HL Deb 28 March 1994 vol 553 cc917-72

8.24 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 4.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 22: Page 3, line 18, at end insert: ("( ) No course in teacher training or teacher education at any eligible institution shall qualify for funding under this Part unless that institution publishes and makes available to each student undertaking such a course a prospectus providing details of the content and management of that course.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a simple and straightforward amendment and I cannot believe that the Minister will have any difficulty with it. It proposes that any course in teacher training or teacher education at any eligible institution will qualify for funding under this part of the Bill only if that institution publishes and makes available to all the students who might attend such a course a prospectus providing details of what the course is about, both in the way in which it is run and what its content might be.

All schools are required to have a prospectus under a previous piece of legislation and those prospectuses have to be lodged in public libraries. Higher education institutions always have a prospectus as well. It must be the case that students should have a right to know the details of any course on which they are about to embark or even to know the details of a course they are considering enrolling for. They should know a little about the components of the course, including what kind of teaching practice might be available and for how long; whether they will have tutorials; what kind of requirement there will be to undertake a piece of research or to write a short dissertation; how a course is run, including what kind of administrative support it may have; whether there will be mentor teachers, who are now increasingly being used; what kinds of lectures will be provided; and what the external higher education input might be to such a course.

At the moment, as the Bill currently reads, there is no mention of any requirement for a school providing teacher training to have a prospectus. The Government have, in their Citizen's Charter approach to such matters, required as much information as possible to be made available to students who are embarking on any

course in an institution of higher education. The same ought to apply with respect to teacher training that is to be carried out in the schools. I beg to move.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, as my name is to Amendment No. 23, which is grouped with Amendments Nos. 22 and 26, I should like to speak to it. I am quite encouraged by the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Peston, which was recently spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, but I do not think that Amendment No. 22 goes quite far enough. As the noble Baroness said, there is already a requirement for prospectuses to be published. I am not sure that the details of the content and management of the course, as set out in a prospectus, are sufficiently in evidence for students to find out exactly what they are going to be doing if they join one of these courses. Likewise, Amendment No. 26 in the name of my noble friend Lady Blatch hands the duty of saying what the details of the prospectus shall be over to the new teacher training agency. I am not entirely happy with that. I hope that when my noble friend speaks to her amendment she will be able to give some assurance of the degree of detail which the teacher training agency will require from governing bodies funding these courses.

I come to my own amendment, Amendment No. 23, which your Lordships will notice is exactly the same as the one I tabled in Committee and which I dare to hope may have inspired Amendment No. 22, to which I have already referred, and indeed the amendment in the name of my noble friend the Minister. I confess that some of the detail which my amendment asks for may be a little too exact. I shall be quite happy not to see displayed the teaching workload of those teaching the course and the number of hours worked per week. I shall also be prepared to see the workload of those teaching the course and any other activities relating to the course, such as the marking of students papers and so forth, not displayed. I put those in because I believe that it would not do students and the rest of us any harm to see exactly the workload of the teachers who are teaching these courses. I have a rather different view to that of many Members of your Lordships' house who speak for higher education in this country.

Paragraph (b) in my Amendment No. 23 reads: where appropriate, the amount of time which will be spent teaching students to teach children how to read and write English, and by what methods". Although that is very important, it is perhaps inappropriate in this particular amendment.

However, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to go a little further than she has gone in her own amendment in meeting the other items of my amendment. For example, it is important that a profile of the academic content of a course should be set out in reasonable detail. From my experience of these matters I believe that a student should know each fortnight what is going to be happening otherwise it is too easy for the institution and the academics to say, "We are going to cover this general area and goodness knows whether we shall be doing so this month, next month or whenever" or indeed, sometimes never.

By the same token it is important that the reading list should be on display so that students know what it is. It should be a matter of public record what the books are which they are expected to read and what slant, if any, there is in the reading list. Likewise, the names of the external examiners are important. In this area in the past there has been a certain amount of mutual back scratching between examiners examining one course and then having the professors or teachers of that course examining their own course, and so on. If that is not going on then there is no argument. The provision will simply be in the open for everyone to see.

it is important to know the publications of the people who teach these courses. If I were a student joining one of these courses II would want to know what my professor or lecturer had published. I know that it is now a requirement that teachers spend time teaching in schools. But it should be set out how much time they have actually spent doing so and in what schools. I do not believe that it would do any harm for students, thinking of joining a course, to be able to find out where their prospective lecturers and teachers had been and how successful they had been in carrying out the trade which they propose to impart to the students in question. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give me some assurance on these matters.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I rise briefly to support Amendment No. 22 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and to which the noble Baroness also spoke. There are three amendments covering similar ground. The noble Baroness championed the middle way, which is probably the most sensible course. It provides enough information for the students to get a rough idea of what they will be dealing with without being overly prescriptive. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is trying to tell them exactly what they should do, which I suggest would be more appropriate to people at primary school than for students who are supposed to be disciplining themselves to a degree. A certain element of flexibility must be built into higher education, or at least aspects of it, because situations have to be adapted as they occur. However, I shall be very interested in the reply which comes from the Government Front Bench.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Pearson who, at Committee stage, suggested that the provision of information for students should be dealt with in this Bill. This was an idea so obviously timely and wise that it is now the subject of no less than three alternative amendments; my own, that of my noble friend Lord Pearson and that moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone.

Openness about what is provided for students is an essential charter principle. It should be followed by all higher education institutions, including those which provide initial teacher training. To put this principle into practice, it is right that institutions should provide clear and detailed information about their provision to students and to applicants. We are setting in place arrangements to maintain a wide diversity of initial teacher training provision. For potential students to make an informed choice between courses at different institutions they need to have access to full and accurate information.

As I said in the debate in Committee, while I find much to commend in my noble friend's list of information to be provided, I do not believe that we shall be able, during the passage of the Bill, to give this matter the attention that it needs to ensure that we get all the details exactly right. I have no doubt that we would all want to add or subtract from the list. Nor could we amend such a list in the light of experience.

That is why I hope my noble friend will allow us to meet his point through Amendment No. 26, which requires the funding agencies to take steps to ensure that all providers of initial teacher training make available the information the agencies think appropriate. We have deliberately not specified the precise information to be provided, for the reasons I have just given nor have we specified the recipients. My noble friend's amendment covers only students enrolled on courses, while we want to be able to include potential students.

We believe that the funding agencies will be well placed to decide on the precise details of the information to be made available and to adjust that over time as necessary. They will no doubt wish to discuss this with the institutions concerned and other interested bodies. It would not surprise me if the requirements set by the agency have much in common with my noble friend's suggestion.

I recognise that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is an attempt to meet my point about flexibility. But it goes rather too far in another direction. Institutions would be under a direct obligation to provide details of the content and management of the course without any definition of what that means. The only test would be the view of the courts. We prefer to let the agency set specific requirements and enforce them as necessary through its funding role. The noble Lord's amendment also has the same limitation to students already on the course, not just those wishing to make an informed decision; in other words, potential students. But that is all pretty far fetched. I believe that the agency will seize with enthusiasm the opportunity to operate in this way.

We believe that the points made in my noble friend's amendment cover the kind of information which ought to be available to all students. It is right that they should have more than simply the content and management of the course as stated in Amendment No. 22. A profile of the academic content of the course is essential as is the amount of time to be spent teaching students to teach children how to read. That is part of the criteria which could be picked up in that way. The reading list proposed for the course is a very good point; certainly in view of some of the reading material which I have seen as part of teacher training courses. It is also important to know who the external examiners are and their suitability to do the examining.

In paragraphs (f), (g) and (h) of Amendment No. 23 my noble friend makes some interesting points about the workload of those teaching the course. If the student knew in advance what the workload was to be at least he or she would be able to make some judgment about those lecturers who do not turn up for lessons; a point made in letters which come to me, as the Minister, from students or students' parents who are pretty disgruntled at the laissez-faire attitude of some lecturers. If the details are set out in advance then students at least know what to expect. They will know something of the workload of the teachers teaching the course and about any other activities in which they are involved, so they know that they are going to be available to do the job of both teaching and assessment and the testing of the students.

The final point about the amount of time spent by the course teachers teaching in schools—especially as we go towards both school-centred and higher education teacher training—is important and should be covered. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will send a remit letter to the agency when it is established. It will be important that this aspect of the agency's work is addressed in that remit letter.

Again, I thank my noble friend for raising this issue. However, I hope that he and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, whose amendment was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, will not press their amendments, but will agree with my amendment, which is Amendment No. 26.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I thought that I was going to be able to agree entirely with what the Minister said, but as she continued I became slightly more concerned. I accept that precise details of the information that should be provided in prospectuses should not be on the face of the Bill and, for that reason, I cannot support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, although I accept some of the things that lie behind what he said. Nevertheless, it seems inappropriate to list such things in a piece of legislation.

What concerned me about what the Minister said was that it ignored the fact that school or higher education prospectuses are produced by institutions without there being some higher body to instruct those institutions about what to include. I feel that there should be some flexibility for the institutions in deciding what it is appropriate to cover. There are obviously a number of matters which any prospectus would cover and which I have no doubt that any institution concerned with teacher training would include. Under the Bill, such institutions will be school governing bodies. When the Minister said that she thought that the funding agency should require institutions to include in their information for prospective students matters such as the names of external examiners and the details of reading lists, I thought that was going a little too far. As any academic knows, reading lists have constantly to be updated and changed. They sometimes have to be updated and changed during the course of a single year. If we were to ask for such matters to be included in the information that is provided for students prior to starting such a course, that could lead to some confusion and difficulty because the information might have to be modified.

I cannot really believe that it is necessary for students to be told in advance who their external examiners will be. The names will not mean anything to most students. Again that is something that may have to be changed during the course of any one year because, for example, the prospective external examiner changes his or her job, leaves the country or whatever.

It seems to me, therefore, that the amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Judd and which I have just moved has some advantages over the Government's amendment because the information that prospectuses normally provide is clearly understood. They normally contain details of the courses that the students will take, the subjects that they will be asked to study, and how much teaching practice they will have to do. I am willing to accept that the government amendment is an improvement on not having anything at all on the face of the Bill, but I should like to put down a marker. I hope that, when it is set up, the teacher training agency will not end up being too prescriptive in the way that the Government have been—and have had to run away from—with respect to the national curriculum. However, I have no intention of pressing my amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 23: Page 3, line 18, at end insert: ("( ) No course in teacher training or teacher education at any eligible institution shall qualify for funding under this Part unless that institution publishes and makes available to each student undertaking such course:

  1. (a) the profile of the academic content of the course, set out so that each student shall have reasonable expectations as to what he will be required to study in each fortnight of the course in question;
  2. (b) where appropriate, the amount of time which will be spent teaching students to teach children how to read and write English, and by what methods;
  3. (c) the reading list which is proposed for the course in question;
  4. (d) the names of any external examiners appointed to report on the course to the institution at which the course is proposed;
  5. (e) the publications, if any, of those who are to teach the course;
  6. (f) the teaching workload of those teaching the course, giving the number of hours per week and the number of weeks per annum that teachers on the course are contracted to teach their students either in lectures or in tutorials or other small groups;
  7. (g) the workload of those teaching the course in any other activities related to the course, such as the marking of students' papers; and
  8. (h) the amount of time which the course teachers have spent teaching in schools, together with the names of the schools in question.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 23, I rise with great trepidation to take issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. I must tell her, in fact, that she is out of date with her objections to, at any rate, paragraphs (a), (c) and (d) of my amendment because these requirements were requirements of the validation procedure of the Council for National Academic Awards for many years and therefore—

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I was not objecting to those paragraphs of the noble Lord's amendment. I was more concerned about some of its other elements.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I was only going on the particular parts of my amendment which the noble Baroness chose to mention. I can assure your Lordships that none of these three items caused difficulties over many years in our validation requirements. I would certainly expect to see them in the letter which my noble friend has informed the House that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will in due course be writing to the teacher training agency.

As for the rest of my noble friend's reply to Amendment No. 23, I can but say that I am very grateful for the information that she has given us as to the guidance that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State may feel able to give. Upon the assumption that that guidance will indeed be given in, I think, something of the detail that is required by this amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Grants, loans and other payments]:

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 24: Page 3, line 46, at end insert ("and (c) to the needs of students having learning difficulties.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with Amendment No. 24, we turn briefly, as we did in Committee, to trainee teachers with disabilities. I appear to be going back to saying "please" to the Minister now, but I say straight away that this is a probing amendment which seeks reassurance that any assessment of the quality of ITT will address the needs of disabled students. It is very important that the TTA has a commitment from the outset to ensure that trainers have the appropriate arrangements in place and an ongoing commitment. Obviously, one cannot change things such as buildings overnight.

When I moved a similar amendment in Committee, I said that disabled students have limited choice because either buildings are not accessible or they find the course itself inaccessible. In her reply at col. 1666 of the Official Report, the Minister cited the practical help that is available in the form of disabled students' allowances and the HEFC's power to improve access. They are most welcome in themselves, but I leave it to other noble Lords who put their names to the amendment to explain briefly why they do not solve the problem.

In Committee, I also mentioned the concern about plans to replace the traditional four-year B.Ed with a new fast-track three-year course. I welcome the Minister's assurance—again at col. 1666—that all students with the necessary ability should be enabled to enter ITT and her recognition that students with disabilities may take longer to complete a course. However, I was not at all reassured when the Minister said that LEAs could be relied upon to fund the extra year. RADAR and SKILL have evidence that discretionary awards are increasingly difficult to secure and depend on the authority having the necessary funds.

Can the Minister give an assurance that colleges will be funded equally for their work with disabled trainees who take four years to complete a course and that they will be guaranteed access to funds for those students from the LEA?

I am not looking to put anything on the face of the Bill, but merely seek a commitment by the TTA to take account of the additional needs of disabled students in terms of any funding formula, and a reassurance that there will be no disincentive to enter teacher training.

I said that this was a probing amendment. Perhaps it would be better described as a "prodding" amendment because I hope to nudge the Minister into issuing guidance on this issue. A precedent exists because paragraph 26 of the Secretary of State's launch letter to the HEFC requires the funding council to facilitate access to higher education for students with learning difficulties. That followed an undertaking that was given in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness, during the passage of the Higher and Further Education Bill. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply, which I very much hope will be positive. I beg to move.

Baroness David

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment strongly. As the noble Baroness said, it is a probing amendment. We hope that we can get some sort of commitment from the Minister at the end of it about what guidance will be given. I hope that she is listening.

Baroness Blatch

Yes, I am listening.

Baroness David

I want to show that disabled people are grossly under-represented on courses and in the profession and that disabled students have much less choice in deciding which college or course to attend. Figures from UCCA over two academic years (1989-90 and 1990-91) show that disabled students on ITT courses accounted for only 0.7 per cent. of all students enrolled on university undergraduate ITT courses. The old PCAS (dealing with polytechnics and colleges) did not keep such statistics. A survey by RADAR in 1991 showed that teachers registered as disabled people accounted for only 0.1 per cent. of all teachers in 51 LEAs.

Few LEAs kept figures on the number of teachers who chose not to register as disabled people, but only 9 per cent. of the school buildings covered in the survey were built or adapted with the needs of disabled people in mind. I shall describe one case which is indicative of the problems disabled students face when choosing an ITT course. Christopher is 19. He is a wheelchair user who has cerebral palsy. The original B.Ed course of his choice was no longer an option as he discovered before applying that much of the campus was accessible but not the education department. His three subsequent preferences had to be vetoed. It took him three months to find a suitably accessible college. His choice though was dictated by access arrangements and not by academic preference. So disability organisations are calling for incentives to ensure that disabled people have wider scope for choice.

Clearly, disabled people have less opportunity to become qualified as teachers, and that is particularly sad as the Warnock Report which led to the Education Act 1981 saw them as the key to successful integration strategies. Can we have an assurance, as the noble Baroness asked, that that will be rectified by the new agency in terms of its formula funding and guidance to colleges? I remind the Minister that the code of practice says that all teachers should have some special educational needs experience. So for students who are trying to follow ITT courses to have other disabled students there would be very helpful in their own training. I hope for a very positive response, at any rate about the guidance to be issued, from the Minister.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, my name is to the amendment, as is also the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who has unfortunately been unable to stay because he has an important family commitment. He has asked me to say that he strongly supports what is behind the amendment and hopes to be able to read some encouraging news from the Minister when he receives Hansard tomorrow.

Many able candidates are denied the opportunity to take up a teaching career. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, they cannot physically get into some of the colleges to undergo the necessary training. Those colleges are also reluctant to take on students who may cost more in advisory services and who may need more spacious accommodation or teaching and learning materials—for example, in Braille —that are not normally used.

Colleges need to be encouraged to consider disabled candidates for teacher training alongside other potential candidates. It has to be recognised that a commitment to widening access to students with disabilities is often a financial commitment. As such, the impetus needs to come from the funding agency, the TTA. As the noble Baroness said, the Warnock Report highlighted the importance of disabled people playing their part in schools, especially now that pupils with disabilities are educated alongside other pupils in an integrated setting. It provides considerable education for life for able-bodied pupils to be taught by teachers with disabilities. They become accustomed to people with disabilities and being able to understand them and recognise the occasions when they need help. Able people with disabilities who want to train are unable to train because of their disabilities. That we need to avoid. The incentive needs to come from the TTA. I support the amendment strongly.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I support the amendment. The amendment relates, to the needs of students having learning difficulties". Basically, all we are saying is that we should give a little extra help to those students who require it. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, put the matter clearly. Some people need a little help with things such as access to buildings. That is usually comparatively easily achieved, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, said, unless we give a prod, people will not receive that help because it costs a little money, even if it is only for installing ramps on stairways.

When it comes to the restructuring of courses for people with different learning curves, because they need to use sign language, Braille or any other learning aid, we must ensure that pressure to change is applied to people, because they do not change unless some pressure is applied. It is usually only necessary to open the eyes of those involved to the possibilities of training other students. I hope that the Government will be able to respond favourably to the amendment, as they have to many other similar amendments.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I shall be brief for two reasons. First, I believe that I owe it to your Lordships to be brief because, having taken my eye off the prompt for a moment, I missed the noble Baroness moving the amendment. Therefore, out of courtesy, I shall not speak for too long. The other reason is that I always feel myself in difficulty when I ask people to think twice about doing something which would appear prima facie to be for the advantage of disabled people. I am a little puzzled by the use of language because, as the noble Baroness said, the amendment refers to "learning difficulties" whereas my noble friend is talking about disablement. It seems to me that there is a difference between the two.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I believe that the amendment is correct because people with disabilities usually have learning difficulties. They are not different things. One is the result of the other.

Lord Elton

My Lords, if it is that inability to get into a building to learn is a learning difficulty within the meaning of the statute, then I have no difficulty with that. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will bear in mind that the people for whom all this legislation is being drawn up, and who must always have first call, are the children, and that where it is to the advantage of children to be taught by someone with a disability, that is fine, but one should never use a school as a means of giving an advantage to someone because they are disabled to enable them to teach, for their benefit.

I see that for a deaf teacher to teach deaf children is to produce something valuable all round, especially for the children, but teaching is a difficult job. I merely ask my noble friend to bear in mind that what we are seeking is the best education we can provide for the children who are to be taught. I hope my credentials of taking the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill through the House and my sympathy for the disabled are good enough for me to say that, without appearing hostile to them.

9 p.m.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, does he not agree with me that someone who is disabled because he has a spinal injury therefore has a learning difficulty because he has difficulty getting into the building? But he may very well make an extremely good teacher of history, mathematics or a language. Therefore, he would be a better teacher than an able-bodied teacher who is not so good at teaching those subjects.

Lord Elton

My Lords, obviously a teacher who teaches better than another teacher is the better teacher. I accept that there may be occasions when disabled teachers—if disablement is the right word in these circumstances—may have an advantage. I am merely saying that it is the excellence of the teacher as a teacher, with or without the disablement, which must count because it is the education of the children that is important.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I support the amendment, but rather like my noble friend Lord Elton, it may be that I did not quite understand what it is about. I saw the amendment as a neat and logical follow up to Amendment No. 11 which the Minister moved and which was concerned with special needs. It was suggested that there should be members of the teacher trainer agency who have expertise in that area. I thought that if such people were to be represented on the agency, the funding that goes with that should be available. Such provision has been missing for a long time.

We have heard already from the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, about literacy. I interpreted the amendment as a move towards rectifying that situation. Although I agree with much of what I have heard, I did not understand that the amendment was in connection with disabled teachers. I did not follow that. Perhaps I have got the wrong end of the stick. However, if I have not got the wrong end of the stick, I strongly support the amendment. I believe that the two references in the Bill which provide that special attention be given to children with special needs are extremely important. They are advisory measures and do not force anyone to do anything. However, they mean that the problem—and it is a major problem—is kept under review by those who must administer the system.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I must admit that I too had some difficulty as regards the wording of the amendment. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Elton for pointing out that there is a distinction to be drawn. A person with learning difficulties is generally understood to mean somebody who has difficulty with learning. They may be slow learners or may have limited abilities and potential for learning. I am not certain that they are the most suitable people to be teaching children.

On the other hand. we understand that students who wish to enter the profession may be thwarted from doing so because of difficulties as regards access. That may be in connection with access to courses as well as physical access to buildings.

Lord Addington

My Lords, in the past people have been considered to have a learning difficulty whether it was a difficulty in movement, which may give them a learning difficulty, or a difficulty in acquiring learning. If we go down the path suggested by the noble Baroness, we shall be entering new territory. Somebody who has lost a limb may as a result of that have learning difficulties. I believe that the noble Baroness is now using a new definition of that term. I know that the noble Baroness has been helpful in the past in this regard but I believe that we are moving towards new territory.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I should like us all to be clear about what is meant here. The amendment refers to students with learning difficulties. I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) and my noble friends Lord Elton and Lord Radnor are saying. We want the young people who are being trained to be teachers of our children to be effective. They may be prevented from entering the profession because they have a physical disability and there are no physical facilities which allow them access to the buildings. Some young people—for example, ethnic minorities—may need extra help to arrive at the stage at which they can take full advantage of the courses. I agree that those problems need to be addressed. Therefore, I wish to be sure about what we mean when we talk about a student with learning difficulties. A child with a learning difficulty may not grow up to be a suitable person to teach children.

I fully understand the concerns which have led the noble Baroness and her supporters to table Amendment No. 24, and I hope I can offer her the reassurance that she seeks. We fully accept the need for the agency to be sensitive to and take account of special educational needs not only as they affect school pupils but also students with learning difficulties. Indeed, that is one reason why we used a suitably wide definition of persons with special educational needs in support of the amendment on membership which we have already debated.

The need for wide access to the teaching profession, and for flexible approaches to training in order to encourage that, are central to our policies for teacher education. We want the best teachers—those with the right personal qualities and abilities to help their pupils reach their full potential. Such people will come from a range of backgrounds and may well include those who have tackled learning difficulties of their own in order to reach the necessary standard for entry to teacher training.

My right honourable friend's latest criteria for teacher training, because they focus on the cornpetences which new teachers must have acquired rather than course content, are designed to encourage a flexible approach which can readily be adapted to meet the needs of students with learning difficulties. I know there is concern that a shorter course length, for example, might not be so appropriate for students with such difficulties. But whatever length of course institutions choose to offer to the generality of their students—arid I believe shorter courses will prove popular and cost-effective—they will be able to make whatever special arrangements they feel are necessary for those whose progress is slower than the average.

I know that the noble Baroness wants us to make clear that the amount and quality of access for students with difficulties should be one of the factors which the agency needs explicitly to consider in making its judgment about which institutions to fund, and that it may make additional funding available to help courses meet that aim.

I am sure that we shall indeed want to remind the agency—as we reminded the funding council in its launch letter—of the need to pay careful attention to the issue of access for students with disabilities. Indeed, I shall go one step further, and give the noble Baroness an assurance that that kind of guidance will be given to the agency. Like the Council, the agency will be able to use its funding powers to that end. Action on access issues certainly fits well with the objective of promoting teaching as a profession. The agency would not be able to pursue the objectives of high standards and cost effectiveness if it did not encourage good students with a vocation, and the ability to do well as a teacher, to enter the profession. Informed by Ofsted's evidence of how these issues are handled on the ground, institution by institution, I am sure that the agency will be a further force for improvement in this important area.

I was asked by the noble Baroness to give an absolute guarantee that long courses would be funded. I am not able to give such an absolute guarantee because I would, for example, be trying to give a guarantee for, say, a local authority which may be funding a course. Four-year courses will continue and the appropriateness of the course to the needs of a student must also be taken into account. All I can say is that, where provision is made for someone who will need an extended course for one reason or another, I am absolutely certain that that will be taken into consideration. However, for all sorts of legal reasons, I am not allowed to give a guarantee that that would be the case.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her full reply. I was absolutely delighted to hear the firm commitment that she gave that something like the launch letter to the funding council will go out in guidance. I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that I am glad for his sake that he missed my opening speech. However, I actually said that all I was looking for was guidance as regards the amendment. The guidance to the HEFC has in fact proved to be most useful according to SKILL. Therefore, the Minister has given a very valuable assurance. I should like to thank all noble Lords for their support.

It seems to me that we are in a terrible muddle as regards the definition of "learning difficulties". If one looks back to the 1981 Act, it will be seen there that a student has a special educational need if he has a learning difficulty. He has a "learning difficulty", first, if he has a physical disability which prevents him from making use of the buildings and, secondly, if he has more difficulty learning than other pupils of his age. I cannot remember the third qualification.

The noble Baroness mentioned ethnic minorities. The whole point of subsection (4) is that you do not have a learning difficulty if you come from a family whose language is not English. That shows the whole dottiness of the definition. In higher and further education, reference is not made to special educational need; reference is made to a learning difficulty.

However, the latter equals special educational needs. I apologise for lecturing and shall now stop doing so. As I said, we are all in a terrible muddle. I thank the Minister again for her most positive reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 [Provisions supplementary to s.5]:

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 26: Page 4, line 31, at end insert: ("( ) In exercising their functions a funding agency shall take such steps as appear to them appropriate to secure that the governing body of any institution which provides a course of initial teacher training funded by the agency makes available such information relating to the course, in such manner and to such persons, as the agency may require.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the above amendment was grouped with Amendment No. 22. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 27: Page 4, line 32, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the above amendment was grouped with Amendment No. 3. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9 [Joint Exercise of Functions]:

The Bishop of Guildford moved Amendment No. 28: Page 5, line 44, at end insert: (" ( ) The Higher Education Funding Council for England shall not permit the Teacher Training Agency or any other relevant funding body to exercise on their behalf their functions under section 65 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.").

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 rise out of the concern of the voluntary colleges, especially the Church colleges, that they may, in effect, be severed from the Higher Education Funding Council. The Church colleges of education began as teacher training institutions but, over the years, they have diversified and many of them now have about half of their students undertaking education courses with a view to teaching and about half doing other higher education degrees.

The colleges are essentially part of the higher education provision, they intend to remain there and they want to be recognised as being there. They do not wish to be seen as a mere subdivision of higher education. I believe that the colleges of education will be content if the Minister can assure the House that teacher education will not be divorced from higher education; that funding for teacher education will be proportionately as favourable as for other higher education courses; and, that there will be no severance of the colleges from the HEFC.

The anxiety is that the Higher Education Funding Council might, in the interest of co-operation—which, of course, is important—delegate all its functions to the teacher training agency and so cut off the colleges from day-to-day contact with the HEFC. It is because of that concern that I look to the Minister for some assurance. I beg to move.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I should declare an interest because I am a governor of such a college as we are discussing; namely, Westminster College in Oxford. I think this amendment of the right reverend Prelate is helpful. It demonstrates how valuable it is to have in our midst the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, with his experience. Incidentally, if he reads Hansard, he will discover that I was not trying to get at him or his amendment earlier in our discussions today. I was discussing a government amendment that purported to deal with his area of concern. However, this is a very real issue for a place such as Westminster College. We are hearing from the heart of the operation and it will be of great relief and great significance to many people who are giving dedicated service in such colleges to hear the Minister utter, if possible, reassuring comments tonight.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, Clause 9 as drafted is designed to allow the range of funding bodies covering schools, and further and higher education in England and Wales, to work together where that would be more efficient or effective. It does not allow any funding body to delegate its functions to another. Therefore, Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 would have no effect.

I can assure the right reverend Prelate that his concerns are groundless. For the great majority of Church colleges in England the teacher training agency will provide only part of their grant. The rest will come from the Higher Education Funding Council. It will not be possible under the Bill for the council to say to the agency, "We are the minor funder so you must take over the funding for, say, humanities degrees at such and such a college". The agency would have no power to comply. In addition, the council will remain just as accountable to Parliament and the Secretary of State for its grant payments to Church colleges in future as it is at present.

There may, of course, be cases where a college wishes to diversify its provision and move away from a mainly teacher training role. In that event, it would approach the Higher Education Funding Council in future exactly as at present. Again, as now, the council would have to look at any request on its merits and in the financial and student number context of the higher education sector as a whole, of which all Church colleges will remain part. The council could not say "You are an agency college so we cannot consider this proposal".

Another area where we envisage valuable continuity is with the Advisory Committee for the Church Colleges. The Higher Education Funding Council has itself proposed that this committee should in future advise both the council and the agency. I see considerable merit in this kind of co-operative development and I hope and believe this proposal by the council will command general support in your Lordships' House.

Let me leave noble Lords in no doubt that I wish to see the voluntary colleges continue to play the important role which as specialist providers of teaching training they have played in the past. I would hope that the very fact that there is to be a specialist funding agency in this area will give colleges every assurance that their particular contributions will be recognised.

I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate is concerned that the Higher Education Funding Council could give up any responsibility for Church colleges. That is far from the case. The council will continue to have lead responsibility for most Church colleges. We envisage that it will only be a handful of colleges where the agency would take over lead responsibility during 1995. Lead responsibility here in any case means essentially the performance of light touch monitoring. I can assure the right reverend Prelate that there would be nothing to fear in the agency having this role. Colleges should not notice any significant difference. The funding council simply cannot delegate this function and the agency simply cannot accept it. I hope these reassurances will be helpful to the right reverend Prelate. As I said, the amendments are unnecessary both in practice and in law.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that response. I shall certainly want to study what she said and get in touch with the Church college representatives. However, as I understood her reply, it gave us all the assurances that we were hoping for. I am immensely grateful to her for responding so fully. 1 beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Efficiency studies]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 30: Page 6, line 5, after ("person) insert ("approved by the Audit Commission").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 31. The teacher training agency will be involved with schools providing initial teacher training courses. Many of those schools, especially primary schools, will be funded directly by local education authorities for their normal activities. Local education authorities are already subject to regular efficiency studies by the Audit Commission and the district auditor, as are the schools. In providing teacher education courses, schools will of course be using two separate budgets—one for the school and one for the course.

Schools are still in the early days of managing their budgets, as the Audit Commission report Adding Up the Sums reveals. With the experience it is gaining, the Audit Commission has an indispensable role in monitoring and advising the teacher training agency on its own efficiency and on the best types of efficiency study which should be carried out in relation to schools.

When we put forward an amendment along these lines in Committee the noble Baroness was fairly robust, as is her style, and responded in the following manner. I hope she will forgive me if I quote her words. She said: Equally, [the TTAJ may want to do work, such a s a study of good purchasing practice like the one recently published by the HEFCE, which may be better done by another body. Because of that unduly restrictive constraint, 1 hope that the amendment will not be passed".—(Official Report, 10/3/94; col. 1674.)

I hope that in looking at the draft of our amendment tonight the noble Baroness will see that we have gone out of our way to meet her anxiety. This amendment certainly leaves the teacher training agency free to choose from a range of approved bodies. I beg to move.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I wonder whether we are not becoming a little obsessed with accreditation or validation. I am open to correction because I am not familiar with all the activities of the Audit Commission, but I am not at all sure whether it is in the business of an accreditation agency to approve particular individuals for this kind of work.

It is clear that the funding agency may want somebody to examine a specific institution in terms of efficiency. That person may be an efficiency expert, an accountant, or someone of that kind. The Audit Commission itself is able to undertake such studies, and, if we are talking about studies of an entire field, then that makes perfect sense.

If the amendment were accepted the Bill would read: A funding agency may arrange for the promotion or carrying out by any person approved by the Audit Commission of studies designed to improve economy, efficiency—… or operations of an institution". The Audit Commission could be very busy approving all kinds of individuals up and down the country if the funding agency wanted efficiency studies to be made of individual institutions. I am a little uneasy about that aspect, which seems to leave a great deal of power in the hands of the Audit Commission in relation to very specific operations.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 seek to narrow the scope for investigation by the agency in an unfortunate and, I believe, undesirable way. This is not a major area of the agency's functions, but it is entirely right for the agency to be able to commission value for money studies by the right person into the appropriate area of work of an institution.

There is no question of the agency intruding into matters which are not its business, but it will have wider funding responsibilities than simply initial teacher training. Even in order to conduct studies into the teacher training operations of an institution it would be necessary to look at much more than the course itself. If there is an efficiency gain to be made, it may lie outside the training course and the course may stand to benefit as a result. For that reason, Amendment No. 31 would be unduly restrictive in confining studies to teacher training courses.

Amendment No. 30 is even more tightly drawn. It would mean that the agency could turn to just one source when planning to conduct an efficiency study. That is a poor look-out, not because people approved by the Audit Commission will necessarily be poor, but because it creates a monopoly and monopolies are generally best avoided. I am sure that it would be right for the commission itself to tender for some of the studies funded by the agency, but it would be wrong for it to have an absolute monopoly over who does the work.

Amendment No. 30 would also be restrictive compared with the freedom which we gave to the Higher Education Funding Council in the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. The Council has made good use of that flexibility, as evidenced by the study of good purchasing practice which it recently published.

I hope that, in the light of that response, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Baroness is so unyielding on this point. I hope that we shall not live to rue a lack of insight here.

First, I should like to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. We are dealing with a suggestion in the Bill itself relating to the arrangements that an institution may want to make. We merely go on to suggest how those institutions might be advised and monitored.

The point is that the Audit Commission already has insight and wisdom about what is happening. It seems a great shame to waste that. It also has to be recognised that there will be a vast range of institutions up and down the country which will be able to make their own more or less off-the-cuff decisions about who they will commission to do certain work for them. When that wisdom is available it would be a great shame to waste it by not calling it into play and asking those who are already so experienced to have a look at the people who are being proposed and to say whether those people are suitable and they are happy with them. That would provide some shape and reassurance about the whole operation.

I have a fear that the situation will get out of control and that some years down the road we shall find that very convenient bodies have been asked by certain institutions to undertake surveys, and so on. Because they will not be challenging or professional enough and will not have sufficient insight, I believe that they may be deliberately invited—perhaps not overtly but tacitly —with such an assessment in mind.

Our amendment would have met the need for high standards. I hope that the Minister will consider the seriousness with which we put it forward. It involves maximum flexibility; all sorts of people can undertake the work; but they must be approved. That is the only factor that we suggest. I hope that the Minister will consider the matter again and return to the issue at Third Reading.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the noble Lord spoke of hundreds of institutions commissioning research. Under the Bill it is only the agency which can commission such studies, not hundreds of institutions.

Lord Judd

My Lords, if the Minister considers the amendment, it states, approved by the Audit Commission". That does not suggest that the Audit Commission has a static list of people who are its agents. It provides that, if the institution proposes someone, that person or organisation will be approved by the Audit Commission.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it is an important point. That was not the point to which I responded. I responded to the noble Lord. He waved his arms about saying that there would be hundreds of institutions or many institutions up and down the country commissioning research. For the purposes of the Bill we are talking about only the agency commissioning research. In his amendment, the noble Lord is not prepared to take on trust that the agency will commission research from an appropriate body. He insists that one organisation, and one organisation only, shall have accreditation rights over any body which the agency wishes to commission.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I take the point that the Minister makes. The Government are completely mesmerised about the over-centralisation of everything into the one agency, so I doubt very much whether her officials in the department will have time to work out who will do what in every institution up and down the country. The Minister laughs, but she knows perfectly well how matters operate. A few years down the road I am sure that one will have various institutions suggesting that this or that organisation might do a little survey. That is what occurs. Then her officials will be overburdened with monitoring the situation.

We say that there is a perfectly adequate, highly respected organisation with much insight operating in the field already. We could have maximum reassurance that the matter was being undertaken properly with a great deal of flexibility. A great deal of wisdom could be brought into play, with good comparisons being made. Our amendment would ensure that there was proper quality and reliability in the future.

However, the Minister is not prepared to yield tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment this evening. However. I hope that she will consider seriously the point that we make. I do not like to allude to it, but already we know that there are anxieties in the sphere of secondary education about what is being encountered as people take more responsibility for managing their own affairs. We are building on a secondary education system which is already encountering difficulties. I do not believe that there is room for complacency. We have to take seriously the danger that there are people who do not have adequate experience or the right background to understand the issues with which they are dealing as regards management and so on. The public is entitled to be reassured that we take seriously the need for high standards.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

Clause 11 [Power of schools to provide courses of initial teacher training]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 32: Page 6, line 18, after second ("school") insert ("in consultation with the teaching staff of the school").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 32, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 33 and 34.

The three amendments relate to consultation with teachers, parents and governors, and the holding of a ballot. I begin with Amendment No. 32. Governing bodies, under pressure from the TTA and in the light of possible financial incentives, need to be made aware of the need to ensure that all the teaching staff, not just the head, are consulted on the feasibility and desirability of providing initial teacher training courses. The provision of ITT will impact upon teachers' conditions of service and contractual arrangements.

As it stands, the initial training of teachers is not one of the specific professional duties of a teacher set out in the statutory teachers' pay and conditions document. In 1993 the Secretary of State asked the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) to recommend that it should be so included. However, the STRB determined to examine the full implications of the proposal for its next report, which cannot now be operative until 1995. It is, therefore, imperative that teachers are consulted.

Teachers will quite rightly want to know what arrangements will be made for their preparation and training as the mentors of student teachers, whether and how additional responsibilities will be remunerated and whether and what additional non-contact time they will be given for intensive work with student teachers and to support student teachers in the planning and evaluation of their teaching. Governors will need the views of the teaching staff on the feasibility of undertaking a range of wholly new and intensified responsibilities.

Undertaking the responsibility for the training of adults as teachers is a very different activity from teaching children. Teachers have not in general been trained as mentors of student teachers, nor generally have they the breadth of expertise and understanding in relating the practice of teaching to the theoretical framework that underpins it.

For other teachers there will be new administrative and managerial responsibilities, involvement in the personal and professional counselling of student teachers and liaison with higher education institutions and the TTA. Existing job descriptions will have to he renegotiated. A proposal that a school should undertake an ITT will have a radical effect on the current job description of teachers. Teachers must therefore be consulted before the governing body makes such a decision. It is appropriate for this to be confirmed in legislation.

I turn to Amendment No. 33. During our debates in Committee the Minister argued against the amendment which I moved which sought to make schools provide teacher training courses subject to the procedures for a significant change of character under the Education Reform Act 1988 and the Education Act 1993. The Minister said on that occasion: In the light of our wider reforms … I do not think that any school would embark on a school-centred scheme unless it were able to convince and in due course demonstrate to local parents that the effect would be beneficial to their pupils".—[Official Report, 14/3/94; col. 36.] The first amendment ensures such consultation takes place by, at the very least, providing those affected with information relating to the proposals so that comments can be made before final decisions are made.

The second amendment relates specifically to consultation with parents. The Bill contains no requirement on the governing body to consult with parents before a partnership scheme is introduced. Parents need to be consulted for the following reasons (I gave these when I was trying to move the: change of character amendment); the scheme could mean a significant change in the timetable; classes could be subject to higher teacher turnover because mentor teachers will have increased time out of the classroom; a significant number of student teachers will be in schools and classes; parents should be forewarned of any teacher training scheme before the course is introduced so that they are able to raise questions and concerns with the school. I can say that the wording of this amendment is in line; the phrasing is taken from Schedule 2, paragraph 6, to the 1992 Act.

Amendment No. 34 deals with a possible ballot. All parents should receive an annual report. Motions can be passed at the school's annual parents meeting if 20 per cent. of the registered parents attend. However, the reports and meetings usually take place in the summer and early autumn term and are only required annually. A teacher education course may be introduced before the annual report can be considered. There must be a mechanism for parents who object to the school itself providing a teacher education course if their fears are not allayed by any consultation that may occur.

The Minister argues that in setting up a teacher education course, governors will not take such a decision without considering the views of all concerned—those of the teaching staff and parents in particular. Both groups are of course represented on the governing body and will be well able to make their views known".—[Official Report, 14/3/94; col. 36.] However, the Government provided the mechanism of a parental ballot in previous education Acts and this amendment reflects the importance of parents' views, which the Minister acknowledged during Committee stage. I hope that the Minister will agree that this change justifies a ballot if sufficient parents so request.

Again, similar wording has been used in this amendment relating to the ballot procedure relating to GM status in Section 26 of the Education Act 1993. So I hope that the Minister will back up the words that she spoke in Committee and will be agreeable to getting the parents' and the teachers' views, and allowing them if necessary to go to a ballot. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am happy to support this group of amendments. If a school takes on the responsibility for initial teacher training, it will be taking on quite a big responsibility. In fact, it will produce a change in the character of the school that is very like the concept of change of use in planning law. It will be very different afterwards from what it was before.

It is common knowledge that at the moment schools are pretty heavily burdened. Taking on initial teacher training will create a demand for space, which is not something that many schools have too much of. It will create a demand for library facilities. I do not think that the Government have any idea whatsoever of quite how inadequate most school libraries are at the moment. I know about this. It is a matter about which we ask every entrance candidate who comes to us for interview. If schools take on initial teacher training, a very large slice of the library budget, which is already minuscule, will necessarily be taken up by the new responsibility. I shall not dwell upon the point about teachers' time. That is obvious enough.

In response to the changes there will be a big risk that the staff of the school will, as it were, play with the new toy. They will be excited by the new responsibilities —possibly at the expense of the old. Indeed, even if that does not happen, there could well be a perception among parents, and even more among the children, that people are more excited by the initial teacher training than they are by looking after the children. If such a perception were to gain ground it would be a very grave handicap to conducting any initial teacher training in that school. That is why the procedure laid down by these amendments is quite important. It is vital that consent should be got beforehand; and that the whole school, including the children, should feel involved in what is being done and should feel a will to co-operate with it and to share responsibility for it.

It is rather like the situation of a GP who is a senior lecturer in clinical medicine. He has his students in while he is seeing patients; but if he is a good GP—as mine is —he regularly asks their consent before he does so. That, again, is quite vital to making any procedure work. We have been used through previous education Acts to seeing a great deal of development in the standing of parents in schools. That is not a party issue, certainly not in principle—and certainly not, I hope, in relation to this amendment.

We also all agree that ultimately the interests of the children in the school must come first. If they do not consent beforehand, the schemes simply cannot work. That is why I believe that these are rather important amendments. I hope that the Minister will accept them.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I suppose that with a great effort of imagination one can just conceive that a school with parent governors would undertake to become a school of this nature without involving the parents and obtaining their agreement. It is a degree of folly which is difficult to imagine, but I suppose that one has to provide for the unimaginable in legislation. I should not have thought it was necessary. I say that in regard to the second amendment.

The first amendment suggests that it might be within the grasp of the school—whatever a school is, if the teachers are not included—to embark on one of these schemes without the support of the teachers who have to do the work. I find that incomprehensible. I do not feel that Amendment No. 32 could possibly be needed and I doubt whether Amendment No. 33 is required.

I believe that we disposed in Committee of the question as to whether this was a change in the character of the school and decided that it was not. To an extent I sympathise with the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that there would be, for instance, a greater reliance on the resources of the library. But I hope that, when the school prudently went to the parents to talk about it, it would be pointed out that the school would be getting more money which could be spent on the library to meet that call. I hope that my noble friend will not call up such a vast engine for what will perhaps be no use at all.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I hope that I can take as read what the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said and perhaps the noble Lords on the Opposite Benches will agree with him. My understanding is that they are far from agreeing and addressing the needs of parents. Those parents who have opted for self-governing status would not enjoy that status if either of the noble Lords' parties were to come to power. So much for saying that parental wishes should be properly recognised and addressed.

I recognise that these amendments do not have quite so many serious defects as the amendment moved at the last stage which sought to align the decision to run a course of teacher training with a significant change in the character of the school. But they are no more appropriate, building, as they seem to do, on provisions which relate to school inspections and the acquisition of grant-maintained status.

Taking first Amendment No. 32, it requires the governing body wishing to provide a course of training to do so, in consultation with the teaching staff of the school". Of course, it will be quite impossible for any governing body to run a course of training without the full and wholehearted co-operation of the staff of the school. They will be involved in a number of ways: the staff representatives on the governing body, those involved in course design and those involved in teaching and supervising the students. But the responsibility for providing the course must rest with the governors alone, as the clause secures. That gives us the clear line of accountability that we need. The amendment would either be meaningless or blur that clear line.

Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 require consultation with parents and others, and make arrangements for a ballot to be requested, before a school can provide a course. We must not get the provision of a course of teacher training out of perspective. It is an important matter. But the way in which the school is run and funded, the number and nature of pupils it will accept and the obligation on governors to offer all children access to a curriculum which meets the requirements of the law and spend their entire school budget to that effect are all completely unaffected by the running of a school-centred course.

It is those matters that require consultation before schools become self-governing or change their character. In the case of a school inspection, it is the central question of how the school caters for its pupils which is at issue. But in this Bill we are talking about activities which must not detract from the school's central purpose but can and will enhance its strength.

I am confident that governors will volunteer to take on this new task only when it benefits the school as a whole. With the spotlight increasingly on standards, with greater choice for parents—

Lord Judd

My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to intervene at this point. Is she saying that there will be no disruption when the headmaster of Harrow has withdrawn from a partnership agreement because he says that it is so disruptive to the ongoing teaching by staff in his own school? What sort of nonsense is the Minister talking?

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I totally refute the accusation that I am talking nonsense. I ask the noble Lord to come with me to witness school-centred courses and see the impact, which is not negative and disruptive but positive, and the beneficial aspects of the life of the school. Indeed, governors, staff, parents and heads would not go along with the process if it were as the noble Lord said. The noble Lord has been bigoted and biased against grant-maintained status and school-centred training. He is simply hurt that we happen to be winning the argument.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I thank the Minister again for giving way. I have already said this evening that I shall be delighted to go with her. I hope that she will agree to come with me to see some of the schools where quite the contrary conclusion has been drawn.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am talking of school-centred teacher training, which is what we are discussing here. I am talking about schools which are precisely operating under the conditions we would like other schools to operate under if the Bill should become law.

As I said, it is notable that the noble Baroness only wants these extra requirements to apply to schools providing their own courses; schools which, as now, put considerable effort into working as partners with higher education courses will not be affected. Those are the schools that the noble Lord wishes me to visit. I wish him to visit the schools where there are proper school-centred courses.

It appears that, as with many of the other amendments before us, these are motivated by a desire to put further obstacles in the way of schools which want to take the initiative in this respect. I hope that they will not be pressed. But if they are, I hope the House will reject them.

I have not dwelt on the technical defects of the amendments. As I explained, Amendment No. 32 is not clear in its impact; Amendment No. 33 is not effective because there is no timescale attached or power to prescribe what must be prescribed and the power to run the course does not depend on any specific outcome. The ballot requirements in Amendment No. 34 are not effective because there is no matching duty to hold a ballot or abide by its results. We should not add such highly defective provisions to the statute book.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to the partnership in the Harrow school, a school already mentioned today by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant. Harrow withdrew from a partnership which could not trigger any action under the amendment. It was not a school-centred course and the noble Lord should make the distinction between school-centred courses and those schools which are co-operating to meet requirements of the primary and secondary circulars. As I said, the budget of a school—in other words, the library provisions of the school referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Russell—is protected in law in the Bill; school budgets cannot be used to fund initial teacher training courses.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. But will she not accept that distinguished educationalists, including the headmaster of Harrow, have made the point that it is not possible for serious members of the teaching staff to keep the same relationship with the children they are teaching if they have to take on increased responsibilities for looking after student teachers as well?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, at the risk of boring the House on this matter perhaps I can say once more to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that he constantly refers to courses under the primary and secondary circulars. In those courses all the money goes to higher education institutions. The higher education institutions hand over a portion of that money—sometimes not very much—to the schools. Many of the schools are saying that with the money they are given by higher education they are finding it difficult to meet their commitments in schools. That must be a matter between them.

The Bill does not concern those courses. The Bill is concerned with school-centred courses. Those schools receive all the money for teacher training—all of it. In the Bill as proposed there is a safeguard in law for the school budgets so that budgets will not be used to cross-fertilise the cost of courses for initial teacher training. They are therefore very different. If some schools, perhaps Harrow, had a little more of that higher education money they could perhaps meet the commitments under that partnership. But for every Harrow there are many schools where the partnership is a fruitful one and one that benefits both primary and secondary school teachers under the remit of the circulars.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, and I recognise that she is trying very fully to respond to my point. I appreciate that, even if it is a slightly heated exchange. My point is that if a parent has a first class teacher who is giving excellent service in a subject to his child and then the school becomes involved in a scheme of any kind in which that teacher will be giving time and attention to preparing students, there will be a fundamental change in the nature of the experience of that child at school. That is what my noble friend was referring to in moving the amendment. To suggest that there is not a significant change for the school is palpable nonsense.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the noble Lord continues to pose questions to me. A school that is applying to be accredited to provide teacher training is, first, not allowed to use the money for the school; and, secondly, each of the schools in any consortium providing teacher training under these proposals would have a primary duty to provide as good an education as possible to its pupils. That is also an obligation in law. Ofsted has a requirement and remit under the inspectorate system to see that schools are visited and revisited once every four years, and the quality of the teaching and the learning in those schools will be properly assessed. An evaluation of these schemes is going on. The noble Lord referred to a disruptive and negative impact. I am saying that that is not the evidence so far; and if it were the evidence, under the system as we propose it would be very exposed and we would soon know about it. It would be an irresponsible school, an irresponsible governing body with parental representation on it and a fairly passive parent body that would allow such a negative and disruptive impact. However, I am afraid that the noble Lord's pessimism will not come to pass.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I know it is late at night but perhaps I may remind her that if she claims she has won the argument she risks prolonging it.

Baroness David

My Lords, the noble Baroness the Minister has spoken with great conviction but her statement is based on very little evidence. My understanding is that about 250 teachers are involved in this school-based training—we must remember that there is a difference between school-based and school centred training—and that about 60,000 teachers are not involved, so I think we are quite right in asking for certain safeguards. I agree with my noble friend Lord Judd that it is almost bound to make a difference to the school. If it is really going to be extended vastly I think that parents and teachers should be consulted, as we request in these amendments.

I confess at once that the amendments may well be technically deficient but that can always be remedied if the principle of them is agreed to. However, it is clear that the noble Baroness is not going to concede that we have any point at all. I am grateful to the noble Earl for his support. All I can say now is that I disagree with the noble Baroness completely. I shall read with great care what she said and we shall very likely come back to the matter at Third Reading. I am not convinced because the noble Baroness's case is based on so little evidence to date and because of her remarks in Committee that parents would most certainly be consulted. And that she is not prepared to accept. But, for tonight, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 not moved. ]

Clause 13 [Qualification of teachers, &c.]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 35: Page 7, line 44, after ("person") insert ("— (a) holds a degree or equivalent qualification granted by a United Kingdom institution or an equivalent degree or other qualification granted by a foreign institution, and (b)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No. 36. We believe that, as at present, all those who successfully complete courses of initial teacher training should also be required to have a degree or equivalent qualification in order to be granted qualified teacher status. Amendments Nos. 35 and 36 reflect that belief.

During the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Judd, proposed an amendment in the same territory. Noble Lords will recall that we agreed with the principle of his amendment but were able to accept it as drafted. I have therefore, as I said I would, brought before the House these amendments which I hope will command the support of your Lordships. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, these amendments meet the principle behind the amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Judd which I moved at Committee stage. I am grateful to the Minister for bringing them forward and they are acceptable. There is also an additional improvement in that the term "United Kingdom" has now replaced "England and Wales". I hope that that will satisfy the Scots and the Northern Irish.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I too wish to thank my noble friend the Minister. I do not want to say it too strongly, but this provision should have been in the Bill in the first place. I am very grateful to the Minister for putting this matter right.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 36: Page 8, line 1, at beginning insert: ("For the purposes of this sub-paragraph—

  1. (a) a "United Kingdom institution" means an institution established in the United Kingdom, other than one which is, or is affiliated to or forms part of, an institution whose principal establishment is outside the United Kingdom;
  2. (b) a "foreign institution" means any institution other than a United Kingdom institution; and
  3. (c)")

On Question, amendment agreed to. Baroness David moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 8, line 1, leave out from second ("accredited") to ("by") in line 4.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that only the Secretary of State, and not the teacher training agency, can accredit a higher education institution, a school or some other body in order to enable a student who successfully completes a teacher training course there to obtain qualified teacher status.

When it appoints teachers a governing body needs to have confidence in their suitability, including that they fully merit the QTS which they have obtained. At present a course leads to QTS either because the Secretary of State has approved it or because he has accredited the institution which provides the course. Either way, he is accountable for a decision which critically affects the quality and reliability of QTS. This accountability should not be shuffled off onto a body having no experience of accrediting institutions for teacher training, which the Secretary of State appoints and can influence by formal and informal means, but for whose decisions, which could not readily be challenged in Parliament, he could disclaim responsibility.

It is particularly important that the Secretary of State should have to justify a decision to accredit or to refuse accreditation when it relates to a school or other body without previous experience of providing initial teacher training. Under the amendment, the Secretary of State could still obtain advice from the teacher training agency on whether or not to accredit, but he would have to account for his decision to Parliament and those directly affected by it. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, we are once again going over ground already covered in earlier amendments today. It is vital that institutional accreditation as we have proposed is performed by a body that is external to the institution offering teacher training. Unlike validation, it is not appropriate for there to be self-accreditation by the course providers, whether they be in higher education or in schools. That would not give the necessary assurances about quality. And that is why we need a teacher training agency to take the decisions, and not merely advise, on both accreditation and funding.

In the case of initial teacher training, the teacher training agency will fund and accredit in England; and for Wales it will be the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales that will both fund and accredit Welsh initial teacher training. Both will have regard to the initial teacher training criteria of the relevant Secretary of State; that is, for England or for Wales.

We start from the position that it is right to bring together all the important functions which affect the quality of teacher training and which will benefit from a concerted approach. In particular, these are the funding of teacher training and the accreditation of those who provide courses.

We must not split funding and accreditation. They must go together. That is how we shall get high quality teacher training and this will in turn raise standards. We are already making improvements through revised criteria for training courses. But the teacher training agency will ensure that all training meets the criteria and will concentrate its funding on the highest quality courses.

Under our approach we shall bring together the funding and accreditation work done currently by three separate bodies: the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, which advises the Secretary of State on individual courses; the Department for Education, which approves all courses of teacher training; and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which funds all higher education courses.

The Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education will close when the teacher training agency is set up and the Department for Education will have reduced functions. Indeed, the Secretary of State is giving up the decision-making in this area. The Bill does not alter the Secretary of State's long-standing involvement in initial teacher training through the setting of course criteria and student number targets. But the reforms mean he is giving up decision-making over course approval, which will translate into the institutional accreditation function of the teacher training agency; and giving up decisions on the funding of school-centred training, which will pass from the Department for Education to the teacher training agency.

The Government's approach rests on fundamental principles which have inspired so many of our reforms: quality, efficiency, choice and accountability. The time is ripe for the funding and accreditation functions to be brought together. This will provide the new and independent machinery to support our other reforms. The various bodies which now have responsibilities in these areas have all done useful things. But what is needed now is for one vigorous and independent body, dedicated to teacher training, to address both the funding and the accreditation aspects. This is the most effective way to achieve the necessary gains in clarity, accountability and effectiveness.

Under Clause 13 as originally drafted the teacher training agency has the statutory role in the accreditation of institutions. It will have to satisfy itself that universities, colleges and schools that wish to offer teacher training have the necessary commitment to the Secretary of State's criteria and the systems in place to deliver quality courses. All courses will as now be subject to inspection by Ofsted—and the agency will be able to withdraw accreditation if courses fail to meet the criteria.

I should say at this point that the idea that the agency should have accreditation joined to its funding role was not one that we originally proposed but was actually proposed by the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the body of experts which currently has the accreditation function. We accepted its proposal gladly because it so clearly meets the key objectives of clear lines of accountability and high quality without bureaucracy.

As I have said, the agency will accredit courses provided by universities and colleges, as well as schools. It is worth repeating, partly to underline yet again that we expect higher education to continue to provide teacher training and partly to demonstrate what folly it would be for higher education to be in the business of accreditation when it would actually remain a requirement for higher education itself to be accredited. It would then be an accreditee and an accreditor—and that cannot be right for accountability.

The agency will encourage diversity by supporting courses run by schools as well as by higher education. The agency will also be able to ensure there is increasing choice among courses of different lengths and design, as well as those provided by different bodies. We look forward to a steady increase in school-centred training. Numbers will certainly grow beyond the current pioneers, in secondary schools in particular. But neither the Government nor the agency will be forcing schools to take on extra responsibilities. The schools will have to meet the Secretary of State's criteria, meet Ofsted's inspection standards and meet the accreditation standard of the teacher training agency. Given all that, there is simply no need in the approach we have advocated for schools to pass a mandatory further test of validation or accreditation by higher education.

10 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I wonder whether she could answer a question. She said that courses are to be accredited by CATE, but I thought that CATE was going to be abolished. What will happen after that? How will the eight or 12 people —busy people, as the Minister said—who will serve on the teacher training agency have the time and ability to accredit all those many courses?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am sorry if I did not make it clear. I said that CATE would close when the agency was established. At the moment, CATE advises on course approval. It is the Secretary of State who actually approves the courses. Under the new arrangements, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will pass the accreditation powers to the agency. It will be the agency that will be responsible for accreditation in future.

Baroness David

My Lords, but the Minister has not explained how the agency —with eight or 12 people —will accredit all the courses in all the schools. Could she explain a little more?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it will use the evidence of Ofsted, which is used at the moment. Ofsted's staff will be the people who will know and be able to give information about standards and about whether a school or group of schools is suitable for the purpose of providing training. Ofsted will also be responsible for inspecting and monitoring standards as the courses continue.

Baroness David

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her further clarification, but I must say that I find it hard to follow. She goes rather fast. I should like to read what she said to see whether that convinces me more than I am convinced at the moment. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I may come back again on it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

Clause 14 [Duty to provide information, etc.]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 39: Page 8, line 18, after ("State") insert ("(in such manner as he may from time to time determine)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 are grouped with Amendment No. 41 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Russell.

We believe that it is essential that the teacher training agency is able to give the Secretary of State independent and objective advice. In Committee, my noble friend Lord Elton moved an amendment to remove the power of the Secretary of State to determine the form of advice or information given by the agency which he has not himself requested. Following further consideration, we have concluded that such a change would indeed be beneficial. It will be seen clearly that there is no restriction upon the ability of the agency to communicate as freely and openly as it wishes with the Secretary of State.

Perhaps, given the time of night, I may be presumptuous and address Amendment No. 41. The noble Earl could then pick up anything I say. The amendment would go further than we have done. It would remove the power of the Secretary of State to determine the manner in which he was given information which he has specifically requested from the agency. As I said in Committee, I believe that such an amendment would go too far and prevent the Secretary of State from requesting confidential information on important issues such as an individual institution's financial health. If he could not add the requirement for confidentiality, the Secretary of State might be inclined to ask the agency for less information than he really needs, which could lead to a breakdown in communications and a loss of accountability.

I think that the solution suggested by my noble friend., which we have reflected in our amendments, strikes the right balance between confidentiality and openness. I hope that on reflection the noble Earl, given that he has not even spoken to his amendment, when he has, will consider withdrawing it. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Skelmersdale)

My Lords, since Amendments Nos. 39, 40 and 41 are grouped, I should point out that if Amendment No. 40 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 41.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I speak to Amendment No. 41 which is included in this group. It would remove from the Bill the words that the agency shall provide advice: in such manner as the Secretary of State may from time to time determine". I thought that the Minister was going to point out that those words had been in education Bills since 1988. Had she done that, I was going to point out that I divided the House against those words when they first appeared in 1988. I thought that they were wrong then; I think that they are wrong now. That is absolutely crucial as to why there is a growing lack of confidence in administration by quango.

The Minister said that the agency was to give independent and objective advice. She must have picked up a certain scepticism about whether that is in fact what the Secretary of State is going to get—because of course the key to independent and objective advice is that it is sometimes unwelcome. That is in the tradition of giving counsel to rulers, which goes right back into the depths of the Middle Ages. A counsellor who did not sometimes give unwelcome advice was a bad counsellor. Indeed, he was a flatterer.

If advice is to be given only in such manner as the Secretary of State shall from time to time determine, it is difficult to give independent and unwelcome advice because unwelcome advice is usually given on things where the person does not know that he needs any advice. Indeed, that is why it is particularly important that it should be given. I understand what the Minister says about confidentiality. That is a point that I would not wish to dispute with her. If the Minister wishes to ask for a form of words which allows advice to be given confidentially on a particular question at a particular time, I should not argue with that. However, it is important that the agency should be in a position to give unsolicited advice and, even more important, like the old University Grants Committee in the days when it enjoyed a confidence that agencies do not, I regret to say, enjoy now, give its advice in public if the Secretary of State is not willing to listen to it in private.

Without that capacity to advise in public, an agency will simply not enjoy the confidence of the public. If the noble Baroness wishes to convince me that the agency is a genuinely independent force, then she must let the dog off the lead. If she does not trust the dog off the lead, then it is not independent.

Lord Elton

My Lords, with the greatest respect I believe that the dog is off the lead because, under the formula proposed by my noble friend, which I warmly welcome because it is based on a proposal I made in Committee, the agency is able to give any advice that it wants on any subject it chooses in any form it likes. If that is what the noble Earl means by independence, it is met by the formula proposed by my noble friend.

When the Secretary of State has asked for advice in one form, the agency cannot give that advice in another form. I am persuaded by my noble friend, although I had not expected to be, that there are occasions on which, for reasons of confidentiality and the effect that it might have were it made public and shared, the advice must be given in a particular form. That does not preclude the agency from giving other advice in the form it wishes.

I hope that the noble Earl will repent of his enthusiasm for releasing the dog further. It seems to me that the dog is as free as it should be, and I am grateful to my noble friend for accepting what I humbly suggest was my advice.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 40: Page 8, leave out lines 23 and 24.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 42: Page 8, line 34, at end insert: ("(4) The Teacher Training Agency or the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales shall provide such information for the purposes of teacher education and training as may be required by:

  1. (i) The Higher Education Funding Council for England;
  2. (ii) the governing body of an institution under subsection (3) (a) above;
  3. (iii) any local authority;
  4. (iv) the Office for Standards in Education;
  5. (v) the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority; and
  6. (vi) any other body deemed appropriate by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a straightforward amendment designed to ensure that information is provided to facilitate the provision of teacher education and training. As the Bill is drafted, organisations and bodies associated with teacher training must provide information for the new teacher training agency. The amendment ensures a two-way flow of information.

In responding to the debate on Amendment No. 3 earlier, the Minister repeated more than once that she expects the teacher training agency to work closely with the Higher Education Funding Council. The amendment has been tabled with just that in mind. To work together in a spirit of co-operation, it is essential to ensure that the different bodies are all properly informed.

I regret to say that when the Government establish new agencies they tend to make a statutory requirement for other bodies to provide information to the new agency. However, they omit to ensure that the new agency should also provide information. Indeed, the new agencies seem to go scot-free when it comes to reciprocating. Surely that is wrong. We want a two-way flow of information so that we can achieve the highest possible quality of teacher training and education. I very much hope that the Minister can accept the amendment. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, Amendment No. 42 would impose a wide-ranging and ill-defined requirement on the funding agencies to provide information on any aspect of teacher education and training to any or all of the bodies listed in the amendment. I defer to no one in my belief in the importance of the frank and frequent interflow of information. But the amendment takes an unwieldy hammer to the nut.

The amendment is not only ill drafted, it is also unnecessary in many respects. Ofsted, for example, is already given rights of access to teacher training agency meetings and papers under a government amendment discussed earlier. Naturally there will be a good and close relationship there. The Higher Education Funding Council will need to work closely with the funding agencies. But that is allowed for explicitly in Clause 9. It would be curious—and, indeed, unfortunate for the working relations of those bodies—if there needed to be a legal power to require information. Why would the agency simply not provide anything that was reasonable? Why would the Secretary of State not step in if there were problems? Does it really require the attention of the courts? If relations are to be so poor as to require such a provision, why is there no reciprocal power here for the agency to require information from the funding council?

I turn now to the reference to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. I am sure that it and the agency will want to exchange information, although the working links will be less close than with Ofsted and the funding council. Again, I see no case at all for regulating that exchange in the Bill. The same will be true of local education authorities and schools, with both of whom, I can assure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, the agency will wish to be on good terms. Again, I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, if one looks at Clause 14(3) (a) as presently drafted, it will be seen that, the governing body of any institution receiving … grant", has to provide such information, and that "any local education authority" has to provide information as required by the TTA; yet, apparently, the reverse is not required. It is somewhat puzzling. After all, LEAs will, for example, continue to play a role in the provision of schools and may from time to time need to have information from the TTA. I have no doubt, as the Minister said, that the agency will normally be willing to provide such information. No doubt that will also be true as regards providing information to the other bodies listed in the amendment.

However, it seems to me that the Minister's response is a little odd, in that she suggested that it is heavy handed to ask the new agency to provide that information but, on the other hand, she does not think it heavy handed to ask the other bodies mentioned in Clause 14 to provide the information for the new agency. Nevertheless, I have no wish to press the amendment tonight. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 [Additional, supplementary and ancillary functions]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 43: Page 9, line 3, at end insert: ("( ) Before making an order under subsection (1) or (2) the Secretary of State shall carry out such consultation as appears to him to be appropriate.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 43 places a requirement on the Secretary of State to consult before he makes an order about additional functions of the teacher training agency and supplementary functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, made the case for such an amendment through one of his own at the Committee stage. I hope that he will find that the thrust of his concern is met by the amendment now before us. I beg to move.

Lord Judd

My Lords, after our liveliness earlier, I am glad to be able to finish on a positive note. I should like to thank the Minister for having responded to our point on the matter. We are most grateful for the amendment that she has now brought forward. However, perhaps I may make one observation. If the Secretary of State is to consult with the people whom he feels to be appropriate, much will depend upon his attitude towards consultation. My conclusion—and I am sure that the Minister really agrees with me—is that the Bill with which we have been unhappily dealing for some time now is a classic example of how a Secretary of State can shoot himself in every available limb by failing to consult fully before rushing legislation into print.

The time, the energy, the anxiety and the money which have been wasted quite unnecessarily in trying to contain the damage which otherwise would have gone almost out of control are really quite extraordinary. Therefore, I am delighted that the noble Baroness has responded so positively—I am not surprised that she has done so—to this matter. I am sure she will understand when I say that we hope we will see an administration which will follow this measure through in the spirit in which it is intended, and which will want to build a consensus on sound legislation and sound policy on the basis of taking the advice of people who really are involved in this matter and who are not just managing the money. I am referring to the people who understand what goes on in the classroom and understand the pressures that teachers face.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17 [Interpretation]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 44 to 48: Page 9, line 11, at end insert: (—denominational character", in relation to an institution, shall be construed in accordance with subsection (IA) below;"). Page 9, line 20, leave out ("and"). Page 9, line 21, at end insert: (—special educational needs" shall be construed in accordance with subsection (1B) below."). Page 9, line 21, at end insert: ("(1A) For the purposes of this Part an institution is of a denominational character if—

  1. (a) at least one quarter of the members of the governing body of the institution, or in the case of a school at least one-fifth, are persons appointed to represent the interests of a religion or religious denomination, or
  2. (b) any of the property held for the purposes of the institution is held upon trusts which provide that, in the event of the discontinuance of the institution, the property concerned shall be held for, or sold and the proceeds of sale applied for, the benefit of a religion or religious denomination, or
  3. (c) any of the property held for the purposes of the institution is held on trust for or in connection with—
    1. (i) the provision of education, or
    2. (ii) the conduct of an educational institution, in accordance with the tenets of a religion or religious denomination.").
Page 9, line 21, at end insert: ("(1B) For the purposes of this Part persons with special educational needs are
  1. (a) children with special educational needs as defined in section 156 of the Education Act 1993, or
  2. (b) persons (other than children within the meaning of that section) who—
    1. (i) have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of persons of their age, or
    2. (ii) have a disability which either prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for persons of their age.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 18 [Meaning of "students' union"]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 49: Page 9, leave out lines 35 to 37.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 49 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 51, 54, 59 and 61. These amendments concern which sections of the student body in any particular institution are affected by the requirements in Clause 20. When that clause was inserted in Committee I said that we would need to come back to the interaction between that clause and Clause 18: that is what these amendments do.

First in this group Amendments Nos. 49, 51 and 54 delete the references to "all students" in Clause 18. Clause 18 identifies different types of student union, and these references were needed to determine which group of students was concerned in each case by the various provisions in what was Clause 21. With the recasting of those provisions in what is now Clause 20, these cross-references no longer quite work.

Instead, these definitional matters are sorted out within Clause 20. That is the function of Amendment No. 61. This provides a new subsection (5) in Clause 20, which determines the effect of the term "all students" as it is used in that clause. There are various matters on which it is appropriate for all students to receive information about the conduct of their student union. These are set out in subsection (2) of Clause 20 which specifies in paragraph (h) that they should have access to financial reports on union expenditure, and in paragraph (i) to a description of the procedures for allocating resources to clubs and societies. Paragraph (k), as amended by Amendment No. 59, requires that all students should have access to complaints procedures in relation to the union. Subsection (4) in Clause 20 establishes that information about charity law and freedom of speech legislation as it relates to student: unions should also be made available to all students.

Finally, there is a connection to Amendment No. 58., which we will address shortly, which sets out a requirement that all students should have access to reports on external affiliations. The effect of the new subsection (5) in each case is that these 'requirements relate separately to each type of student union identified in Clause 18. Thus a graduate union, for example, would be required to make available copies of its financial accounts to all graduate students at the establishment, but not more widely.

The effect of these provisions is to ensure that students have access to the information that they need. Even students who are not union members have an interest in knowing that the union is making proper use of the institution's resources. In some instances they may also be members of clubs or societies that the union funds; and they could be affected by abuses of free speech or of charity law by the union, which could drag all an institution's students into disrepute whether or not they are union members.

Amendment No. 61 also addresses some related issues. The requirements in Clause 20 for voting in elections and on affiliations relate to members of the union. But in the case of a student representative council the members are the representatives, not the students who are represented. The new subsection (6) therefore makes clear that in those circumstances it is the students who are represented who should have voting rights in the election of officers and in ballots on external affiliations.

A new subsection (7) acids a definition of external affiliations referred to in subsection (2) (j). This includes any form of membership or formal association with external organisations undertaken by the student union. We shall debate shortly the revised requirements that we propose in relation to affiliations.

Finally, a new subsection (8) to Clause 20 implements my undertaking given in Committee that the requirements for ballots should not apply to distance learning institutions. I trust that that will meet the point of noble Lords, and in particular of my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, who expressed anxiety about the implications of the reforms for the Open University.

This group of amendments clarifies how the provisions of Clause 20 will apply to different kinds of union defined in Clause 18. I commend them to the House. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for all the trouble she has taken in going into the matters in all the amendments. In particular I should like to thank her for the new subsection (8) to Clause 20 which she has just mentioned.

The Open University will appreciate enormously the trouble she has taken to find out exactly what are the problems for the university in terms of cost and the mechanics of carrying out secret ballots. As she knows, it has its own arrangements, which are very democratic. The university will appreciate the amendment, which is tailor-made for it and any other similar institutions in the future. I am sure the Open University will be very grateful. I certainly am.

Earl Russell

My Lords, we owe even further thanks to the noble Baroness beyond those that we expressed to her last week in Committee. She has taken an immense amount of trouble with the amendments. They appear to me to be consistently improvements. If I probe one or two points in detail I do so in full sympathy with the general objectives of the amendments.

I share the general pleasure at the resolution of the question of open and distance learning. I want to raise one point about paragraph (b) in Amendment No. 61 and the reference to: all students at the hall of residence in question". That leads me to wonder how much thought has been given, in a very busy time, to the effect of the newly amended Bill on the junior common rooms in Oxford and Cambridge in terms of which parts of the Bill impact on them and in what ways, and the ways in which there may be differences from the effects on an ordinary students' union.

I also have one general question, of which I have given the noble Baroness notice. I am not sure whether this is the correct place to raise it. I have been asked what is the effect of the Bill on those students' unions which elect their women's officer by a ballot of women only. People of my generation who remember the Warren judgment may not feel quite comfortable with that arrangement. But we are not the electorate here. It is perhaps a question in which we would be unwise to intervene from outside. My main purpose is to know simply what is the effect of the Bill on that practice. My purpose in asking is to know, as A. E. Housman had it.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the JCRs are subsumed in the definition of student unions. They will be student unions in their own right.

As regards the women's officer, the noble Earl may have noticed that we have left it to the institutions themselves to determine which shall be the main offices subject to secret ballot. Therefore, if the institution itself determined that the specific role of women's officer was one of the major appointments, then that would be subject to secret ballot of all members. If it was not one of the major offices then it would be for the union to determine how to appoint a women's officer in any way prescribed internally by that organisation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 50: Page 9, leave out lines 38 and 39 and insert: ("(2) References in this Part to a students' union include an association or body which would fall within subsection (1) if for the references to the generality of students at the establishment there were substituted a reference to—").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 50, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 52, 53 and 55. These amendments are essentially consequential amendments. They arise from the insertion in Committee of the opting out provision that is now in Clause 20. In introducing those provisions I mentioned that we would need to return to the consequences in Clause 18.

The main amendment in the group is Amendment No. 55. It is designed to ensure that a union is subject to the provisions of the Bill even if the majority of student bodies are not members of the union, provided that membership is open generally to all students. The main definition of a student union in subsection (1) of Clause 18 relies on its covering the generality of students. But in some circumstances a union might not embrace the generality. This could arise if large numbers opted out in a particular case, as I have mentioned. Where there are parallel unions, as at Glasgow University, it cannot be the case that both cover the generality of students, but both are open to the generality. I understand that Glasgow University has a union for men and a union for women. And in further education, it is not uncommon for part-time students to be ineligible for union membership. Where they make up a major proportion of the student body, again, the union could not be seen as covering the generality of students. The new subsection (5) accordingly provides for student unions to fall within the definitions in the Bill if they are open to the generality of students and if they cover the generality of full-time students whether or not they actually embrace the majority of students at the institution.

The other amendments in the group are consequential on the first amendment. Amendment No. 50 adjusts the lead-in to subsection (2) so as to reflect the treatment of the generality of students in the new subsection (5). Subsection (2) ensures that unions which serve only a distinct part of the student body—graduate students, or students in a single hall of residence—fall within the definition. I believe that that answers the noble Earl's previous question about JCRs.

Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 simply adjust the cross-references in subsection (3). The effect is that where a union is a conglomerate of the types of union identified in subsection (1) or (2), it falls within the definition. An example is the university-wide student unions at Cambridge and Oxford universities, which bring together the college-level junior common rooms.

We would not wish to exclude any student union from our proposed reforms simply because the majority of the student body were not members. These rather technical amendments can be summarised as dealing with that possibility. I therefore commend them to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

10.30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, if the noble Baroness wishes to move them, I shall take Amendments Nos. 51 to 55 en bloc.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 51 to 55: Page 10, leave out lines I to 4. Page 10, line 8, leave out ("(1) (a) or (b)") and insert ("(1) or (2)"). Page 10, line 10, leave out ("(1) (a) or (b)") and insert ("(1) or (2)"). Page 10, leave out lines 12 to 15. Page 10, line 19, at end insert: ("(5) References in this section to an association of the generality of students, or of any description of students, include

  1. (a) any association which the generality of students, or of students of that description, may join, whether or not it has in membership a majority of them, and
  2. (b) any association which would fall within paragraph (a) if the references there to students were confined to full-time students;
and references to a representative body whose principal purposes include representing the generality of students, or of any description of students, shall be similarly construed.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 20 [Requirements to be observed in relation to students' unions]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 11, leave out lines 33 and 34.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these are technical amendments on one level, but they also deal with an important point of substance raised in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Flowers. The amendments adjust the provisions of Clause 20 so that only union members will have voting rights in ballots for union offices and on affiliations. As the Bill was amended in Committee, the term "non-member" was given the special sense that appears in subsection (2) (c) of Clause 20. This meant that a student who chose not to be a member of the union could not vote, as is right. But it also meant that a student who was not a member of the union by virtue of its constitution would be entitled to vote in union elections and on union affiliations. I said in Committee that that anomaly needed to be sorted out. These amendments remove the special sense given to the term "non-member". The effect will be to enable each institution and union, as now, to determine which categories of student are eligible for membership of the student union, and which in consequence are eligible to vote.

These amendments thus also deal with the point raised in Committee last week by the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, in his Amendments Nos. 85A and 85C. He proposed that in the ballots required for elections of union officers, students on courses lasting less than three months should be unable to vote. As I said then, I accept that it would not be sensible for students whose link with the institution was minimal, for example, students on very short courses, to have voting rights. With these amendments, and the later Amendment No. 58 on affiliations, each institution will be able to decide for itself which categories of student should be able to vote. Some may adopt the three-month rule, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Flowers; others will devise other rules to suit their own circumstances. In particular, further education colleges running franchise higher education courses will be able to decide whether the franchise students on site should be able to take part in these votes in the light of the details of the individual franchise agreement.

I have been in contact with the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, as I undertook to do in the Committee debate. He told us that he accepts that the approach that I proposed will meet the problem that he identified or, even better, will allow each institution to meet it in its own way. He has also asked me to convey his regret that another engagement prevents him from being here and saying that in person today.

I have given some thought to the point raised in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that graduating students elected to sabbatical office might no longer be students on taking up their posts and therefore not subject to the two year tenure limit. It is unlikely that such graduate sabbaticals would want to continue in office indefinitely, or that students would want to elect someone who had ceased to be a student several years previously. But for the avoidance of doubt I propose to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading to make clear that tenure of sabbatical office is limited to two years at any one establishment, whether or not the officer is a student.

Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 ensure that discretion over student union membership and the associated voting right is exercised where it belongs; at the institutional level. I commend the amendments to the House. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, this sounds a sensible way of resolving the difficulty raised by the noble Lord, Lord Flowers. I heard what the noble Baroness said in Committee about the European convention I wondered how on earth she was going to play Houdini. I think that she has succeeded in doing so and has retreated from an attempt to prescribe in detail a situation a bit like the Irishman's pigs; he could not count them because they would not stay still. The categories are so infinitely various.

This is a prudent decision and I welcome it. I also welcome what the noble Baroness said about two year sabbaticals. I do not think anyone in the student union movement who advised me argued for a time longer than two years. I believe that this is the right way of resolving the matter and I hope that it will work. I thank the noble Baroness.

Lord Judd

My Lords, these are helpful amendments which move in the right direction. I believe that the Minister and I might have a meeting of minds. I hope that we do not let the evening go by without making the observation that for those students who want to opt out it is not always just a matter of principle. Frequently in the reality of the situation there is also a kind of social idleness. There are students who want to enjoy all the facilities provided but who do not want engage in the responsibilities of organising what should be provided, the way in which it should be provided, and so forth. I should hate any message inadvertently to go out from this House condoning that kind of exploitative attitude among some students.

I have met students, as has the noble Baroness, who when carrying office and responsibility have discussed at length their great frustration about the way in which many students complain about what is not right and the way things could be better done but give precious little time to putting themselves forward to shoulder such responsibilities. We should take the opportunity tonight, before the Bill leaves us, to put on record how much we in this House appreciate the dedicated work carried out by many students throughout the country in providing services and amenities not only for those who are full members but, in future, for those who will not be members under these provisions. We should never take that for granted and it is special to the quality of the institutions concerned. It is also an important part of their wider education. It would be good if that message could go out. Students who carry that kind of responsibility and manage to mould it well with their studies frequently become special members of society.

Perhaps I may also take this opportunity genuinely to thank the noble Baroness for what she said about sabbaticals. That is tremendous news. The way in which she has approached the matter is very wise and commends itself to all concerned. Again, I thank her most sincerely for having responded to the anxiety that I raised in Committee.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I join in thanking the Minister for the degree to which she has advanced towards the positions that we took up earlier. I have only one question. It is perfectly genuine and is not intended to introduce discord into our proceedings. I am not quite certain about what is meant by "affiliation" in this clause. We have a provision that 5 per cent. of members of the union could trigger a ballot, which is expensive and elaborate. Does that apply to the affiliation of the whole union—for example, to the National Union of Students--or would it apply to any club which is sponsored by the union for a specific purpose? In other words, could 5 per cent. of the members demand that there be a general ballot on whether the tiddly-winks club could remain part of the national, or indeed international, tiddly-winks association?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend the Minister for the great increase in flexibility which these clauses and the previous amendments bring, and which answer fully all the concerns that I expressed in Committee.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, before my noble friend replies I should like to be clear whether or not we have proceeded to Amendment No. 58. I plan to speak to that Amendment and I would not wish to speak in the wrong place.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I understand that we have not reached Amendment No. 58.

First, I thank my noble friend Lord Lucas for his comments. Indeed, I thank all noble Lords for their comments, particularly the noble Earl, who embarrasses me more and more each time he is so profuse with his generous remarks. It has been a team effort. There has been an enormous co-operation from other people in all of this. I am grateful and accept all the kind comments on behalf of all of those who have helped me.

Perhaps I may answer specifically the important point made by my noble friend Lord Beloff. It gives me an opportunity to make it absolutely clear that we are talking about affiliations made by a student union in the name of the generality of the students of an institution. Therefore, if the tiddly-winks club wishes to affiliate to its national (or indeed international) body, it may do so, and no percentage of members may trigger a secret ballot as to whether or not it should do so.

The 5 per cent. trigger point means "up to 5 per cent.". Again, it will be for the institution to determine what that trigger point shall be, up to 5 per cent. It will be affiliations such as to the National Union of Students; or it could be another national or international body, but affiliated by the student union in the name of the generality of all students.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 57: Page II, line 36, leave out ("students other than non-members") and insert ("members").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 58: Page 12, line 6, leave out paragraph (j) and insert: ("(ja) if the union decides to affiliate to an external organisation, it should publish notice of its decision stating—

  1. (i) the name of the organisation, and
  2. (ii) details of any subscription or similar fee paid or proposed to be paid, and of any donation made or proposed to be made, to the organisation,
and any such notice should be made available to the governing body and to all students; (jb) where the union is affiliated to any external organisations, a report should be published annually or more frequently containing—
  1. (i) a list of the external organisations to which the union is currently affiliated, and
  2. (ii) details of subscriptions or similar fees paid, or donations made, to such organisations in the past year (or since the last report),
and such reports should be made available to the governing body and to all students;
(jc) there should be procedures for the review of affiliations to external organisations under which—
  1. (i) the current list of affiliations is submitted for approval by members annually or more frequently, and
  2. (ii) at such intervals of not more than a year as the governing body may determine, a requisition may made by such proportion of members (not exceeding 5 per cent.) as the governing body may determine, that the question of continued affiliation to any particular organisation be decided upon by a secret ballot in which all members are entitled to vote;").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, on introducing what is now Clause 20 at Committee stage I said that I was continuing to reflect on the requirement for affiliation ballots in paragraph (2) (j). This amendment now reduces the need for ballots in the way that I undertook to provide.

The amendment requires in paragraph (ja) that the union should publish details of new affiliations, including the costs, to the governing body and to all students. A report listing all affiliations and their costs should also be published at least annually: that is required in paragraph (jb). The amendment further requires in paragraph (jc) that the list of affiliations should be subject to annual approval through the union's normal democratic processes. Finally, it enables a specified percentage of the members of the union to requisition a ballot on any particular affiliation.

It is only right and proper that student unions should make contact outside their immediate academic community in order to benefit from the mutual enrichment that that can bring. But, regrettably, under current arrangements many students are not aware of the actions taken, or of the frequently substantial fees paid, by student unions on behalf of their members in that regard. Such costs appear frequently as no more than a budget line in financial reports, or are even subsumed with other items of expenditure under generic headings. Students are not able to register their disapproval (or indeed their approval) of particular affiliations easily when the facts are not clearly or widely known.

Students should have a greater say and more control over affiliations, some of which will be controversial. This amendment provides increased transparency so that union members know what is bought on their behalf and at what cost. But it requires ballots only when affiliation is disputed. The requirement in Clause 20, as it stands, for annual ballots on all affiliations is therefore removed. This approach to reducing the possible burden of balloting was suggested by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. There will be ballots only where members themselves see the need.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked previously about the effect of the requirement on affiliations to sporting organisations. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Beloff mentioned tiddly-winks. Maybe tiddly-winks is a sport—I do not know. It is certainly sporting to play it. Let me confirm, for the avoidance of doubt, that the requirement applies to affiliations undertaken by student unions, as I said a moment ago. Where an affiliation is made to a sporting association by a club or society it will not be included in the requirement. Where it is undertaken by the student union it will be included.

I note the concerns of noble Lords about the Open University. Amendment No. 61 proposes a new subsection, subsection (8), which secures that the requirement for ballots will not apply to the Open University, although the requirements for publishing information about affiliations and democratic approval will do so.

The provisions of this amendment represent a significant advance on present arrangements. Students will gain full and clear information about affiliations and increased democratic control. But there will be no automatic requirement for annual balloting on each and every affiliation. The amendment provides a framework for workable but sound surveillance of affiliations undertaken by student unions. I commend it to the House and beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, as has become very clear in this part of the evening, there is widespread relief at the amendments that the Minister has introduced. Again, I should like to say how much that is appreciated.

However, there are some remaining anxieties surrounding this amendment. Perhaps I may just briefly rehearse them. One is that the mechanics for securing assent by student union members to affiliations to external organisations should, in the spirit of the other provisions in Clause 20, be a matter for local determination. If that is the Minister's view, it would be interesting to hear why that should not be the case.

There is also some feeling that there should be safeguards against too frequently balloting on affiliations. Some people would argue that rather than specifying intervals of not more than a year, it would be more acceptable to provide for intervals of not less than a year or more than three years. The reason is that it would enable each cohort of students to express a view.

Another matter which concerns those who will he dealing with the consequences of this legislation is that safeguards may well be needed against what might be described as vexatious calls for ballots for affiliations either to contentious organisations or to others. Specifying a minimum proportion of student union members who can require a ballot in this context is a sensible safeguard. But it can be argued that the size of that proportion should again be locally determined. Spelling out a limit on the face of the Bill could unduly restrict governing bodies, particularly in small institutions, where only a very small number of students could be the source of over-frequent and indeed expensive balloting.

There is one other matter that would benefit from clarification this evening. Paragraph (jc) (i) is the centre of concern. What will "submitted for approval" boil down to? There is a worry that it could be an invitation to over-frequent balloting. Surely the intention ought to be the publication of a list which will be assumed to have the membership's assent unless it is challenged in respect of affiliation to individual organisations. It would be helpful if the Minister could give us this evening some of her thinking on those matters.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, as this is the last of my noble friend's amendments to this part of the Bill, I too should like to express my appreciation and say how splendidly the concerns voiced at Second Reading and in matters of detail subsequently have been dealt with today. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, at. an earlier stage was generous in his praise of the way my noble friend handled those matters. I should simply like to echo what he said and express great satisfaction and gratitude.

Amendment No. 58 is perhaps the nub of some of the difficulties expressed in the past. Indeed, those issues are the source of the anxieties which gave rise to this part of the Bill in the first place. But we are extremely happy that they are being met in this manner rather than in the manner originally contemplated.

One tiny matter of drafting caught my eye at which my noble friend may like to look. Under paragraph (i) (ii) the amendment says, details of subscriptions or similar fees paid, or donations made". It occurred to me that it would be better to say "of any donations made". Then I noticed that under paragraph

(a) (ii) the phrase, and of any donation made", is in fact used. I am afraid therefore that somebody may have nodded off in the drafting, although it is not a substantial point.

I should like to refer to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. It is understandable that the mechanics of this matter are made more specific than the mechanics of some of the other operations in the code of conduct precisely because this is the area about which so much anxiety was expressed in the past. I remember that my noble friend Lady Cox spoke at some length raising matters not all of which I agreed with. The satisfactory aspect in this regard is that I imagine her anxieties—I regret she is not in her place —have amply been met.

On the matter of the one or possibly three-year cycle of voting, I am sure we all agree that the cumbersome elements which originally threatened have been largely removed. But one fully takes the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that one does not want voting to take place too frequently. On the other hand, the experience of many student unions and JCRs is that contentious matters arise annually. It would be tiresome if they came up more than annually. Each generation of students that comes in—after all, there is an annual intake, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is well aware—wants to argue those matters out. There could be genuine frustration unless it were possible to call an annual ballot. I certainly take his point that it is not easy to know the precise figure, whether it should be 5 or 10 per cent., to trigger a ballot. That is probably a matter of judgment. But by and large my feeling is that my noble friend has got these matters right and I can only say how grateful we are that that is the case.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I wish to rise to my feet briefly, first, to thank the noble Baroness for taking into account the concerns I raised in regard to those bodies which form only part of the student unions. All the sports associations in all the universities throughout the country will be breathing a heavy sigh of relief for this final confirmation that we are not going to subject them to annual ballots.

Secondly, I want to say that under the circumstances the Minister has done an extremely good job of dealing with all the anxieties that were expressed. The point made a moment ago in relation to annual ballots must be borne in mind. It is not so much annually but in phases of fashion that issues are discussed. A fashionable issue will probably be voted on each year for three years, then dropped for 10 years and then voted on again for three years after that. Indeed, trendy theories tend to be trendy in a 10-year cycle, rather like the bottoms of one's trousers—narrow one year and flared the next. I believe those cycles will go on for ever.

With regard to the figure of 5 per cent., in some colleges that may not be sufficient during a certain period, and once again it will go in cycles depending on how politically active the institution is. The Minister has chosen a figure, but any figure may be wrong for a period of time and I am not therefore prepared to make an issue of it.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am sorry if my congratulations have embarrassed the Minister. But they are not the only thing, so I think the noble Baroness will have to learn to take the smooth with the rough. This time the Minister has just about got it right. I listened carefully to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that in some institutions which are small a very small number of people may trigger a ballot. That is true, but of course these are also institutions in which there are a very small number of people and therefore the organisation of the ballot is not a great financial or administrative burden; so I think there that we gain on the swings what we lose on the roundabouts. In fact, I have had a letter from the president of an Oxford JCR who says that his college has a ballot if one member requests it. He wants reassurance that the Bill allows him to continue that practice, which I imagine is the case.

The only question I have is: why 5 per cent.? I do not want to argue numbers but I should be grateful to know how that figure was arrived at.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in what has been a constructive debate on getting the details of this part of the Bill right. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked about the mechanics of securing compliance. It is mostly a matter for the institution to determine the mechanisms.

Perhaps I may now deal with the ballots and why we have said that they should be held annually. Under the terms of the amendment the governing body may determine the appropriate interval between ballots requested by an appropriate number of members. We have said that this should not be more than a year. That is a reasonable maximum interval which I do not believe should be extended. Turnover in the student body, especially in further education, is quite rapid and I do not believe that a longer interval would catch each generation of students. Students should be able to ballot annually if they see the need. If the requisite trigger percentage is reached and they are dissatisfied for one reason or another about an affiliation, it seems important that they should be given an opportunity to exercise that rather than wait two or perhaps even three years before they could do so.

I was asked how the information could be issued. That will be for institutions to decide. The requirements for publication of information need not be onerous. The requirements allow reports on affiliations to be posted on a notice board. They do not necessarily require that all students receive their own copies but that they are made available—in other words, either posted on a notice board or placed in the library. Some such mechanism can be used to bring it to the attention of students.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Russell, asked about the trigger threshold for ballots being no more than 5 per cent. and wondered how we arrived at that figure. I can only plead balance. The governing bodies have discretion to decide on the appropriate threshold, and it would allow the gentleman named by the noble Earl the opportunity, if he wished, to continue with his practice of allowing one student to trigger a ballot. We propose that it should not be more than 5 per cent. Under present arrangements it is often not easy to mount disaffiliation motions because constitutions call for a very high quorum. We wish to ensure that the voice of all students is heard and do not believe that an unrealistically high threshold should be demanded.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked why arrangements for affiliations should not be subject to local discretion. A good deal of money is spent each year by student unions on affiliations. In some cases, one affiliation can cost an institution upwards of £70,000 or £80,000. It seems only right that students should know the details of the moneys spent on their behalf and should have the opportunity to decide whether those affiliations should go ahead. The noble Lord asked how paragraph (jc) (i) would work. The paragraph requires, as the noble Lord suggested, the publication of a list of affiliations. Approval of them must be obtained once a year from a student body. The form will be a matter for local determination. It could be at the annual general meeting. The point is that approval must be given by the membership, not just the union executive. I hope that I have answered the detailed queries.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 59: Page 12, line 9, leave out ("individuals") and insert ("all students").

On Question, amendment agreed to. 11 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 60: Page 12, line 19, at end insert ("and the code shall in particular give directions to ensure that unions allow non-members to participate in all academic, charitable, cultural, social and sporting activities financed through, or under the direction of, the Union,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a probing amendment at this stage and follows on from the debate which we had at Committee stage concerning the university facilities that should be available to non-members of student unions. At this late stage of the evening I do not wish to repeat all the arguments. It is suffice to remind your Lordships that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals opined in a letter which reached me on 22nd March that student unions cannot by law be required to provide services for non-members. The CVCP went on to hope that these services could be left to agreement between the institution and the union.

I felt at the time that this was a little incorrect, in that the money for all these institutions does, as I understand it, go through the block grant to the institution. I felt that, if the institution wanted to, it should surely be able to have some influence on the facilities that were granted to students who were not members of unions.

When my noble friend came to sum up on this question, I thought her speech was a little disappointing, in that she also confirmed that non-members might not have access to all the rights that are conferred on members. One understands that non-members would not be involved in elections to the unions and so on, but I felt that surely they should have available to them the tiddlywinks club of my noble friend Lord Beloff, the rugger club and other matters.

My noble friend said again that she thought that that was something which should be left to the institutions and the unions to work out together so that students do not lose access to vital services such as welfare services. I felt, and I still feel., that that should go further. I am not entirely happy simply to leave a moral obligation on institutions to think about the matter.

My noble friend confirmed that the difficulty here is that we are up against the European Convention on Human Rights, which does not allow us to impose on a governing body or students' union a requirement that they make particular provision for any particular student. That is a statement which we were also given by the CVCP. I do not understand the root of that statement. As your Lordships will be aware, I have a deep suspicion of all things European. If this was the European Court of Justice I would be very much rougher with the ruling which has apparently been issued by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Be all that as it may, and coming to the amendment itself, it occurred to me and others who felt that non-members were perhaps being left a little exposed to what might conceivably be a student union which might wish to be vindictive against members who opted out that perhaps the code of practice could be used to give the rights which we seek. I confess that the amendment as drafted is probably still a little strong when it says that the code of practice, shall in particular give directions to ensure that unions allow non-members to participate", in all these worthy activities, but I hope that my noble friend will be able to take the amendment away and consider that the code should in particular encourage: unions to allow non-members,

"to participate in all academic. charitable, cultural, social and sporting activities".

I am advised also that one should probably have included catering facilities, not to mention the welfare services which my noble friend mentioned in our last debate. I say this because these activities are all financed through, as I understand it, and very often under the direction of, the union. We should look for an accommodation in that respect even if the wording of Amendment No. 60 is not perfect at the moment. I very much hope that we can put something on the face of the Bill in the code of practice which will give a little more comfort to non-members in future.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, my noble friend will perhaps be happy to learn that I am not going to invoke European matters to explain my strong objections to his amendment. My objections are based on the remarks made a little while ago by the noble Lord. Lord Judd. Like many people, I admire students who are prepared to take an active part in the affairs of their community and I see no reason whatever why some students should be able to say, "We can't be bothered to become members of the union; we can't be bothered to stand for office; we can't be bothered to administer things; but we insist on having all the privileges." That seems to me the most outrageous proposal.

If the amendment were to be accepted, I give my noble friend Lord Pearson notice of the following. I understand that he is a member of White's Club. Next time I saunter down St. James's, I propose to go into White's Club and order myself a drink and if I am asked on what authority, I shall say, "Why, I'm a non-member. Isn't that enough?"

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, perhaps I may say to my noble friend Lord Beloff that he has not paid the subscription to White's Club as I understand it, whereas all these students have had the money sent to their institution by the taxpayer.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I was going to say that I should like to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said because on this matter there is a very close meeting of minds. It seems to me that there is a danger—whatever the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, intended—of exactly what I was talking about earlier. If accepted, the amendment would send a signal to more indolent members of the student community that they can take all that is going and not shoulder any responsibility for ensuring that those services exist. Surely, citizenship anywhere involves responsibilities and if you are going to enjoy the benefits of citizenship, you need to shoulder the responsibilities of citizenship. That is something that we should encourage as part of the wider education of our students. I should be the first to agree that if there was a genuine, legitimate ground of conscience for somebody not joining the union—however difficult I might find it to get my mind round that instance—I would respect that. But there is a danger that many will say, "We'll just pocket what's going, but we won't get involved in providing it." That is a danger that needs to be looked at.

I should be grateful if the Minister could deal with one issue about which I am still perplexed. She probably has more good advice available to her on this matter than I have. I refer to the legality of this issue and whether a move in the direction suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, would, or would not, be legal and would, or would not, run into difficulties with international conventions, and the rest, to which we subscribe.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, as my name is on the amendment perhaps I may say a few words to explain the thinking behind it. It has nothing to do with the "indolence" of students in institutions of higher education and nothing to do with "irresponsibility". Noble Lords can perhaps be forgiven if they are unaware of the lengths to which some student unions can go in manipulating, filibustering and making life intolerable for responsible students.

As an honorary member of a student union—as a staff member—I have sat through endless hours of debate in which responsible students have been trying to put a point and to prevent a vote being taken on something with which they radically disagree, but the filibustering goes on and the vote may eventually be taken at midnight or 1 a.m. It is no good the noble Lord shaking his head because I have seen this happen time and time again. The minute that the responsible students go home—students who are responsible for work and family commitments—the vote is immediately reversed as the caucus had intended that it should be.

That may happen in a minority of cases, but it has happened and I can vouch for the fact that it has happened. I can give chapter and verse and first-hand accounts. I hope that it is increasingly a minority situation, but in those situations some students sometimes feel an obligation to dissociate themselves from decisions taken by the union. Perhaps the only way that they can do that is to dissociate themselves from membership. It is not always indolence or lack of responsibility. In certain extreme cases it may be responsible. It is precisely in such situations that one would not wish them to be precluded from cultural, social, sporting, welfare and catering activities and so forth. It is with that kind of potential situation in mind that students may have every right to opt out of association with the union. They may feel that the tactics being used are non-democratic, and that they should not be penalised for taking a principled stand.

Those situations have arisen. They are not unique. I hope that they will not happen again, but it is with that in mind that the amendment was put down. I should not like people to be left with the wrong impression, especially those who have been in rather more privileged parts of higher education and who have not seen some of the tactics of certain less reputable students' unions, with perhaps seven full-time students' union sabbatical officers who are politicking rather than being concerned with academic enterprises.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, about many things. I certainly do not agree with him about Europe, and I do not agree with his starting point on this amendment. I feel much more in sympathy with the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lord Beloff than with those of my noble friend Lady Cox. But I should like to try to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Judd, my noble friend Lord Beloff, and, indeed, the Minister that an amendment of this general kind would be helpful to the general thrust of the Bill and constructive in overcoming anxieties which the NUS and others have felt.

In Committee, I raised the anxiety which I felt, and which I know that the NUS feels, that, on opting out, students might then suggest that their subscription was somehow going into the union enterprise, and wonder whether it would not be rather nice if they did not have to pay their subscription. In other words, there might be a pecuniary benefit from opting out and, in the same way, there might be a reduction in income to the union because some members were opting out.

My noble friend the Minister was kind enough to write to me subsequently to give me the assurance that the intention was that the block grant scheme should continue so that there would not be the suggestion that, if individual students opted out, the income to the union would thereby be reduced. I was glad to have that private assurance, which I hope that my noble friend will find possible to put on record more publicly tonight. But it occurred to me that it would be helpful for the stability of the system if there were to be some obligation, or, if that is not legally possible, encouragement that students' unions should continue to offer to students who had opted out the membership facilities that cost a good deal of money, such as catering, welfare and those listed in the amendment. I think, and hope, that it is the intention that they should. I shall give way if the noble Lord, Lord Judd, wishes to intervene.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. When he reads Hansard I believe that he will see that what I actually said was that there was a danger of the signal inadvertently being sent out, whatever the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. There is quite a lot of strength in the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, is putting forward. But does he not agree that more judicious drafting would be appropriate, because this is almost an incitement or encouragement to people not to bother about joining because they can have all the rights without joining? Slightly more judicious wording, if there is to be any wording in that respect, would be appropriate.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I was going to comment about one or two aspects of the wording, though perhaps not relating to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is making. I believe that I take a more pragmatic view than the noble Lord. I share his admiration for student activities and his wish that students should continue to feel that it is beneficial for themselves and for all to take a full part in students' union activities. That is the view that my noble friend Lord Beloff was expressing also. We have similar views on this matter, but they are views not shared by every Member of the House, as we have heard.

In the last analysis, many students do not find it necessary to opt out of the student union. They simply take no part in its electoral activities or its management. It is a frequent criticism of all student unions that only a few students bother to shoulder the burden. The truth is that you do not have to opt out of membership to sit back and do nothing. In real terms, there is not a great deal of difference in our position.

I hope that I am making a comment which will help to safeguard the long-term future of student unions. If a significant number of students opt out, it is to be predicted that there will be a move towards those students being allowed to keep their fees and those union fees will no longer find their way to the student unions. There is bound to be an argument for diminution in income if there is a significant diminution in membership.

I hope that before Third Reading we may be able to agree upon an amendment which provides for the code to encourage unions to allow non-members. If it is not in order in legal terms—and like my noble friend Lord Pearson I do not fully understand why it is not—for directions to be given, at least encouragement should be given to allow non-members to participate in the full range of activities. That should certainly allow them to make use of amenities, which are not specified in the amendment but which are, in fact, the most important part of it. It should allow non-members also to have access to welfare facilities on a basis of equality with members. I believe that that would also be an important provision.

I very much hope that the National Union of Students and the CVCP would support such an amendment and would support the provision of such advice to governing bodies so that the code of practice would operate in that way.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way again. Does he not agree that in any proposed amendment the use of the word "encourage" is unfortunate? I believe that a better way to approach the wording of the amendment would be by recognising that there should be a provision of this kind.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I take the point. Given that we are advised, rightly or wrongly, that directions cannot be given, I wished to express the view that one should "recognise that there should be", and the verb which I found to express that concept was the verb "to encourage". I should have thought that the difference between "encourage" and "recognise that there should be" is a very fine one. I would be happy to use a different form of words.

I do not wish to continue for too long on this point. I believe that for the long-term stability of the system —if there were significant opt-outs numerically--it would greatly benefit the student unions if those non-members were able to enjoy such amenities and welfare. There would then be no pressure whatever to diminish the income of the unions. That would also he an encouragement to the maintenance of the block grant system which I hope the Minister will support in her response to this amendment.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, this amendment requires governing bodies to ensure that unions allow non-members access to their facilities through instructions in their codes of practice. May I say straight away that I understand the concerns which underlie this amendment. We too are concerned that all students should continue to have access to services. including students who opt out and for whom funding remains available in institutions' budgets. But it is not for us to determine what non-academic services institutions provide to their students in support of their academic activities. Where institutions provide such services and use the union as the providing channel, they will need to decide how to ensure that services remain available to any students who exercise the right not to be union members.

We believe, and I think there is widespread agreement on this, that students should in a democracy have the choice over whether to join their student union and be associated with the political activities it carries out in their name. If students choose to opt out of the union because it campaigns on issues in which they are not interested or do not support, that may mean the loss of access to some services: students will need to weigh up the pros and cons in making that decision. But where the institution decides that its students need particular services, the decision not to be a member of the union does not take away that need. I think we are all agreed on that.

But we cannot, nor would we wish to, compel a union to provide services to non-members. Indeed., providing services for non-members is likely to be outside the powers of many unions under their current constitutions and could lead to a breach of trust. Students must also be free to associate and form unions as they choose, and to decide for whom they should use their resources to provide benefits; those principles are underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights and are, we believe, vital. The provision of services to non-members must, therefore, be a voluntary matter. While I am not sure whether that it is absolutely illegal, noble Lords will know from what I have said so far that it would be improper for us to impose a direction upon unions in that way. The compulsion which the amendment would provide must not be applied: maintenance of services through the union must be by agreement with the union. The alternative is provision of those services by the institution itself.

We have had some fruitful discussions on the question and I am much encouraged by the expectation expressed by the representative bodies that institutions would maintain services for opted-out students either direct or through local arrangements with their student union. Our talks have also shown that many institutions see the value of setting out in writing what services are available to opted-out students, either as part of their information on student unions or in their institutional charters.

It is an important question and I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Pearson and Lady Cox for raising it. It reflects our general approach in the reforms that this is a matter for institutional discretion. I am confident that institutions, together with their unions, will be able to establish local arrangements to provide services for opted-out students which reflect their particular circumstances. Indeed, I understand that many institutions have already been considering how to do so.

However, there are other reasons why students may opt out. For example, there are conscience grounds for some students who may opt out. I find it almost beyond belief that any institution could look a parent or a student in the eye and say, "Because you opt out you will not be able to eat here, partake in rugby or join a club or society". A morality issue is involved. We intend to lay that moral obligation on the institutions.

Moreover, a very real point has been reinforced by my noble friend Lord Renfrew; namely, that it is important that the consequences of both being members and non-members of the union should be made known to students. It would be helpful if institutions themselves resorted to putting that in writing. Again, the considerations mentioned in the amendment and, indeed, one or two that I should like to add myself—for example, academic, charitable, cultural, social, sporting and, indeed, welfare and catering—are all important aspects for the student going up to college or university.

The way forward is that perhaps my noble friend may like to collaborate either with myself and my officials or with other Members of the House to find a way to add one principle to the code of practice so that institutions would at least know that that principle needs to be addressed by the institution involved. However, at the end of the day it must be for institutions to do it in their own way.

For the record, and in response to my noble friend Lord Renfrew, perhaps I may repeat what I said to him in a letter. My noble friend sought assurances that we had no plan to change the block grant system of funding student unions and that, consequently, there would be financial benefit to individual students who chose to exercise their right to opt out of membership. In the letter, I said: Though I spoke about the rights of non-members in answer to Earl Russell and Lord Pearson, I did not return to your concern in winding up the debate on the Government amendments. On the general issue of funding, I can assure you that we do not propose to change either the way money is distributed, nor indeed the amount, on account of the student union reforms. On your specific concern about financial benefits to individual students, where students exercise the right not to be a member of the union, institutions will no doubt want to consider how to ensure that services will remain available for them. Whether the student union remains as the channel for this or some other mechanism is adopted will be a matter for local decision. We do not wish to impose any requirement as to how services should be provided". I think that that will suffice for the record. However, I repeat that the way forward is perhaps to address one more principle that could be added to the code of practice which would allow institutions to find a way of ensuring that they address the needs of both members and non-members of the union.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I believe that my noble friend the Minister said that she would be prepared to consider before Third Reading some amendment to the suggested code of practice which might move in the direction that the amendment seeks to go and which, for one reason or another, has been supported by other Members of your Lordships' House. If that is so, and as I said this was a probing amendment in the first place, I would of course be happy to withdraw it on that understanding. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blotch moved Amendment No. 61: Page 12, line 28, at end insert: ("(5) In subsections (2) and (4) above the expression "all students" shall be construed as follows

  1. (a) in relation to an association or body which is a students' union by virtue of section 18(1), the reference is to all students at the establishment;
  2. (b) in relation to an association or body which is a students' union by virtue of section 18(2), the reference is to all undergraduate, or all graduate students, at the establishment or to all students at the hall of residence in question, as the case may be;
  3. (c) in relation to an association or body which is a students' union by virtue of section 18(3), the reference is to all the students who by virtue of section 18(1) or (2) are comprehended by that expression in relation to its constituent or affiliated associations or bodies.
(6) In subsection (2) (d) and (jc) above (requirements as to elections and affiliation to external organisations) the expression "members", in relation to a representative body which is not an association, means those whom it is the purpose of the union to represent, excluding any student who has exercised the right referred to in paragraph (c) (ii) of that subsection. (7) In subsection (2) (ja) to (jc) above the references to affiliation to an external organisation, in relation to a students' union for students at an establishment, include any form of membership of, or formal association with, an organisation whose purposes are not confined to purposes connected with that establishment. (8) Subsection (2) (d) and (jc) (ii) above (elections and affiliations: requirements to hold secret ballot of all members) do not apply in the case of an open or distance learning establishment, that is, an establishment where the students, or the great majority of them, are provided with materials for private study and are not required to attend the establishment to any significant extent or at all.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Consequential amendments]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 62: Page 18, line 31, at end insert: ("( ) In section 218 (school and further and higher education regulations)—

  1. (a) the subsection (2A) inserted by section 291 of the Education Act 1993 is renumbered (2B), and
  2. (b) at the beginning of that subsection for "The regulations" substitute "Regulations under subsection (2) above".").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is purely technical. It corrects a cross-reference to the education Acts of 1988 and 1993. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 63: Line 2, leave out ("funding and").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, since we have agreed that the proposals to regulate the expenditure of public money by student unions put forward in the original Clause 20 of the Bill should be deleted, it is necessary also to delete the reference to funding in the Bill's Long Title. This does not affect, in itself, the scope of the Bill as revised. [ commend this amendment to the House. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-six minutes past eleven o'clock.