HL Deb 20 April 1993 vol 544 cc1373-437
The Minister of State, Department for Education (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 [General duty of Secretary of State]:

Lord Beloff moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 10, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (3A) below,")

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, I wish to consider with Amendment No. 1, Amendments Nos. 4, 5, 8 and 342. Members of the Committee who were present on Second Reading will understand the background of the principal amendment to which I wish to speak; namely, Amendment No. 8, the purpose of which is to exclude universities from Clause 1. For those Members of the Committee who were not present on Second Reading perhaps I may recapitulate briefly what has happened.

When the Bill first appeared before the other place it dealt solely with schools and further education and was treated in Committee in the other place along those lines. The reason why Amendment No. 342 is included is that it is an amendment to the Title of the Bill which would put the Bill back into that happy position. It was only on Report in another place that the present Clause 1 was added, so that it was never discussed in Committee. It could have been argued, and, indeed, might have been argued, that it should therefore probably refer only to schools and further education, but in discussion on the Bill in another place the Secretary of State said, in so many words, that the universities and other institutions of higher education were included in the Bill; and so it became necessary to ask why that change had taken place.

It is to the regret of those who have connections in the university world that we have never had any inkling of an explanation as to why that was done and what had happened between the Bill's introduction in the other place and the Report stage that made it suddenly necessary to include that reference. I hope, among other things, that my noble friend the Minister will at last be able to satisfy our curiosity.

When the question as to the desirability of giving further powers to the Secretary of State in relation to higher education was raised on Second Reading, my noble friend the Minister gave, as part of the defence of the Government's action, the fact that the powers of the Secretary of State were circumscribed by Sections 68 and 81 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Indeed, Ministers and the department seem rather to pride themselves now on the protection for academic freedom which was given in that Act.

However, I should like to point out to my noble friend the Minister that the Government are not entitled to use that particular defence, for two reasons. First, it is a well-known principle of the interpretation of statutes that a later statute has priority over an earlier statute; therefore, powers which would be granted in the present Bill, if it became an Act, would supersede, in so far as they contradicted them, restrictions on the powers granted in the earlier Act.

The second reason for being unable to accept that defence is that Section 68, the so-called academic freedom section, was not, of course, the work of Her Majesty's Government or the Ministers at the time; it was imposed upon the Government by a vote in this Chamber. Indeed, my noble friend the Minister, who now uses that defence, voted against that proposal. It is therefore rather difficult to see how we can accept fully a defence of academic freedom in April 1993 from someone who voted against it in February 1992, although of course there have been conversions of various kinds to which one could point.

We heard after Second Reading that the department was understanding of the concerns of the universities which had been expressed by a number of speakers in the debate and that it proposed to meet them by an amendment in Committee. So we waited with bated breath to see what that amendment, or those amendments, would turn out to be. Those are the other two amendments in the present grouping.

Well, the amendments duly arrived. Thanks to the activity of my noble friend the Minister some of us saw them before the weekend, some on Monday. What was our conclusion? I can only describe it in the words of the poet: "Parturient mantes nascetur ridiculus mus". Since Latin is, alas, lacking in the national curriculum, for a free translation perhaps I may offer: The Department for Education has gone into labour and produced a ridiculous mouse of an amendment". Why it is ridiculous is that it does not meet the concerns of the universities, and that is, I have it, on the best legal advice. I shall leave it to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway and possibly later to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, to explain why it is that the government amendments still leave the universities vulnerable to interference by the department.

But those are not the only pieces of legal advice to that effect that I have received. The vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, an eminent lawyer, has made it plain—I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, will speak for the university in due course—that in his view the amendments are insufficient.

I have also been able, by a fortunate chance, to take legal advice myself. Members of the Committee who were in the Palace this morning will have witnessed various garishly dressed personages who were the Silks being given their new role by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I was fortunate enough to intercept one of the newly elected Silks as he emerged from the Royal Gallery. It is not every day that one can get a free consultation from a Silk. He turned out—it is a trifling matter perhaps—to be the vice-chancellor elect of the University of Oxford. He also empowered me to say that in his view these amendments were insufficient to meet the anxieties which he and his colleagues in Oxford felt. So I have, I believe, fairly good grounds for saying that this will not do.

Many Members of the Committee may well say, "Surely Oxford and Cambridge can look after themselves. They survived Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, and James II. Surely they can stand up to John Patten". I would, on the whole, be inclined to agree with that. However, we have not two universities but something like 100 universities. I am thinking, for instance, of the newly-promoted—if that is the right word—polytechnics, which now have university status. They are strongly represented in this House by my noble friend Lady Perry, who I am sorry is not in her place —well, not in her usual place—and by two of their chancellors; my noble friends Lady Young and Lady Platt. Perhaps the Committee might wish to congratulate my noble friends on their elevation.

Let us see what has happened to those universities. When Parliament passed the legislation the universities were told they were being emancipated from the thraldom of local government. They put on their new robes and designed their new crests. They emerged into the light of day with great hopes of what they would do in an independent existence. Suddenly they are informed by Clause 1 of the Bill, "Don't make that mistake. You have certainly escaped from the thraldom of local government but, of course, you are subject to the direction of the Secretary of State".

That reminded me of a possible rewriting of the final act of "Fidelio". Members of the Committee will remember that in the nick of time the hero is saved from assassination by the villainous governor of the prison, Don Pizarro, by the arrival of the Minister, Don Fernando, who liberates all the prisoners. It all ends in one of the most famous and moving operatic scenes. But let us suppose that Beethoven had been a different and more pessimistic type of person. Could we suppose that Don Fernando was not so much a Minister of the Crown of Spain but a Minister in the Department for Education and would have said, "Of course, you are all being released from the dungeons of the villainous Pizarro but only to be incarcerated again in my own set of dungeons in a neighbouring castle"? That is roughly the position of the new universities.

Therefore, we must ask Her Majesty's Government for some guarantee that the position which we thought we had attained when we amended the Further and Higher Education Act will now be preserved. I must say, first, that I did not draft the amendment; it was drafted by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. The simplest answer is for the Government to say, "We accept the amendment. It excludes universities from the clause and therefore you have nothing to worry about". I still find it difficult to understand why they did not follow that course but perhaps the mind of my noble friend the Minister is still open. So is mine.

Therefore, I humbly suggest to my noble friend the Minister that we might come to the following agreement. If my noble friend will undertake to withdraw her two amendments and to engage in negotiations with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals in order to find a form of words which satisfies both her and the committee by the time of the next reading of the Bill it will be incumbent upon me not to prejudge that. But nothing other than that will enable me and my colleagues to withdraw the amendment for the following good reason. Our main worry is not only the content of Clause 1 but the fact that not for the first time the Government are legislating on a matter which has not been properly discussed with the people most involved.

After the anxieties which were voiced on Second Reading there was nothing to stop Her Majesty's Ministers from telephoning the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and saying, "Would you depute a couple of vice-chancellors to come to the department to discuss what we can do to allay your anxieties?". Nothing of the kind happened. On the contrary, amendments were brought to birth in a rather peculiar way but wholly within the department.

We do not wish to wait and therefore if the Minister says merely that she will come back with another amendment that will be insufficient. An amendment must be reached in agreement with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals so that the position of the universities is fully understood. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

With the leave of the Committee, I should like to intervene at this stage. It is an intervention so no one is precluded from speaking after me. I recognise the genuine and sincere anxieties about the issue. I know that they were expressed most strongly on Second Reading. I must express some disappointment at my noble friend's interpretation of my intentions and the way in which I, parliamentary counsel, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and colleagues in my department have gone about addressing the anxieties of Members of the Committee since Second Reading.

While the Clause 1s intended to replace Section 1(1) of the Education Act 1944 it was always the intention to preserve broadly the scope of Section 1 of that Act. That meant making changes to reflect the fact that some schools, as well as colleges of further and higher education, are no longer LEA maintained. Given the statutory basis for funding universities introduced in the Education Reform Act 1988 and now in the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 it also seemed right that the Secretary of State's general duty to promote education should now extend also to education in universities.

However, as I explained on Second Reading, nothing in Clause 1—I repeat, nothing—extends the power of the Secretary of State over the universities. His powers in that respect remain those already provided for, and limited by, existing statute; most relevantly the Further and Higher Education Act.

This Chamber debated that Act rigorously and in detail. Members of the Committee were satisfied that the Act would secure the continuing and essential independence of universities; and in particular, that Section 68 would prevent any Secretary of State from using his powers over funding to influence the universities' own control over academic issues. I reiterate that nothing in Clause 1 changes that. It will continue to be the case that universities are governed by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, which is the statute containing the substantive provisions. There is nothing inconsistent about the voting record of this Chamber in that at the end of the day another place accepted its amendment and Parliament endorsed it in giving it Royal Assent.

However, I also acknowledged on Second Reading the strength of feeling on this issue and indicated that I would consider whether anything further could be done to put at rest the minds of Members of the Committee. I find, therefore, that I have reached the same conclusion as my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Campbell of Alloway and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and others, and decided that Clause 1 should be amended.

The amendments tabled by my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Campbell of Alloway and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, would disapply universities from the whole of Clause 1. However, I hope that they, and everyone, would agree that it is right and proper that the Secretary of State for Education should have a duty generally to promote the education of all people in England and Wales, and that that must apply to promoting education in universities as much as it does to promoting education provided in other institutions.

On Second Reading I promised to register the concerns of this House about Clause 1 as it relates to higher education. I had thought, until a day or two ago, that the amendments tabled in my name had put beyond doubt that the provisions of subsections (2) and (3) do not extend to institutions in the higher education sector.

From what my noble friend Lord Beloff said today, and indeed from informal contact that we have had in recent days—and I include in that the CVCP—I have reached the conclusion that there are still concerns to be met. I note that there remain some anxieties—in particular, as regards subsection (2) (a), covering the Higher Education Funding Council. It does indeed but only in so far as that is a reflection of the Secretary of State's general duty to promote the education of the people of England and Wales.

I note that concern and will consider the matter further. My officials are already in discussion with those interested parties, including the CVCP. We shall continue those discussions in an effort to meet the remaining concerns. I shall return to the issue on Report. Therefore I am prepared to withdraw my amendments.

However, it would be extremely helpful if the Committee would at least recognise the general duty put upon my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to be concerned generally about promoting education of all people in this country, but in so doing to put it absolutely beyond any doubt on the face of the Bill that this Bill does not apply to and does not cut across the 1992 statute as it relates to further and higher education.

3.30 p.m.

Earl Russell

I thank the noble Baroness for that speech. I am sorry if she should have thought that anything that has been said has reflected discredit on her efforts to bring about a settlement because those efforts have been welcomed and respected. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the trouble that she has taken over the weekend to keep me informed of what was going on. I congratulate her on being a good deal more fortunate with the post than my noble kinsman Lord Henley who once sent me three letters to give me information in such a situation and none of them reached me. However, both the letters from the noble Baroness reached me and I am grateful.

I accept entirely what she said that her amendments put beyond doubt Clause 1(2) (b) and Clause 1(3). However, there is an interesting discrepancy between what the noble Baroness said and what the Secretary of State said to the chairman of the CVCP. The Secretary of State said that Clause 1(2) had no reference to the universities. That is a particularly interesting discrepancy since many of our anxieties were concentrated on Clause 1(2) (a) which gives the Secretary of State powers, in respect of those bodies in receipt of public funds which … carry responsibility for securing that the required provision for education is made in, or in any area of, England or Wales". That is a ball which is so slow and so highly flighted that any batsman would be looking for the googly. However, the difficulty in looking for the googly is that by the time it has bounced, it is too late.

It is Clause 1(2) (a) on which our desire for reassurance is concentrated. We are concerned also about the question of the funding councils. At least we have clarified the matter now that the noble Baroness has said that the funding councils are covered. I am not, in ignorance, going to make an adamant and categorical case against the inclusion of the funding councils. However, before the Committee approves any Clause involving the funding councils, I should like to know precisely why it is felt necessary to include them and precisely for what purpose, because all along the main question of doubt has been that we wanted to know why this Clause is in the Bill so that we could pass judgment on it.

The noble Baroness mentioned a general duty. I am prepared to listen further but she did not tell me why a general duty is needed in this particular place at this particular time or for what particular purpose. Before any final agreement is reached, as I hope it will be, it would be helpful if that could be spelt out.

I heard what the noble Baroness said about the 1944 Education Act. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, is now in her place. I hope that she may have something to say about that. A great deal of water has flowed under the bridge since 1944.

I am grateful for all the trouble that has been taken on this. I hope that we may reach agreement, but before we do that we must understand what we are approving. I do not think that we have yet reached that point.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Perhaps I may say at the outset how grateful I am personally to my noble friend Lady Blatch for the great courtesy that she has accorded and the help that has been given by her department on this particularly difficult problem of construction, because that is what it is. It is a problem of legal construction and inevitably on that I shall make a very dull speech, but somebody has to make it.

Clause 1(1) acknowledges the general duty of the Secretary of State to promote the education of the people; and as I see it, rightly so. The Minister seeks agreement to that but I am also not quite sure why that general duty has to be in this clause of this Bill. Perhaps I may leave that, because if it is needed and is properly defined and limited it could do no harm.

The problem is the implementation clause—Clause 1(2) (a) —because in implementation of that general duty to promote the education of the people he, the Secretary of State, shall, exercise … his powers in respect of those bodies in receipt of public funds … for securing that the required provision for education is made". Therefore, the question immediately arises—it is the old ghost which stalked the previous debate—whether, in the exercise of those powers of implementation, annexation of institutionally specific conditions to the grant to an institution of higher education is excluded; that is the great fear. That is why I was asked by my noble friend to explain. As I see it—and I am glad I am not alone because other lawyers also see it in that way—the universities are vulnerable.

It is no use anyone saying that it is the essence of Clause 1(2) (a) which causes the problem. In parenthesis, perhaps I may say at once that government amendments to Clause 1(2) (b) and 1(3) wholly subsume the spirit of the "Beloff" amendment. As the Committee will know, Clause 1(2) (a) has its origins in the 1944 Act. It has never been called into question and it has never been tested in the courts; but the situation between the universities and the Secretary of State as regards grants to universities has, over the past 50 years, suffered a sea change. It is essential now to ensure academic freedom on the face of the Bill.

I shall not take very much longer over what I have to say. As a matter of construction, it is much to be doubted whether Clause 1(1), as implemented by Clause 1(2) (a), excludes the annexation of those conditions. It was in order to resolve that doubt that the Beloff amendment (for which, together with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, I take joint responsibility as regards the DIY draftsmanship) was put in simple, straightforward exclusory terms, which of course would never appeal to any self-respecting parliamentary draftsman. Therefore, it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that it is not acceptable as drafted. But, if it were accepted, it would put an end to the whole problem with which we are concerned. But life is never as simple as that. It is because of that doubt that we drafted the simple exclusion clause (Amendment No. 8) together with its sister amendment to the Title of the Bill (Amendment No. 342).

The gremlin of doubt which infects the construction of Clause 1(2) (a) remains. It may only be resolved either by Amendment No. 8 or by some such amendment as my noble friend the Minister has been good enough—and I am most grateful to her—to consider producing for the Report stage. It is perhaps important to note that it was proposed on Second Reading at col. 166 of Hansard that that doubt should be removed by a comfort letter addressed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals.

On 16th April an assurance was given by another letter that Clause 1 would not extend to higher education. Having dealt with my noble friend the Minister, and more recently with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, I want to say here and now that I wholly accept the sincerity of their intentions and the fact that they believe the assurances that they have given are valid on the matter of construction. However, on the matter of construction, the point is—and I say this with respect—that the advice they have received is incorrect.

There is no precedent for comfort letters or letters from any Minister serving as an aid to the construction of a statute. That is not the traditional or the acceptable manner in which doubts as to construction are resolved either in this Chamber (as a revising Chamber) or by the courts. There is little more to be said, except to repeat my gratitude both to my noble friend the Minister and to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

While we have made some progress—and I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch—it still remains my conviction that to include universities in the clause, as was done at a late stage in another place, makes it either otiose or dangerous. It seems to me that few things could be more frivolous and foolish than suddenly on Report in another place to bring universities within the framework of the Bill without, as was then the case, any prior consultation and I doubt much prior thought. That would be so in any case, but it becomes doubly so when it is remembered that this is the third general Education Bill applying to universities which we have had in the past five years.

As regards the Secretary of State and subsequent correspondence with the Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the noble Baroness sought on Second Reading a month ago to justify the lurch—for such it was—by saying that it was necessary to bring the Education Act 1944 up to date. I wish that this Government would learn something from the wise, consensus speaking, calm and constructive statesmanship of the author of that Act. Mr. Butler (or Lord Butler as he became) did not think that the right way to provide a legislative framework for education was to have an Act every other year. He had one Act, introduced after the fullest consultation, which lasted, broadly speaking, for 40 years and which rightly, and unusually, came to bear his name. But now successive Secretaries of State seem to think that the only way to make a reputation in the brief interval between their over-promotion and a reshuffle is to introduce another piece of legislation —restless legislation. It seems to me—and it is a subject on which I doubtfully venture—to make a mockery of the word "conservative".

It is particularly unfortunate that universities should be constantly at the receiving end of that restlessness with all the measures designed—if they are designed to do anything at all—to introduce, as I understand it, more of the enterprise culture into our university system. That is peculiarly misconceived, for not only are the values of the enterprise culture particularly unsuited to the fostering of academic excellence (anyone who doubts that should read the brilliant polemical passages at the end of the lectures of Cardinal John Henry Newman on The Idea of a University given in Dublin in 1852 where he dealt with that precise point in a most devastating way) but also in this now rather battered, perplexed and disillusioned nation one of the few things which we do outstandingly well is running universities.

Indeed, nearly all the things that we do outstandingly well take the form of public service issues. For example, the Army has come out very well, as has the Civil Service, which is perhaps a little battered by the past 15 years but is nonetheless outstanding. There is also the example of public service as regards broadcasting and television—at any rate until fairly recently. They are things that we do outstandingly well.

However, we do not in fact do the enterprise culture very well, despite the incubus which has been placed upon it. The Italians, for instance, are much better at the enterprise culture than we are; but they are not nearly as good at running universities. Notwithstanding the great traditions of Bolognia and Pavia, at present the University of Rome, with its vast enrolment, its lecture-dominating system and its hundreds of thousands left to sink or swim—a very high proportion of them sinking rather than swimming —is a sad farce compared not only with Oxford and Cambridge but also with many other British universities.

It is certainly the case that in the world league of universities, with Harvard, perhaps on account of its graduate rather than its undergraduate work being accorded the first place, nearly every impartial judge would put two British universities within the next five. How very different that is from our level of achievement in nearly every other sphere. There is no other European university which would get in. It seems to me a peculiar perversity that, confronted with that situation, this so-called Conservative Government, far from leaving well alone, can do nothing but interfere, interfere, interfere. The case really is overwhelming for not subjecting universities for the third time to a piece of ill-thought-out, ill-consulted, legislation such as that before us.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

We are indeed having an academic field day with Bologna, Pavia, Cardinal Newman and "Fidelio". I am hopeful however that the course of debate on this issue will be very different—there is every sign that it will—from the course of debate on the 1992 Further and Higher Education Bill when it was not, I believe, until Third Reading that an agreeable solution was found by a vote of this Chamber to precisely the problem now being discussed. It was with a sinking heart that every Member of this Chamber read the new clause, the zero clause, that is now Clause 1 which was introduced on Report in the Commons with the implications it clearly carries, or could carry, for the higher education sector.

Let me say at once that it looks as if the course of this debate will be very different. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, speaking to his amendment, made a generous offer which was, I understood, to withdraw his amendment at this stage if he received satisfactory assurances. What is very significant and different from the position last time round, if I may put it that way, is the fact that my noble friend Lady Blatch has already tabled amendments which seek to allay the fears—perhaps they do not entirely succeed in that aim—which all of us in the higher education community have felt on this matter. The noble Baroness has indicated that she is willing to take her own amendment away and modify it in the light of the remarks which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and others have made.

My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway was right to focus on Clause 1(2) (a). I believe it is agreed on all sides of the Chamber that my noble friend Lady Blatch has proposed a satisfactory amendment in relation to Clause 1(2) (b) and to Clause 1(3). That point has already been conceded by my noble friend behind me. Many of us, and certainly the academic community, seek a satisfactory amendment on Clause 1(2) (a). I understood from the words of my noble friend Lady Blatch that she will take her amendment away with the intention of proposing an amendment to Clause 1(2) (a) broadly along the lines of the amendments she has already proposed to Clause 1(2) (b) and to Clause 1(3). That leaves only the matter of Clause 1(1) which states: The Secretary of State shall promote the education of the people of England and Wales". That is a duty, but it does not in itself afford powers. So long as it remains a duty without being followed up with specific powers, I myself see no harm in it. Indeed I believe it would be mildly disappointing if we were to accept the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, which states, The provisions of this section shall not apply to any institution of higher education". It would in a general sense be a disappointment if the Secretary of State did not feel it his duty to promote institutions of higher education as well as those in the primary, secondary and further education sectors. I remind the Committee that this very wording—

Lord Beloff

I wish to point out that we have been referred to the 1944 Act by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. That Act imposes a duty upon the Secretary of State to further education in relation to the people of England and Wales. However, the Act specifically states that education is defined as what goes on in schools and colleges of further education; in other words, the 1944 Act itself deliberately excluded universities. It worries us that that aspect should be included in the 1993 Act.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

I do not believe that the noble Lord and I are in disagreement. I was intending—before he intervened—to quote the opening words of the 1944 Act which states: It shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint a Minister … to promote the education of the people of England and Wales". It is perfectly clear that it then deals with primary education explicitly, secondary education explicitly and further education explicitly. However, nowhere in my reading of the Act—I must admit I have not spent a long time reading it recently—does it explicitly exclude higher education. Indeed, I do not believe the universities are mentioned in that Act. Happily, I do not believe they will be mentioned in this Bill either if Clause 1(1) remains. The clause states: The Secretary of State shall promote the education of the people of England and Wales". I do not wish to speak any longer. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, was right to say that the solution is that he and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals should meet the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. The Minister has offered to produce an amendment. I hope and believe that the amendment which she will produce to Clause 1(2) (a) will meet the requirements outlined by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. There is no doubt still room for considerable debate about Clause 1(1) but to my own way of thinking so long as that indicates a general duty and cannot by any manner of means be construed as conferring additional powers upon the Secretary of State, I believe all will be well. I hope very much that the offers which have been made on both sides can be accepted and that we can proceed now to debate primary, secondary and further education. It is for that reason, I believe, that most of us are here today.

Lord Glenamara

I wish to make clear to the noble Baroness that there is tremendous strength of feeling in the northern universities about this measure. I have received representations from a number of vice-chancellors and also from my own university. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that there are three chancellors of the new universities in this House and not two. The new clause is causing widespread alarm. One vice-chancellor said that, we are concerned that in its current, very general form, the Education Bill may extend the Secretary of State's powers over universities in wholly inappropriate ways". We are all aware that recently a case took place in which it was held that proceedings in Parliament can he taken into account in construing a statute. If that is so, we must take into account the words uttered by the Secretary of State on 2nd March in another place where he made it absolutely clear that the term "educational institutions" includes universities. The clause we are discussing does not mention universities but because of the case I have referred to, it must be held to include universities.

If we consider Clause 1 to include universities, it would give the Secretary of State unprecedented powers over the universities. It would give him power over the number of courses, the type of courses, numbers of students, remuneration of staff and standards. The clause contains the catch-all phrase, "among other things". That phrase would allow him to interfere in any matter in the universities. It therefore gives him unprecedented powers. The noble Baroness said today—she has said so previously in this Chamber—that the measure does not add to the Secretary of State's powers. I hope that the noble Baroness does not misunderstand me, but that is quite untrue. I know that she believes that it is true, but it is not true. No one else believes that. It gives the Secretary of State unprecedented powers.

4 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I accept the concern that I did not entirely meet the anxieties of the Committee. I said that I would take the matter away and I promised the Committee to put beyond all doubt, by addressing the concerns in respect of Clause 2A, that the Bill applies to schools and such further educational establishments and not to universities. I have said that I shall do that. It would be very helpful if I could be taken on trust now, at least until Report stage when noble Lords will have a legitimate right to return to the matter if I do not meet their concerns. Then we could continue with the rest of the Bill.

Lord Glenamara

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. She has now gone considerably further than she went in her earlier remarks. She has been much more specific. She has now said that she will introduce an amendment which will specifically exclude universities. If that is what she has said that is marvellous. We would accept that.

Perhaps I may say in conclusion that I believe that the most important characteristic of a university is its independence of the state. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, mentioned that greatest of all Victorians, Cardinal Newman. In his book on the concept of a university, the independence of a university from the state is central. That is as true today as it was then. It would be a sad day indeed if education in this country degenerated to the point of government interfering in the running of universities.

I am very pleased that the noble Baroness said what she did.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

I know that we want to make progress, but last week I happened to spend two days at the University of Wales and its constituent colleges when we discussed research and its funding. Concern was expressed about this particular clause. I am very glad to hear the advance which the noble Baroness has made this afternoon. Her amendments would have helped a little but, nevertheless, the concern that has been aroused about this matter is of such a character that I believe that she would be well advised to take the matter away and come back with an agreed amendment.

I am not quite sure what better amendment than that of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, can be devised that would entirely remove the suspicion that has been aroused. Although it is not for me but for the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, to decide, in view of the concern that has been aroused I would certainly give the noble Baroness the room that she wants to discuss the matter further. We can return to the matter at Report stage. I believe that the best way to deal with it now is specifically to exclude the universities by a provision stating that that should be so, even though there can be argument as to whether additional powers are being conferred.

I say that because, as the noble Baroness will know from her own speech at Second Reading—a copy of which was given to me last week in Cardiff—she said herself when she introduced the Bill: As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State indicated in another place on introducing the amendment, it covers all the relevant education institutions and bodies, including universities and the higher education funding council".—[Official Report, 23/3/93; col. 311.] That is an example of the Government shooting themselves in the foot. Every single clause in the Bill is concerned with schools. I looked through the chapters. Chapter I concerns the Funding Agency for Schools, Chapter II covers responsibility for education at school, Chapter VI covers the funding of grant-maintained schools and Chapter IV the establishing of new grant-maintained schools. So it goes on. There is nothing about universities in the Bill. It is beyond my comprehension why on earth the Government had to introduce that particular note and say that it covered universities as well. However, that is water under the bridge and there is no point in pursuing it.

In conclusion, I would prefer to see an amendment with the words of that put down by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, carried, but not necessarily today. That would make the position absolutely clear. However, I see no reason why we should not give the noble Baroness another opportunity to produce something even better if she can.

Lord Peston

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness and hope that we can get a move on. Secondly, I accept entirely her bona fides. There is no problem with that.

What is it that we have agreed? Rather like my noble friend Lord Callaghan, I am intrigued as to what the Government were up to originally, but we do not need to discuss that now.

I do not know what is wrong with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I should like to see two outcomes. First, I should like to have the status quo ante the Bill, because I thought that that was the state of affairs we should have. Secondly, it is my judgment that the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and his noble friends achieve that outcome. I accept that the noble Baroness wants to take the matter away. By all means let her do so. However, I hope that she will come back either with amendments identical to those in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, which I consider satisfactory, or with amendments which are equally satisfactory. I believe that she accepts that her amendments do not achieve that.

I hope that we can proceed. Speaking from this Front Bench I do not wish to hold up the proceedings, but I know the outcome which I want, which is the one that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, outlined to the Committee.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may make my intentions clear. I hesitate to say that I shall put matters beyond all reasonable doubt because I am decidedly nervous about what will satisfy the Committee at the end of the day. These are my intentions.

My noble friend Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn put the matter very well. In the Education Act 1944 there is a general duty for the Secretary of State to concern himself with the education of people in England and Wales. That duty has been repeated in this Bill. Just as with the 1944 Act, we intend that the 1993 Act should then move on to specific powers which relate to particular sectors of education. It will not be my intention, nor should it be the intention of legislation, to state that "this shall not apply" to certain aspects because it will not apply to all sorts of things. It will be my intention to make sure that the powers of the Secretary of State shall apply only to schools and to such further education institutions. As part of that we shall discuss the matter with interested Members of the Committee and we shall continue to discuss it with the CVCP. I hope that I can return at Report stage with something that is acceptable to the whole House.

Lord Beloff

In the light of the assurances given by my noble friend, it would be churlish to deny her the opportunity of producing an alternative amendment. However, I should make it clear that I remain of the same opinion as the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that it would be difficult to improve upon the wording.

Perhaps I may take up again the point that the 1944 Act defined education in a way which referred only to schools. It described the various stages through which a young person's education passes, but it does not go beyond further education. Therefore there is an innovation even in the duty to look after the provision of higher education. It is that innovation which has given rise to the present anxieties.

That having been said, it appears to be the wish in all quarters of the Chamber that my noble friend should withdraw her amendments today and come back at Report stage with an amendment or amendments which achieve what has been the wish of every speaker, namely that no powers of any kind should accrue to the Secretary of State in relation to universities. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 10, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 11 and insert ("have the duty of promoting the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and of securing the effective execution, under his control and direction, by local education authorities and such other bodies as are established under this Act with functions in relation to schools, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area.")

The noble Lord said: I am afraid that it is all too characteristic of this doctrinaire and ill-prepared Bill that we are compelled to start the Committee stage by debating amendments to a clause which was hastily introduced in the other place at the last moment without proper notice and with no consultation. It is a clause bereft of any positive contribution whatsoever to the improvement of the education of the people of England and Wales. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, so powerfully said, what a sad contrast it all makes with the wise, characterful statesmanship of Rab Butler in 1944.

Clause 1 is relevant to the heart of our educational system and its spirit. It is also highly relevant to the relationship between our educational system and democracy itself. Do we believe in pluralism or do we not? Do we believe in decentralisation or do we not? Do we believe in subsidiarity or do we not? If we believe in them for Europe, why does that belief stop at Whitehall? Do we believe in community or do we not? If we do believe in community, why are we not ensuring that the educational development of our children is seen as one of the challenging responsibilities of the communities in which they live and that children in their schools grow up with a living sense of being part of a closely interwoven community to which they have clear responsibilities? Is that not all highly relevant to our current anxieties about delinquency, crime and social irresponsibility?

As we have heard, Section 1(1) of the Education Act 1944 put a duty on the Secretary of State to, secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area". Clause 1 of the Bill sweeps all that away. There is no mention of the role of local education authorities. What has been described as the historic settlement of 1944 embodied a partnership between central government, local government and the Churches in the organisation and governance of education. It is also widely agreed that the post-war decades established a further partnership between those bodies and education professionals in the development and implementation of education policy.

What is now proposed destroys all that. Instead we have sweeping references to choice and diversity with absolutely no tangible evidence as to how those will be related to quality—the application to education of the hollow PR language of this Government's charters as distinct from substance. The new clause refers to the role of the Secretary of State alone. There is not one word in the clause underpinning the role of parents, governors or schools about which Ministers sanctimoniously love to preach. The harsh reality as distinct from the sales talk is that we shall have a future of school against school, rapidly discovering their impotence as they fight for their individual interests against the massively reinforced centralised bureaucracy of the Secretary of State and his non-accountable quangos. That prospect would be sinister enough in more tranquil educational times, but at a time of almost unrivalled anxiety about the competence of political leadership in education, it is frankly bizarre.

The Minister took exception at the Second Reading debate when I quoted the Conservative Education Association as saying, We believe that [the Bill] represents a massive and dangerous increase in the power given to central government". But perhaps the Minister will take more note of Councillor T.H. Macnamara, OBE of the Conservative Hampshire Education Committee, which is not noted as a wildly romantic left-wing administration. In a letter to me, and I suspect to other noble Lords, he wrote as recently as 14th April last that, Conservative county councillors in Hampshire are supported by Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors and by governors, heads, and teachers in wanting two key matters changed". With reference to the first of those, he states: On the provision, planning and organisation of schools, the Bill's proposals are undemocratic, confusing and cumbersome … In Southern Hampshire, where the age of transfer to secondary school has been 12, the County Council is committed to making it 11 to fit the National Curriculum stages and practice in 95 per cent. of the country. We are also taking the opportunity of removing many hundreds of surplus school places. During the past year members and officers have been engaged in a massive consultation and decision making exercise involving some 700 local meetings. Such planning and consultation can be carried out properly only by a local democratically-elected body supported by high quality staff. A national funding agency can distribute money but it should not be expected to plan and consult. If the Bill's proposals in clauses 1 and 10 survive, parents, governors and teachers will not know who is responsible and a great deal of time and money will be wasted in bureaucratic procedures".

My amendment to Clause 1 is frankly designed to maintain the partnership between central government and local democracy for the provision of education and between the local community as a whole and the local schools. It is also designed to reinstate the need for both a varied and comprehensive education service and a national policy for education. That is not to argue that everywhere local democracy has produced equally good education. There have been some disgraceful examples. However, the point about democracy is that accountability gives room for correction. How on earth will the Secretary of State and his impersonal bureaucratic quangos be effectively accountable to all the parents as far apart as Cumbria and Cornwall?

The challenge to us all is surely to make democracy work, not to cut it out. But, as Councillor Macnamara from Hampshire has argued, Clause 1 is intrinsically linked to Clause 10, with which a subsequent number of amendments grouped with Amendment No. 49 deal. Much of the ground covered by this amendment and that group is therefore the same. As the Bill stands, the local education authority will share a duty to provide sufficient school places with the unelected and non-accountable funding authority once 10 per cent. of the pupils in its area are attending maintained schools. Quite apart from the problems of how such a shared responsibility can work, we surely have to consider how the planning of the education service can be kept democratically accountable.

Such accountability is necessary to ensure parental choice. That is why our later amendment will propose leaving the planning role with the LEA so long as it maintains an interest in providing schools. The LEA is clearly the most appropriate body to plan and provide the range of places needed. Yet, as proposed in the Bill, it would have to share the responsibility with another body which would inevitably be more remote from the locality's needs and would be unable to cover more than partial provision. Democratic accountability of the education service must be ensured by maintaining local education authorities as partners in the provision of that service and by ensuring that they retain the lead role for planning school places in their areas. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 look back to where we once were and take no account of where we are, not to mention where we should be going. It must be clear that, while the framework envisaged by the Education Act 1944 was right for its time, the education world has changed considerably since then, particularly with the growth of the grant-maintained sector. We would be remiss not to recognise that, and to ensure that education legislation reflects this changed world.

Clause 1 preserves the position of the LEA as a key component of our educational infrastructure. But we have to recognise the reality that the local education authority of the future will play a different role in our education system. It will have important functions, as the Bill makes clear and as I shall want to emphasise over the coming weeks as we discuss it. But it will not be the role envisaged for it under the Education Act 1944. Increasingly responsibility for the provision of education will fall to other bodies and to schools and colleges themselves.

I have no wish to denigrate the contribution that LEAs have made, and are making to the provision of education. Given my own involvement in local government in Cambridgeshire, I readily acknowledge the vital role carried out by the local education authorities. But my experience in local government convinced me that not only were there ways to secure high quality education for young people other than through the LEA as monopoly provider, but indeed that there were occasionally better ways.

The thrust of the Government's reforms has been based on the premise that individual institutions respond best to independence; and that the best way to secure higher standards in education is to give responsibility for its delivery to those who have the greatest interest in seeing their institutions succeed—parents, governors, teaching staff and the local community.

We have already put this into practice. Our universities have long enjoyed independence, and we have just had a debate about making sure that that independence is secure. Universities and their students have benefited from it. We have given similar powers—and, I must add, responsibilities—to what were the polytechnics, and they too are responding positively.

The Further and Higher Education Act 1992, which was the subject of extensive debate in this House, also created a new self-governing further education sector which came into effect on 1st April. It gave further education and sixth form colleges new freedoms to respond quickly and flexibly to the needs of their customers, students and local employers, and to play their part in building up the supply of young people and adults with the technical and other skills the country needs.

We have given parents the right to choose to take their schools out of the control of the local education authority, and over 800 schools have already chosen this route. The evidence shows that self-governing state schools are adapting well to their new status. We aim to build on that. I have no doubt that increasing numbers of parents will choose self-governing status for their schools so that they too can reap the advantages to be gained as a result of schools having greater control over their own affairs.

There is an important practical reason why Clause 1 should not make specific mention of the LEA. Clause 1 is designed to stand the test of time and I see no advantage in listing individually all the bodies with educational responsibilities. As I have made clear, already there are no grounds for singling out just one of those bodies. I urge the Committee to reject Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Turning to Amendment No. 7, I have yet to hear arguments pressed for it and if the Committee will forgive me, I wind up on Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 but reserve the right to come back on Amendment No. 7.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I support what was said by the noble Lord on the Labour Front Bench on Amendment No. 2 and wish to refer to Amendments Nos. 3 and 7. There is a difficulty which I hinted at on Second Reading. When we deal with private legislation to do with education and other major areas of domestic policy for England and Wales in this House, we legislate together. In the Bill we are dealing with two Secretaries of State. That seems to be a mystery which is not understood by the educational press in London. There was a huge furore only a week or so ago about the fact that the national curriculum in Wales in regard to the teaching of English appeared somehow to be different from the national curriculum in England.

Let us be clear about the Education Reform Act 1988 with which I was associated as a member of the Standing Committee in another place. There are two national curricula: one for Wales and one for England. Both curricula are administered by separate bodies and we shall deal later in the Bill with the reorganisations of those bodies.

In my remarks on Amendment No. 3, which is grouped with Amendment No. 2, I shall refer to both Secretaries of State since I believe that the principle of partnership between local education authorities and the Secretary of State for Wales, in the case of Wales, and the Secretary of State for Education in the case of England, is an essential part of any future education service. When the noble Baroness says that there must be no reference to local education authorities in the clause because it has to stand the test of time, that adds to my concern about the lack of democracy which may well be at the heart of the clause.

That is further complicated by another issue to which we shall come later in our debates—the projected reorganisation of local government. Wales is again, unfortunately, to be in the lead as the first area of experimentation. We may well see there a major issue concerning the link between local education authorities as reorganised and the Welsh Office and the Secretary of State in the administration of the education service in Wales.

Partnership with local education authorities has provided the basis for the education service in England and Wales. I believe that in Wales it will continue to do so. There may be a difference of emphasis in the two countries. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness were to remind herself, if she does not have the information immediately to hand, of the numbers of schools which have already opted out of local authority control in Wales, both primary and secondary, and how many have expressed an interest. She may find the figure minuscule compared with the figure which she has just quoted for England. That again indicates the fact that partnership with local education authorities is seen to be the way which is preferred by parents, pupils and teachers within Wales.

For that reason, I believe that reference to local education authorities as the major player—to use that phrase—in the partnership between the Secretaries of State and the deliverers of the local education service should be included in the Bill. I hear the Government's arguments. I am alarmed by the noble Baroness's attitude and the clear intention to relegate local education authorities completely, at least in England.

I come to Amendment No. 7. Here again, I believe that the wording and the spirit of my amendment are very much in line with what the noble Baroness said. If the clause is to stand the test of time and be a statement of educational principle, then to follow the present wording of Clause 1(3) in encouraging diversity of choice with references to the educational needs of local communities under a multicultural society seems to me extremely apt. There are key words here which I believe to be fundamental to the effective delivery of education policy in the local community. The words are "local" and "community" and the notion of a multicultural society. It concerns me very much that the whole issue of a curriculum for a multicultural society, which was a major feature of the educational debate 10 years ago, now appears to have been completely relegated in the Government's thinking. We have seen the attempts of the teaching profession and the educational institutions to continue to provide sensitively for the needs of the whole population in a multi-ethnic society throughout the world, but particularly throughout the United Kingdom and, in the case of the Bill, throughout England and Wales. Despite those attempts, there is little support at the level of public policy and little effective funding for those objectives. One thinks of the years spent in deliberation in the Swann Committee and other fora on the central issues of delivering a curriculum for a multi-ethnic, multicultural society. However, in the whole debate on the national curriculum, all those issues have been relegated.

Diversity and the maintenance of ethnic identity within a harmonious multicultural society are still issues which are central to the future of the nations and communities of the kingdom. I hope that the Government, if unable to include such wording on the face of the Bill, can at least indicate clearly that, as concerns the curriculum and the ethos of schooling, the emphasis on providing for the needs of local communities within a multicultural society is in line with their thinking.

When we speak of a multicultural society, we mean schools not only in inner city areas but throughout our communities. An awareness of the multifarious nature of our European identities and the levels of identity and ethnicity making up the populations of the whole of Western Europe is now a central issue. The recent re-emergence of racism and racist attacks on mainland Europe and in some parts of the United Kingdom gives cause for deep concern. It was those concerns which motivated the then government of the day, and the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, to set up an inquiry, not just into the policing of inner cities but into the delivery of the education service and the need to ensure that people from all backgrounds and all forms of ethnic identity could relate to the curriculum in schools and benefit from it.

Those anxieties have not gone away. My worry is that by not addressing the issues in times of tension, we shall only exacerbate future social conflicts. For all those reasons, I ask for confirmation from the Government that those issues are still to the fore, if not on the face of the Bill.

Baroness Young

We have listened to the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Elis-Thomas, with interest. However, I say to my noble friend the Minister that it seems to me that if Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 were to be accepted they would be wrecking amendments. I shall turn later to Amendment No. 7, which addresses a completely separate issue. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are an attempt to put the clock back or to maintain the status quo.

Like my noble friend the Minister, I have had long experience in local government. I was a local councillor for 15 years. I served on an education committee. I was a governor of many maintained schools. I follow with great interest all debates on education. So my remarks in no way denigrate local education authorities and what they have done.

However, the great educational debate is about the standards and quality of what our children learn in schools, for which the local education authorities have to bear a large measure of responsibility. We have heard time without number that our children are not doing as well as children in competitor countries in Europe, let alone in countries such as Japan. That problem needs to be addressed. Therefore I think it quite proper that Clause 1 of the Bill should make general statements of intention about where we are going. We have very considerable evidence already to show that grant-maintained schools are succeeding very well in what they are attempting to do. There is some evidence too to indicate that as a result of the other government reforms standards are rising. To put the clock back would be quite wrong; I do not support Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Amendment No. 7 addresses a very different issue. I am sure that we all agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in his general remarks about a multi-ethnic society. One part of the world about which I know a little is the Caribbean. No one can visit Caribbean schools (as I have done on many occasions) without being struck by the excellence of education there. It is the ambition of every parent to pay for those very good schools. Many of those parents, on coming to this country, were, I believe, very disappointed at what they found in the inner cities. What any child wants, whether that child is white, or comes from the Indian sub-continent, the Caribbean or any other part of the world, is a good education which qualifies him to get a job. If that happened, I believe that many of the problems that we face in inner cities would be reduced. I do not say that they would go away; but they would certainly be diminished. It is very encouraging—I may not be correct on this point, but I believe it to be true—that if one took a census of the sixth forms of maintained schools, one would find children from the Indian sub-continent doing very well indeed. That is welcome and much to be encouraged. I hope that children from the Caribbean will do equally well. What they require, I believe, is the process of the national curriculum, backed by testing, to make sure that every child, whatever the school, gets an equal opportunity. That applies just as much to people from the ethnic minorities. So, although I share the spirit of what the noble Lord said, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. To write such a provision into Clause 1 would be to write in a whole series of other general issues. What is encouraging is that the government reforms are benefiting children from ethnic minorities. That is the important point.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

As Amendment No. 2 stands also in my name I should like to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that it is not intended as a wrecking amendment. Indeed, it specifically acknowledges other bodies. The noble Baroness referred to the success of grant-maintained schools. The issue of maintaining quality in such schools is one that we may need to address later in the course of the Bill. We on these Benches join with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in believing that it would be right to write into the Bill the partnership with local authorities, not as a matter of a knee-jerk defence of local authorities but because the issue of direct democratic accountability to which he referred is one which deserves recognition.

Both the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, with their great experience of membership of education authorities, school governorships, and so on, know the value of talking to parents and of dealing with very small, very precise issues. With the best will in the world, neither the Secretary of State nor the Minister—who could not be more energetic or more assiduous—cannot deal with that level of detail. The Minister may say that that is a matter of detail, not of strategy. But dealing with the detail informs the strategy. A close understanding of the needs of different local communities and an accountability to them cannot be achieved by the responsibility being held in the person of the Secretary of State.

Direct contact is relevant for strategic matters. The Bill provides for a strategic role to remain with the local education authorities on, to mention just one matter, the question of statementing of children with special educational needs. The Minister said that allowing self-governing status had meant more schools taking it up, leading to an increased number of grant-maintained schools. That may be so. But is it right to send out the message, which I believe is implicit in writing out of legislation the partnership with LEAs, that parents should not trust schools which have not become grant-maintained? I fear that it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy that there will be more grant-maintained schools if the message goes out that only grant-maintained schools are to be trusted. I know that the Government believe in partnership; the Prime Minister says so. I believe that we should allow it to flourish.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Before the noble Baroness sits down, I wonder if she can clarify a point on Amendment No. 2. The first part of that amendment seems so like the Bill as it stands that it would include universities. I wonder therefore whether it is not at odds with what the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Peston, said.

Baroness Hamwee

I am sorry. There was a sort of "transatlantic feedback" over the last part of what the noble Baroness said. I did not catch her last few words.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I do not wish to detain the Committee. My point was that the first part of Amendment No. 2 seems to include universities. The second part does not. But the first part at any rate would not exclude universities. Therefore, is it not at odds with what the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Peston, said?

Baroness Hamwee

I do not believe that it is, and that was certainly not the intention of the draftsman.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

I have two main objections to the wording of Clause 1(1) as it stands. The first, and least important, is an aesthetic one. There was a fine, resounding ring to Section 1 of the 1944 Act which this amendment, with suitable modification, seeks to follow. If, as the Government claim, this Bill is designed to last for a generation, it could at least start with something a little more inspiring than the present pedestrian wording.

The second objection, echoing what has been said by other speakers, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in particular, concerns the role of the local education authorities—written out, as it were, between lunch and tea in the Bill's passage through another place. That is no way to abolish a partnership which has stood the test of time whatever its shortcomings, which the present Government so like to exaggerate; nor to centralise power so exclusively in the hands of the Secretary of State.

The Government deny that this is a centralising Bill. They point to the devolution of power to individual school governors under the grant-maintained provisions. They are right in the sense that schools which do decide to opt out—and, as we have heard, not many of them have done so—will have more day-to-day freedom to manage their affairs. But the Government cannot deny that the ultimate power over GM schools—for example, to open them, close them, enlarge them and change their governors—will rest with the Secretary of State. Nor can they lightly brush off the vast number of extra powers which the 1988 Act and the present Bill are handing to the holder of that office, a factor which caused deep disquiet five years ago and brought not unreasonable comparisons with totalitarian states in the not-so-distant past. One may say that the English Secretary of State would not use those powers in a high-handed way. What happened to the direct grant schools? If one pictures one's least favourite politician of the opposing party in possession of the proposed new powers, one will get some feel for the undesirability of concentrating so much responsibility at the centre where children's hearts and minds are concerned.

Since 1944 it has been largely a matter of checks and balances in the delivery of an education service. Neither partner in central or local government has had too much power. If the Bill goes through unamended, it will be goodbye to all that. Clause 1 is where it starts.

At Second Reading the Minister said that local authorities would still have important things to do, and she said it again just now. A more accurate view was that of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who said that they would be left with the bits that nobody else wanted. There is a fund of solid, disinterested expertise in the local education service that the nation can ill afford to throw away. Like previous speakers, I was there for years and saw it at first hand. That is particularly true, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, in the realm of school planning and provision—we shall be coming to that later in Clause 10. With its knowledge of local conditions, housing, industry and transport and its intimate links with social services and planning departments, the LEA is far better placed to take the lead role than the Secretary of State or any of his unelected national bodies—not the only role, but simply the lead role in this instance. Other such instances might be school admissions, special needs, outdoor education, extra-curricular music, nursery and adult education. All are areas where strategic oversight combined with local knowledge are important.

The LEA is not yet dead. It would be a sad and sinister day for the balance of power in our society if it were. Any move to write local democracy out of the equation should be resisted. For that reason above all I support the amendment.

Lord Renton

I wish to speak to Amendment No. 2 and I hope that on reflection the noble Lord, Lord Judd, will take it away and think about it further. I shall have to say a word or two in regard to the drafting, but the amendment also contains several fallacies and gives rise to several problems of interpretation and construction.

First, with regard to the drafting, the amendment replaces the simple proposition stated in Clause 1, which will be the subject of further consideration in the light of our earlier debate. That simple proposition was borrowed from part of Section 1 of the Education Act 1944. If the amendment were accepted it would give rise to one of the longest sentences that I have seen for a long time in a subsection in even one of our modern Bills.

Coming to the substance of the amendment, it contains one or two fallacies. The first is the idea that the Secretary of State has control and direction of local authorities. What does that mean? I have always understood that education authorities have a high degree of independence limited only by the terms of various Acts of Parliament which, for the most part, do not give the Secretary of State control and direction of education authorities. That is the first fallacy, the first problem of construction. Although there are several, I do not want to take up too much time because the points are clear and persuasive.

The last two lines of the amendment state, with functions in relation to schools, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area". There are a number of comprehensive schools in this country. Do those words mean that the Secretary of State and local authorities must aim at having comprehensive schools? Is that what "comprehensive educational service" means? There is a doubt. There is some confusion with what already happens. It could be said that to speak of, a varied and comprehensive educational service", is in itself a contradiction in terms.

I do not believe that it would be right for the Committee to accept the amendment. With regard to the drafting I would go further and point out that it overlaps and repeats phrases which are included, and will be included after further consideration by my noble friend, in subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1. The net result is that subsection (1) would become a frightful jumble of overlapping ideas. That is not the way for us to legislate.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Judd

Perhaps I may deal first with what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said. I have great respect for him and have enjoyed my relationship with him in this Chamber and in another place for many years. But I am a little surprised that he does not have a better understanding of the Education Act 1944, which has stood us in such good stead for half a century. The quotations he selected are taken directly from that Act and are unashamedly about maintaining the present situation. Indeed, there have been references to "wrecking". The amendment is not about wrecking; it is about conserving what is best in the tradition of education in Britain and building upon it.

I am compelled to ask the Minister if, as she has argued, Clause I indeed changes the local education authority role and is therefore "fundamental", to use her word, why was it not introduced until the Report stage in the other place? I am confused by that.

I am afraid that the other point which has been misunderstood by Members of the Committee is that the amendment specifically deals with anxiety about universities. One need only look at the last sentence on the first page of the Marshalled List to see that the amendment deals with functions in relation to schools, specifically dealing with this point.

I am afraid that, in view of the failure of the first clause —introduced in such haste at the last moment in the other place—to deal with accountability and with the principle of partnership, or to underwrite the role of parents and governors, as opposed to the new, enlarged and gigantic bureaucracy headed by Field Marshal Secretary of State and in view of the failure of the Minister to reassure us in her remarks this afternoon, I have no alternative but to press the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I have not exercised my right to reply on the other amendments and the debate should run its course.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

Before the noble Lord sits down perhaps he will clarify a point raised by my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour. Is it the intention that the references to "promoting the education" and "the progressive development of institutions" shall relate to institutions of higher education?

Baroness Faithfull

Perhaps I may make two brief points. I reserve my position with regard to the role of local authorities to Clause 10, particularly Amendment No. 50. Secondly, the words, such other bodies as are established under this Act", are not clear. I am not sure what they mean. Before I saw the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I had drafted another amendment. We must take into account that we must consider the effect on social services, health authorities, voluntary, charitable and private organisations which contribute to the education of children in this country. The amendment as drafted does not answer those questions.

Lord Northbourne

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Judd, or the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, could help me on the question of democratic accountability. It was my understanding that the Secretary of State is accountable to Parliament. There seems to be no better form of democratic accountability than that, particularly in view of the fact that education is of such immense national concern at this time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned the extent to which this country is falling behind some of our competitors in Europe. We face the fiercest possible competition in world markets over the next decades. We have at this time 3 million unemployed, many of whom will find it very difficult to get jobs because they lack the education and skills which are required by modern industry and therefore cannot deliver the levels of productivity which are needed to make them attractive in the labour market. Perhaps I may quote to the Committee a discussion which I had recently with an official of Eurotunnel, who told me that there has been a large differential between the productivity of individuals in the French construction teams and in the British construction teams—something like 20 per cent. This was attributed mainly to the poorer educational and training standards of the British workforce and line management.

Local education authorities have been in charge of education for 50 years. They clearly have not delivered the standard of education which the country needs at this time. Surely it is time to change the bowling.

Baroness Blatch

As I come to wind up the debate perhaps I may say that I do not think that this group of amendments has been the best example of the Committee obeying the procedure. I looked around the whole Chamber when I stood up to speak. As no one else stood I came to reply to the debate but then discovered that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, was to speak to his amendment. In any future groupings, if we are going to behave in that way, we shall take much too long to get through the business.

Baroness Hamwee

Perhaps I may intervene at this point to explain to the Minister that I observed what happened from my seat, where I perhaps have a better view of the Chamber than she can have. I was proposing to follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and saw that the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, was trying to intervene and in fact began to do so before the Chairman had introduced the amendment. There was then a hiatus as noble Lords were waiting to see what others would do. I was a little taken aback by the Minister rising to speak. We all wish to get on but I think that, as a matter of explanation to the Committee, it is worth explaining what happened at that point.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may say to the Committee that I did in fact look around. I waited for someone to speak and the noble Baroness, in the same way as she did just then, could have risen to say that she wished to speak to those amendments. I said at the outset that I was going to be summing up on those amendments.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I wish to confirm the events as described by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, was rising within my field of vision when I was about to rise. That might explain events. He was obscured behind the Minister's back. I do not want to waste any more time on this matter but I think that sets the record straight.

Baroness Blatch

I spoke inclusively when I said that it was not the best example of the Committee obeying procedure. I was including myself too. If noble Lords want to speak on amendments before I sum up it is important that they make that known. If I do rise to wind up on an amendment it would be helpful if noble Lords would indicate that they would like a chance to speak.

My noble friends Lord Renton and Lady Carnegy pointed out the defects. But apart from the defects there are still good reasons for rejecting Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that I did not ever say that Clause 1 changed the Bill or changed the role of LEAs. I said that it accommodated change within the education sector as the grant-maintained sector grew and that LEAs would be one of the bodies among the other bodies which were mentioned by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, that I do not think it is pedestrian to charge the Secretary of State with the duty to promote education for all the people of England and Wales. I believe that that is plain English, unequivocal and a laudable duty that he should be charged with.

The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, had another concern. This clause does replace Section 1 of the 1944 Act but it does not, as my noble friend Lord Renton said, centralise. It excludes the words of Section 1 of the 1944 Act. Amendment No. 2 seeks to restore them, securing the effective execution, under his control and direction". That is pure centralisation. There is no attempt to centralise. We seek to encourage a broader and richer partnership between all the bodies and institutions concerned in education.

The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, raises an important point in Amendment No. 7. It may help him if I set out the Government's policy in this area, because I think it will answer all the concerns underlying the amendment. Following publication of the report of the committee of inquiry into the education of children from ethnic minority groups in March 1985, the then Secretary of State, Sir Keith Joseph, defined government policy as being, first, to raise the performance of all pupils and to tackle the obstacles to higher achievement which are common to all; secondly, to give ethnic minority pupils the same opportunity as all others to profit from what the schools can offer them by meeting their particular educational needs—for example, by promoting good practice in the teaching of English; and thirdly, to secure that schools should preserve and transmit our national values in a way which accepts Britain's ethnic diversity and promotes tolerance and racial harmony. This remains our policy and I am convinced that it points the right way forward.

We have taken, and continue to take, action to support this policy, including measures specifically targeted at meeting some of the particular needs that pupils from ethnic minorities may have. I do not have the time to provide a comprehensive run through all these measures but they include, on initial and in-service teacher training, increasing the recruitment of ethnic minority teachers, funding for pilot projects on meeting educational needs in a multi-ethnic society and action on the curriculum and on examinations. These and other targeted measures are important. We shall continue to take specific action as we feel it is necessary, but it is our overall commitment to meeting the needs of all pupils that is vital.

I remind the Committee of Section 1 of the Education Reform Act 1988, which requires the school curriculum to promote, the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society". That recognises no difference in the entitlement of any pupil, whatever his or her background, and is supplemented by Section 2 of the Act, which requires all maintained schools to provide the national curriculum to all its pupils. This amendment adds nothing to that which is already guaranteed in statute and confirmed in the Bill. If I read the spirit of what the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, was saying, he wished to have confirmation that that is the case. I hope that in the light of what I have said he will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Judd

I am sure that the Committee is grateful to the Minister for the way in which she has replied to the points that have been made. I must underline two points. First, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, the great point about democracy in our country and the tradition of democracy is that it is not just a centralised democracy. It is a dispersed democracy. The importance of local government is very rich in our traditions. What has been understood and well understood in the 1944 Act is that education should be in the hands of a partnership between local democracy and central democracy. That was basic to the principle. What the Bill is doing in Clause 1 so hastily and in such an ill-judged way introduced at the last moment—we cannot emphasise that too strongly—is removing that whole tradition and partnership. We do not believe that the case for doing that has been established.

Furthermore, we are fearful for the position of numerous individual schools and their governors up and down the country when, once the euphoria of the first stage is over, they find themselves as isolated schools trying to stand up for their rights against this enhanced bureaucratic, centralised administration. For those and many other reasons, we have no alternative but to press the amendment to a Division.

4.49 p.m.

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

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 107; Not-Contents, 171.

Division No. 1
Acton, L. Gallacher, L.
Addington, L. Galpern, L.
Airedale, L. Geraint, L.
Alport, L. Glenamara, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Ardwick, L.
Aylestone, L. Grey, E.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Hampton, L.
Banks, L. Hamwee, B. [Teller.]
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hanworth, V.
Blackstone, B. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Bottomley, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Bramall, L. Howell, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Hughes, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Hylton, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Jay, L.
Carter, L. Jeger, B.
Carver, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. John-Mackie, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Judd, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Kennet, L.
David, B. Kinloss, Ly.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Kirkwood, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Lawrence, L.
Eatwell, L. Listowel, E.
Elis-Thomas, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Ennals, L. Lockwood, B.
Ewing of Kirkford, L. Longford, E.
Fisher of Rednal, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Rochester, L.
McNair, L. Russell, E.
Mallalieu, B. Seear, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Mayhew, L. Serota, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Shackleton, L.
Meston, L. Stedman, B.
Mishcon, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Molloy, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Monkswell, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Ogmore, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Parry, L. Thurlow, L.
Perry of Walton, L. Tordoff, L.
Peston, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. Warnock, B.
Plant of Highfield, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Whaddon, L.
Prys-Davies, L. White, B.
Redesdale, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Richard, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Robson of Kiddington, B. Young of Dartington, L.
Aberdare, L. Elles, B.
Adrian, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Aldington, L. Elton, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Faithfull, B.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Ferrers, E.
Annan, L. Flather, B.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Arran, E. Gainford, L.
Astor, V. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Auckland, L. Geddes, L.
Barber, L. Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Beloff, L. Goschen, V.
Bessborough, E. Gray of Contin, L.
Blatch, B. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Blyth, L. Halsbury, E.
Boardman, L. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Borthwick, L. Hardwicke, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Harmsworth, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hayhoe, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Henley, L.
Brentford, V. Hertford, M.
Bridgeman, V. Hesketh, L. [Teller.]
Brightman, L. Hives, L.
Brigstocke, B. Holderness, L.
Brookes, L. HolmPatrick, L.
Butterworth, L. Hooper, B.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Hothfield, L.
Cadman, L. Howe, E.
Caithness, E. Huntly, M.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Killearn, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Knollys, V.
Carr of Hadley, L. Layton, L.
Cawley, L. Leigh, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Chelmsford, V. Long, V.
Clark of Kempston, L Lucas, L.
Cockfield, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Colnbrook, L. McFarlane of Llandaff, B.
Colwyn, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Cox, B.
Craigmyle, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cranborne, V. Margadale, L.
Crathorne, L. Marlesford, L.
Crickhowell, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Merrivale, L.
Cumberlege, B. Mersey, V.
Davidson, V. Milverton, L.
De L'Isle, V. Monson, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Morris, L.
Derwent, L. Mottistone, L.
Donegall, M. Mountevans, L.
Downshire, M. Munster, E.
Eden of Winton, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Ellenborough, L. Nathan, L.
Nelson, E. Sherfield, L.
Norfolk, D. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Norrie, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Northbourne, L. Skidelsky, L.
O'Cathain, B. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Onslow, E. Strafford, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Strathclyde, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Palmer, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L. Swansea, L.
Pender, L. Swinfen, L.
Perry of Southwark, B. Swinton, E.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Tebbit, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Terrington, L.
Prentice, L. Teviot, L.
Quinton, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Radnor, E. Trumpington, B.
Rankeillour, L. Ullswater, V.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L. Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rennell, L.
Renton, L. Walton of Detchant, L.
Renwick, L. Westbury, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L. Wilberforce, L.
St. Davids, V. Windlesham, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Wise, L.
Savile, L. Wynford, L.
Seccombe, B. Young, B.
Selborne, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 3 to 5 not moved.]

5.8 p.m.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 1, line 19, after ("standards") insert ("and, subject to section (whole school behaviour policy) below, including standards in pupils' behaviour")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I wish also to speak to Amendments Nos. 92 and 287. At an earlier stage I was expecting also to find in this group Amendment No. 73 tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. But this is group three and he felt that he was better placed elsewhere, and rather like the people subject to Group 4 at Question Time, he has made his escape.

The debates which we have had so far have been largely about the organisation, funding and responsibility for the system. It was for my noble friend Lady Young to raise the point that what this Bill is really about is what goes on in the schools. The whole of this Bill will be entirely useless and our time completely wasted if the result is not that what goes on in the schools is what we want to go on in them. We have to ask ourselves what that is.

What we want our schools to be are places where our children and grandchildren can, in security and to their profit, spend the greater part of their childhood and their youth and emerge confident, happy, honest, contributing members of society. That requires both academic rigour, which is something that has for too long been on the back burner, hence the shock when my right honourable friend started talking about standards, and something else that goes beyond it and without which much academic effort will go to waste; that is what we call discipline.

In 1988, just five years ago, when we last had a great upsurge of disorder and violence in classrooms, Kenneth Baker, then the Secretary of State for Education and Science, asked me to chair an inquiry into discipline in schools. I shall spare your Lordships most of its findings for they were numerous, but some of the things that we found were acutely relevant to what we are discussing today. To begin with, as I reminded your Lordships on Second Reading, we found without question that one can find very good, high achieving schools in depressed inner-city areas suffering every other mark of social deprivation and one can find disorderly, violent, corrupt and otherwise undesirable pupils in schools in wealthy, desirable, high value, leafy suburbs.

What made the difference was what in old-fashioned language we call discipline. But it is not discipline in the sense that we mean it in relation to the Army. It is just as effective and it produces behaviour that is just as suitable for its environment, but the environment is not a fighting regiment; it is the antechamber to adult life. It is possible to run schools in a way that brings out the best in pupils and enables them to shake out the worst from themselves and each other. It produces not only good manners—although, goodness knows, we need those—but the constructive, considerate, creative and honest conduct that a society needs of its members if it is to thrive. It produces them as a natural and habitual feature of their lives. I think that that is sufficiently important to flag it in the first clause of the Bill, which is why I have had the cheek to table the amendment where I have as a marker for the rest of the group.

Bringing order to disorderly classrooms improves academic achievement and—this is acutely important at the moment—makes teaching vastly more enjoyable. It improves job fulfilment and makes teaching a career worth following. In too many schools that is simply not happening, and this golden opportunity to make it happen must not be passed up.

The two amendments which Amendment No. 6 signals are Amendments Nos. 92 and 287. Amendment No. 92 amends Sections 20 and 22 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. If your Lordships will look at Amendment No. 92, you will see that it addresses those sections of that Act in that order, but the logic of the thing is to look at the second section first—that is, at Section 22. The effect of the amendment may be thought to be narrow but it is effective. Turning first to Section 22, the amendment makes good a gaping hole in that section which requires that, The articles of government for every county, voluntary … school shall provide (a) for it to be the duty of the head teacher to determine measures … to be taken with a view to— (i) promoting, among pupils, self-discipline and proper regard for authority". My first substantive effect on that section is to insert the essential words "and for others" because lack of respect for others is at the bottom of a great deal of bullying and disorder.

I do not think that it is necessary to spell out in detail how this group of amendments would work, especially as the Committee is anxious to get on, save to say that, first, it ensures that the process of evolving a policy to control—I think that "control" is the right word—the behaviour of all pupils in a school involves all those in the school, including not only academic staff but non-academic staff, and certainly including the parents. What is the good of inculcating certain standards of behaviour, honesty and diligence in a child if the parents are arguing the contrary every time he goes home? What is the point of inculcating good behaviour and consideration among pupils in class if they are allowed to throw the custard at each other or to call each other filthy names in the dinner break? What is the point of trying to inculcate respect for each other in the classroom and assembly if pupils are allowed to get each other into corners and to bully others either physically or psychologically when they are not in class? All these things hang together. What is the use of instilling into children courtesy, good manners, respect and patience and then having the staff bawling their heads off at them and losing their tempers? There must be mutual respect among all people in a school.

All that sounds rather airy fairy and as if it is a marvellous idea that will not work, but I must advise the Committee that it has worked and is working. I was fortunate enough to be asked to write the foreword to a book from a schools adviser (which I did yesterday) reporting the extremely efficient way in which this approach has turned round schools in difficulty, making them a pleasure to teach in and to attend as pupils. The policy has to be generated by all the people involved. The pupils then regard it as theirs. Instead of wondering how to score a point by writing something naughty with a spray can behind the bicycle sheds, they are out to stop people messing up their beautiful school. That makes a complete difference.

The second object of this group of amendments is to ensure that this information is published along with the other information which Section 20 of the Act requires to be published for the benefit of parents when they want to know how a school is run. The provisions also require all information of that sort to be made available to people who may wish to consider putting their children down as registered pupils at that school because such information is something on which that choice should be based.

My final amendment seeks to introduce that requirement into the later 1992 Act. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Blatch who is assisting me with her notes. This will enable me to give her answer, but I cannot yet see whether it reads "Resist". I sincerely hope not. In fact, it is the 1986 Act. I am most grateful to my noble friend and hope that she will not resist my amendment. I am glad that I have not seen that word there.

I do not say that this is necessarily the right way to achieve this end. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has another way in Amendment No. 73 to which I have to refer because it is an alternative. As time is pressing I shall not go through it line by line, but the difference is that it is very specific in what it requires to be done. I believe that one must leave the detail to the people involved for two reasons. The first is that they must not think that they are operating in a straitjacket, and the other is that they must not think that they can constantly go to court with a case. I am very much against children and parents becoming involved in unnecessary litigation.

If my amendments commend themselves to the Committee, I hope that your Lordships will say so however briefly. If they commend themselves to the Minister, I shall be absolutely delighted. I shall, of course, speak again briefly, but I must say now that the little subsection which inserts the words "and for others" is directly relevant to bullying and it answers the point of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, much more neatly. Whatever the Minister's view of the rest of my amendments, those words should be inserted into the Bill. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

I should like to support my noble friend's amendment and particularly the spirit of Amendment No. 6 very strongly. In the past few weeks we have all suffered from seeing the very frightening events that have involved violence among young people and children in this country. The lesson for us is that academic and practical considerations in our schools are not enough; we must address also the moral, ethical and spiritual aspects. It is right that my noble friend should aim to spell out the fact that the Secretary of State's duties should include that aspect as well as the others which are already in the Bill.

My experience of many hundreds of schools in my day as an HMI has shown me clearly that it can be done, as my noble friend said, even in the most unlikely and most depressing of circumstances. Schools manage to achieve a remarkable degree of personal dignity, commitment and caring among children. It is something which in old-fashioned days we called ethos. I believe that it is still the most important thing that a school provides.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will look upon the amendment favourably. I do not recall—she will no doubt know—whether previous legislation has dealt specifically with behaviour, but whether it has or has not, it seems to be an increasingly important element in our schools and it would be helpful if the Bill could deal with it. I am thinking in particular of two aspects: rowdiness, including rowdiness which sometimes intimidates teachers. One matter on which I have a great deal of sympathy with some of the teachers' unions is the way that their members are sometimes treated in schools—the violence used against them; the other is the bullying of other pupils.

There is no doubt that there is a great deal of unpleasant bullying in our schools. Here again, although I do not suggest for a moment that the Bill would eliminate it, an indication that this House and another place were interested in that matter, and an indication to the Secretary of State that he should have in mind the problems to which this gives rise and should do what he can to help, might assist. Therefore I hope that my noble friend the Minister, who has been so helpful throughout the afternoon, will be helpful over this.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

I do not regard all the suggestions contained in the report to which we have referred as airy fairy. I wish that I had been to a school where such codes of practice had been adopted. We on this side of the Committee agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the whole school policy is essential to underpin teacher/pupil relationships. We pay tribute to the noble Lord's report on discipline in schools which recognises how important such a contract is between staff and pupils. We believe that if schools have agreed well-known policies on exclusions and discipline which are applied consistently and fairly, pupils are much less likely to be excluded and the school's atmosphere is much more likely to improve.

It is especially important to have a whole school policy at a time when many feel that some children are suffering from deteriorating home circumstances. There is a benefit to the schools if their rights are properly respected. I do not wish to detain the Committee on this matter for too long as I have tabled my own amendments which will be dealt with later.

Lord Addington

If we are to start publishing information about schools, it is appropriate that we publish information about behavioural standards. As has been pointed out by everyone who has spoken in the debate, the quality of teaching in the classroom probably depends upon whether the children are listening and not throwing things at one another and at the teacher, to put it bluntly. An amendment along these lines is appropriate, and one hopes that the Government will see fit to include it so that we receive a little more information and are not buried under so many bare tables.

Baroness Blatch

This is an important point. I too echo the hope of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that my noble friend's report does not gather dust or find itself under tables not being taken notice of.

Pupil behaviour has long been one of the key measures by which the success of a school is determined. The report of the committee of inquiry which my noble friend chaired considered the issue in depth, has given valuable advice on the subject and continues to be a central work for all concerned. My noble friend is right: where schools have adopted the recommendations contained in that report they appear to have fewer problems than schools which do not adopt those recommendations.

It is because behaviour is so closely associated with the concept of standards that I agree with many of the points that have been made. Clause 1 is meant to be a general clause. Therefore it is not appropriate to pick out one particular aspect of standards to the exclusion of all others, with the consequent implication that that aspect over all others carries more weight. Section 22 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 lays on head teachers the responsibility for maintaining high standards of discipline and behaviour in schools and for regulating the conduct of their pupils. In so doing head teachers must follow any written statement of general principles provided for them by the governing body or any guidance offered on particular matters and must be regularly inspected on, among other things, that aspect of a child's education.

Having given that responsibility to head teachers, we look to them to exercise it sensibly, taking into account the welfare of pupils, both as a community and as individuals, and the individual and particular circumstances of the school. It may however be appropriate to offer further guidance for head teachers on matters of discipline and behaviour. The need for such guidance is one of the questions raised in the discussion paper on exclusions issued by the Department for Education in November to which more than 200 positive and constructive responses have been received.

There seems to be a consensus that such guidance would be helpful. That is one of the issues that we shall be taking forward, alongside action on education otherwise, upon which we shall be tabling amendments and upon which I have no doubt we shall have a good deal more debate.

As I said, but it is worth re-emphasising, as part of its new duties the school inspectorate will be looking at the quality of the school as a community in a variety of contexts, including behaviour and discipline. An important part of that exercise will entail talking to pupils as well as staff and seeking their views on matters such as, for example, the incidence of bullying and the school's response to it.

A number of Members of the Committee have mentioned bullying, not just in the Chamber but informally before we discussed the Bill. Schools can be under no illusion as to the importance Ministers attached to that issue. Last July we issued practical guidance to all schools in the form of the "Action against Bullying" pack, developed by the Scottish Council for Research in Education. In addition, to impress upon schools the importance we attach to the eradication of bullying, my honourable friend the Under-Secretary wrote to chairmen of governors to emphasise the need for firm action.

Further guidance will be issued to schools when the Department for Education-funded research project currently under way at Sheffield university completes its work. Again, the new inspection teams appointed under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 will also be paying attention to school discipline, including measures taken to combat bullying.

As a matter of detail, Amendment No. 92 refers to Section 20 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, as my noble friend pointed out. That Act has already been repealed by the Education Reform Act, and it would not be appropriate to provide for consultations with parent governors separately from the governing body as a whole, which is, after all, a body with collective responsibility. They have no separate legal status and any such consultation could be divisive. I hope that I have conveyed to the Committee that this debate is important. We are talking about means to ends. We shall attend to all the concerns of my noble friends and of others who have spoken, but we shall do so by means of guidance.

Lord Elton

I am grateful to my noble friend for the concern that she has shown for the issues we have addressed and her recognition of our depth of feeling about what is an important matter.

I apologise to the Committee for amending a non-existent statute. That happens to us all. I suppose that it arises from the speed of legislation through this place. One cannot be watching all the time. That said, I am a little worried—I shall read what my noble friend has said with great care—because it is not clear to me from where the guidelines about which she is speaking come—perhaps she will tell me before I conclude—or what authority they will have. It would be nice to know that. Indeed, my noble friend has promised the department's response to the consultation on exclusions for which I have been asking for some time and which is relevant at this point because she says that the guidance on whole school behaviour policies will be linked to guidance on exclusions. That is of more basis to Amendment No. 73 and the amendments grouped with it.

Before I decide to take the matter away and consider it, perhaps my noble friend would help the Committee by saying what the guidelines will be, who they will be from and what authority they will have.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

The guidance will be drawn up by my department but will be on the back of serious research which is now being carried out. I cannot be precise about timing. As my noble friend knows, I have informally said that the information on exclusions will be made available. As regards sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of Section 22 of the 1986 Act and the insertion after "authority" of "and for others", the point is to have respect for others as well as authority—

Lord Elton

Will my noble friend kindly repeat the reference because I am a little slow?

Baroness Blatch

Of course. It was sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of Section 22 of the 1986 Act after "authority" insert "and for others". The point is to have respect for others as well as authority. I have some sympathy with the point which my noble friend makes. I ask him to allow me to take the matter away for consideration.

As regards guidance and its status, I have said a number of times in this Chamber that there is a difference between guidelines and guidance. Guidance is the stronger of the two. Local authorities, or those charged with having to have regard to guidance, must also have regard to guidelines in formulating their policies.

Lord Elton

I am grateful to my noble friend. I have only one further question. Since the information about the Government's response to the consultation on exclusions will be given in good time for the discussion, and since that discussion arises at the latest in respect of Clause 73, will we be able to discuss the matter in the dinner hour?

Baroness Blatch

I will discuss anything in the dinner hour. I am not sure that I can be absolutely specific this evening but I shall be as specific as I am able in the light of the knowledge that I have.

Lord Elton

I gather that we shall not have the published response but I am grateful that my noble friend has gone as far as she has. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 not moved.]

Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 1, line 20, at end insert:

("() He shall promote the efficiency of education of the people of England and Wales by making appropriate arrangements for the extension of the functions of the Audit Commission for Local Authorities and the National Health Service to cover the audit and overall management functions of all bodies responsible for such education.").

The noble Lord said: The two amendments in the group are tabled in my name. The first, Amendment No. 9, is extremely unfashionable in that it is short, it says what it means and it means what it says. The second, Amendment No. 292, is much more fashionable and therefore might commend itself to the Government. It is far more opaque and refers to at least three Acts of Parliament, which puts it well into the modern style. Whether the Government like the drafting of either amendment is unimportant. I hope, however, that they will accept the spirit of them, in which case I shall gladly withdraw both versions.

Amendment No. 9 seeks to help the Government and to encourage them along the path of self-preservation. In other words, it seeks to make use of the Audit Commission, which has had and continues to have an important and useful role in the affairs of local authorities and in the National Health Service. It is most important that there should be an independent organisation which is capable of monitoring the progress of an important new initiative. It is a controversial and imaginative initiative and one which I welcome. The Government would be extremely well advised to have available to themselves an overall view from an independent source not only of the way in which the money is spent but also of the quality of the produce which comes out at the other end.

The advantages which the Audit Commission could convey would be twofold. It would be able to look at both the cost and the quality and, most importantly, it would be able to take an overall look at the whole scene. It could sum up the experience which resulted from the introduction of grant-aided schools. It could see where performance had come up to expectations and where it had failed. It would be able to make the useful comparisons which, so far as I can see, no other body would be able to make.

I was disappointed that neither the FEFC nor the HEFC have seen fit to consult the Audit Commission, apparently preferring to let schools appoint their own local auditors. That makes me fearful that, in the event, schools could well appoint local auditors who not only would have no knowledge of what was happening elsewhere but in certain circumstances might not measure up to the required standards. We must all fear that where there is perhaps the most need for probing the inquiry will be less stringent than it should be.

We must recall that a huge sum of money is involved; I am advised that it is some £50 billion of government money. If that is so, surely it is right that there should be available the type of overall comprehensive monitoring system which the Audit Commission could provide. I should expect the Government to welcome the amendment without question. I still have hopes that they will do so. I am no great admirer of the Treasury but that is an eccentricity of my own—

Baroness Faithfull

And of others!

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I am glad that my noble friend shares my view. I should have thought that the amendment would have caused the Treasury to leap for joy. I welcome the opportunity of affording it that pleasure.

I am also concerned with the most generous intentions to do well by the accounting officer. I cannot but believe that the accounting officer at the department will sleep much better at night if he were conscious of the fact that, without needing special intervention from him, there is available an overall look at the situation, which the amendments can provide.

The Government's regard for the Audit Commission has been well demonstrated. They have welcomed its intervention in the affairs of local authorities and its work in the National Health Service. In this very Bill the commission's advice as to special need schools has been taken and incorporated in the Bill. For the life of me I cannot see why in those circumstances the Government should not jump at the opportunity of having available just the type of organisation which they need to carry out an effective survey of this very important and expensive new initiative.

I hope that it will be engraved on the minds of my noble friend and her advisers that the aim of the amendment is to secure an overall view of both the spending of money and the quality of the product and to make available the sum of the experience over the country as a whole from which useful comparisons can be made.

It should not be necessary to expand on the need for the amendment. I hope that I have not done so unduly. However, in the light of common sense, I cannot begin to persuade myself that the Government will do other than accept it. I beg to move.

Baroness David

I support the amendment. It would be extremely useful to have an independent view of what is going on in what will be a quite new situation. The Audit Commission has won the respect of many people. Its reports have been extremely valuable. Of course, if there is a link between the Audit Commission, the local authorities and the National Health Service, that will be particularly valuable in relation to any special needs provision. Therefore, I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at this amendment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Peyton has been converted into being a Treasury enthusiast. As an old Treasury hand, I welcome his conversion, however late in the day it appears to have come.

As regards the amendment, he seems to have put forward a very important idea. Given the enormous expenditure on the education service, efficient auditing is obviously of substantial importance. The development of the grant-aided system, which I welcome, makes it increasingly important that schools' accounts should be audited not by local amateurs but by professionals of high standing.

As I understand the present position, there is no restriction on how the audit is to be carried out. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will tell the Committee either that she accepts the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Peyton or that she has good alternatives to offer.

Lord Dainton

I support the amendment. My mind goes back some 27 years to the time when I was set up—in the best sense of that term —by the CVCP to oppose the intrusion of the then Comptroller and Auditor General into the books of the universities. I did that. I did my job, as it was then; namely, to do what the committee told me to do. However, the Government decided to the contrary.

I am bound to say that my experience as a vice-chancellor reversed my original view. I found the Comptroller and Auditor General's people extremely helpful in the management of the affairs of the particular university for which I was responsible. Its expertise was invaluable to me and to the bursar of that university. I can see every advantage in the involvement of the Audit Commission. Before any report is made, it will always invite the institution to take note of what it can do for itself. I have no fear of what is involved in the amendment. I support it and I hope that it will be considered favourably. If it is thought to be too large a task, because I can see that a large number of institutions would need to be covered, perhaps an alternative but equally effective arrangement could be adopted.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I apologise to the Committee that I was not in my place when this very important amendment was moved by my noble friend. It is an important amendment. I hope that the Minister will take it on board. Apart from that, we have been discussing Clause 1(1). This amendment is in implementation of that. As it stands at present, it is skeletal. There was previous discussion as to how the general duty should be clarified. Here is an important means of clarification.

I ask the Minister to consider whether the general duty under Clause 1(1) should not be the subject matter of a new and separate clause and that Clause 1(2) and Clause 1(3) which we have discussed—that is, regulation of the provision made in schools and educational institutions—should not be the subject matter of a new Clause 2. That would avoid the dilemma of the exclusion clause which we had to consider previously. That is only an idea that I have had. Apart from that, the essence of the amendment is well founded and I hope that it commends itself to the Committee.

Baroness Brigstocke

What appeals to me is that the amendment offers an opportunity for disinterested, fair and apolitical assessment because the Audit Commission is not political and it has the experience of management which, alas, is not always available to all of our local education authorities and schools. Also, the Audit Commission has established and proven organisational ability to help those LEAs and schools which so badly need it.

Lord Peston

I support the amendment. I hope that we all agree that, in the best sense of the term, there is nothing at all party political in this matter. It is a question of good and efficient government, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, made clear.

Indeed, in many ways the puzzle is that this provision is not already contained in the Bill. What would be more usual would be for the provision to be in the Bill and questions then asked as to why it is in the Bill. I find it extremely strange that it is not in the Bill as it stands.

Perhaps I may emphasise the non-political nature of my contribution. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, I am not very keen on grant-maintained schools. I obviously want them to be a success because I want schools to be successful but it is not an initiative that I have supported or will support. However, in so far as the schools exist and that we may have more of them—and certainly in so far as taxpayers' money is involved—I want them to proceed efficiently and in particular I want them to give value for money. I believe that that is what underlies the amendment.

I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dainton. When the Audit Commission was founded I had grave doubts about it. Since then I have become an avid reader of its reports which, on the whole, are quite brilliant and which themselves give enormous value for money to the Government and to the institutions at which they look.

Therefore, on this amendment we are discussing the correct use of public sector money and the correct use of resources with the possibility that the outcome will be a rather improved system of education, which is what we all wish to achieve.

I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, seems to remember the initials of the various bodies rather better than I do. However, what I particularly like about the amendment is what he thought others might dislike; namely, that the amendment—and it is almost the first that I have come across today—is extremely straightforward and I can understand every word in it.

I should like to persuade the noble Baroness first to accept the amendment; and, secondly, not to say that she will go away and redraft it. I would much rather have the amendment as it is and allow the Audit Commission to do what is proposed. I conclude simply by saying that the proposal has already received support from all sides of the Committee and I hope that it is something that the noble Baroness can accept.

Lord Adrian

I am not quite certain how the amendment would be applied and, more particularly, the limits of its application. As has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, it relates to Clause 1(1) which states: The Secretary of State shall promote the education of the people of England and Wales". In its final line, the amendment refers to the, management functions of all bodies responsible for such education". I can perfectly well see that the Audit Commission may have a very useful and proper purpose in dealing with institutions which receive taxpayers' money, but I am not quite certain whether it could be interpreted as extending to other institutions.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

As the mover the amendment, I should point out that its purpose is to look after the innovations—the new initiatives—of grant-aided schools. It is not aimed at anyone else. If my noble friend on the Front Bench has that fear in her mind, then I would be more than happy for her to take the matter away and to put forward something else which would narrow the impact of the Audit Commission to what was intended by me when I moved the amendment.

Lord Adrian

If I may say so, that illustrates the difficulty with the wording of Clause 1(1) which we have already discussed at some length. It seems to me to cast a very wide net and the use of those phrases in the amendment seem to cast the net much wider than appears to be the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton.

Baroness Blatch

I have absolutely no difficulty either with the spirit of the amendment or the principles that underlie it. I share my noble friend's determination—and indeed that of other Members of the Committee—to make our education system as efficient and effective as possible. I should also like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that I, I think almost alone in local government, welcomed the Audit Commission when it was first established. I saw that it would become the friend of local government and not the enemy. For all the reasons given by the noble Lord, I must say that I too have great admiration for the Commission; and indeed, its reports have borne out the worth of its work.

As its Explanatory and Financial Memorandum points out, the Bill contains a series of measures designed to improve efficiency and effectiveness, not the least important of which are the new arrangements to tackle the difficult issue of surplus places. Our policy of delegating an increasing proportion of resources down to school level, whether under Local Management of Schools or grant-maintained status, will act as a spur to improving efficiency.

Where bodies are in receipt of Exchequer grants—that includes the funding authorities to be established under the Bill—they will be subject to scrutiny by the National Audit Office and the Comptroller and Auditor General, who is of course accountable to Parliament. Grant-maintained schools are required, under the financial memoranda, to open their books to the National Audit Office for inspection or value-for-money studies, and the governing body must secure that the National Audit Office's officials are given reasonable assistance. I therefore cannot see the need to double bank.

However, the governing body can commission a value-for-money study from the Audit Commission if it so wishes, as indeed it can from other suitable professional advisers. It may be of interest to my noble friend to know that the National Audit Office in fact published on 2nd April of this year its first value-for-money report on grant-maintained schools. That is at present before the Public Accounts Committee and I cannot at this stage comment further upon it. As Members of the Committee will know, the procedure is that it has to complete its passage through the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee and all evidence has to be taken before I can say any more. The very point that my noble friend is making is being carried out, but by a different body.

In addition to that, under the terms of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, the Audit Commission is empowered to undertake scrutinies for the Further Education Funding Council. Under the terms of Clause 8 of the Bill, it will be able to undertake studies for the funding authorities. Accountability for economy, efficiency and effectiveness are very important and we are confident that the National Audit Office will fulfil that role.

I should perhaps also make clear one other point regarding the incorporation, under Clause 225 of the Bill, of local authority maintained school governing bodies, which is referred to in my noble friend's new clause. Incorporation of governing bodies of local authority maintained schools does not alter the relationship between the local education authority and the school. In particular, expenditure under the local management schemes will continue to be expenditure of the authority and so fall within the ambit of the Audit Commission.

As regards the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, I believe that he has a point. If any of the proposed amendments were in fact to bite on Clause 1(1), which as we now know is under discussion—but Members of the Committee will know that I am trying to hang on to Clause 1(1) in the Bill—I must point out that Clause 1(1) does in fact subsume higher education and therefore it must be properly clarified. However, I think that I have said enough to all Members of the Committee to assure them that the particular worry that they have is fully covered by the system as it operates at present.

Earl Russell

I am not certain that the noble Baroness has entirely answered the force of the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. He argued that the Audit Commission is capable of judging both the cost and, as he put it, the quality of what comes out the other end. We need opinions on both those issues. The noble Baroness said that it was the purpose of the Bill to increase "efficiency and effectiveness". It is of course possible that some of us may think that those ambitions might on occasion be in conflict. It is also possible that we may be wrong in saying so, in which case I think that the Audit Commission is the only body which could authoritatively tell us so. That could be useful to the Government.

Baroness Blatch

I do not think that I entirely missed my noble friend's point. Two issues arise out of the noble Earl's intervention. First, the books of every grant-maintained school are audited by a properly approved auditor every year. That is a requirement under the law. Secondly, I said that value-for-money studies—that is, comparing how grant-maintained schools operate, how they fund their provision and indeed whether that is producing value for money and comparability across the grant-maintained sector —is carried out by the National Audit Office. It seems to me that the debate is whether the Committee believes that the National Audit Office or the Audit Commission is the right body and not whether the concerns expressed by noble Lords are covered in principle.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I should like very much to thank my noble friend for her response but I do not think that I can do so wholeheartedly; indeed, it would be a very lame form of thanks that came out if one did so at all. I must dispose of the question of drafting. The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, quite fairly raised the point that, because of the drafting of the rest of Clause 1, this particular amendment—or the amendment and the proposed new clause—might have an impact which I did not intend. In that case there would surely be no difficulty because I would be very happy to withdraw the amendment and either produce another one at a later stage or allow the Government to do so. I am sure that they could. It would probably be longer than any of mine and much more difficult to understand, but that would be quite acceptable so long as it achieved the desired end. I hope that that explanation satisfies the noble Lord, Lord Adrian. I am certainly not sticking to that point.

I turn now to my noble friend. She appeared to welcome what she called "the spirit of the amendment". I do not know whether amendments ordinarily have spirits, but nevertheless she welcomed its spirit. She also detected some underlying thought, which was extremely gratifying to me, and that too she found acceptable. After having heard that the spirit of the amendment and the underlying thought were welcomed, agreed to and accepted, had I been at all new to politics, I should have thought that the door was open. However, I waited, as one always has to, for the word "but" to be spoken, and of course it was.

I welcome my noble friend's agreement that the Audit Commission has performed extremely well and that it has been a friend and not an enemy of local government. I welcome her agreement that the Audit Commission has performed well with regard to the health service. However, she then dragged in by the heels the body called the National Audit Office. I am sure that that body is full of worthy people, but is my noble friend absolutely satisfied that it could perform every bit as well as the Audit Commission in surveying the performance and the expenditure of this new initiative of grant-aided schools? My noble friend must first satisfy herself and then the Committee on that point. I very much doubt whether she can do so.

Is the National Audit Office able to appoint, brief and instruct local auditors? I rather wonder whether it could. As I understand it, the Audit Commission can do so and does do so. I have a little question I wish to ask my noble friend. As she is confident about the performance of the National Audit Office—I am sure she favours competition, as I do—why can the National Audit Office not examine part of the health service, for example, to see whether it performs as well as the Audit Commission? I may be quite wrong and I am accustomed to being wrong from time to time, but I believe that if the idea of placing the responsibility for examining all or any part of the National Health Service on the National Audit Office was once adumbrated, the personnel of the National Audit Office would, if they were well advised, take to their heels and run. They would not wish to compete in any way with the Audit Commission.

I feel very unhappy about what my noble friend has said. She has said that the matters I think should be dealt with by the Audit Commission could be carried out equally well by a different body. That is what I very much doubt. I am not prepared simply to withdraw the amendment until she has satisfied me that she has already considered this matter and has satisfied herself that the National Audit Office could in every respect perform as well and as thoroughly as the Audit Commission. If she has not already been able to satisfy herself beyond doubt on that matter—I mean that —I hope she will undertake to return at a later stage of the Bill and either introduce another amendment of her own or allow me to do the same. If she will not undertake to do that at this stage, I am afraid I shall have no alternative but to take the opinion of the Committee.

6 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I am not sure that I can give all the assurances that my noble friend asked for. We must deal with what is before us today; that is the matter of superimposing something on a system that is already in place. The National Audit Office already covers the areas of concern that my noble friend has; that is, probity and the value for money delivery of services. There are Members of the Committee who know a great deal more about this matter than I do. However, I believe there are departments in Whitehall and other bodies that experience some fear at the thought of being visited by the National Audit Office. That office can invite itself into a department. The value-for-money audit on the grant-maintained sector was not invited by that sector. The National Audit Office decided to examine that sector to establish whether it was producing an efficient and effective service. That report is subject to full parliamentary scrutiny. What we have to decide here is whether those arrangements are adequate or whether the Committee takes the view that they should be replaced by the provisions in the proposed amendments. I believe that that would constitute double banking which would produce extremely bad value for money.

Lord Peston

I do not wish to prolong this debate. However, if the Minister takes this matter away and seeks advice on it, I believe she will probably convince herself that this is not work for the National Audit Office. We are discussing the auditing of individual schools. Unless I misunderstand what the National Audit Office does, I do not think this is appropriate work for it. We do not need to discuss this matter across the Dispatch Box at this moment, but I believe the Minister should obtain further advice on this matter before rejecting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I do not wish to prolong this discussion. My noble friend is in grave danger of addressing the Committee rather as if we were at school. It is as if she was saying, "You have no alternative but to eat the dinner that is in front of you. You cannot have another one". I am saying that this particular meal is not appropriate.

I do not believe that my noble friend answered my question. I am asking her to say that she will take this matter away and satisfy herself that the National Audit Office is really able to carry out this work as well as or better than the Audit Commission. If she can satisfy herself on that point and then satisfy this Chamber, that is my last word on the matter. However, I do not believe that she will do that. I am strengthened in that view by what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has just said. I hope my noble friend will answer precisely the question that I asked her. Will she please take this matter away and have another look at it? She will not do herself or the Government any harm by doing so. Will she take another look at the matter in case we are right and the Audit Commission is the right body to carry out this work?

Baroness Blatch

I cannot give my noble friend that assurance. The National Audit Office has produced its very first report on value for money in grant-maintained schools. That report is presently before the Public Accounts Committee and is subject to the full scrutiny of Parliament. Until that exercise is fully completed I am not in a position to make any judgment about the effectiveness of that system. Therefore it is not for me at this moment to make a judgment about the effectiveness of the National Audit Office which is a reputable body and to my knowledge works well across Whitehall. It is not for me to compare bodies and make a judgment. I must ask the Committee to remember that if these amendments are accepted, they will constitute a double banking system on the grant-maintained sector. I believe that that would not be the most efficient use of resources.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I have heard what my noble friend said. I do not wish to prolong the proceedings. After a great many years in politics the thing that annoys me the most is the refusal of any government to entertain the possibility that someone else knows better than they do. On that basis and for that reason among others I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

6.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No.9) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 107; Not-Contents, 136.

Division No. 2
Acton, L. Lawrence, L.
Addington, L. Listowel, E.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Aylestone, L. Lockwood, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Longford, E.
Blackstone, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Bottomley, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Brigstocke, B. McNair, L.
Broadbridge, L. Mallalieu, B.
Brookes, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mayhew, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Meston, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Mishcon, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Molloy, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Monkswell, L.
David, B. Mulley, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Northbourne, L.
Eatwell, L. Northfield, L.
Elis-Thomas, L. O'Cathain, B.
Ennals, L. Palmer, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Faithfull, B. Parry, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Perry of Walton, L.
Gallacher, L. Peston, L.
Galpern, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L. [Teller.]
Geraint, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Glenamara, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Gregson, L. Redesdale, L.
Grey, E. Richard, L.
Hampton, L. Rochester, L.
Hamwee, B. Russell, E.
Hanworth, V. Seear, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Healey, L. Serota, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Shackleton, L.
Hertford, M. Shannon, E.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Stedman, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hughes, L. Strafford, E.
Huntly, M. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Jeger, B. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Tordoff, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Turner of Camden, B.
John-Mackie, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Judd, L. Warnock, B.
Kennet, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Kilbracken, L. White, B.
Kinloss, Ly. Williams of Elvel, L.
Kirkhill, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Kirkwood, L. Young of Dartington, L.
Adrian, L. Belstead, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Bessborough, E.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Blatch, B.
Blyth, L.
Arran, E. Boardman, L.
Astor, V. Bolton, L.
Auckland, L. Borthwick, L.
Barber, L. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Beloff, L. Bridgeman, V.
Butterfield, L. Margadale, L.
Butterworth, L. Marlesford, L.
Cadman, L. Merrivale, L.
Caithness, E. Mersey, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Milverton, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Morris, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mottistone, L.
Carnock, L. Mountevans, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. Munster, E.
Clark of Kempston, L Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Colwyn, L. Nelson, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Norfolk, D.
Cox, B. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Craigavon, V. Orkney, E.
Cranborne, V. Orr-Ewing, L.
Crathorne, L. Oxfuird, V.
Crickhowell, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Cumberlege, B. Perry of Southwark, B.
De L'Isle, V. Platt of Writtle, B.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Prentice, L.
Derwent, L. Quinton, L.
Donegall, M. Radnor, E.
Downshire, M. Rankeillour, L.
Elles, B. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Reay, L.
Elton, L. Rees, L.
Ferrers, E. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Flather, B. Rennell, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Renton, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Renwick, L.
Glenarthur, L. Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Goschen, V. St. Davids, V.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Salisbury, M.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Hardwicke, E. Savile, L.
Harmsworth, L. Seccombe, B.
Harrowby, E. Selborne, E.
Hayhoe, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Henley, L. Skidelsky, L.
Hesketh, L. [Teller.] Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Hives, L. Stewartby, L.
Holderness, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Strathclyde, L.
Hooper, B. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jeffreys, L. Sudeley, L.
Lauderdale, E. Swansea, L.
Leigh, L. Swinfen, L.
Lindsay, E. Swinton, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Teviot, L.
Liverpool, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Long, V. Trumpington, B.
Lucas, L. Ullswater, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Windlesham, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.] Wynford, L.
Young, B.
Macleod of Borve, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.16 p.m.

Lord Butterfield moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 1, line 20, at end insert:

("() In fulfilling his duty under subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State may by order establish a General Teaching Council for the registration and regulation of the teaching profession.").

The noble Lord said: I am about to ask the Committee to launch itself in a different direction from those we have pursued so far this afternoon. I am aware that it is not the done thing to put down an amendment if one has not attended the Second Reading. I was not present at the Second Reading of the Bill because I was abroad helping to select young people to come to work in our universities. However, I have read the Second Reading proceedings with great care, and I note that the purpose of the Bill is to build on the Education Act 1944 and that it aims to achieve a broader vision and a better future.

My starting point is that the Bill does not make any reference to the troops. This afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Elton, made a point about behaviour and we heard about people throwing things at each other in the classroom. It is important to me that the teachers recognise that we acknowledge that we place an immense burden on them to make our Education Acts work.

I considered the speeches made at Second Reading. I found that a clutch of speakers from various parts of the Chamber had referred to the lack of reference in the Bill to the establishment of a general teaching council. The noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Ritchie, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, all made passing reference to that point. I move the amendment in the hope that it will strengthen the Bill and widen its vision and its ability to encourage the teachers in our schools.

One might ask why we do not already have a council for teachers. Doctors, dentists and various other professions have such councils. I have looked briefly into the matter. I shall not produce a learned history, but it seems that teachers were registered from 1899 and that in 1912 there was a Teachers' Registration Council which in 1929 became the Royal Society of Teachers. For reasons which I have not been able to discover but which are no doubt perfectly valid, that voluntary society was not included in the Education Act 1944. It seems that the idea of a council covering the profession of teaching through which teachers could govern themselves lay fallow until 1968 when the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara—whom I am pleased to see in his place—did his best to relaunch the idea. Sir Toby Weaver presently came up with the idea of two councils. But I am not enough of a social or educational historian to know why those councils faltered, but they did.

I understand that about 10 years ago in 1983 the larger teaching associations approached the University Council for the Education of Teachers. They were anxious that the teaching profession was not in a position to control itself as a profession should. By 1988 no less than 17 associations concerned with teaching had subscribed to the idea of the establishment of a general teaching council. By 1991 the number had risen to 30; it is now 35. I shall not weary the Committee by reading out the list of associations and bodies that have joined the membership of what is a limited company, the General Teaching Council. However, I shall place a copy of the list in the Library for anyone who may wish to read it.

I pay an important tribute to Professor Alec Ross of the University of Lancashire. He was much concerned with the University Council for the Education of Teachers. He played an important role in bringing the whole idea together. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, is not in his place because I wished to say to him how much I appreciated his introducing a debate on education on 1st May 1991. In that debate I stated that I believed that most noble Lords would feel that they owed something to their teachers in schools and/or universities, but that surely the time must be approaching when teaching deserves the status of a profession. As a result of my remarks, Professor Tomlinson of the University of Warwick Institute of Education, who is the chairman of the General Teaching Council Limited, and John Sayer, the secretary, contacted me. They have been in touch with me since 1991.

I have made the point—I hope that it will not fall on deaf ears—that I shall be surprised if many noble Lords in this Chamber are not immensely grateful to the people who taught them. I reiterate what I said in 1991: that the least that we can do for those people is to show our appreciation by putting them on a par with the fast growing numbers of professionals in our society.

I made an investigation by telephone last Friday. I hope that the result will please noble Lords. My secretary said, "You will be lucky to find anyone in an office in London on Friday"; but, on the contrary, the councils seemed to be manning their telephones and offices despite the rail strike. I cite the figures. Over 1 million people consider themselves as professionals. That figure represents about 2 per cent. of the professions that I shall name. I was astonished by the number with regard to the General Medical Council. It has over 189,000 members. The General Dental Council has just over 27,000 members. The Law Society has 60,000 members. In addition there are 7,000 barristers. The accountants have no less than 90,000 members associated with their institution. If one totals those figures, the number is 450,000. In addition, the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing Midwifery and Health Visitors has 640,000 paid up members, if I may so call those important people. If one adds that number to the 450,000 the Committee will understand how I reach the figure of over 1 million.

I have been in close association with the nursing profession during my medical professional life. Perhaps I may follow through the way in which the nurses developed the United Kingdom central council. An Act legitimised the concept in 1979. The council was established and began work in 1982. It was reviewed by new legislation in 1992. There are certain points to be made here. First, it set standards for the training of doctors. It established ethical standards. I was reassured by the registrar over the telephone on Friday that if nurses are struck off the list, in the same way that doctors may be struck off their list, they cannot work inside the framework of the health service or for the private health service. By 1992 the United Kingdom central council was financially self-sufficient. The subscriptions from the members more than met the cost of running the council. Mr. Warwick, the administrator of the United Kingdom central council, emphasised that it was important to make one point clear to the Committee. There was anxiety about what would happen when the 60 people on the main council were brought together in 1982. Forty members are now elected from the nursing profession and 20 are appointed through the Privy Council but when those members have the full responsibility of sitting on the council they put the public interest ahead of petty, personal or political interests. That is an important point.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, has been leading his inquiry about medical ethics. He cannot be with us at present. However, he has empowered me to say that that is the position with regard to the General Medical Council. People may be extraordinarily rabid radicals of all kinds and shades but when considering the agenda for the General Medical Council they put the public interest above their personal interest. I shall return to that issue in a moment; it is important. The General Teaching Council has set out its objectives in a document which it published some years ago. I have considered it as, I am sure, have other noble Lords. I am happy to subscribe to those objectives.

Members of the Committee will note that the amendment in my name states: In fulfilling his duty under subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State may by order establish a General Teaching Council".

When I returned from my overseas duties in selecting the people to come to our universities, I discovered that there had been a move towards the provision that the Secretary of State "will" establish. I wish to explain why I propose that the Secretary of State "may" establish. The word "may" implies that there will be an interregnum. During that interregnum much good may be achieved in establishing the reputation of teachers as a learned profession.

On 1st May 1991 I stated that my sister-in-law—she is the prime teacher in my family unit—subscribed to the idea of the GTC. I proudly sent her a copy of Hansard. She telephoned and invited me to lunch. She said, "Yes, I support the GTC idea generally but not as strongly as might be concluded from your words". My sister-in-law expressed the general anxiety that the teaching unions and the more revolutionary, rabid, radical members of the profession may get onto the General Teaching Council and make it a difficult body to deal with.

I went to see the Secretary of State for Education, John Patten, to take up the matter with him. He said, "I think you should know that my officials and I were a little worried. We see many new organisations coming forward in teaching and it may be more difficult for me to deal with a general teaching council than with more academic bodies". I can see that, and that the Secretary of State for Health would probably find it fairly easy to deal with the Royal College of Physicians and all the other bodies rather than perhaps a belligerent General Medical Council.

It has been my experience with belligerent students at the University of Nottingham—and the noble Lord, Lord Dainton, is here and I hope he will agree—that when students went on to the senate, which was about 100 strong at the University of Nottingham, they quickly dropped their radical approaches. At first they suggested, "the University must pay our rents", and this, that and the other. They used to come to my office to see me and say, "We can't find where the power lies in this university". I used to say, "It lies everywhere. You have to convey your ideas and win your points in the senate by the power of your arguments". I told my sister-in-law that I believed that if there were worries about the National Union of Teachers or other bodies taking control, the same thing would happen because they will face a council of 70 people.

To wind up, I personally believe and hope to woo the Committee over to the idea that our teachers deserve early professional status. The absence of that from the Bill is a deficiency. I moved the idea that the Secretary of State "may" propose one so that it is not born of confrontation. It seems to me that I should do so in deference to people like Tomlinson and Sayer who have spent so much time on the council, nurturing it over the years and to the approximately 30 organisations which have subscribed to supporting it and to the teachers in the 23,000 schools. I understand that there are about 360,000 teachers. Bearing in mind the success of the developments with the nursing profession, I very much hope that the noble Baroness will feel that she can agree to take the amendment away and think about it.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I do not know the extent to which the changing situation in schools in England and Wales will affect the issue. I am not close enough to it to be able to picture whether the desirability of a general teaching council is growing. I suspect it may because of the changing situation. I do not know what the attitude is to it of my noble friend on the Front Benches.

As the Committee may know, there has been a General Teaching Council for Scotland since 1965. All school teachers have to belong by definition, they have to be members of the council. Further education teachers in Scotland may belong, but do not have to, it is optional. The General Teaching Council for Scotland approves the teaching qualifications of school teachers. It can withdraw the teaching certificate of teachers in Scotland. I understand that it also approves any of the top-up requirements that there now have to be when teachers from other parts of the European Community move to Scotland to teach. I am not sure whether that also applies to teachers from England. I know that the Scottish attitude to English teachers has had to change because of the European Community. That is one of the useful things that have happened as a result of the Community.

In Scotland, the General Teaching Council means that teachers have a sense of controlling their own profession. To control one's profession is a definition of the profession. It is the sense of control that, as the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, said, makes doctors, accountants, and lawyers have a strong sense of belonging to a profession. The council does that.

I do not know the extent to which teachers in Scotland feel more professional than those in England. I am not in a position to make that comparison. But it is an idea which is worthy of consideration, particularly because of the changing situation in schools with which the whole Bill is concerned. I hope that the Committee and the Minister will not totally disregard the idea.

Lord Dainton

In her summing up of the Second Reading debate the Minister said that we must return to the subject of a general teaching council. Amendment No. 10, to which the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, has just spoken, does just that. The purpose of the amendment standing in his name, mine and that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, takes the form of an additional sentence at the end of Clause 1(3). It is to enable, not to instruct, the Secretary of State for Education to establish, at his discretion and when he sees fit, a General Teaching Council for the registration and regulation of the teaching profession". The case for a general teaching council has already been made eloquently by my noble friend Lord Butterfield but I wish to go back to two simple truths. First, it is clearly the duty of the Secretary of State for Education of the elected Government to, promote the education of the people". As we have heard many times today, those are the very words in the opening sentence of the Bill. The Government can do much towards setting the scene for a good school education; as for example, in laying down the elements of a national curriculum in schools, in monitoring the way in which that curriculum is delivered and is matched to the needs of individual pupils, and also, of course, in monitoring the outcome through pupil assessment. There are many other kindred matters.

However—and this is important—governments and Secretaries of State do not teach and never will. They are not in the classroom, the playing field, the dramatic society or whatever. Teaching can only be done by teachers. Collectively, they are the only instrument for the implementation of policy. Therefore, their full and enthusiastic commitment to this highly professional task is absolutely necessary if the highest possible quality of school education is to be achieved. Whatever the government of the day, their policies can be implemented.

In the Second Reading debate I was much heartened by the endorsement given by many Peers —from all parties and none —of the views I expressed about the vocational nature of teaching and the enormous influence for good which well trained teachers of high morale can have if they are allowed some measure of autonomy and discretion in their teaching and are encouraged to act as active rather than passive partners with the Government in this singularly important task of achieving and maintaining high quality education for the children of the country. As many Members of the Committee will remember, it is a partnership of which the Prime Minister has spoken and which he stressed with approval.

I firmly believe that the best way to provide high professional standards and thereby achieve a high quality of school education is to establish a body which will guard jealously the standards of entry to the profession, and to register—as we have heard many other professional bodies do—those judged fit to teach; to refuse to accept unsuitable applicants and if necessary de-register those considered unfit; and advise government and employers about professional developments, retraining, supply of teachers, and so on. Membership of such a teaching council would comprise all those with legitimate interests in education in schools who had contributions to make and who would further the objectives for which the council was set up—by which I do not mean exclusively teachers but those drawn from government, school governors, parents, employers and so on, so that it would be a broad-based body. It would be absolutely essential—I cannot stress this point too much —that the council should be prohibited from any involvement in matters such as pay and conditions of service, curriculum content (except in an oblique way), assessment or funding of institutions, which are properly the province of other bodies set up for the purpose and with which we are all familiar. The concept of a general teaching council which I have outlined has been given flesh in the 44-page report to which the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, referred. The noble Lord said that it is not a new notion; indeed, he pointed out that it goes back to the 19th century. Nor is it an untried idea. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, told us that it works well in Scotland and has done so for a quarter of a century. Only a fortnight ago I happened to be in Hong Kong and discovered that it was two years ago that that country established such a council. I did not raise the subject; it was drawn to my attention how well the council was working.

There are many, including teachers, who are concerned with the state of schools in England and Wales and who are firmly convinced of the value of such a general teaching council for England and the principality and of the possibility that such a council would offer to build a new partnership between government and those who teach. Therefore, although it would seem that in the mind of the Government the idea has not yet arrived in its timeliness, I feel confident that the value of such a council and its manifold benefits are such that the date of its coming into being cannot be long delayed. I believe therefore that it would be prudent to provide for that possibility in this wide-ranging and important Bill, which we are told is a landmark Bill for the schools. I am also certain that to do so would send a clear and very encouraging signal to the profession. It would have a revivifying effect on the morale of teachers, would enhance their commitment to their professional duties, so elevating their performance in their daily task, and would contribute to healing the relationship between the teaching profession and government, without which I believe further progress will be difficult.

In recent years the Government have been active in the updating and creation of other professional bodies, as we have heard. Reference has been made to the central council on nursing. No precedent will be created by doing the same for teaching in England and Wales. Indeed, I cannot think of any single decision which would cost so little and achieve so much in this area of school teaching. I commend this enabling amendment—it is nothing more than that—to the Committee without reservation. I hope especially that those sitting on the Government Benches will treat the matter with the great seriousness which I believe it deserves and give it some consideration. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield.

Lord Renton

The noble Lord, Lord Dainton, has made a powerful case—

Noble Lords

The Bishop!

6.45 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

My name is attached to the amendment, and in speaking to it I should like briefly to endorse what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Butterfield and Lord Dainton. I approach it from a slightly different angle. I sense that many parents, and the public generally, long for some breakthrough which will bring together the teaching profession and those responsible for the management and administration of the education system.

From time to time there has been posturing, politicising, suspicion and antagonism. To build a reliable education system, we need a teaching profession of self-respect and goodwill. As the new pattern of education gives more autonomy to schools —and rightly so—so, I suggest, it should give more autonomy to teachers. Many people ask for a new spirit of working together for the common good of our young people. A general teaching council could be just the start that we need. It could be the new forum for self-respect, responsibility and co-operation.

The education of our young people needs the goodwill, professionalism and dedication of teachers. They are crucial to the realisation of our hopes for the future. As the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, said, we all remember our teachers, either because they were imaginative, or because they were inspirational; but more often because they were eccentric. Usually we remember them because we detected their sense of dedication or vocation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Dainton, so properly referred. Teachers remain in our adult mind long after we have forgotten what they taught us. If we are to secure the goodwill of teachers we have to give them the opportunity for a degree of self-governance and self-responsibility. I believe that setting up a general teaching council could transform the present atmosphere.

For some time I was hesitant about a general teaching council. I thought there was a risk that it would be too political or that it might be simply a trade union in capital letters. But the proposals from the "shadow" general teaching council now in front of us are carefully honed and have consensus behind them. I even suggest that what has been put before us by that group of people is a modest olive branch, a carefully pruned olive branch rather than one plucked at random from a wild trade union tree. It has to be said that a general teaching council will not of itself solve all the problems that relate to the teaching profession. We must not have unrealistic expectations as to what it can achieve. Nonetheless, I am bound to say that I think it could be the basis for a breakthrough. I believe that all we need now is the goodwill of the Government. I hope very much that the amendment will be accepted.

Lord Glenamara

I warmly support this idea, not only on my own behalf but, I believe, on behalf of a great many of my colleagues. It has long been a goal of the teaching profession that it should have a fair amount of autonomy in professional matters; for example, on ingress to the profession and egress from it. When I was Secretary of State 25 years ago, I found myself taking decisions as to whether or not teachers who had misbehaved should be turned out of the profession. I always felt very much that that should have been a matter for the teachers themselves, not for the Secretary of State. It is a very old idea. The College of Preceptors started it at the beginning of the last century and, as the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, said, between the wars there was a body called the Royal Society of Teachers that was entirely voluntary. When the Second World War came, that body ceased recruiting. It had a fair amount of funds, and when I was at the DES I tried hard to track down those funds. I never succeeded; they are there somewhere, washing about Whitehall. So if the Treasury objects to this proposal, as it most certainly will, the noble Baroness could do a bit of detective work, find the funds of the old Royal Society of Teachers and use them for a pump-priming process.

Twenty-five years ago I set up a committee to plan the General Teaching Council—the Weaver Committee. All the teachers' bodies were represented and it produced a report. It was not a good report because it met considerable opposition from DES officials and they saw to it that it would not be an effective body. When the teachers' representatives reported back to their unions, one of the major unions rejected it. So that was the end of that.

My Scottish colleague, Willie Ross, Lord Ross as he became, was much wiser than I. He simply obtained the permission of the Cabinet to establish a General Teaching Council for Scotland. He went ahead and did it and it has operated satisfactorily ever since. Since then there has been a tremendous coming together of teachers' organisations and they have produced a plan for a General Teaching Council which I believe I am right in saying is now embodied in a non-profit-making company. That plan is therefore ready-made.

The proposal would give an enormous boost to a profession whose morale is at an all-time low—I doubt that anybody can deny that. The mass of legislation over the past few years has taken away from our teachers an enormous degree of professional freedom. They cannot decide what to teach; they can hardly decide how to teach. They are constantly being told how to teach. The Government's reforms have imposed that situation upon them and made their work extremely difficult. Can we not now be generous and restore something of their pride in their profession by giving them a fair amount of autonomy in professional matters? I implore the Minister to look seriously at the proposal to see whether she can accept it.

Lord Renton

The right reverend Prelate and all the Members of the Committee who have spoken have made out a strong case in favour of doing something along the lines of the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, following my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, was right to remind us that there has been a General Teaching Council for Scotland for over 45 years. I see no reason why there should not be one for England. I find it rather paradoxical that the teaching profession is the only learned profession in England and Wales which does not have to be registered and regulated.

As has been pointed out by no less a personage than the Regius Professor of Medicine, we have the General Medical Council in England and it works extremely efficiently. It is not a trade union. We have the British Medical Association, which is quite a different matter. If we had something along the lines of the General Medical Council for teachers in England and Wales, I am sure that it would not become a trade union. After all, teachers have the National Union of Teachers and various other bodies to act as pressure groups. Therefore my noble friend Lady Blatch need not fear that.

One could say a good deal more in support of what has already been said, but I wish to he brief. Although I agree with the purpose of the amendment, I cannot agree with the method proposed. First, it is a purely technical point. I do not believe that it is right to make this important separate matter a mere subsection of Clause 1. That is something which can easily he attended to. But we need to consider more than that. Parliament needs to lay down the qualifications that should be required for registration. For example, I should have thought that there should be required a university degree or whatever qualification is produced from the teacher training courses. There may be one or two other achievements which could be considered as qualifications. That should be mentioned in the Bill.

Another point arises. If we are to have regulation, which implies the body becoming a disciplinary body like the General Medical Council, Parliament should lay down the sanctions required for making it so. Merely to give the Secretary of State power to do that by making an order for registration and regulation of the teaching profession is not enough. I agree that it should be an enabling power. But it would need a lot of thought and a lot of working out. As for it becoming a Clause in the Bill, we need more than the amendment contains.

Having said that, I hope that my noble friend will not simply turn down the concept. I expect her to say that the amendment cannot be accepted for the reasons I have given. But I hope that she will keep an open mind as to the merits of its purpose.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

If my noble friend the Minister finds the amendment acceptable, I ask—taking on board, curiously enough, the point to which my noble friend Lord Renton referred—that consideration be given to its incorporation in a new Clause 1, to include only Clause 1(1) as it stands, the marginal note for reference being, The general duty of the Secretary of State to promote education". That and any other duties could be included in the new Clause 1. The new Clause 2 should merely include Clause 1(2) and (3) as amended under the marginal note, Regulation of schools and institutions of further education". The separation of the two concepts appears to be growing more and more apparent as we debate certain aspects of the Bill.

Baroness Young

I was interested to hear what the noble Lords, Lord Butterfield and Lord Dainton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford had to say. When I was Minister for Education I was interested in the whole question of a general teaching council. Most people who have taken an interest in educational matters have taken that view. I can therefore understand why they have decided to table the amendment. However, I should have thought that, generally speaking, it was outside the actual purposes of the Bill which are somewhat narrower.

I recognise all the other points raised by my noble friend Lord Renton. However, we must live in the real world and I detect a somewhat over-optimistic feeling that somehow all the difficulties could be resolved if we had one general teaching council in which all the matters currently affecting the teaching profession could be thrashed out. I should like to believe that. But I believe that the great issues of testing, which are fundamental to the Government's reforms and which I believe above all must be made to work, are hardly likely to be advanced in the present climate.

I accept entirely what was said by the right reverend Prelate regarding teachers, how much they influence people and their dedicated lives. One matter we need to address is the question of accountability. That is something that has been missing from the argument all the way through. I am not absolutely clear how that would work out in a general teaching council.

As for determining the standards and qualifications of teachers, one of the great worries—I regret that it is a worry—is the qualifications for teaching. I do not know whether it was the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Dainton, but certainly my husband, when he taught, found that quite a number of his pupils who read chemistry refused to take up teaching because they would be obliged to do a PGCE course which they regarded as a complete waste of a year. One can laugh but it is not very funny. It is very serious. I suspect that that still goes on.

There are a lot of serious issues to be addressed. I would not feel able to support this general amendment today as it stands, although, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, generally speaking I have some sympathy with it. It would need a great deal more explanation and detail given to it if it was to be acceptable to the Committee. I do not know what my noble friend will say in reply but I believe that it is an enormously large subject in itself and is not suitable to be put in the Bill as it stands.

7 p.m.

Baroness Warnock

I strongly support the amendment. It is an enabling amendment. It may well be thought that it is an unfortunate time to bring it forward when there is a fundamental conflict between the teachers and the Government which I certainly do not want to suggest is a minor matter than can be overcome easily. I can see that the present situation may be such that the Government are particularly unwilling to take on trust the professionalism, the good will and the knowledge of the teachers.

When I delivered the Dimbleby Lecture in 1985 I linked the idea of the introduction of a general teaching council to the idea of a great deal more in-school teacher training. That is something to which the Government are committed at the moment, and in my view absolutely rightly. The two concepts hang together. If teachers become more responsible for training the new members of the profession it seems only right that they should also have responsibility for the ethical standards and the commitment of members of the profession. If in the future the new system of training teachers is thoroughly accepted and is shown, as I am sure it will be, to have very important effects, that may well be the time when the Government may think it right to consider again the introduction of a general teaching council. Although the thought of a council may be somewhat peripheral to the Bill, nevertheless it is a chance to put in this enabling amendment so that in the future things may develop from there.

We should not think of the general teaching council as an expression of gratitude, forgiveness or anything else. We should regard it as the way to make teachers take responsibility and be accountable in the way that doctors take responsibility and are accountable because they have within their profession the standards that society expects. I believe that that is the way that we should go forward with the teachers, although I think that it would be very unlikely in the present circumstances for it to happen tomorrow.

Lord Elton

I do not apologise for detaining the Committee a moment longer because this is the principal point at which it is possible in the Committee stage to talk about teachers. It befits us to remember that we are legislating about the people who do the work. We are concerned about our children but we entrust them to the teachers. They are responsible for the future well-being of the entire nation and merely to brush them aside with a quick reference to the possibility of a general teaching council is perhaps discourteous.

I recall that when I told my father that I was going to start teaching he said that he could tell me just two things; the first was that it is the most exhausting profession in the world and the second was that you cannot teach people you do not like. It was a great spiritual exercise to try to increase the number of people I could teach. It is perfectly true that you can instruct people you do not like; you can drill people you do not like; you can inform people you do not like; but you can only teach people you like. We are talking about a profession which has to care in the real sense of the word. It is a demanding, whole time, exacting, draining job.

As to how its status should be enhanced, that is a difficult and important question. The profession has gone through a very difficult time in the past dozen or so years. At one stage it began to behave less like a profession and more like a trade. I am not apportioning blame in that because it was a complicated issue. The fact is that that experience tarnished the reputation of teachers, particularly with the parents of children who suffered the reduction of their life chances as a result. That ground has to be recovered.

People entrusted by Parliament with such a vital function deserve to be treated like a profession and must be encouraged to behave like one, which is why the idea of a General Teaching Council is an attractive one. I am not at all sure that this is the way to set about it. I agree with my noble friend Lady Young that we are here approaching a very large, sensitive and intricate subject. It is important that we should get it right. It should be approached on its own rather than be embedded in the Bill, attractive though the proposal of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway is. That would give it distinction but it might not give it the correct form.

I should like to put it on record from someone who was in the ranks of teaching for just 10 years and then left, admiring those I left behind, that they are doing a heroic job. There is a lot that has gone wrong. There is a great deal that will be put right by the legislation now going through the House. But the fact is that we owe them a great debt and they deserve the courtesy of careful consideration of the proposal, although, as I say, I think it should be approached in a different way.

Lord Howie of Troon

I wish to mention one brief point. We are talking here about the proposed organisation of what ought to be a profession. The point I want to take up is the one which I think was made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. He suggested that the registration, qualifications and so on of the teaching profession should be governed by statute. As it happens, I have some sympathy with that view but it is not a necessary condition for the organisation of a profession. The noble Lord must know, as we all know, that the great majority of professions are not regulated by statute. Some are, but most are not.

I recall that in 1980 the committee of inquiry of Sir Monty Finniston into engineering suggested that the engineering profession should be governed by statute. The government were adamant that it should not and that the profession should be self-regulating. As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, will agree, it is only a week or two ago that the Government announced that they intended to abandon the statutory registration of architects. Whether or not statutory registration is desirable—I happen to lean towards that view—it is not a necessary condition. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, should think again—if I have understood properly what he said.

Earl Russell

We on these Benches wholeheartedly support the amendment.

Baroness Cox

I have listened to the very persuasive arguments. I agree that there are many good, dedicated teachers but I also recognise that we live in the real world and not in an ideal world. I have two concerns about the amendment. First, the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, drew a parallel with the UKCC for nursing, midwifery and health visiting. I am of that profession. I am proud to be of a profession which puts patients and clients first. The largest professional body, the Royal College of Nursing, adopted a no-strike policy because it would never undertake any political action which would hurt those whom it was professionally destined to serve. Very sadly, over recent years the teaching profession has not adopted that approach. I suffered with my children and friends with children suffered when teachers went on strike over two years. We are dealing in a slightly different politicised context.

In the terms of concept of accountability, my noble friend Lady Young made reference to the fact that at present teachers are in the process of adopting policies of boycotting tests which may severely damage children's educational progress. Therefore I am afraid that we are dealing in a world of realpolitik. One question which must be asked is whether the establishment of another body which would have authority and would speak for the profession might not be of the same kind of leadership. I agree that the principles of professionalism, accountability, self-regulation and peer review are all absolutely crucial aspects of professionalism. Should the teaching profession establish its own general teaching council and were that to prove itself—as I would hope passionately that it would, because there are so many good teachers—to be a truly professional body, then that could achieve recognition. There would be an onus on the profession to show that it can behave professionally along the lines of, say, the nursing profession, treating the interests of children as the primary criterion. Then it might seek statutory recognition, rather than at this stage asking the Government to accept the amendment although it would obviously put great pressure on the Government to move forward in a direction which might be harmful to the interests of children.

Lord Judd

The Committee has to decide whether this is a strategic Bill taking us into the 21st century, or whether it is not. If it is a strategic Bill, it seems inconceivable that we can seriously endorse legislation which totally ignores the valiant contribution being made by the teachers themselves. Everybody who has read this Bill is amazed at the paucity of reference to the teaching profession, what it is contributing and how it can contribute. For that reason, and because we are totally convinced that a strong future must be built on a responsible partnership with the profession, we on these Benches strongly applaud this amendment and support it.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I wonder whether I may cast a further word of doubt on the wisdom of this amendment. I must confess that I have not had the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, with students who join the senate and immediately become more politically balanced, less aggressive and more helpful to the institution concerned. I have however spent some 10 years on the Council for National Academic Awards, where I have seen academics—I admit, higher education academics, not teachers—very much fighting their own corners in that forum and not at all really supporting the general aim of the council.

I appreciate that this is an enabling amendment. Before giving the amendment a fairer wind, one would have to press the question as to what qualifications really would be required for licensing by the new council. There, I am very sorry to say, I have to have the temerity to take issue with my noble friend Lord Renton—something I thought I would never be able, or indeed ever have, to do—who suggested that the present qualification of a teacher education degree would be a step in the right direction towards such registration.

I have been fairly close to the world of teacher education for 10 years. I am absolutely sure that it is one of the areas which is least helpful to our system of education as it exists today. So, finally, before deciding on the merits of this proposal—

Lord Renton

Will my noble friend allow me? I ask him to bear in mind that, although I mentioned a university degree and a qualification from the teaching training college, I did add that there might be other qualifications. For example, I have in mind the teachers who are specialising in teaching those who are mentally handicapped. They have a special training course of their own. I was not trying to close other people's minds.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I am justly rebuked by my noble friend and I appreciate what he says. But the area which I should particularly like to exclude is the modern teacher education degree from our modern teacher education departments in the universities and in what used to be called the polytechnics, and in the colleges where they exist.

As far as I am concerned, before finally deciding on the merit of this proposal, I would have to put a question to the proposers. They have obviously looked into the matter in much greater depth than many of us have been able to do. What percentage of existing teachers would the proposers expect the new teaching council to license ab initio? That would give one some idea of whether this is going to be a rigorous system for giving due credit to the best teachers in our land, whom we all respect, and doing its bit to weed out the worst, who do cause some problems.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I certainly do recognise and share the underlying anxiety to concern ourselves with the professionalism of teachers. Indeed, the Government recognised the professionalism of teachers when they set up the School Teacher Review Body. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that I can tell him now, right at the outset of this Bill, that, in discussing the 200 or so clauses of this Bill, we are not ignoring the commitment, professionalism and dedication of teachers. I have said many times, and I will say it once more, that as politicians we can pass legislation until we are blue in the face, but we are entirely dependent on the commitment, professionalism, dedication and hard work of the teachers. I would want to go on recognising that as often as I can.

The Government have no wish to deny teachers the right to regard themselves and to be regarded as professionals, or to organise themselves into a professional body. Indeed, the Secretary of State has recently commented that he is attracted to the notion of a Royal College of Teachers, or even several royal colleges as found in the health service, and mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield. We did in fact have, as has been said, a Royal Society of Teachers for a period of about 20 years until just after the Second World War. We should be quite content to see established a professional body of such a kind which would promote the status and professionalism of teachers and which we could talk to about matters of professional concern—a body whose primary focus would be issues other than pay and conditions. Such a relationship could function very well without being encumbered by a formal statutory role as proposed for a teaching council. But, I must stress that this is something for teachers to take forward themselves. It would not be appropriate for the Government to set up such a professional body.

I refer again to the mention made by the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, of the royal colleges. It is worth noting that there are a number of royal colleges in the health service; from large bodies like the Royal College of Nursing, referred to by my noble friend Lady Cox, which has nearly 300,000 members, to the Royal College of Pathologists, which has 5,000 members. None of these has a statutory function but each acts as a professional body to promote members' interests. Several see themselves as trade unions as well. Mostly, they represent a single occupational grouping. Some —for example, the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh —only represent that group locally. Royal colleges are still being set up. The Royal College of Anaesthetists was created in 1992.

The colleges represent considerable expertise in the fields in which they operate and are closely involved in education and training. Many have links with similar bodies in other countries. Being able to use the title "Member" or "Fellow" of a royal college is generally held in high esteem. Indeed, I noted the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, that I have followed in his tracks and done a bit of detective work to find out where the funds are. I too have drawn a blank. They are not sloshing around in Whitehall. The Royal Society of Teachers, not being a government sponsored nor a statutory body, was therefore a private body set up between and among professionals. It would be very helpful to find out what happened, because, so far as we know, we believe that it probably exists legally in a trust form.

I believe that my noble friend Lord Renton said that he was less concerned about trade union involvement in such a body. However, I must say to him that as regards the Professor Tomlinson organisation which has been set up, all the trade unions are subscribing as unions, not as individual professional teachers. As I have said, we believe that it must be for teachers themselves to address the benefit of a non-statutory professional body concerned with the status of the profession and matters of professional conduct. That would be somewhat different from what the noble Lords, Lord Butterfield and Lord Dainton, propose in their amendment to empower the Government to establish a general teaching council at some future date should they so wish.

The difference between us, therefore, is the distinction between a non-statutory professional body as opposed to a statutory professional body. That a body should be established to enhance the status and professionalism of teachers is not in question and is not a point of difference between us.

Given what I have said already and the fact that we have said that we stick by the advice and evidence that we gave to the Select Committee—it was Ministers who gave that advice, as well as officials—it would be dishonest of me to take a statutory power in this Bill which we have no intention of using. Therefore, I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

Lord Butterfield

I thank the Minister for her remarks. I am absolutely convinced in my own mind (and I believe that many Members of the Committee are in agreement with the idea) that somewhere along the line we must somehow find a body or bodies—statutory or non-statutory—to which the teaching profession, or fragments of it, can turn and of which they can be proud to be members or fellows.

I was impressed by the fact that the Secretary of State looked in on us to see whether we were behaving ourselves and not spending any money. When I saw him previously, it was made quite clear to me that action by the profession itself was his preferred solution. I should like to pay a tribute to him and to the noble Baroness for saying that they would like to have a debate about that on the Floor of this House without further ado. That is really the opportunity of which the noble Lord, Lord Dainton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and I took advantage. I hope that somewhere along the lines, when the dust has settled, we shall be able to return to this point. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, may bring back this issue towards the end of Committee stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Campbell of Croy

I rise to speak briefly on a matter which is different from those raised earlier in relation to the amendments. Clause 1 sets out clearly important responsibilities for the Secretary of State for Education in England and Wales. In 11 lines, Clause 1 mentions England and Wales four times. I am glad that that is stated because the Bill applies only to England and Wales. However, I have to tell the Committee that that is not widely enough known outside Parliament. Since the Bill was introduced I have been inundated with papers containing views and representations from organisations and members of the public who are under the impression that the Bill also applies to Scotland. At times my desk at home in Scotland has been covered with correspondence, much of it originating from within Scotland. In reply, I have been indicating, to the best of my ability, that their schools and their children in Scotland are not involved with this Bill.

I hope that my intervention now will help to clarify the situation. As the media have not tumbled to the separation of systems and functions, organisations and the public can be excused their misunderstandings. A principal cause of the confusion is the term "national curriculum" which has no application in Scotland. Perhaps it would have been clearer if that had been called the "curriculum for England and Wales" instead of using the word "national". In Scotland there is a Scottish curriculum. I feel obliged to point that out because, in all modesty, 20 years ago I, as Secretary of State for Scotland, made the first moves which led to the present Scottish curriculum.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way to me. I am trying to be helpful to him and not to confuse him by reminding him that there is a separate national curriculum in Wales, which only confuses the matter even further.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that point. The Bill covers Wales and some clauses deal specifically with Wales. I am dealing only with the misunderstandings that exist outside the House and I think that this is the moment for me to point them out to the Government.

Another source of confusion is that there are different teachers' unions in Scotland. That point arose in relation to the amendment that we have just discussed. The main such union is the Educational Institute of Scotland, the EIS. There is no argument going on in Scotland at present between the Government and teachers about testing pupils. None at all. However, the public in Scotland seeing the television news in the evenings can be forgiven for not knowing that. My home is in Scotland and people there are continually asking me about the Bill although it does not apply to them. May I ask the Government to do what they can to enlighten and elucidate especially the media? The Secretary of State for Education has no responsibilities for schools in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland and a whole department at the Scottish Office, the Scottish Office Education Department, have had the relevant functions for many years.

A few weeks ago the Government issued a White Paper on Scotland and the Union, much of which was occupied with setting out the departments of the Scottish Office and their functions. The aims of that White Paper will not be fully achieved unless opportunities are taken to draw attention to the separate systems and functions where they exist. I fully approve of Clause 1 in that respect and urge the Government to do more outside Parliament to help the media and the public to register and remember the fact that nothing in this Bill applies to Scotland and that neither the national curriculum nor the present disputes about the testing of pupils apply to Scotland.

Baroness Blatch

This intervention has taken me somewhat by surprise. There has been absolutely no pressure from the Scottish Office, my Scottish ministerial colleagues, Scottish Members of this House or members of the public about Scottish matters, but I am more than pleased to take any opportunity that is afforded to me to make the distinction between what is contained in the Bill as it applies to England and Wales and the provisions relating to Scotland. I should like to make the point that neither the Bill nor the present discussions and negotiations between the Government and English and Welsh teachers have any impact on the Scottish system. I do not think, however, that this is a matter for a clause stand part debate and I ask the House to accept that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I am grateful to my noble friend for her reply. My argument is helped by the fact that all parliamentarians understand this point, but the media do not because not enough trouble is taken to explain it. I produced examples relating to the national curriculum for the national press last week and for a Sunday national newspaper which showed that the media thought that the Bill applied to the whole country, but I shall not do so again now. As I have said, I think that more should be done and I hope that the Government will take my points on board when dealing with the media and disseminating information.

Baroness Blatch

All that I can say as an immediate retort to that is, "Oh, that I or my department had that kind of influence over the press".

Clause 1 agreed to.

Viscount Astor

I beg to move that the House be resumed. In moving this Motion, may I suggest that the Committee stage begins again at 8.30 p.m.

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

House resumed.

Back to