HL Deb 20 May 1996 vol 572 cc657-8
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill is the first of two linked consolidation Bills in my name on the Order Paper. If I may, I shall speak to them together and then move the second formally.

These Bills consolidate the Education Act 1944 and subsequent legislation relating to education in schools in England and Wales, together with the statutory provisions dealing with the inspection of those schools.

The current legislation relating to education, subsequent to the 1944 Act, is contained in four principal Acts passed since 1980 which made provision for such matters as the establishment and discontinuance of schools, their government, conduct and staffing, the national curriculum, delegated budgets, grant-maintained schools and the education of children with special education needs. The fact that consolidation is needed in this area is abundantly clear from the considerable size of the Education Bill (which runs to 583 clauses and 40 schedules). It is also a testament to the skill and dedication of the draftsman, and I am sure that the House will wish to join me in thanking him for his work. Nevertheless, although for reasons of convenience the Education Bill deals with the functions of the Secretary of State and local education authorities over the field of education in England and Wales generally, in order to keep the proportions of the Bill within manageable bounds it does not otherwise deal with further or higher education. Those forms of education will therefore continue to be covered by existing legislation.

The provisions dealing with school inspections are currently to be found in the Education (Schools) Act 1992 and Part V of the Education Act 1993. The 1992 Act establishes the framework within which school inspections take place, although the procedure to be adopted differs according to the type of school (and the relevant provisions are to be found in different statutes). The 1993 Act confers powers of intervention on the Secretary of State where a local education authority maintained school has been found on an inspection to require special measures to be taken.

These Bills also incorporate a number of relatively small but useful changes to the present law, giving effect to the recommendations of the Law Commission in its report accompanying the Bills. These changes are intended to rectify a number of inconsistencies and omissions in the present law and to give better effect to the original intentions of Parliament. I am most grateful to the Law Commission for its work in this area. The commission's recommendations will of course be the subject of consideration by the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, to which these Bills will be referred in the usual way if your Lordships are content to give them a Second Reading. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, the House will be very grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for presenting these consolidation Bills. They represent an enormous amount of work, and we on these Benches express our appreciation to the Law Commission and all its officers for the work that they have done on our behalf.

The whole thing amounts to consolidation of Bills which started as long ago as 1944 and represent progress in education legislation through governments of quite different persuasions. There is no party political issue concerned with these measures; though I note that by my count they occupy 835 pages and weigh 1,246 grammes, which, for the benefit of noble Lords opposite who seem a little un-European in recognising metric units, is nearly three pounds.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his expressions in relation to the Law Commission, and also for the information that he has given us latterly, along with the requisite calculation.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.