptional circumstances. It seems inconceivable but a situation may arise in which the Privy Council accepts advice from the Secretary of State that the dismissal was on grounds of either incapacity or misconduct; but the chief inspector still believes that he is being dismissed, for example, on political grounds and still feels aggrieved. I understand that it is possible for the aggrieved chief inspector to seek a judicial judgment about whether his dismissal was on the grounds of incapacity or misconduct.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

I hope that my noble friend will take this matter further. It is only a question of machinery. There is no difference of principle between my noble friend and myself. If this were the decision of the Minister, I should be in no doubt but that judicial review would be available on precisely the grounds that she says. The words "misconduct or incapacity" have been judicially determined at various times in the past century. It is clear that a Minister, who has an executive power, can be judicially reviewed under the judicial review procedure. However, I very much doubt whether it is constitutional for anything to which Her Majesty has uttered the word "approved" in the Privy Council to be subject to the same procedure. I have never heard of the Queen, in her own courts, being judicially reviewed.

Baroness Blatch

I give an absolute assurance to the Committee that I shall continue to seek advice on this point. One must assume that if the situation reaches the stage at which a recommendation has been made, first, to the Privy Council and, secondly, to Her Majesty to approve the dismissal of the chief inspector, that a number of the stages of the process have already been undergone. It is my understanding—and I shall correct it at a later stage if I am wrong—that it would be for the aggrieved chief inspector to apply to the courts. It would then be for the courts to decide as to whether a judicial review is appropriate. However, I bow to the greater knowledge of my noble and learned friend and I shall return again to this matter.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

I am glad to hear what the noble Baroness has said. I think that the idea of having a resolution of both Houses of Parliament is over-egging the pudding. On the other hand, it would be perfectly proper for the procedure of the Privy Council to take place on the recommendation of the Secretary of State, who would be the initiator of the enterprise and would make his recommendation to the Privy Council on the question of misconduct or incapacity. He is certainly parti pris here. One thing about which I should like to be satisfied is whether, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, says, there would be a right of judicial review or what intermediate procedures there would be between the Secretary of State initiating such procedure and Her Majesty giving her approval. If the noble Baroness were to deal with that at Report stage, I think we would all be a little clearer.

Baroness Blatch

I give the noble Lord an absolute assurance that I will follow up the point he makes.

Perhaps I may raise one other point that noble Lords may wish to think about between now and Report stage. One might argue that the government of the day could also be parti pris in coming before Parliament for approval. I am sure that what we all want, including my noble friend, is as impartial a judgment as possible reached on as objective a basis as possible. It should be based entirely on incapacity or misconduct. That is the decision which should be upheld at the end of the day. It is to that end that I shall think about the matter between now and Report stage.

Baroness Seear

Perhaps I may raise a smaller but purely practical point. What is the cost of judicial review in a last resort? Are there financial resources for it? It may sound all right but if it is going to cost the earth to have it, it is not a great reality.

Baroness Blatch

I cannot deal with that question specifically, except to say that I do not think it has ever been for Parliament to determine that, because it is a costly process, the individual should be denied the right to invoke the law where appropriate. The debate here is whether it is appropriate.

Lord Peston

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said that this is only a probing amendment and I should like to use it to probe another matter. Does the expression "Her Majesty does appear" mean that, if it was stated that the person had been removed by Her Majesty on the grounds of misconduct and someone were to ask a question either in this Chamber or in another place about why that person had been removed, in some sense it would be out of order because Her Majesty had decided it? A fortiori would it then be out of order to say that that decision should not have been taken? This is not quite the same as the "judicial review" point but it is relevant to the noble Lord's suggested amendment. I speak with no expertise but it seems to me there is a danger that we could be ruled out of order in asking why a particular person was dismissed. I do not necessarily expect an immediate answer but I believe the matter is worth exploring.

Baroness Blatch

It may not be appropriate for me to answer that point specifically. If I am wrong I shall come back to the noble Lord. My understanding is that we concern ourselves here with mechanisms for doing things and vesting the appropriate authority in different people in different parts of the process to take decisions. I would not have thought it appropriate for either House to involve itself in the personal circumstances of a dismissal; we should be making sure that the system for dealing with such matters is appropriate.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Glenamara

Surely, my noble friend Lord Callaghan was right when he stated that to say a chief inspector could be removed from office only by the Queen in Council was no safeguard against a political dismissal. As the noble Baroness knows, the Privy Council agenda consists of items sent in by government departments. Her Majesty says either "Approved" or "Referred" on the advice of the Government. They are purely political decisions in the Privy Council. What the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is proposing is that it should come to Parliament. I quite agree with the noble Baroness that there are circumstances in which it would be undesirable to discuss in Parliament the reasons for dismissing an inspector, but let us not deceive ourselves by the words "removed by the Queen in Council". This is no safeguard against a political dismissal.

Baroness Blatch

I have given an absolute assurance to the Committee that I shall continue to take advice on the subject and try to safeguard the objectives of the noble Lord's amendment which are that any chief inspector who is subject to what is a very extreme provision should be dealt with objectively and in such a way that would have the confidence of the whole House. I shall come back at the next stage and report on the matter.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

As so often happens, we have started to deviate from the point on the agenda. But since the question has been asked, I would have thought there was nothing that could stop anybody in Parliament asking a question about anything. Kings have been removed because they have tried to interfere with Parliament. I imagine we would not want to go back to that situation.

Lord Elton

In the interval between this and the next stage my noble friend and I will doubtless be thinking about it. My noble and learned friend has usefully focused my concern about the proper protection of this post against improper dismissal. My noble friend will no doubt come back to something else, or I shall, at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools in Wales]:

[Amendments Nos. 7 to 12 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors]:

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 13: Page 16, line 5, leave out ("the Treasury as to numbers and") and insert ("the Secretary of State as to numbers and the Treasury as to").

The noble Lord said: We now come to the often heralded and simple amendment which is designed simply to elicit from Her Majesty's Government the means of funding and control of the inspectorate. The Bill says that the Treasury will approve the numbers of the inspectorate and the terms and conditions of service. The Treasury already has a very powerful influence over all departments. It occurred to me that this department, though independent, was much closer to the Secretary of State for Education than to the Treasury when it came to the determination of policy, and it might be in that department that the appropriate amount of money agreed with the Treasury ought to be allocated to different purposes. Therefore, the Treasury might not be the best judge as to the numbers of the inspectorate though it certainly would have a say about terms and conditions of service. This goes back to the question of the Vote out of which the service will be paid for and which Minister will be striving to see that that Vote is adequate in the PES round. I beg to move.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I do not know whether this is one of the probes of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. It is also an amendment which is frequently moved on any number of Bills but normally from the other side of the Chamber. The control of the size of the public service is an issue often raised by noble Lords opposite. In my view, Treasury control of numbers is a great safeguard as to the size of the public service. To undermine Treasury control of numbers in one respect would not only be a bad precedent in itself but would be unsound in principle. One department must be finally responsible for the size of the public service and therefore for its cost. That has always been the Treasury. In my two terms of service in that department I frequently had to deal with such matters, and I hope I dealt with them fairly and properly. To remove that power would be an extremely bad precedent and, I believe, contrary to the efficient working of the organisation about which we are concerned in the Bill. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will resist this with her habitual determination and courage.

Lord Peston

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, about the paramount importance of Treasury control. However, within the spirit of what this Government have been trying to do it may be more appropriate for the chief inspector to be given a budget and then told to do what he likes with it in the interests of the body he had in mind. That would be just as good a method of Treasury control as that suggested by the amendment.

Either the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, or her noble friend Lady Denton mentioned earlier, when we were discussing recruitment to the post, analogies like the Director General of Fair Trading. I thought that was a good analogy. I should like to believe that the Chief Inspector of Schools would be as distinguished and powerful a figure as the Director General of Fair Trading. However, if we look at the underpinning of the Office of Fair Trading, does a similar provision apply to that? In other words, is the Director General of Fair Trading specifically told that he may appoint a certain number of members of staff with the approval of the Treasury?

The analogy was a good one. I would be more convinced in this case if that was the rule, and I therefore ask that question. In talking of regulators, where a similar point applies, I should be interested to know whether they are subject to Treasury control in this same detailed way. That is not to detract from Treasury control per se; it is to ask specifically about the nature of Treasury control because one notices the precise details—numbers and terms of conditions of service and so on. I would therefore be reassured, and no doubt so would the noble Lord, Lord Elton, if we were told that that was the normal practice.

Baroness Blatch

I believe that I can help on Amendment No. 13. I have sympathy with my noble friend's desire to place control over the numbers of HMCI's support staff in the hands of the Secretary of State rather than those of the Treasury. However, perhaps I can explain the position to my noble friend.

In this Bill we are setting up two non-ministerial government departments, one in England and one in Wales. That point was well made by the noble Baroness, Lady White, when she referred to the statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

The chief inspectors will head their own departments, and will need their own administrative and technical support staff in addition to their professional inspection staff. This paragraph of Schedule 1 will require them to negotiate their case for support staff direct with the Treasury. In making their case, they will set out in detail their functions and what they need to discharge them. In practice, my noble friend's amendment would have the effect of adding an extra layer to the control over numbers. It would not remove the Treasury from the picture because it would still play a role through the public expenditure survey and the estimates procedure.

That point was well made by my noble friend. If one takes it to its logical conclusion it would be an adjunct to another department. It would come through the Department of Education and Science and then through the PES round and my noble friend would probably argue that it is better that it should have its own straight line to the Treasury.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector will have more control than HMI has hitherto had over its staffing and resources. The HMCIs will be their own department's accounting officer. They will also be able to say in their annual report and elsewhere if their functions are at risk from lack of staff or resources.

With regard to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, first, I do not have the specific information and, secondly, it is not relevant now that I have established that it is a separate department with a straight line to the Treasury for resources and that it has the ability and power to make its own case for resources.

Lord Elton

I am grateful to my noble friend who reassures me that this is the way in which all non-ministerial departments are controlled. I am not familiar with them and so that is news to me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 14: Page 16, line 10, after ("persons") insert (", not fewer than 380,").

The noble Baroness said: The Bill suggests that there is to be a drastic reduction in the number of inspectors from 480 to 175. We wish to ensure that that does not happen and are proposing instead that there should be no fewer than 380. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

In speaking to this group of amendments I particularly want to focus on Amendments Nos. 36 and 62. Their aim is to secure high standards in the longer term. The question we must ask is whether Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors will have sufficient numbers of staff to undertake school inspections indefinitely and to maintain their tradition of high standards.

Without continuing firsthand experience of inspections it would become increasingly difficult to guide and train new registered inspectors. Monitoring the activities of registered inspectors in the conduct of their inspections would be a poor substitute for extensive firsthand experience undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate. Not only would guidance and training be difficult, but also it would be difficult to give well-based advice to Ministers. For example, it would be difficult to keep in touch with the implementation of the national curriculum and with the new forms of assessment. We must recognise that there is still a long way to go in implementing the schemes of assessment that follow on from the Education Reform Act 1988. It would be hard to assess the development of more practical and vocational work in the top ends of our secondary schools to which Ministers are wedded. But again, it is an early stage of development. Perhaps of the greatest importance is that it would be difficult to monitor the new system of school-based training of teachers.

I can give countless other examples and illustrations of why it is important that the national inspectorate continues in the long term to carry out firsthand inspections of schools. But the most important reason is that the inspectors are universally recognised to be the best prepared and best equipped to undertake such work. They should be doing it on a considerable scale to provide models of good practice for registered inspectors.

If it is accepted that we wish the national inspectorate to continue carrying out its inspections at the chalk face rather than simply monitoring other people carrying out inspections, we shall need at least 380 inspectors. That is the figure mentioned in Amendment No. 14.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

I have a great deal of sympathy with the intention behind the amendment and agree with almost everything that the noble Baroness said. However, I doubt the wisdom of including in the Bill a specific figure below which one would not fall. That is ultimately an administrative decision and for that reason I am doubtful about the amendment.

However, I should like to take the opportunity of saying that I am embarrassed on this side of the Chamber that there are those—certainly not those opposite, or at least they have not said so—who would perhaps associate some on this side of the Chamber with some of the more severe criticisms made of the inspectorate. Nobody has thought to link us but, notwithstanding, let me take the opportunity of deprecating an article written in the Daily Telegraph on 9th December last headed, How H.M. Ideologues have laid waste school education". It is signed by a lady who claims to be the deputy director of the Centre for Policy Studies and goes on to speak in intemperate language of the inspectorate. Most of us on this side of the Chamber have a high regard for the work of the inspectorate and would not wish to make such criticisms. I should like to make that point clear.

At the same time it is not illogical for us to say that under the arrangements provided there will be some diminution in the numbers of inspectors. Ultimately, if one is setting up a new inspection system through registered inspectors of the kind proposed which will perhaps require thousands of extra inspectors, one has a choice. One can either incorporate those persons within a much enlarged inspectorate—that is not what the Opposition are proposing but it is a relevant issue—which would thereby become a large monolithic body, or one can accept the logic that some diminution in the numbers of inspectors is possible. That is logical but does not in itself imply criticism of the way that the inspectorate operates.

For that reason I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was saying. It is important that the inspectorate should continue to conduct its own inspections, which is provided for in the Bill. That will not be the main vehicle for inspections but there will be that provision. I agree with most of the sentiments which she has expressed. However, I doubt the wisdom of putting into the Bill a figure such as not falling below 380. That is an administrative matter and not appropriate to insert in the Bill.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Rippon of Hexham

I am not in any position to express a view about numbers. I know that many people believe that the Government propose too severe a cut. I am a little concerned with the relationship between the inspectors and the local education authority. I believe that my noble friend Lord Beloff raised this point at Second Reading as regards the responsibilities of the local education authority. As I understand it, every local education authority has a direct liaison at the present time with an inspector and they look into all matters. The inspector makes an annual report. I further understand that normally the inspector and the chief inspector of the local education authority meet regularly to consider a whole range of issues relating to the schools.

I would like an assurance from the Minister that nothing which is done will undermine what seems to be a very satisfactory arrangement at the present time carried out by a service—I agree with my noble friend—which has a very high reputation.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

The words of the two Members of the Committee opposite give me an opportunity to say something which I meant to say when we were discussing the first amendment. The problem could have been solved by vastly increasing the size of Her Majesty's Inspectorate to about 2,000, with its expertise. The noble Lord, Lord Rippon, also adverted to the same problem.

I also wanted to say that we should build on what already exists. It is awful to be seen decimating the present set-up when a very good system is being built up between the HMI and the local education authorities. The standards of all the local education authorities could be brought up to the standard of East Sussex in due course. That is not beyond the bounds of possibility. The proposal of the Government is going to take time, and probably longer than I have suggested.

Lord Peston

Let me reassure the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, that it did not occur to me that most Members of the Committee opposite had a low view of the inspectorate. On the contrary, I believed that most Members who have experience in these matters thought that the inspectorate was good. Perhaps the noble Lord will recall what underlay my speech at Second Reading. It was to the effect that if one accepts that position, can it be explained why the Bill is needed in this form?

The Government, in the person of the noble Baroness, refused to come out to play with me on that issue. She said that my question was rhetorical and not to be answered. However, I still seek the answer. If the inspectorate is as good as Members of the Committee opposite say, and they are right, I can see room for change following the Audit Commission report. But I cannot see how one gets from that position to this Bill. Therefore I am not accusing them of ideology but of illogicality.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

I am not sure whether I am supposed to rise to the bait. It is a simple point. We greatly admire the inspectorate but we doubt whether an appropriate solution to the problem of inspection is to increase the inspectorate by about 3,000, multiplied by a factor of almost 10. That would make it a very different organisation.

Lord Peston

The noble Lord and I are in agreement for the second time. I hope that I do not ruin his career on that side of the Chamber. I certainly do not believe in increasing the size of the inspectorate in that way. There are better ways of deploying the inspectorate and some of those ways would not be far from the lines along which the Government are seeking to go. In other words, we are talking about the division of labour, who would do which job and so forth.

The point of this amendment which stands in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and myself and the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend is to try to get nearer to a proper balance on the desirable size of Her Majesty's Inspectorate and what it does and the desirable size for whatever other functions are necessary. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, has tabled an amendment which will be dealt with in due course and which will also throw some light on these matters.

That is the logic of our position. Overall, we are saying that if one looks closely at Amendment No. 36, which concerns the task, essentially what we are saying is that the numbers should correspond to that task. At this point I become uneasy because all I know about numbers relates to the secret document which has been leaked. I do not care to debate on the basis of leaked documents. I take seriously the fact that no case has been made for keeping the document secret. I would like to have seen it because I am told that it contains the analysis which leads to the number 380.

I am not an expert and I do not know whether 380 is the right number. I read my newspapers and they tell me that that is the number in the document. If I could read it I might discover that the document is no good. If I could read the document I would at least know where I stood. I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I do not regard it as all that sensible to include a precise number, but that is the easiest way to look at the problem. It is the easiest way to discover what lies behind what the Government are doing, which is what I am concerned about. The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, may say that 380, 400 or 360 do not appeal to him. I am saying there should be more than the number we are told. I would like a proper underpinning of a number set within the Bill, which is how my noble friend's Amendment No. 36 comes into the picture.

I do not believe that there is a great deal between us, but unfortunately the Government insist on creating a divide between us because they refuse to respond to some of the suggestions being made. We end up with rows which are always avoidable in this area if only one could persuade the Government of that. That is the origin of these amendments. I reiterate that I do not in any sense doubt the bona fides of Members of the Committee on the other side of the Chamber on this subject. I take it for granted that they are at least as concerned with Her Majesty's Inspectorate as I and my noble friends are.

Viscount Eccles

There are two quite different functions: one is inspecting schools, and that has broken down. There were only 150 last year. Even in the time of my noble friend Lord Joseph when he tried to revive them, it was said that there should not be a school inspection more often than once in 10 years. What was being done was much more useful. Advice was being given on particular troubles. One sent out the inspectors and said that there was something wrong with a particular department which should be looked at. The advice received was extremely good.

Now there is a suggested commitment of 6,000 inspections a year. Will it be the case that the rump of the old inspectorate will no longer inspect anything— will no longer go out and do what they do so well, which is to bring back expert news about the schools? They will spend their time trying to gather together a large number of inspectors —I cannot say how many but some thousands—in order to carry out 6,000 inspections a year. In my view that is an impossible task.

Baroness Blatch

I believe that we are still in danger of confusing the number of HMIs with the number of registered inspectors who will be overseen by the HMI. I can assure my noble friend Lord Eccles that the valuable work that he describes will continue. HMI will continue to inspect at first hand and at least three-quarters of its manpower will do so under the new arrangements, in addition to monitoring the new inspections. In other words, it will have a monitoring role for the registered inspectors but will also continue with its dipsticking into schools on an ad hoc, subject-by-subject or school-by-school basis. That very valuable work will continue.

The precise way in which Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Schools arrange their work must be a matter for them. I am sure that they will ensure that they have adequate information about the local education authorities as well as about the schools with which they are involved. They will also be dealing with local education authority inspectors who will apply, as anyone else can apply, for registration under the Bill. Therefore the close relationship which the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, referred to concerning professional matters will be strengthened.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that what we believe we are doing by this Bill is recognising, in the way that my noble friend Lord Renfrew has done, the work of HMI. We believe that it should be strengthened and given independence to do a professional job. The local education authorities for their part will have their share of the 6,000 a year reports on which they can base their interest.

Perhaps I may say to my noble friend Lord Rippon that LEAs will retain their responsibility for going into schools if they have good reason to be concerned about the effective, efficient delivery of education. But of course they will now have an independent inspectorate providing them with a great deal of information which will eliminate their need to do so. That will certainly eliminate the number of times where it will be necessary to do so out of real concern.

I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, that one simply cannot take what is already there and build on it in the way that he suggests. First, one of the consequences would be the unbelievable increase in numbers within the system as it is at the moment. Secondly, remembering how many local authorities fall very far short of the authority of East Sussex, to which he referred, to bring them all into line and to make them deliver would involve the highest possible degree of prescription—and it would not be independent. We believe that independence of the inspectorate is important. We also believe that we should not build on a system that has not worked, but take HMI and create a system that does work.

I shall return now to the amendment. This particular paragraph relates to the appointment by HMCI of inspectors other than HMI to assist them in their inspection work. Such people are not appointed through the Order in Council procedure provided for in Clause 1(2). Section 77(2) of the Education Act 1944 gave the Secretary of State power to authorise persons to assist Her Majesty's Inspectorate in their inspections. Under these provisions, additional or occasional inspectors have been brought in for shorter or longer periods to provide particular expertise which the existing complement of HMI have lacked, to widen their own experience, even on occasion, to fill gaps caused by extended illness. This paragraph of Schedule 1 simply allows for these arrangements to continue under the chief inspector.

These appointments have never been more than a handful of people at a time. They have provided useful additional flexibility; but the intention has never been to add them permanently to Her Majesty's Inspectorate staff. So if the noble Baroness hopes to require a minimum of 380 HMI, appointed through the Order in Council procedure in Clause 1, this amendment does not achieve that.

To return to the question of numbers. Noble Lords opposite are still basing their estimate on misleading newspaper reports of leaked documents rather than on the information and explanations given in another place. The figure of 380 HMI does not take account of the new position with regard to inspections in further and higher education, which was explained when your Lordships considered the Further and Higher Education Bill recently. One hundred and forty of the present 480 HMI inspect further and higher education. In future, responsibility for inspection of further and higher education and of sixth form colleges will transfer to the funding councils. No doubt a number of Her Majesty's Inspectors will transfer to those councils, but that is a matter for them. What is certain, is that these inspectors should not be part of the calculation of the numbers of Her Majesty's Inspectors needed in future for schools. Taking 140 from 480 already brings us below the 380 that noble Lords opposite claim are needed as the absolute minimum for schools inspection.

Nor does the figure of 380 take account of the fact that we are setting up entirely new inspection arrangements that will provide for a vast increase in the numbers of schools inspected each year. We have to look at what HMI will be needed to do in future when they will be running a much improved inspection system which will not only produce published reports for parents, but will also produce a huge amount of high quality evidence. Six thousand reports a year will be produced in standard form. These will feed into HMI's own judgments about the standards and quality of education in our schools. It is impossible to argue that HMI inspection effort will also be needed at exactly the same level as now.

As said in our debate at Second Reading, our preliminary judgment about the future complement of HMI is based on advice from the senior chief inspector on that question—because he is best able to advise on the practicalities. The senior chief inspector and we have looked at the way in which the new arrangements will operate in steady state, and the functions which will need to be carried out by HMI. I stress that these are estimates and will have to be subjected to detailed scrutiny once the chief inspectors are in post and have decided how they intend to operate. The figure of 175 is not set for all time.

Once the initial rush of registration and training is over, the system will require the full-time equivalent of around 40 inspectors for monitoring the work of registered inspectors. We are satisfied that real and effective monitoring is quite possible with that number. We are not intending that HMI should go in with every inspection. That would be totally wasteful and unnecessary. But HMI would, for example, be able to accompany each registered inspector on an inspection at least once a year.

Our motive is not to economise. Where HMI are needed for specific tasks, they will be there in sufficient numbers. But many aspects of HMI's work at present—however described—in fact amount to the gathering of intelligence to inform advice to the Secretary of State. That intelligence gathering in future will be largely the function of the army of registered inspectors and their teams, so that area of HMI activity which has provided the baseline of information about the system in the past, will be significantly reduced in future.

However, HMI will not be any the less informed. Under the Bill, the chief inspector has specific duties to keep the whole school system under review and to provide advice as requested or as they think fit on any aspect of it. About three-quarters of the inspectorate will be available to carry out the chief inspector's own inspection programme, which will allow around 3,000 schools to be visited and some 30,000 classes to be observed by the inspectorate themselves. So the inspectorate will have a large stake in the expanded programme of inspection and that will provide an important check against the findings of the registered inspectors.

The chief inspector's own inspection evidence will also supplement the registered inspectors' work to enable HMI to continue to write reports and publications on particular aspects of educational provision, will contribute to the evidence for the annual report, and will underpin advice to the Secretary of State. All that can be managed, and managed effectively, within the figures we have suggested.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 36 and 62 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. With these amendments we are back to telling the independent chief inspectors how to carry out their job. There is no need for these amendments to give the chief inspector powers to carry out inspections for the purposes specified. They have unrestricted powers of inspection under Clauses 3 and 7 and can exercise them in pursuit of any of their statutory functions. I am sure they will do so as necessary.

Since the chief inspectors have the power to carry out inspections to establish good practice, I can see no point in giving them, as these amendments would, an additional duty on the face of the Bill to use that power as they see fit. I expect that the inspectorate will in practice continue as now to develop good practice in inspection, while at the same time collecting evidence about the school system. That will make for the best use of their time. They will also be accompanying registered inspectors to look at how they do their work. That is specifically catered for in Clauses 3 and 7. Such monitoring activity may also lead them to offer further advice on standards or good inspection practice.

All this useful activity is perfectly possible under the Bill as drafted. I think we can allow the inspectorate to carry out all their work in as professional a way as possible and when necessary, without further words in the Bill to remind them of their powers. I hope the amendments will not be pressed.

Baroness Seear

I thank the Minister for that reply. I apologise to the Committee if I was caught on the wrong foot when the amendment was called. I do not think that the point has been fully met. There is nothing particularly sacred about the figure of 380. But we on these Benches are very anxious that at this time of radical change in education, and with the universal desire in the country to raise the level of education—with so much experimentation in curriculum and teacher training going on—it is vitally important that the Secretary of State should get the best possible advice. Nobody imagines that the Government will have got everything right straight away. That would be absurd. We need to be convinced, and so far we are not, that 175 HMI will be able to do that job.

The noble Baroness said that the inspectorate will get reports from the registered inspectors. When it comes to getting information about, and an insight into, what is going on in schools in order to inform the Secretary of State, it is not the same thing to get it at second hand. Those inspectors, those top grade people, need to be able to keep their feet in the trough and be continuously in touch. That is the only way one can know. Those who have done work of this kind know that unless one goes back to the grass roots to find out what is happening one becomes out of date and one's advice is not as good as it ought to be.

The noble Baroness is relying on second-hand information coming to the inspectors which will govern what those in HMI say to the Secretary of State. In relying on those reports from the registered inspectors there are two snags. First, it is not the same as getting one's own information. It never can be. Secondly, we are not yet convinced—and we remain to be convinced—that the people recruited will have the insight, sensitivity and knowledge to be able to put their finger on what needs to be done in educational development.

That is the core point. That is what has to be passed on to the Secretary of State. The reports to the Secretary of State can only be as good as the advice that comes from the registered inspectors. We have yet to be convinced that the people who come forward as registered inspectors will be an adequate substitute for or be able to do the same kind of job as the existing high quality inspectors. Therefore the quality of the advice is bound to fall.

I do not propose to press the amendment today but I ask the noble Baroness to think about these points because they are crucial. I rather agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, on the way the inspectors could get that information. Very often they would get it better by looking at a particular problem area in a school than by carrying out a full-dress inspection. They need that day-to-day or at least month-to-month contact. If the noble Baroness can come back at a later stage to say that she has thought about and appreciates these points and has some suggestions to make about them, that would be of great help. At the moment I wish to withdraw the amendment. Perhaps we can talk about it between now and Report stage. Otherwise we shall have to come back with a modification of the present amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness sits down, I can give her an assurance that I shall go on thinking about all these amendments between now and Report stage and as the Bill progresses through the House. I said that about three-quarters of the inspectorate will be available to carry out their own inspection programme in addition to the monitoring of the 6,000 reports a year. So they will be in receipt of all that information. They will also do some accompanying of registered inspectors in the course of that work. They will also visit around 3,000 schools and observe about 30,000 classes in the course of a year. That will be very valuable additional work which will provide the kind of information for which I think the noble Baroness is looking.

Baroness Seear

Does the noble Baroness really think that all those things can be done in addition to selecting, training and supervising the inspectors? It seems very optimistic to think that they will be able to spend that amount of time in the schools.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, can clarify a point for me. I was trying hard to keep up with her fast-moving case. I understood her to say that three-quarters of the inspectorate would be available to do their own inspections. I understand that, but they have only a right to inspect; they have no duty to do it. The noble Baroness knows that three-quarters of the inspectorate will be available to do inspections. She has also assured the Committee that the inspectorate will be fully independent and therefore will make its own decisions. I am not quite sure that it is on the face of the Bill that three-quarters of the inspectorate will be doing inspections. I am a little confused as to how these two things fit together.

Lord Elton

Before my noble friend replies, I wonder whether we can be put into a clearer position as to where we have reached. I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, had withdrawn the amendment. I thought that my noble friend the Minister intervened, fictionally, but really, before the noble Baroness sat down. I thought that the end of her intervention then concluded the matter and that we were into the next amendment. I do not want to be difficult but I think we are spending too long on this matter.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alport)

The noble Lord is quite correct. I gave the noble Baroness the chance to comment on the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I should have thought that it was now time to ask the Committee whether the amendment may be withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 15: Page 16, line 22, at end insert ("within nationally determined Civil Service pay scales and conditions of service agreements.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 16 to 19. Having looked at the groupings, noble Lords will notice that Amendment No. 17 is incompatible with Amendments Nos. 18 and 19. I shall proceed as if Amendment No. 17 were not on the Marshalled List, because Amendment No. 17 leaves out lines 23 to 35 and Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 discuss matters in that part of the Bill. I shall therefore refer to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 and 18 and 19.

With regard to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16, I think I now need some clarification which originally I did not need. I had thought that Her Majesty's chief inspectors would be civil servants. My noble friend Lady White read a letter from the Secretary of State for Wales which also seemed to suggest that Her Majesty's chief inspectors would be civil servants. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, when replying for the Government on the question of competition for the post, seemed to imply that Her Majesty's chief inspectors would not be civil servants. If it is the case that from now on Her Majesty's chief inspectors will not be civil servants, to some extent Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are easily dealt with because the posts then become completely irrelevant. There is no point in arguing that the posts should be determined by Civil Service payscales and so on if one is talking about someone who is not a civil servant. Am I correct in assuming that from now on Her Majesty's chief inspectors will be civil servants?

I do not want to enlarge on that but the analogy was used in regard to the Director General of Fair Trading. It had not occurred to me that the Director General of Fair Trading is a civil servant. Again, I could be wrong on that. Perhaps the Committee will bear with me a little longer. If the chief inspectors are civil servants, it follows that the various rules of appointment under the Civil Service, pay arrangements and so on will apply. That is what Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 provide. The noble Baroness may be able to deal with those very briefly indeed.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 19, although grouped, deal with a different matter. They relate to ceasing to hold office. I have a legal question. Does ceasing to hold office logically include removal from office as defined in Clause 1 (4) (c)? We discussed that some time ago. In other words, is one of the ways of ceasing to hold office being removed from office? I ask that question because, if the answer is yes, presumably the conditions under paragraph 3(3) of Schedule 1 will apply in the case of someone being removed from office and will be concerned with compensating him or her as well as whoever else it applies to. Is ceasing to hold office regarded within the meaning of the Bill and by the lawyers as including those who are removed from office?

My second point is a technical one. I am advised by my legal advisers that the expression, special circumstances which make it right that", has no meaning in law and therefore that the Bill is flawed in its drafting. One cannot write in that expression. What one has to write in is the expression "where appropriate".

I am anxious not to be caught in the crossfire between experts; namely, my experts who will tell me that I am right and those of the noble Baroness who will tell her that she is right. I put it to Members of the Committee that certainly the people I have consulted, who claim to know about such things, simply say that that piece of drafting is wrong. I can go no further than that because I have no expertise in the matter.

The purpose of Amendment No. 19 is, I believe, obvious. If someone ceases to hold office and if, where appropriate, the Secretary of State deems that that person should receive compensation, it seems to me—especially as we are now dealing with public funds—that it is entirely right that he should give a public explanation as to why a sum of money is being paid and why it is a precise sum, and not another sum, is being paid. The amendments fit together and in both cases they are extremely important in terms of good management of the public sector. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

The amendments raise technical issues about the terms and conditions of service of the new chief inspector posts. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, wishes to treat the chief inspectors as civil servants—at least he asked for clarification in the matter.

Lord Peston

I was simply asking whether they are in fact civil servants. If they are not, we can dismiss that aspect of the matter with no trouble at all.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the noble Lord. I believe that reference has already been made to them this afternoon as being Crown servants. The holders of such posts will be Crown servants. Their pay and conditions of service, including pension arrangements, will be determined in the same way as that of other Crown servants holding similar positions. In other words, my right honourable friends will determine, with the approval of the Treasury, what the chief inspectors should receive by way of remuneration, travelling and other allowances (including any pension or gratuity) and what the level of any pension contributions by them should be.

So far as concerns pensions arrangements, I understand that the chief inspectors would in principle be eligible to have their service in that post covered by the principle civil servants' pension scheme. That is a matter for my right honourable friend to determine in agreement with the Treasury. We do not need to put any more on the face of the Bill than appears in Schedule 1 paragraph 3 in relation to end of service grants and pension gratuity or other allowances.

In reply to the question about someone ceasing to hold office and what it means, I understand that it means "for any reason whatever". There is nothing sinister here. The provisions are standard provisions for Crown servants who hold office directly under the Crown and who are not simply advisers to Ministers as is the case with civil servants. Noble Lords need have no fear of any impropriety because decisions on such matters have to be agreed with the Treasury and will be subject to scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the normal way.

I turn finally to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, on compensation. I hope that we shall not spend too long on this aspect. As the Bill says, the provisions are intended for special circumstances. As I have already made clear, we hope that they will never have to be used; but, nevertheless, they remain necessary. I can understand that the noble Lord with his well-known penchant for figures would be interested to know how and why a particular sum of compensation - that is, should we ever come to that situation—was calculated. However, the noble Lord has overlooked some important points.

It would not be right to require public reporting to Parliament of amounts of compensation paid to individuals whose particular private circumstances have had some bearing on the figures arrived at; nor would it be helpful to government because figures given could be quoted against a government—indeed, any government—in any future negotiations and would, therefore, not be in the interests of the taxpayer. But, of course, the Secretary of State cannot act frivolously in such a situation. The Comptroller and Auditor General will automatically have access to the details of any compensation arrangements through his audit role. He will then be able to report to Parliament if he considers that there has been impropriety or extravagance. I think that that should provide quite as good a safeguard as that sought by the noble Lord. However, having said that, I am not sure whether I have gone far enough and sufficiently explained the matter to enable the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Peston

I thank the noble Baroness. I found her reply most helpful. However, she did not quite deal with the technical point that I raised. My lawyers have told me that the phrase in paragraph 3(3) of Schedule 1, special circumstances which make it right that is not correct terminology and so perhaps the Government should further consider the wording. But, on such a technical matter, I am perfectly happy for the noble Baroness to write to me and say, "Yes, it is correct" and I will then write back stating that it is not. We can carry on for a while along those lines. As I was advised that it was not a suitable form of words, I felt it only right to draw it to the attention of the Committee.

As regards the other matters, I do not agree. However, I can see both sides of the argument. If a sum of money is paid by way of compensation and it is public money, I believe that it should be in the public domain—embarrassing though that may be to whoever is involved. I do not think that public service pay-offs to people should be kept secret for whatever reason. But if the Government take a different view, that is a matter for them. My view is that the best way of controlling the use of any public money is to expose its use to the public. However, we can continue to disagree on that aspect. As I said, the noble Baroness's reply was helpful. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments 16 to 19 not moved.]

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I beg to move that the House be now resumed. In moving the Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage of the Bill should begin again at five minutes past eight.

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

House resumed.