§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Boston of Faversham) in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [The General Teaching Council]:
Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 1:
Page I. line 11, at end insert—
("( ) The principal aim of the Council shall be to maintain and enhance the standard of teaching and the quality of learning in schools.").
§ The noble Baroness said: As the noble Baroness and the Committee will be aware, when we debated this matter at Second Reading I said that I supported in 1380 principle the establishment of a general teaching council. I think that was a view which was agreed throughout the Chamber. Looking at this matter in some detail, I was somewhat surprised to note that there did not appear to be any aims set out in the Bill as to what exactly the council is expected to do. Amendment No. 1 is grouped with Amendment No. 2, which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. The first part of that amendment reads almost exactly the same as my amendment.
§ I hardly think my amendment requires a great deal of explanation because it is perfectly clear what it aims to do. I should like to think that there could be no possible disagreement among ourselves on these aims. Perhaps the Minister could say why a measure such as this was not included in the Bill as it is important to set out somewhere that we believe that the general teaching council should promote good, high standards in education through the teaching profession. This is not a complicated amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord Tope
As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said, Amendment No. 2, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Maddock, is, I believe, at the beginning word for word the same as the amendment of the noble Baroness. However, we may have gone a little further in spelling out the matter. I believe that the noble Baroness said there was no need to explain the amendment as it is self-explanatory. I am sure that is true but nevertheless it is important in that much of today's debate on this and subsequent amendments will concern the nature and the constitution of the general teaching council.
I believe that there is a wide welcome, certainly in the profession, and, I think, in this Chamber, for the establishment of the general teaching council. So far, so good; but simply setting up a general teaching council in itself is not enough. What is important is what it will do and what its functions are. It is important that it is seen to be independent and not, as I said on Second Reading, a rather toothless poodle of the Secretary of State. It is important that it commands the confidence of the profession. The amendment which I shall move today is the start of that process.
It is important that the purpose and the function of a general teaching council is enshrined in legislation. We have stated that in our amendment. As I have said, the first part of it reads word for word the same as that of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. However, we also say that the council needs,to safeguard the interests of young people as learners".
It is important that that is recognised specifically. It is also important—perhaps even more important—that the council enables the,teaching profession to exercise responsibility for the standards and quality of its professional service".
That is crucial if the council is to gain the acceptance and support of the teaching profession. For those reasons it is important that the Bill recognises that that is what the principal aim and purpose of the general teaching council should be. I am sure that the Minister 1381 will agree with the sentiments. I hope that she will also agree with the importance of providing this in the legislation.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
I strongly support the general purpose of the two amendments. Amendment No. I states simply the aim of the council; and I can see no reason that it should not be incorporated in the Bill. Doubtless the Minister will tell us what she thinks about that.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that the council should enable the teaching profession to exercise responsibility. However, I do not think that the council as recommended in the Bill goes far towards that aim. We shall doubtless go through the various functions of the council as we go through the Bill. But it is purely a consultative body. It is very much a creature of the Secretary of State. We shall decide whether that is right as we go through the Bill. But as the Bill stands I do not think that it would be right to incorporate paragraph (b) because it does not describe what the council does. I wish that it did.
§ Lord Mishcon
I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will help me to consider his amendment with the seriousness that I am sure he would wish. Does the noble Lord want the council to enable the teaching profession to offer advice, or does the noble Lord mean in paragraph (b) that it is the council which will offer advice? My point is genuine; I do not seek to raise a pedantic point. I do not understand what the words of paragraph (b) mean.
§ Lord Tope
I shall try to clarify them. As the Bill stands—we seek to amend this at later stages—the role is simply advisory. I seek to provide that the council should have given to it the responsibility for maintaining the standards of the teaching profession, in much the same way—I do not wish to draw too close an analogy because I do not know enough about them—as the General Medical Council or the legal profession.
§ Lord Mishcon
The noble Lord has not followed my point. I am sure that it is my fault. At the end of paragraph (b) the amendment states, "and to offer advice". Does that mean that one wants the council to offer advice; or is the provision governed by the words at the beginning of the amendment,to enable the teaching profession … to offer advice"?
§ Lord Glenamara
I warmly welcome this part of the Bill. It is the only part of the Bill that I welcome. I think that I am the only person who in the past has tried to set up a teaching council. The attempt came to grief because the unions fell out among themselves. That was 30 years ago. But I very much welcome this provision.
Having said that, I deprecate the fact that this is an ungenerous way to make the provision. As I see it, a general teaching council gives a measure of home rule to the teaching profession. If it does not do that, it is 1382 really not worth while. There are plenty of bodies to give advice. This body should govern the teaching profession. Therefore it must control ingress to the profession and egress from it and not simply be able to give advice on those matters.
The second point of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, goes a little way towards that aim. I very much welcome the amendment. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept it.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ripon
I support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. We had a Question today on recruitment to the teaching profession. The Minister said that she believed the establishment of a teaching council would go some way towards giving the profession confidence.
However, unless the teaching council has a greater measure of responsibility than at present, it will not serve that purpose. The raising of morale will result as teachers feel that they have some responsibility for the standards of the profession. On those grounds, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope.
§ Lord Quirk
I most certainly strongly support the first part of this Bill in relation to the general teaching council. I echo the words of other noble Lords who have wished to see a strengthening of the role of the general teaching council which to some extent is in both the first two amendments: the spelling out by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, of the principal aim of the council, being thus and so, but more particularly with the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, to see the council made responsible. I think that this sense of responsibility, the additional powers to the general teaching council, will be very much welcomed in the teaching profession.
§ Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
I, too, support the noble Baroness's amendment. It is important that in a precise and clear way the aim of the council is described. The problems that face the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, show the dangers of not giving a narrow and precise definition. At later points in the Committee I shall be worrying at other broad definitions.
We have to be cautious of replacing the Secretary of State entirely by the teaching council. To a degree, I shall support certain of the Government's ideas in seeing an evolutionary approach as being better than writing this council in letters of stone from the beginning.
I utterly share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, of the value of the proposal. However, the problems of 30 years ago, which I, too, remember, could occur again if we rush at this too quickly. Therefore there will be points where I and my noble friends will be pulling in a little the Liberal horses.
1383 In general, I advise support for the precise amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I share the worries of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, about the vagueness of paragraph (b) in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tope.
§ Lord Peston
I had read the Bill slightly differently from other noble Lords. I had thought that the proposed teaching council was more than a consultative body. When the Minister replies, I hope that she will say in terms that it is more than a consultative body.
Having read all the paragraphs under Functions of the Council, I make two points. First, as regards the operation of the register, in due course we shall debate how people come off the register. I regard that as more fundamental than getting on to the register. The teaching council will do a good deal more than simply being consultative.
Secondly, as Clause 2 of the Bill stands, the council does not wait for the Secretary of State to ask its view. I read the Bill as providing, "We will tell you our view". The matters on which the council comments are substantive—not least to do with recruitment and numbers. Unless the Minister tells me that I have misread the Bill, I do not have the worries that other noble Lords have.
I am not against the amendments in content, but if any noble Lord asked me why we want to improve the quality of our teachers, I would say that it was because we wished to improve the quality of our education. I see no need to write that into the Bill. It seems to be restating the obvious. The point of setting up the general teaching council is to improve the quality of our teachers. We strongly believe that that is the way to improve the education system in our country. So again, unless my noble friend the Minister tells me that I have misread the provision, I do not see the point of the amendments.
Finally, I hope that a considerable number of practising or former teachers will be on the council—a matter that we shall debate in due course. I therefore hope that this body will be recognised as teachers taking responsibility for their own service. Other people will also be brought in. Those of us who have been independent members of other such bodies believe that we did a good job. I hope that there will be similarly independent people on the council. In my view there ought to be a majority, but there will certainly be a substantial number, of teachers on the council; and they will be the ones giving leadership and taking responsibility. I am glad that the amendments were tabled that my noble friend has an opportunity to clarify these matters. However, speaking personally, I hope that she does not accept them.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
Speaking as one of the "Liberal horses" to whom the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, referred, perhaps I might say a brief word in defence of the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Tope. I remember—although I hope that no one will ask me 1384 to find the reference in Hansard because it would take me some time—being told by a Minister in this Chamber that teaching was not a profession because it was not self-governing. That is precisely the point that my noble friend's amendment seeks to address and which, so far as I can see, the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, does not quite address, although it comes close to it.
It is our concern that teaching should be a self-governing profession, that it should be able to exercise, through the general council, some of the powers of the General Medical Council or the Bar Council; in fact, that there should be a degree of genuine internal self-government.
The way in which the general teaching council is to be constituted reminds me a little of an obstreperous three year-old who is kept in leading reins because the traffic around it is so dense. That is not particularly dignified.
It reminds me also of the description in 1066 And All That of Poyning's Law—that the Irish should have a parliament and the English should pass all the Acts in it. The Secretary of State seems to have set himself up to be the English. He is not all of them.
§ Baroness Warnock
I wish to say a word in favour of the second amendment. What we have heard so far shows that there is a genuine ambiguity, a genuine difference of opinion as to how the general teaching council is to be considered. We have heard on the one hand that it is nothing but an advisory body, and on the other that it is to take responsibility for standards and the registering and de-registering of teachers.
If that ambiguity is possible, as previous remarks seem to show, then the word "responsibility" should be used on the face of the Bill, so that it is clear from the Bill that teachers are to be given responsibility for standards in their own profession. The issue will arise again and again. The matter should be made clear. It is made clear in the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tope.
§ Lord Walton of Detchant
I do not wish to prolong discussion on these two amendments. The principle underlying the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness. Lady Maddock, is wholly admirable.
However, sub-paragraph (b) in Amendment No. 2 is ambiguous. It should surely be the role of the council to exercise responsibility for the standards and quality of professional services in teaching and to offer advice. As the amendment reads at present, it is the teaching profession that will offer advice, and I do not believe that is the intention. After all, the council, in its constitution, will, and should, have a majority of members from the teaching profession; but it will also have a substantial number of lay members and others in order to enable it to fulfil its functions. For that reason alone, I am afraid I am unable to support the second part of Amendment No. 2, although the principle underlying both amendments is wholly admirable.
§ Baroness Blatch
Perhaps I may add a general point which applies to most parts of the Bill. This is a skeletal Bill. One of the difficulties that I suspect we shall have is that we shall all have our own views as to what form we believe this body should take and there will be a scramble to put everything on the face of the Bill. I suspect that the Minister will stonewall throughout the day in response to any ideas that we have about putting matters on the face of the Bill.
I hazard a guess that there is very little disagreement among Members of the Committee on all Benches about the main aims of this body: it should concern itself with the quality, standards and promotion of teaching as a profession. The differences will arise in regard to the way in which we want to achieve that.
It is a great pity that on this, as in many other parts of the Bill, even with regard to the professional qualification of head teachers—with which, as we have already seen from the first evaluation, there are difficulties and problems—and the student fees arrangements, there has not been a constructive debate, with the framework set out by government, and consultation before we returned to this place to put this piece of legislation on the statute book.
What we are doing is putting a framework on the statute book. We shall not know the shape of this body or its remit. That will be in the hands of the Secretary of State to devise well after the Bill has received Royal Assent. That is a great pity. This Chamber has much to contribute in making this body, which is the aspiration of all professional teachers and the will of this House, work in a more practical way.
However, we are where we are, and we have to consider the matter. No doubt the debate on the amendments on the Marshalled List will go some way at least to informing the consultation that will have to follow. In the meantime, like my noble friend Lord Pilkington, I wish to support the aims of my noble friend's amendment, which is absolutely fundamental. In the absence of the consultation that is yet to take place. words along those lines ought to be written on the face of the Bill as a fundamental remit for this body.
The noble Lord, Lord Tope, has already answered the point as to whether it is the council or the teaching profession which should advise. The point has been clarified; namely, that there is a mistake in the drafting, and it should be the council which advises the Secretary of State on these matters.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
When the noble Baroness replies, it may help to clarify the points just made by my noble friend if she will tell the Committee whether she considers that paragraph (b) in Amendment No. 2 sets out the purpose of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, said that he hoped that the Committee would make that the purpose of the Bill. I am not sure that it is correct to move an amendment on that basis.
I do not believe that that is what the Bill suggests. Should the Committee change the purpose of the Bill in the course of its proceedings—I rather doubt that we shall be able to—or change it even slightly, then later 1386 we might add a provision to the declaratory clause at the beginning of the Bill. Will the noble Baroness say whether she really thinks that the Bill as proposed is designed to enable the teaching profession to do these things? I do not ask that to be awkward; I believe it would be helpful.
I agree absolutely with the noble Lord. Lord Peston. I probably over-simplified the matter. The council as designed is not only advisory but consultative, and it is designed to keep a register, although we shall question whether its job in keeping the register is adequate and has a real purpose. That is another point. I agree with the noble Lord; I absolutely take his points. It would help if we could know what is the Government's view of paragraph (b) in Amendment No. 2.
§ Lord Gordon of Strathblane
I wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in replying, will draw on the experience of the General Teaching Council in Scotland, which has existed for well over 30 years and operates quite satisfactorily.
I am not sure that I see the necessity for the amendments that are being discussed. After all, the functions of the council are set out quite clearly in Clause 2 of the Bill and parts are developed further in Clauses 3, 4 and 5. Surely that tells us what the purpose of the general teaching council is to be.
§ Lord Monkswell
My concern with these amendments is that it is implied that the general teaching council will be the only body to determine the standard of teaching and quality of learning in schools. We should recognise that, apart from the teachers in schools, a range of other factors go to ensuring the standard of teaching and quality of learning. I mention as examples the fabric of the buildings and the working environment of teachers and pupils. Is it the object of the proposers of the amendments that the general teaching council should be the authority which advises the Government on the capital expenditure programme for school buildings? That seems to be the implication of the amendments.
§ Baroness Blackstone
First, perhaps I may say how grateful I am for the general support from all sides of the Chamber for this measure. It is something that many of us have looked forward to for some years. Some of us are even old enough and have been around long enough to remember the attempt by my noble friend Lord Glenamara to set up a teaching council in the late 1960s.
The amendments seek to set out in primary legislation the objectives for the GTC. The GTC will play an important role in raising the status and standing of the teaching profession. In doing that, we want to strengthen the role of the profession and to improve the general competence of the teaching profession. We hope that the GTC will contribute to our drive to raise standards.
The principal aims for the GTC envisaged by these amendments certainly match our intentions. Perhaps I could say to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, that the principal objective is as laid out in the amendment of the noble Baroness Lady Young. 1387 One way of achieving that objective is set out in paragraph (b) of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. However, as my noble friends Lord Peston and Lord Gordon said, we had not thought it necessary to specify objectives in primary legislation. It remains our view that it is not strictly necessary for the purposes of the legislation to do so.
At the same time, in picking up one or two other points that have been made, perhaps I may say that of course we want to see the profession play an important role in setting its own standards and having ownership of them. We expect that, after consultation, there will be a good representation of practising teachers on the GTC. I am sure that consultation about membership will confirm that that is what is wanted. It is important that we should give responsibility for standards to the profession and involve teachers in ensuring that we have the highest possible standards.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I shall try to avoid stonewalling throughout the day with respect to proposals made in amendments. As she readily accepted, the shape of the GTC and its final remit will be the result of further consultation which the Government have already promised to the teaching profession and to the many others who have an interest in these matters. In considering the outcome of these consultations, the Government and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will want to take into account what is said in this Chamber during the course of our debates during the various stages of the Bill.
I should like to consider further these amendments. I do not want to stonewall and reject them out of hand: I believe that they basically reflect what we intend. Some Members have indicated that there might be one or two ambiguities in the amendments. If we decide to put on the face of the Bill a simple and clear objective, it is important that we are absolutely sure that there are no ambiguities and that the objective is clearly understood. I hope that, on that basis, the amendment will be withdrawn.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
Before the noble Baroness sits down, can we take it from what she said that she will accept amendments to the Bill on this issue? More precisely, is the noble Baroness saying that she accepts the amendments in principle and will come back with a form of words that would satisfy my noble friend?
§ Baroness Blackstone
I have said that we shall consider further whether we can come back with a suitable amendment to put on the face of the Bill without its leading to ambiguity and uncertainty. The drafting of the amendment must be clear and acceptable.
I very much thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for what she has said. It has been a useful debate. I cannot speak on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but I believe we are all agreed about this matter. A point I would emphasise, and which perhaps I did not make clear at the beginning, is that we 1388 must all agree that, if we are to raise educational standards and to have a good education system, it must be based on the teachers. They are the only ones who can deliver this. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. The purpose behind my amendment was not just to state the obvious—although in a sense it is stating the obvious—but to make clear to the teachers that there is a recognition of the essential role that they play and of the importance of raising their status in society.
I am happy to withdraw the amendment. I recognise that these amendments need to be correctly drafted. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness could come back with an amendment at a later stage. This is an issue on which we are all agreed and on which we are trying to do something constructive. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Glenamara
I do not believe that we are all agreed. A fundamental question is raised about the council. Is it to be purely consultative, as it is in the primary legislation, or is it to be responsible for having a measure of the governance of the teaching profession? Perhaps Members would look at Clause 2(4). Even in the special case where there is doubt whether a teacher should be able to continue, the Secretary of State will make the decision. The council can advise him, but he will make the decision. I know from experience that that is one of the powers that the Department for Education has never been able to give up. That power should be in the hands of the teachers themselves; they should be able to decide whether or not a person is able to continue to teach. Earlier in the clause it is provided that the council will advise the Secretary of State on the standards of conduct for teachers. The teachers themselves ought to be responsible for the conduct of the profession. I will not go on. I hope that the noble Baroness appreciates that this is the fundamental question with regard to this proposal. Unless it is to be more than a consultative body, we may as well pack up and go home; it is not worth the trouble. I hope that the Government will take that point on board.
§ Lord Tope
First, I begin by agreeing wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. This is at the root of the issue. I am grateful for the support that my amendment, to which my noble friend Lady Maddock also put her name, received from all corners of the Committee. Whether or not the provision should be on the face of the Bill is open to debate, although I believe quite strongly that it should be. While clearly I agree with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young—she uses the same words as I use—the additional part of my amendment is also important and I hope that it will be considered.
I am sorry that the wording is ambiguous. I do not claim to be a legal or parliamentary draftsman. It was my intention that the council should be the vehicle by which the teaching profession takes responsibility and so forth. As a layman, that seemed clear to me. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, whose knowledge of legal matters is much greater than mine, and the noble Lord, Lord Walton, looked at it. I am happy to see whether 1389 we can improve the drafting. If the Minister and her advisers will do the same, then when we come to Report stage I hope that we shall have a form of wording that is unambiguous.
I hope, perhaps with a little less optimism, that the Government also recognise the extremely important points made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. On the basis of the general shared intention in your Lordships' Chamber and the non-stonewalling response from the Minister who agreed to look at this, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 2 not moved.]
Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 2, line I, leave out subsection (3).
§ The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4 which is strictly consequential upon it. This is the first of long series of amendments I tabled to probe the regulation-making powers in the Bill which are pretty extensive. I hope to save some of the time of the Committee—after last night that is a worthwhile objective—by making my general points about regulations on my first amendment. Thereafter, I hope that I shall be able to say as little as I beg to move", and play it by ear after listening to the answers.
§ My first anxiety about the regulations is the obvious one that one cannot discuss and amend the detail. The second point is that we may be creating powers whose extent we do not foresee. I was struck by the department's memorandum to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee in relation to this Bill. In paragraph 22(f) of the memorandum the department says that the Government are introducing tuition fees under existing legislation. I wonder what legislation. I certainly have no idea and I have scrutinised the drafting of educational legislation over the past 10 years with a certain amount of care and suspicion. I did not know that I had voted in favour of legislation to allow the setting up of tuition fees. When I know under what powers that is being done, I should like to look back at the wording of the Bill and see where my vigilance was insufficient. It does not encourage me to relax it at present.
§ I gave the noble Baroness notice before Christmas of the three questions I want to ask on each of these amendments. My first is: what could be done under the powers which are here being conferred? What is the utmost extent of what a government, not necessarily this one, could do with these powers if they wanted to? I hope that the example of the tuition fees indicates that that concern is not redundant.
§ I hope to obtain a fairly straightforward answer to my second question which is: what is it that the department actually wants to do with these powers? When I receive the answers to those two questions my third question will be, in a number of cases: why is the department asking for powers more extensive than are necessary to do what it at present intends to do? Those three questions I shall ask with each of my probing 1390 amendments. What I do thereafter, either now or at a later stage of the Bill, will depend on the answers I receive.
More generally, there is a difference of view among those with an experience of drafting as to how far regulation-making powers may be given. I have a copy of the report of the Hansard Society Committee, Making the Law, published in 1992, the committee chaired by the late Lord Rippon of Hexham, former chairman of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of this House and indeed its founder. It was Lord Rippon of Hexham who taught me the importance in these matters of separating form from substance. That is why I am beginning my probing into regulation-making powers on issues with which I have considerable sympathy with the objectives which the Government hope to achieve. Lord Rippon said:
We emphasise that statutory delegation should never leave an Act hare of everything except a framework of ministerial powers, with all real substance being left to ministerial regulations etc. This has been done (see the legislation on student loans in the Education (Student Loans) Act 1990, for example): it should not be repeated. The main principles of the legislation and its central provisions should appear in the Act itself'.
§ I am not certain that the main provisions appear in this legislation so I want to know what is being done.
I come to the specific point which is taken up in the amendment: the setting up of the general teaching council which will be constituted in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State. Why does it have to be constituted by regulation? Why cannot it be constituted by the Bill? That question may have a good answer. If so, I should like to hear it, specifically in relation to the words I have taken up in the amendment:
Regulations under this subsection may"—
"may" not "shall"—
authorise the Council to make rules with respect to such matters relating to their constitution as may"—
"may" not "shall"—
be specified in the regulations".
§ As far as I understand it, it would be intra vires to confine those regulations to authorising them to restrict the allocation of their paperclips. I do not suggest that that is the policy intention. But I should like to know whether it would be intra vires, under those words, to restrict the powers that much. I also want to know how far the powers they could be given could be extended. When I know what could be done under these words, I shall be in a position to judge whether they are the right words in which to confer the powers. I still do not see why it is necessary to use a regulation-making power to confer them at all.
§ I shall look forward to the Minister's answer with a great deal of interest and I hope that I shall not have to wait long to read it. I beg to move.
§ Lord Walton of Detchant
I share some of the anxieties expressed so clearly by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, relating to the unfettered powers of the Secretary of State in relation to this Bill. I speak with the experience of having spent 18 years on the General 1391 Medical Council and seven years as its president, although I appreciate that that model cannot be directly applicable to a general teaching council.
As the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said, one of the anxieties about the Bill as at present drafted relates to the fact that so much will be left to be covered by regulations, which are not dealt with specifically on the face of the Bill. At Second Reading I posed a question which I wish to pose again today. The other regulatory authorities concerned with professional self-regulation in the UK—medicine, dentistry, nursing, midwifery and, more recently, osteopathy and chiropractic—are answerable not directly to a Secretary of State but to the Privy Council. That has always been regarded as a cherished position which the professions in question have held on to if only because they have felt that their regulation would no longer be subject to the political whim of a Secretary of State or of a particular political party. It would be interesting to know why, in the instance of this profession, self-regulation by the Privy Council, with the constitution and other rules being made by Order in Council, has not been followed.
Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said, Clause 2(1) states:The Council shall from time to time advise … the Secretary of State".
But it does not say that the Secretary of State is required to accept that advice. Equally, with regard to other issues such as the possibility of erasing teachers' names from the register of teachers where the persons concerned "have ceased to be eligible for registration" or "have failed to pay any such fee, or otherwise", the Bill leaves so much to be dealt with by regulation. For this reason, while I have not put down any amendments at this stage, I would be interested to have the Minister's advice as to why the council has not been given much more in the way of teeth and why the Secretary of State, and not the Privy Council, is to be responsible for making regulations.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Tope
Perhaps I may speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 17 and 18, which have been grouped with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Russell. My amendments relate to Schedule I to the Bill and specifically to paragraph 3, which deals with the chairman and members of the council. In part my concern has been echoed by the two previous speakers about the words "regulations may", but also—and perhaps more so—about the point we were discussing earlier. I refer to the independence of the general teaching council. If it is to be seen as an independent body, the Government must learn to trust it, although sometimes it may be uncomfortable to do so. Part of that—I have put down amendments which reflect the same point—is trusting it to make its own rules and regulations, to elect its own chairman and to determine his period of office, and so on. In other words, it should be a trusted, professional and responsible body which is able also to regulate its own affairs and not be subject to prescription from the Secretary of State. That is the purpose of the 1392 amendments standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Maddock. This is an important point and it is part of a wider consideration to which I am sure we shall return time and again during this discussion.
§ Lord Peston
One reason why I am so enamoured of your Lordships' House is that we have certain rituals. One of the rituals is that when you are on the other side of the House, where I spent a great many years—too many years—you always complain about regulations. It is a standard thing. You get up and say of every Bill, "Too much is in regulations". I made goodness knows how many such speeches. If there is some catastrophe and I end up on the Benches opposite again, which I do not expect to happen in my lifetime, I am sure I will make exactly the same speech.
I look forward with great interest to my noble friend's reply but I think I can guess precisely what it will be. It will be a fair copy of the kind of reply the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, used to give. That does not get away from the substantial matter that this is still an interesting topic, particularly if we were in a more philosophical mood. But we are not. We have a Bill before us and we have to consider it as it is.
§ Baroness Blatch
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, is my old sparring partner. I am grateful to him for giving way. There is a difference. It is that the whole Bill is a Henry VIII Bill. In fact the whole of the Education (Schools) Bill is a Henry VIII Bill. It is the volume of Henry VIII legislation which most concerns us. I remember the noble Lord's colleagues bringing the House to a halt because I had not produced, on behalf of the government. the draft legislation so that when the House came to discuss Henry VIII clauses it would be aware of what was going to be in the Bill. We have had a plethora of background papers in the past day or two but we still do not know what the shape of this body will be. We shall be passing the powers to set it up but we do not know what the shape of the body will be.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, has made an important point. There is a fundamental question to be decided. But I do not think we will be able to decide it because the Government have set their face against a body with powers. They have decided that it is to be an advisory body, and that, presumably, is what will go through. However, there should be a debate about the nature of this body and whether it should have powers and teeth. We should be dealing with those powers in detail on the Floor of the House in this debate. Sadly, we are having a debate in a vacuum. There is a difference between the fun we had when I was sitting on the Government Front Bench and what is proposed in the Bill.
§ Lord Peston
I thank the noble Baroness. She confirms my point about the ritual and related matters. I would make exactly the same speech she has just made if I were sitting opposite. However. I do not believe we are debating in a vacuum. We are debating the substance. My noble friend Lord Glenamara has made some substantial points. He was not prevented from making them and the points at least are being made at this stage.
1393 It so happens that I could he persuaded that certain provisions should be in the Bill. I am simply making the point that that is not the way we go. If I may refer to past history, I led for the Opposition on what I regarded as the most infamous Bill of all. I refer to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill. I thought it was a constitutional monstrosity. but I was soundly defeated on that.
I see the first amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, as nullifying the Bill. If subsection (3) of Clause 1 is deleted, no council will be set up at all. He cannot mean his amendment to be accepted. He is putting it forward in order to debate the question of regulations generally. As the Bill stands, with no further amendment, if the council cannot be set up by regulation, it cannot be set up at all. I am sure the noble Earl does not want that to happen. I am not sure which of my noble friends is to reply but I look forward to hearing what the Government have to say.
Perhaps I may raise a point which I was going to raise on the next amendment. I refer to the role of the Privy Council. I was going to inquire whether it would be appropriate for the council to be set up by the Secretary of State or whether, following other examples, it should be a Privy Council matter. I should be quite happy to see that point replied to now rather than in a few moments.
The last point I would like to make—again, I welcome my noble friend's reply—is that I regard this as the first stage in setting up the teaching council. Someone else has used the word "evolutionary". I believe it may even have been the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, from the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that my noble friend will confirm that this is an evolutionary matter. We are not setting it up once and for all but in order to get the matter started and to gain experience. I believe that we are setting it up partly in order that the teachers themselves can gain experience in becoming self-regulating as a profession. Again, I had not read the Bill—it may be that I have misunderstood—as saying that in due course the general teaching council will not evolve to do many more things on an obviously self-regulatory, professional basis. So I am less pessimistic than one or two others about this.
I said also at Second Reading that my view is that this provision gets us started with something that is dear to our hearts. There is more that I would like, and once this provision has been achieved, it may well be that I and my noble friends will ask to have other matters added as the basis of experience. I am not pessimistic. I do not believe that Members of the Committee should attack the Bill because it is not yet doing everything that deep in our hearts we want to see happen.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
I join in supporting this group of amendments because at the moment I believe that the Bill, as it is drafted, has gone too far in the direction of relying solely on regulation. I well remember in the past 10 years, when the present Government were on the other side, that they joined with the rest of us who worried in particular about the excessive powers being given to the Secretary of State. I remember at the time of the Bill in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, there were 200 to 300 extra powers being bandied around as accruing to the 1394 Secretary of State. I remember that Members of the House on this side were as worried as any of us. So I am genuinely surprised to see them defending it. I much respect the noble Lord, Lord Peston, but the fact that he refers to it as a ritual is not a very good answer to the arguments that we are dealing with at the moment.
The noble Lord said that this provision is going to be evolutionary. I understand that. But do we take it from that that there will be another Bill following on to extend it, or how else will it happen?
§ Lord Howie of Troon
Like my noble friend Lord Peston, I follow the rituals of the House. but with one difference. I make the same speeches regardless of which side I am sitting on and, unfortunately, frequently in the same words, which is rather a pity.
This is a very important debate because we are not only dealing with the council as a council but with the definition of teaching as profession. If the council is set up in such a way that the teaching profession is not self-regulating—and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Glenamara and with the remarks of the noble Lord. Lord Walton of Detchant, as regards the Privy Council—it is not a profession at all. The word "profession" becomes debased if it is used in that loose way: it becomes a mere occupation.
It may be that my noble friend Lord Peston is right and that this is the first evolutionary step which will take the teaching profession away from being an occupation to becoming a true profession. But if it is to be a profession, the Secretary of State must not have this key role in it. He is no doubt important in terms of education as a whole, but he must not have this fundamental regulatory function as regards the profession. At some stage, which I hope is soon, the profession will become self-regulated and will then be on a par with the other professions in this country such as medicine, architecture, the law and even engineering, if I might mention it. I hope that we can get to the position we want very rapidly. I support the idea of the council, but I hope that it is the first step in a fairly quick march towards self-regulation and the establishment of teaching as a true profession.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is right. He is doubtless much better informed than I am that the Government do not want to go further at the moment because they do not feel that they can trust the teaching profession fully to involve itself in a general teaching council with powers such as those possessed by the council in Scotland. I spoke about this at Second Reading at some length.
I have to take the Government's word for it. I do not know what the situation is in England and Wales from experience, but I pointed out that the Scottish council is working quite well. There are some aspects that I would like to refer to as we continue our discussion.
As regards the noble Earl's amendment, he has an extremely important point. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I believe that as regards Clause 1(3) we are debating in a vacuum. We do not know how the 1395 council is going to be constituted because it is to be done by regulation. That makes things rather difficult. If the noble Baroness is going to tell us that she is waiting for consultation, perhaps she can tell us that she hopes to change the provision on the face of the Bill when that consultation is over. It seems to me a great pity to leave Parliament in a vacuum throughout the legislation on this issue because we do not know what we are doing. This is not so much a point about the responsibilities and opportunities for the teaching profession but about Parliament and whether it should accept this extreme use of regulation.
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, suggested and the noble Lord, Lord Howell, endorsed the point—it depends which side of the House one is sitting on as to what one says about it. But I would simply point out to them that perhaps when they have been sitting behind the Government for some time they will find that the best way to get change on this matter is to talk to them privately. That is what we used to do. Many of us felt strongly about this matter. I feel no different now, but I did not always go on about it in the House because I was told that the Government wanted to get on with the Bill and did not want to hold things up, so I consulted privately. The noble Lords may be doing that already, but it is a very effective way to proceed. I support this amendment in so far as I believe that the noble Earl is bringing out an extremely important point.
§ Lord Glenamara
I support the noble Earl. I am not going to follow him, but I agree entirely with what he said. I cannot recollect any Bill brought forward under the previous government—I am not one of their supporters—which relies so heavily on regulations as this one does. The reform legislation brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, when he was in the other place pointed out the governance of the institutions involved in the greatest detail. The minutiae was all there. I do not know why we cannot do that in this case, perhaps not to the same extent, but we could do something in that direction. This Bill, which in part deals with student loans, tells us nothing at all except that the Minister is going to make regulations. For the most part they will be subject only to the negative procedure in Parliament. I believe that is very unfortunate.
As regards this provision, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walton. The Privy Council is about the most undemocratic body in the country, but as an ex-Lord President I am very attached to it. It is a great safeguard of our freedoms in many ways. If one of the new universities wants to change its name or anything else, it has to get approval from the Privy Council. I do not know why the Privy Council could not have been brought in to this proposal. It would have given the teaching profession a bit of class and status. Instead, all we have is this dreary provision about the Secretary of State making regulations. In this part of the Bill he is making regulations about the form of the council, who should be on it, how many people are on it and all the rest. That is a matter for the teachers themselves.
1396 The Secretary of State is going to be a great super-national nanny. The teaching profession should be trusted. One should trust the teachers. After all, four years ago the then government trusted the polytechnics to become universities and they were put in charge of their own affairs. If one body functioning in a town in Britain can be trusted to run its own affairs, then surely the teaching profession can.
For some years now, a body organised by the teachers themselves has been planning a general teaching council. I cannot imagine why the Government have not followed its model in the main, but there it is. I believe that we should have tried to follow that model which is very different from this proposal. I very much hope that the Minister will give us some reassurance on that point.
My only other point is that I certainly agree that the council should not be composed entirely of teachers. However, teachers must form the majority. We cannot pretend to be giving teachers regulatory power over their own profession if they do not have a majority on that body. Please can we be assured that the teachers will form the majority on the council?
§ Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
I, at least, am free from hostages to fortune in this debate. I must agree with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the regulations. I shall not refer to them generally but, in relation to this Bill, it is an enormous tragedy—the Government will regret it—that Ministers have decided to use regulations so extensively.
I say that because, as I said earlier, I support the evolutionary approach, but that approach is being taken against a profession of great sensitivity which has felt that in the past it has not been given all that it wanted. Had the Government issued more detailed regulations so that the teaching profession could have seen them, I am quite sure that it might have accepted the need for an interim period while the council worked out its procedures. One important element of setting up an executive with its support staff is the question of who will be secretary to the council. That is a crucial appointment. By not issuing detailed regulations now, the Government have made the tasks of that council much greater and have decreased the possibility of it being accepted.
I prefer an evolutionary approach because such a body is new to England. I emphasise that we are dealing with a profession which is completely different from those of the law and of medicine, in particular with regard to numbers. There are 460,000 teachers in England and the teaching profession covers a wide variety of people. One cannot simply set up such a body in this way. It is as though the Government were to set up a body for the medical profession to include also masses of ancillary health workers.
I support the delay, but I hope that we can return to this to put more flesh on the bones, otherwise the Government will be making a rod for their own back. However, it is for those reasons that I cannot support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. One is caught in a cleft stick. One does not 1397 know where one is going. The Government will not tell us. We must hope that the teachers will accept this. Even a good nanny would not do that.
§ Baroness Blackstone
Perhaps I may begin by addressing the questions raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in moving the amendment. The noble Earl began by asking what could be done under the regulations if the Secretary of State chose to go to their outer limits. I cannot answer that question. It makes no sense to try to expose the outer limits of what may be done under any regulation-making power. That poses a quite impossible question. We could all start to fantasise about it—
§ Earl Russell
Whichever parliamentary draftsman drew up the words must have done so with a point in the words which sets limits to the powers. The Committee has a right to know what those limits are.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I am sorry, but I must repeat what I have just said. I do not think that it is possible under any regulation-making power to expose what the outer limits of that power might be.
Perhaps I may turn to the noble Earl's second question about what the department will actually do. I assume that the noble Earl has seen the note that was placed in the Library setting out the issues that will be covered in the regulations. The difficulty in this debate is that the Government have made a firm commitment to consult. That commitment has been welcomed by the teaching profession, the teachers' unions and the local education authorities. We must await the results of that consultation. We want to listen to the views of the profession. The profession is not a single entity. It consists of many different individuals, many different groups of teachers and a range of trade unions. My noble friend Lord Glenamara admitted that he was unable to set up a teaching council 30 years ago because of disputes between the teachers' unions. That is exactly what this Government are trying to avoid. We want to get agreement through the consultation process so that the council can get off to a really good start and so that nothing will be set out in regulations and legislation in advance to preclude our reaching such an agreement.
Perhaps I may admit to being something of a Fabian gradualist in this respect. I very much support what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said. We must approach this matter with care. We must build. It may well be that in 10 years' time the final shape of the general teaching council will be rather different from what it is when it is established. As my noble friend Lord Peston and one or two other speakers have said, it is sensible to approach this from an evolutionary basis. I have no doubt that as the council establishes itself and beds down, it will build on its work. It may start with a slightly more limited remit compared to its eventual remit, but it is extremely important that at this stage in the debate we do not limit the power in the way in which the noble Earl suggests. That would constrain the consultation and I am sure that noble Lords would not want us to do that.
1398 I was asked a specific question about the role of the Privy Council by the noble Lord, Lord Walton. My noble friend Lord Glenamara then picked up the point. I think that the answer to the question is that there has not been any tradition of Privy Council involvement in education at school level. Of course, there has been such involvement at university level—
§ Lord Glenamara
I do not think that the Minister is correct. Until the previous government altered the arrangement, every school inspector was appointed by name by the Privy Council, by the Queen in Council.
§ Baroness Blackstone
That is, of course, true of the inspectorate, but when they were in Government. noble Lords opposite decided to get rid of HMI. Speaking as somebody who has run a university for some years, I am not so sure whether it is a good idea to involve the Privy Council in this. For all its great strengths, the Privy Council is one of the slowest-moving public bodies ever invented. We do not want to find that we cannot make progress in developing the general teaching council because the provisions to do that are sitting in some outer office of the Privy Council. I believe that, just as in Scotland, in England the Secretary of State for Education should have such powers rather than the Privy Council.
As my noble friend Lord Peston said, the amendments—this is certainly true of Amendments Nos. 3 and 4—would remove the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations about how the GTC should be constituted. If we remove that power, we shall not be able to make any progress whatsoever in developing the GTC. That cannot make any sense.
Most important of all, I believe that these amendments would constrain and pre-empt consultation with the teaching profession and other interests about the composition of the council. We need to hear their views in detail. However, I recognise the concerns that have arisen during the debate about the types of issues to be covered by the regulations. That was why I placed a note in the Library which sought to set them out.
In response to the noble Lord. Lord Tope, the Government do not suggest in any way that the teaching council should be seen as other than a trusted and professional body. That is what it should be. At the same time, to say that the Secretary of State has no role, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, suggested earlier, would be an irresponsible abrogation of his responsibilities, especially as we are talking of a totally new body that needs to develop its approaches to a number of issues. There are very important issues here, like the barring of teachers involved in child abuse. I do not believe it is right to say that the Secretary of State has no role in matters such as that.
A question was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, as to whether there would be another Bill. In the long-term it may be that new legislation will be required. That must be true of any area that we debate. But there is no intention to bring forward another Bill in the near future because we shall set out in regulations how the council is to work. The Bill enables the Secretary of State to make regulations about 1399 the composition of the council. As the note placed in the Library indicates, the regulations will be used to set out the framework within which we envisage the GTC should make its own arrangements. There will be a good deal of scope for the GTC to do that. It is right that this framework is set out in regulations made by the Secretary of State as the GTC will be a public body, not a private teachers' association. It will have a very important regulatory role and it should therefore have proper public accountability about which the Secretary of State and Government can feel confident. In setting out in regulations the framework for the composition of the GTC, the arrangements will also be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. We can therefore ensure that we are content with the arrangements so that there is representation of all those with an interest in high standards in education while allowing the GTC scope to make its own arrangements on the details.
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, the regulations will be made only after wide-ranging consultation, and the constitution of the council will be set out in those same regulations. We shall very carefully consider the issues that arise during consultation and try to achieve a consensus before proceeding. All of the key interest groups will have an opportunity at that stage to comment on the provisions. I cannot therefore support amendments that would leave absolutely everything to the GTC to determine for itself.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may raise one or two matters. A moment or two ago the Minister said that the body would have important regulatory functions. As I read all of the information that came before me as background reading for this debate and the Bill itself, it appeared to me that the body would have no regulatory functions whatever. All of the amendments on the Marshalled List today are about giving the body regulatory functions. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify whether she is asserting that the body will have important regulatory functions and, if so, what they are.
As I understand it, secondary legislation in the form of these regulations takes its powers and authority from primary legislation. Therefore, what we do during the passage of this Bill through both Houses is very important in that it sets the framework for secondary legislation. The noble Baroness said that the Government were committed to consultation. I have absolutely no reason to doubt that. At the moment we are almost consulting to a fault because there is so much consultation taking place. But would it not have been better to have had that consultation with the teaching profession and then put the detailed proposal to the House so that the House could properly determine the fundamental question remaining at the end of the passage of the Bill; that is, whether this body should have powers or whether the body is there to advise the Secretary of State.
I sit here with copious papers from all the teacher unions. We know what each of them thinks about the setting up of the GTC. They differ one from the other, and many of the amendments on the Marshalled List 1400 today in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, are based on the desires of the teacher unions to have this body. But the common thread throughout all of this is that if there is to be a general teaching council, teachers want it to be a regulatory body with powers over teacher training and promoting the profession.
This takes us back to the question posed by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, which is a very important one; namely, the extent to which these powers can be exercised by the Secretary of State. We need to have some idea of the extent of those powers. For example, at the end of the day having passed this skeleton Bill, which is all it is, will we have a body that has all of the powers that noble Lords have talked about today? Does the Bill allow for a body with powers over teacher training, entry to the profession, dismissal and the discipline of teachers, or is the secondary legislation limited to codifying those areas where the body can advise the Secretary of State? If powers are to be given to this body, will it have to come back to the House for primary legislation? The answers to those questions are very important because the context in which we discuss all of these amendments this afternoon will be based on the answers given by the noble Baroness.
§ Earl Russell
I should like to reinforce the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I thank the Minister for a very long and carefully considered reply. I told her that this amendment was probing in the first instance. I take her point that if the words are removed altogether unless they are replaced with something the general teaching council will not go ahead. That was not my intention.
But there is one point on which I believe that there must be a misunderstanding between us. The Minister said that she was not prepared to answer the question as to the extent of the vires conferred on her by this Bill. What is the extent of what we are authorising the Secretary of State to do if we pass these words'? That is an important question. The Minister is asking the Committee to give her powers. She will be accountable to the House for the use of those powers. In any normal transaction it should be possible, if one asks for powers, to answer the question, "Power to do what, may I ask?" I appreciate that Ministers always want flexibility but I do not see why we should confer regulation-making powers on Ministers at all if they are not prepared to tell us the extent of those powers.
The reply of the noble Baroness is also out of line with the answers given by other departments. As recently as last Tuesday the Department of Social Security, which makes plentiful use of regulation-making powers, organised a briefing meeting in the Moses Room, for which I thank it very warmly. I raised the equivalent question about a regulation-making power in that Bill and was answered very quickly. I was told that there was a block in the wording which ensured that the consequence that I feared was not within the vires conferred by the legislation. I found that answer convincing and I accepted it instantly.
1401 I should like to put one specific question about these vires. Is it necessary for the Secretary of State to introduce regulations to set up a general teaching council at all? The word is "may", not "must". Clause i provides:There shall he a…General Teaching Council".It does not say when.
The commencement clause is open-ended. The Minister might do well to read the memorandum submitted by Sir William Wade, printed in the first report of your Lordships' Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, in which he said that an open-ended clause might amount to an improper delegation of power in that it left it in the Minister's discretion whether the Bill came into force at all. With a "may" in the regulation-making powers, that is doubly the case. It strengthens the point that what Sir William Wade was addressing was the criminal injuries compensation provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which, as we all know to our grief in many subsequent late nights, were never brought into force.
Is there anything in the wording of the Bill that means that the Secretary of State "must" bring the GTC into effect? I noticed also that the Minister did not answer a Question I asked her about when the powers to bring in tuition fees were conferred. That Question has been down for Written Answer for over a week, so someone in the department must have notice of it. If I am considering conferring powers to do things that I do not foresee, at the very least I might have an answer to the question as to when I was a party to conferring on the Government powers to do something I do not want them to do, which I never for one moment foresaw that they could do under the powers that I was conferring. Before taking the matter any further, I should be grateful to have some answers.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I am grateful to the noble Earl for raising all those questions. I return to what I said before. In any legislation of this sort, particularly where a new body is being introduced, there is always a need for regulations to set out how it should operate. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, suggested that the consultation should have been done before the Bill was introduced. We could have approached it that way. I accept that that would have been one way of approaching the matter, but it would have delayed the introduction—something that everyone on all sides of this place would like to see introduced.
§ Baroness Blatch
We are having a kind of chicken-and-egg debate. Is the Minister suggesting that we can get on with establishing the body more quickly ahead of the consultation than at the end of the consultation? Whichever way round it is done—Bill and then consultation, or consultation and then Bill-1 cannot see how the timetable is telescoped in any way whatsoever.
§ Baroness Blackstone
The noble Baroness was an experienced Minister who was a member of the previous government for a long time. She will know that the opportunities for any government department to bring 1402 in legislation are limited. Only so many Bills can be introduced in any one Session. We had the opportunity this Session to bring in a Bill concerned with both teaching and higher education. To have left it out because we had not yet consulted on the minutiae of what the GTC would look like would be a great pity. Our intention—this answers another point raised by the noble Earl—is to have the GTC fully operational by 2000. That is what we have agreed to do. However, it is important that we should get on the statute book that we need and want a GTC. Otherwise we shall be unable to do it by 2000. That is an important point to remember. It is a commitment that we are determined to make.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked whether extra powers would be introduced. The answer to that is no. The GTC can only have the powers that are laid down in the regulations, although it will be possible to add additional powers by order, but only where they are related closely to those on the face of the Bill. Otherwise we would need new primary legislation. I hope that that is clear.
§ Baroness Blatch
I am sorry to intervene again, but it is important to get this straight. It is not clear. The Bill as it stands confers on the Secretary of State powers to make secondary legislation. Under the Bill as it stands, is it possible to end up with a body that is anything from one having advisory powers only, on the one hand, or all the powers that have been talked about in the course of the debate, on the other? Is it limited at all? If we are allowing for regulations to give us any kind of body—from one extreme to the other—it is important that the Minister sets that out now.
§ Baroness Blackstone
Yet again, of course I cannot set that out at the moment. As I have said repeatedly, we are consulting on these matters. We are consulting on the constitution, the membership, and the powers of the GTC. Until we have done that, it is indeed open. The noble Baroness is right when she implies that under the Bill there is a wide range of possibilities. I readily and happily admit that. That is helpful, because it means that we can listen to the views of the profession, and, as she said earlier, views are varied. We shall need to take them all into account, and discuss and negotiate with the different sections of the profession what seems to be the most sensible way of moving forward. I hope that that reply is helpful. It is designed to be.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
It may be me, but it is not entirely clear. I am not asking the Minister to tell me what powers this body will have at the end of the day. I am just asking her whether the secondary legislative powers which are going to be given to the Secretary of State will include the power to create a body that has, on the one hand, advisory powers only, or will the power be wide enough to create a body that has all the powers necessary for dismissal, teacher training, and the promotion of teaching as a profession? If the teachers 1403 all come back and say to the Minister—as I suspect that they will—that they want a body with powers and teeth, do the secondary legislative powers allow for that?
§ Baroness Blackstone
As I understand it, they do. At the initial stage, the Secretary of State will not want to give the GTC all those powers for the reasons that we have made clear—until it is well-established and has some experience of playing an important and significant role in raising the standards of teaching and of the teaching profession in this country. It is important that we do not rush into anything. I am now reading a note that has come from my civil servants—the powers and functions are set out in the Bill. The noble Baroness asked whether secondary powers might result in a range of different roles for the GTC. The answer is that the powers and functions are set out in the Bill. Clause 1(4) sets some parameters. We must consider the range of interests to be represented, for example. The Bill does not otherwise set limits. It would be hard to do so without constraining the scope for consultation.
§ Earl Russell
The Minister does not need to justify a regulation-making power. We are too early to consider that question. We cannot decide whether we need a regulation-making power until we know: a power to do what? I want an answer to that question. I want an answer to the question whether there is anything in the Bill that means that the Minister "must" introduce a GTC. I want to know when we conferred upon the Government the power to introduce tuition fees without additional legislation.
Those are three perfectly fair questions. The first will recur on about 20 amendments in the remainder of the Bill, and I shall ask it again. May I have an answer, please?
§ Lord Peston
As I am anxious to live to the end of the debate on this Bill, perhaps I may say that I believe that the noble Earl is wasting the Committee's time. I have taken it for granted as a minimum that regulations are about the Bill. Clause 1 deals with the setting up of a general teaching council. Clause 2 and later clauses deal with its functions and related issues. Perhaps my noble friend will confirm that that will be the role of the regulations. That appears to be logical, to present no trouble, does not put us in constitutional conflict and should not encourage the noble Earl to raise the same point 20 times. The matter is elementary and logical.
Furthermore, I understand my noble friend to be saying that if, for example, the Committee amended the functions of the council and the Government accepted that, logically, the regulations would relate to the new amended functions. There is no theoretical difficulty, let alone constitutional difficulty, with that. I hope that my noble friend will now be able to say a final word so that we can move on to other matters.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
I follow the major problem raised by the noble Earl. Can the Minister tell us whether by regulation we could end up with a council 1404 which decided who could teach and who would be barred, such decisions being taken purely by order? That is a major part of what the council might become and I hope that that will be the case. However, can it occur without primary legislation?
§ Baroness Blatch
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, believes that we are wasting time. However, the debate will be prolonged because the Bill is skeletal and it is important that we know what is in the Government's mind when they legislate. The lives and work of almost half a million teachers will be directly affected by the outcome of the deliberations in Parliament.
I have looked at the powers and functions of the Bill. I pressed my questions so persistently because there is no power in the Bill other than to advise. Clause 2 provides that:Thc Council shall from time to time advise".It then lists the matters on which it shall advise. Subsection (3) provides that:The Council shall also advise the Secretary of State",and the matters are listed. Subsection (4) provides that:The Council may be required under subsection (3) to advise the Secretary of State on any matter relevant to a decision by him".Contrary to what the Minister said, there is nothing in the Bill that allows any secondary legislation which will flow from it to confer upon the council regulating powers or responsibilities.
I believe that the advice we have been given is wrong. The only way in which secondary legislation in the hands of the Secretary of State could confer on the council the responsibility for, for example, teacher-training responsibility, the promotion of teaching and the dismissal and discipline of teachers would be to amend Clause 2. That is why we are here today.
§ Lord Peston
I interrupt the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, because she is missing my point. I was addressing the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, which is concerned with regulatory powers. I was saying that it appears to be obvious that the regulatory powers will relate to the provisions of Clause 2 and beyond. I was making the additional point that if the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, persuaded the Government to change Clause 2 the regulatory powers would have to be adjusted.
I do not say that the Government will change that, but technically the noble Earl's questions about regulations—not those of the noble Baroness about the powers per se—are a red herring. Unless for many years I have misunderstood your Lordships' procedures, regulations will be about the provisions of the Bill—end of story.
§ Earl Russell
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, has created a confusion about what the regulations will be and what the regulations could be. I make no apology for asking the Minister what could be done under 1405 the powers that she is asking the Committee to confer. 1 shall ask that question again every time a regulation-making power is requested.
I had not intended to detain the Committee so long because I had not expected to wait so long for an answer. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment, but the Minister should not count on being so lucky again.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 2, line 6, after ("shall") insert ("specify the criteria he is proposing to use to make appointments and in any event shall").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment represents a more elementary and milder access to some of the problems which were raised in the previous group of amendments. I take it for granted that all that could be ultra vires would be the introduction of regulations which did not correspond to the provisions of the Bill. Therefore, I take for granted the fact that the regulations will correspond to them. I shall not comment on tuition fees, about which I have views, because we shall deal with them another day.
§ I wish to give my noble friend the Minister an opportunity to say broadly what the Secretary of State has in mind. I take her point about consultation. As someone who has spent most of his professional life as a professor, the word "consultation" does not come easily to my lips. I tend to take the view that I know what is right and that is what people ought to do, but that is by the way!
§ However, it would not be attractive for the Secretary of State to proceed on an ad hoc basis. It would be reasonable if either today or after consultation my noble friend told the Committee specifically what the Secretary of State has in mind. Perhaps I may give examples. The first chairman will be appointed by the Secretary of State. Perhaps my noble friend will confirm that because I do not see how the council will get off the ground. I should like to know the kind of person we are looking for as chairman. One does not place that requirement on the face of the Bill, but one could impose an obligation on the Secretary of State to let us know in due course. Are we looking for someone with a teaching qualification? Is that the criterion or is it another kind of person? The Bill provides that the council will reflect the interest of teachers. Does that refer to teachers in post, teachers who are retired or teachers undertaking other work? There are many such matters that come under the heading of "required criteria". In particular, I advert again to the "general public". To my mind, I should have preferred the words "lay person" rather than "general public". I reiterate that I should rather those people were chosen by the Privy Council than by the Secretary of State, as has happened with other professional bodies.
Again, on the criteria, I see the expression,
such other interests as in the opinion of the Secretary of State".
§ I should prefer something spelt out more explicitly rather than to have a reference to "such other interests". What are those interests? What is meant by "as in the opinion of and so on?1406
§ The last matter that I raise under that general rubric—and again, it may well be that I have misread the Bill and buried in it is the answer to the question—is how many people will he on the GTC. That sort of information is often in very small type but I cannot see how many people the Secretary of State has it in mind to appoint. I should like to know the sort of numbers we are talking about.
§ For those reasons, Ip believe that it is useful to mention the word "criteria". I do not believe that the debate we had on the previous amendment was terribly helpful because we fell into dealing with the technicalities which does not do a great deal in relation to improving the Bill or the general teaching council. A brief response from my noble friend or other contributions may well help in connection with this amendment. I beg to move.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I was interested in the amendment tabled by my noble friends Lord Peston and Lady David. I do not believe that the amendment is advisable or necessary at this stage, although I suspect that it is a probing amendment.
The Secretary of State intends to appoint the first chief officer but has no intention at present to appoint the first chairman. That is a matter for the regulations. We shall consult on how the chairman should be appointed and, indeed, on what sort of person the chairman should be. I am sure that many people will have views about that matter which they will wish to put forward. Clearly, the chairman must be somebody who has an absolute commitment to the highest possible standards in the teaching profession and should also have some knowledge of the teaching profession's role and functions and what it does. But we have not yet made any formal commitment to any particular criteria because, as I say, that is a matter for consultation.
The same applies to the question of my noble friend about how many people will be on the GTC. There is no final decision about a precise number. Clearly the body should be sufficiently large to represent a wide range of interests and in that sense have the confidence of the profession. At the same time, it should not be so enormous that it cannot properly do its work without being bogged down with huge amounts of unnecessary paper, bureaucracy and so on.
I repeat that the Bill does not specify that any members of the council shall be appointed by the Secretary of State. Therefore, I do not believe that it is necessary to refer in primary legislation to the criteria that he would use in making such appointments. It may be that part of the membership should be appointed directly by the Secretary of State but we shall consult on the case for that. If so, any such appointments would be subject to—and again, I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive the shorthand—established Nolan principles. That is extremely important if everybody is to be confident about the quality of the membership of the GTC.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness to say something more on this issue. In a few 1407 moments we shall deal with a group of amendments which are all directed to the same point; namely, the number of interests which need to be represented. I find it extremely difficult to put that into a context when I do not know whether we are talking about a body comprising about 20 to 25 people, which would seem to me the absolute minimum number that one might have, or something in the order of 60 to 70 people with a very broad range of interests represented.
At present, the noble Baroness seems to think that she can leave us with absolutely no idea at all as to what size of body we are talking about. The Government must have some idea in mind of the numbers. They need not commit themselves at this stage because I understand the point about consultation. I have some sympathy with the point made by my noble friend Lady Blatch that perhaps the consultation should have come before the Bill which might have been a more normal order of proceedings. However, that is not what we are dealing with. We must be told what size of body we are talking about so that we know to what extent it is reasonable to insist that it should be representative of this, that or the other. I do not believe that the noble Baroness can leave it at large as she has at the moment.
§ Lord Quirk
There is one respect in which it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is absolutely right in asking for criteria to be spelt out. We are talking about a very large profession—half a million. I refer to teachers in schools covering the period of mandatory education. But as we all know, there is the Association of University Teachers. Once the word "teaching" is used, the breadth is quite extraordinary.
Clause 1(4) states,membership reflecting the interests of … teachers [and] employers of teachers".
Therefore, surely we should know the composition of the general teaching council. What kind of teachers will be members of the general teaching council? We should have good reason to understand that "teachers" means teachers of pupils in mandatory education and "employers of teachers" means employers of such teachers, not a bunch of vice-chancellors or something.
We should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for tabling the amendment. It has drawn one clear statement from the Minister; that is, that the Secretary of State is to appoint the first chief officer. That is the first concrete evidence we have had of anything at all, without making any commitment about the chairman, although I see that in the schedule we learn a bit about the chairman.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that she has put all Members of the Committee in a very difficult position. I can see that it is very tedious to go over and over these points. I see that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is not in his place but the points which he raised were very real. I am one of those who think that it would have been wiser to have gone out to consultation on all this before bringing forward a Bill. I was slightly surprised to hear the Minister say that the Government had not done that 1408 because of the difficulty of fitting a Bill into the legislative programme. I seem to recall the words that this Government stand for "Education, education, education". Have we not heard those words? Therefore, I should not think that there would be too much difficulty fitting an education Bill into the parliamentary timetable. But that is not a matter for Members on this side of the Committee to debate.
The fact is that we are being asked to buy blind. None of us is tabling amendments to be difficult. We want a general teaching council to work, and to work effectively for the aims which we all wish to see. But it is very difficult to know what we are debating when we know nothing. We do not know the powers, their limits or who is to be on the council. My noble friend Lord Jenkin made the very important point that we do not know whether the council will comprise 20 or 100 people. We have no idea.
In those circumstances it is very difficult to be constructive and helpful. I believe that the Minister should take all this away and come back to the Committee with a much clearer picture of what we are attempting to do.
§ Baroness David
We are now coming to the more specific amendments which I think will give the Minister a chance to let us hear the thoughts of the Government and the Department for Education. I plead with Members of this Committee to get on with it so that we can perhaps get some answers.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I express a mild measure of surprise at the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. She indicated her pleasure at having extracted a statement from the Minister that the Secretary of State will appoint the first chief executive. I am surprised at her pleasure because that information is to be found in the first schedule to the Bill. Indeed, if the noble Baroness had read the Bill, she would have seen that.
I really do not need the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to tell me about reading the Bill. I have read it. I was making the point that I welcomed the fact that we had a clear statement on the matter. I recognise that it is in the Bill; indeed, there is also something in the Bill about the chairman. We do not need to be lectured on whether or not we have read the Bill.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
It is quite obvious that the noble Baroness made a thoroughly bad point from which she is trying to recover.
§ Baroness Blatch
I find what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has just said to be quite rude.
§ Baroness Blatch
Indeed, if the noble Lord wishes, I shall use his own word—shocking. My noble friend was making the point that the only clear answer we have received this afternoon was one that we already knew; 1409 namely, the one that we are just discussing. We have spent much time this afternoon pressing the Minister to answer questions and are having great difficulty in eliciting answers on certain points.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
Perhaps I may speak briefly from these Benches and say that I should like to echo what has just been said. We must have something more concrete on the face of the Bill, although I am not sure whether that should be in the form suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. Unless we do so, we are in a vacuum. I understand and applaud the consultation; but, like other Members of the Committee, I have doubts about the way that it has been done. It is certainly profoundly unsatisfactory for Members of this Chamber, and indeed for those in another place, that we are not able to get down to the concrete detail. At some point we shall really have to push for something more concrete. I certainly look forward to the debate that the noble Baroness, Lady David, indicated we are about to have on the detailed amendments.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady David for what she has said. It would be most helpful if we could move on to the more concrete amendments where it will be easier to give Members of the Committee a little more information where it is available. However, I have to keep returning to a point I have already made. I do not wish to be boring about this and keep repeating myself, but if people keep asking the same kind of questions I shall have to do so. We have made a commitment to consultation. We want to be a listening government. We want to hear what people have to say about the details. Nevertheless, there are one or two points that I can perhaps answer.
The noble Lord, Lord Quirk, raised the question of whether the provision will cover teachers who are providing only mandatory education. The answer is no. The council will certainly cover nursery teachers. It will certainly cover teachers of children and young people over the age of 16.
On the question of size, it would be quite wrong for me to specify a particular size for the council when we have said that we want to hear people's views in that respect. It might be a relatively small executive board, rather like many non-departmental public bodies, with as few as 15 members. I personally feel that that would be rather small and that it would be most difficult to get proper representation of all the parties who will want to be involved. It might be quite a substantial council in terms of its size which does represent many interests, like the Scottish GTC which has around 50 members. Alternatively, the General Medical Council has over 100 members. My personal view is that that would be too large. But, frankly, I do not think that my personal view as a Minister in the department concerned is relevant. It is most important for us to hear people's views on the matter.
I hope that Members of the Committee will accept that that is genuine. We want to have a great debate about the GTC with all of those who are interested. Indeed, part of that debate is taking place this afternoon. If people have views about the size of the council, 1410 I hope that they will express them when we consider the more detailed amendments which are to follow. On that basis, I very much hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment so that we can move on.
§ Lord Peston
I thank my noble friend the Minister. I do so especially for her reassurance that our right honourable friend the Secretary of State is actually interested in our views, as well as those of other people. I am delighted to be reassured in that respect. This was a probing amendment. However, I left out one point from my notes in my opening remarks. It is an important point and one that I forgot to make. I trust that I may make it now in the hope that it will be read from the record by the Secretary of State.
Where subsection (4) refers to "the general public", I intended to add the word "independent". One of my real concerns is that the lay people should be independent of both the Secretary of State and, for that matter, our party; and, indeed, of the teaching profession. I believe that there is a role in all these professional bodies for truly independent people who can come to the task with an open mind and often say the unsayable to the professionals. That is something that I have done myself. Having said that, I thank all Members of the Committee for their contributions to the debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.15 p.m.
Baroness Young: moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 7, at end insert—
("() pupils in schools,
() the parents of pupils in schools,").
The noble Baroness said: I should like to make it quite clear that this is a probing amendment. I speak on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who, unfortunately, is unable to be present today. We are now considering subsection (4) where we are looking at,
the desirability of the Council's membership reflecting the interests of',
§ various parts of the whole education system. The point which could not fail to strike anyone is that, on reading the first part of the Bill, at no point is the word "pupil" mentioned. It seemed to me—and, indeed, to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne—that that was something which should perhaps be looked at, if not corrected. At the end of the day, the whole purpose of this is for the benefit of pupils in schools or anywhere else. As I said, it is simply a probing amendment and one which is worthy of consideration.
§ I should also like to make it clear that so far as I am concerned—and I believe I can speak on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne—we are not talking about representatives of pupils. But, in this whole matter, that is something which should be considered as, indeed, should the question of parents of pupils. Everyone is most conscious today of the important link between the support of parents for teachers and for pupils. They are all linked together as part of the education system. I should be most interested to hear 1411 the Minister's thinking on that matter. It is a probing amendment and one which I know is of particular interest to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I beg to move.
§ Baroness David
I wonder whether the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, listened to the winding-up speech of my noble friend Lord Whitty on Second Reading when he said that the GTC,will bring together and reflect the interests of all of those who have a stake in ensuring the highest possible standard of teaching. It will include parents and employers".—[Official Report, 11/12/97; col. 352.1Therefore, I believe that we have in that speech a commitment that parents will be involved.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ripon
I should like to refer to a point that I made on Second Reading; namely, the very substantial involvement of the Churches in the whole enterprise of education, especially their involvement in maintained schools. Something like one-third of all primary schools are in the voluntary sector, and something like one-fifth of all schools are in the primary sector with around one-third of teachers receiving their initial teacher training in Church colleges of higher education.
I simply want to make the simple point that each of the categories under consideration, including those mentioned in the amendment, reflect substantial Church involvement. Clearly the Churches were consulted when the embryo GTC was being formulated. I made the point on Second Reading—and will just repeat it—that in any consultation the Churches should be among those who are consulted because we have such a substantial interest in the matter.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
There is an enormous menu of suggestions here. The Government have their own list of interests on the face of the Bill which they feel should be represented. I believe that the experience in Scotland is important here. Whatever may arise from discussion, I do not believe that Parliament should let the Bill go without establishing that this body should contain a majority of teachers. I should hope that those teachers would reflect the interests of all teachers both in maintained and in independent schools, and that they would be practising teachers. I know that the National Association of Head Teachers feels strongly about that. Someone may speak on that later.
I wish to draw the attention of the Government to something that has just happened in Scotland which the noble Baroness may or may not be aware of. It has been reported in the education press—I am sure this is correct—that the general teaching council in Scotland has just proposed a code of practice for teachers. That is an important move. The membership of that general teaching council contains a majority of teachers and the majority among the teachers are members of the Educational Institute of Scotland, which is the largest teachers' union in Scotland and includes head teachers, as the Minister is probably aware.
1412 It is interesting that the Educational Institute of Scotland has thrown out the recommendation I am discussing. As I understand it, that means that teachers on the general teaching council are acting absolutely independently of their union and are not politicising what they do. That is what I have been told by the registrar of that council. The teachers have acted in an objective way and have done what they feel is right and is their duty; namely, to propose a code of practice. However, that has been rejected by the union, which is by far the biggest union in Scotland. I do not know what will happen next but that is what has been reported.
That demonstrates that the Government should not be fearful of the way teachers will behave if they have a majority on the general teaching council. That is an important point. It is not enough for the Bill to state that the teachers should have a majority. In England and Wales there is a greater variety of kinds of school than in Scotland, where I believe almost all the schools involved in the general teaching council are state schools; and we do not have grant-maintained schools. That experience is relevant to the situation we are discussing. I hope that the Government will think about that. I believe that the Bill should not leave Parliament before it establishes a majority of teachers on the general teaching council. It is a matter of principle that Parliament should decide. Whatever teachers may say, it seems unlikely that they will want anything other than that. The Government should concede that point during the passage of this Bill, if possible during its passage through this Chamber. That is something that I feel strongly about.
§ Lord Peston
What are the other people who have amendments in this grouping doing in terms of speaking?
§ Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
I think I can explain the position. I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 7, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15. I hope that in doing so I shall give pleasure to all Members of the Committee as they all want flesh on the bones. I intend to give them all much juicy flesh. I hope that the Minister will support every word I say.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 9 relate to teachers outside the maintained sector. If this body is to mirror the pattern of other professional bodies—doctors and lawyers have been mentioned—it is absolutely inconceivable that the Government should restrict it to employees of the state. The body is not just concerned with schools that are supported by the state but with the whole of education. It is important that that is understood and seen to be the case. Every teacher ought to be able to share the advantages conferred by the council and should be able to contribute to it and feel part of it. It is good for the whole profession that there should be interchange between the two sectors. I am particularly glad that the Minister and many of her colleagues have expressed a desire to have closer co-operation with the independent sector. Therefore it would be unfortunate if that was not included on the face of the Bill.
1413 I have also mentioned the composition of the council. These are probing amendments, but I hope that the Minister can put her own flesh on the skeleton. I have included people outside teaching. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, and others have said that that is necessary and I agree with him. Teaching is not quite so specific a profession as medicine and law. As regards law, some feel that the legal profession is often too tightly controlled by members of that profession. As regards education I think the community at large will feel that that is even more the case. For those reasons I have suggested wider participation in the council. I have proposed a list of participants. I hope that other Members of the Committee will make further suggestions. Members of the Committee may wonder why I have included inspectors of schools. They may ask, is it not like putting the gamekeeper with the poacher? There is always a danger with such a body that there may be conflict between the profession and the inspectorate of the profession. In the history of English education there has often been conflict between those two bodies. If the council is to improve that relationship and to improve education generally it is desirable that it includes chief inspectors.
The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, has talked about disagreement in Scotland. I gather that there was a further disagreement where a Scottish teaching council turned down national curriculum tests. That could constitute a classic example of conflict between the inspectorate and the council. These things are better resolved in discussion. That is why I believe members of the inspectorate should be included in the council. I can only underline what the right reverend Prelate has said; namely, that voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools should be represented. I might even go further and say that there should be representatives of the Churches who play a large part in aided schools—financial and otherwise—in making appointments and other such matters. I would also extend the participation to Jewish and Moslem schools. There could be conflict in those areas and the council will be involved in those areas. I should like to include representatives of commerce and industry on the council and one can think of members of various academic bodies too. This matter falls within a wide tradition of English regulation of education. When our predecessors in the previous century reformed many institutions of education and established new governing bodies they made sure that the members of those bodies were widely representative of the academic community and the community at large. Those are my suggestions.
I refer now to the way in which the participants should be chosen. It would be bad if the teaching side of this body were dominated either by the unions or by one section of the teaching profession. As the Committee is aware, certain teachers' unions tend to have a higher representation among people who teach in certain parts of the teaching profession. Some have higher representation in secondary education while others have higher representation in primary education. That has often caused conflict between the unions.
1414 I propose a system of constituencies to avoid that conflict. I do not wish to go into the full details of this but I can think of a constituency which represents voluntary controlled and voluntary aided schools. I can think of a constituency representing primary schools and others representing secondary schools, colleges of further education, kindergartens and so on. But within those constituencies the electors should be the teachers in the schools. In other words, it should not be a body nominated either by the union or by the executive. In this way one would involve the whole teaching profession. One would have a widely based body. One might wish to consider representation of headmasters.
I suggest three proposals: first, the inclusion of the independent sector; and, secondly, a widely based body. I do not say whether there should be a majority of teachers. If half the body was composed of teachers, in effect it would constitute a majority since representatives from teacher training colleges would belong to the same profession. That is a matter of detail. Thirdly, I propose the constituencies.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
I, too, respond to the invitation. The noble Baroness indicated that this was part of the consultation process. After many years in another place and some years in this Chamber, I find it a rather odd way to approach legislation. Legislation should consist of a series of clear proposals and Parliament should be asked to decide whether they are acceptable or acceptable with amendments. I do not recollect ever having taken part in a process the like of which we have today. However, if that is the process, we have to ensure that we make the best of it.
Amendment No. 14, grouped with Amendment No. 6, refers to disabled people. My noble friend Lady Blatch will remember occasions when we discussed special education. A number of noble Lords were concerned with the revised process and the ability of parents to choose which kind of schools their disabled children should go to. I refer to children with a variety of handicaps, including behavioural. We found ourselves at loggerheads with the Department for Education. In the end, as a result of some effective debate, I think primarily in this House, a code was established which was largely acceptable to the interests of those concerned with the education of disabled children. I do not think that my noble friend will attempt to deny that it took a bit of a battle.
That is why I believe it is important to have on the face of the Bill a provision that one of the interests which should be reflected in the general teaching council is that of disabled people. Primarily, the council must include those interested in the education of disabled children and young people. However, the interests of disabled teachers are also involved.
The point has been made by the National Deaf Children's Society that children who suffer from a sensory handicap have great difficulty in identifying with effective role models. I should have thought that no one was better qualified to talk about that than the Secretary of State for Education. He has succeeded in the most astonishing way in overcoming his handicap of blindness. He constitutes a role model of a remarkable 1415 kind. I have the highest admiration for his personal qualities, as I have said to his face and will say again. In a Bill coming from Mr. Blunkett, I should not have thought it necessary to ask for specific mention of disabled people. But the reference is not in the Bill now. I hope that by the time the Bill leaves this House it will be.
My concern has tended to involve the area of visual handicap. For the past eight years I have chaired a body called the Visual Handicap Group representing all the major national bodies concerned with blindness and partial vision. We have made a number of important strides forward in raising the profile of the needs of that part of our population. If one includes the elderly visually handicapped—they are not much concerned with the Bill—the number involved is now almost a million. However, in my constituency there was a remarkable school for deaf children—the Sir Winston Churchill School for the Deaf. Over the 23 years that I represented that constituency. I found myself dealing again and again with the placement of individual children, teachers of children, relations with the local authority, and so on. So I have some experience of trying to integrate the special education of people with a sensory handicap into a national system. It used to be said to me that families came to live in my constituency for no other reason than that their children should be within reach of the Sir Winston Churchill School for the Deaf because it was such a remarkable place.
However, as regards people with mobility handicaps, the Redbridge College of Education has made a particular effort to open its gates and courses to people who suffer from a variety of physical handicaps—notably wheelchair users, and so on. The college and the London Borough of Redbridge are very proud of that.
I believe that it is necessary to set out clearly that that is an interest specified in the legislation which needs to be taken account of when appointments or elections are made. In his winding up speech at Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, suggested that members of the council will be elected. We have no idea who the members will be or what the electoral body will be. Nevertheless, some will be appointed after consultation with all the relevant interests.
Perhaps I may take a moment or two to draw to the Committee's attention the difficulties of handicapped teachers in getting past the barriers to become teachers in ordinary schools and therefore a role model for some of the pupils. The National Deaf Children's Society has a substantial list of deaf people who have successfully become teachers. But I am told that they have had to fight hard to overcome the prejudice of higher education institutions against disabled teachers. Deaf people face barriers in entering initial teacher training created by the lack of information on the part of higher education colleges about their abilities to manage the classroom situation effectively and narrow definitions of the "fitness to teach" medical regulations.
The society draws my attention to the case of a deaf student who applied to do a post-graduate Certificate in Education at a university in northern England. She had a struggle to convince the admissions officer that she 1416 could manage both the academic and teaching practice component of the course. Despite excellent academic references from the mainstream school, she was refused admission, due partly to the failure of the admissions officer to understand how she proposed to overcome the difficulties on the course and through the medical officer's narrow interpretation of the medical regulations. Despite the fact that the medical regulations state that deaf people have to be able to understand, not hear, speech at six metres and therefore can use lip reading to assist them, the medical officer made the student lip read him while holding a document in front of his face making it impossible for her to see his lips. Those are the kind of misunderstandings that need to be addressed if we are to offer the best possibilities for pupils with handicaps such as deafness or blindness and for teachers who want to teach, and can teach extremely successfully, despite their handicap.
For that reason I very much hope that the Government, whatever they may say about the total number, the method of appointment, the chairman or any of the other matters, will see the merits of writing into the Bill, whether at this or a later stage, a clear declaration that the interests of disabled people must be represented on the council.
§ Baroness Maddock
I wish to speak primarily to Amendment No. 10 but many of the issues raised by it touch on other amendments on the Marshalled List. I agree with those Members of the Committee who said that we need to clarify some of the detail today. What is most important about setting up a general teaching council is that we send a clear message to teachers that we are serious about setting up a general teaching council in which they can have faith and which will do the job they want it to do; namely, make sure that people regard them as members of a profession. That is why it is important to examine many of these amendments—although it is clear that some Members on the Government Benches would prefer us not to go into too much detail for the moment.
As was discussed at Second Reading, for many years now we on the Liberal Benches have been strong advocates of a general teaching council. In our discussions over the years we have been quite clear as to how we see the membership of that council. It must include a wide variety of people who have a legitimate interest in education—representatives of local education authorities, parents, governors and people in higher and further education.
As we have heard, there is agreement in this place and outside that the majority of members of a general teaching council should be drawn from the teaching profession. We discussed this matter at Second Reading. It is not good enough simply to say, as was said then, that the voice of teachers will be central. That has to be recognised on the face of this legislation. Otherwise, we shall not be setting up the sort of professional body which most of us believe is the aim of this Bill. Unless we set it up as a proper professional body, the general teaching council will not be able to speak with legitimacy on behalf of the teaching profession. Without 1417 recognition of the majority interests of practising teachers, it will not be able to play the sort of role that the Government would like to see.
Perhaps I may take this opportunity to clarify matters in regard to the way in which the amendment we have tabled was portrayed in the Times Educational Supplement. I wish to make it quite clear that what was written there was not in fact what our amendment seeks to do. The amendment makes it clear that "at least half the membership" of this body will be teachers, and not the employers of teachers, as stated in the TimesEducational Supplement.
Outside this Chamber, those in the teaching profession know that we are discussing the matter, and they have sent in their views as to how they think the council should be constituted. I consider that part of the consultation to be well under way. We could consider the points that they have submitted by way of consultation on this matter. I hope that the Minister will take that to heart.
There is a variety of opinion. For example, the National Union of Teachers believes that the general teaching council should have rather more than 50 per cent. teachers. I hope the Minister will examine more carefully the views expressed outside this Chamber and give us the opportunity of providing more detail on this point. It is very important that it is stated on the face of the Bill in order to give teachers confidence that we are setting up the sort of organisation that they want.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Quirk
May I echo the word "confidence"? It seems to me absolutely vital that we get right on the face of the Bill the constitution of the GTC. The GTC has to have the confidence of the teachers of this country, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, pointed out earlier. It is welcome that in Amendment No. 15 something like a half of the GTC should be teachers, and that this will therefore assure us that the body does have the confidence of the teaching profession.
But it also requires the confidence of the general public. I should like briefly to speak to Amendment No. 10 and Amendment No. 13, bringing in "representatives of commerce and industry" in one amendment, "commerce and industry" in the other amendment. We must not forget that it is commerce and industry that are going to be the employers of the products of our education system and their view is terribly important. It is also the body of people that have drawn attention to many of the defects in our education system which have led to the very welcome spate of legislation about education since 1988. So I would very much hope that a specific reference to commerce and industry appear in subsection (4) of Clause 1.
As to Clause 15, yes, indeed it is important that we recognise there are different types of schools. When it gets down to the detail of appointing to the council by reference to representations of these subsections, I fear 1418 that we might well have a GTC of more like 1,000 rather than 100 if all of these splinters are going to be represented. But the spirit of the thing is surely correct.
§ Lord Walton of Detchant
A number of noble Lords have spoken about Amendments Nos. 7 to 15 inclusive, with the exception of Amendment No. 8 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to which I have added my name. I shall refer to that in just a moment.
There is just a danger in all the well-argued points made in the last few moments that the membership of the council might become excessively prescriptive and restrictive. That is an anxiety of which we must be aware.
Reference was made to the constitution of the General Medical Council, for example. I wholly appreciate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford; namely, that the teaching profession is very different. But there are 120,000 registered medical practitioners subject to regulation by that body, covering a very wide range of interests and activities, from medical journalism through to medicine, surgery and an enormous range of specialties.
When I last inquired, that particular council had 102 members; 52 are registered medical practitioners who are elected by single transferable vote in an election every five years. That election is based upon constituencies established throughout the United Kingdom. There is no right of representation of any sectional interest, professional association, trade union or other body—though it happens, of course, that the British Medical Association, the Medical Women's Federation and the Overseas Doctors all nominate people for election. As matters turn out, every one of the interests that one might think of within the medical profession finds individuals being elected to that body.
There is a majority of doctors—52; the other 50 members are made up of 25 appointed by the medical schools and universities and by the Royal Colleges, which have a direct interest in undergraduate and postgraduate education. But the remaining 25 are lay members nominated by the Privy Council, including lawyers, accountants, Members of Parliament, trade union members, nurses and others, covering an enormously wide range of interests representing the public. That is a model not to be followed directly, but one which gives a useful guide to the possible constitution of the council.
I wholly agree that it is very important that there should be a majority of teachers on this body. The majority need not be great, but it is a principle that we should follow very carefully. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, suggested that they should be practising teachers. I agree that it is right that the teachers should be people who have had experience in a wide range of branches of the teaching profession. My only concern is that service on such a teaching council is likely to be a demanding and arduous task.
It could well be that teachers who have taken retirement at the age of 60 could make a valuable contribution to the work of such a council. Under regulation, all the other regulatory authorities, such as 1419 the GMC, the GDC, and so on, have a statutory retiring age of 70. We perhaps have a catch-22 situation here. Rather than use the word "practising", I would prefer to have it prescribed in the Bill that the individuals who are to be members of this body from the teaching profession should be registered teachers. However, until the Bill becomes law, there will be no register. I hope that some means can be found of overcoming that problem because registered teachers would be the proper group from whom members of this body should be drawn.
§ Lord Peston
I believe that the usefulness of this debate is simply to put on record the kinds of considerations that Members have put forward. I hope that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will take due note of them. However, there are two matters which require more than that. Whether the GTC has too few powers—as my friend Lord Glenamara said it has at this stage—or not, eventually it must become more powerful and must become the self-regulatory body of the teaching profession. It seems to me that a minimum requirement for that to happen must be that in the first instance teachers should comprise a majority of the membership, and in due course perhaps even larger than just a simple majority. I add my voice to those of Members who take that view.
Secondly, although I am aware of the technical difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Detchant, put forward, I had taken the view that he was right in the amendment standing in his name and that "practising" should be the relevant word. One of the difficulties is that, in my experience, when one is a member of a body such as this it becomes a full time job; one can no longer practise and one becomes a professional member of the body. I should have liked to have had more detail on the nature of the body, such as whether there will be limitations on how many years an individual can serve. I believe strongly that there should be a maximum period of service on such bodies, with no possibility of renewal. That would at least mean that a member would have to go back to teaching one day. I therefore like the word "practising". I see no difficulty about having registered teachers, as well; but the main point is that the majority of the membership should be practising teachers.
Thirdly, following the initial remarks of my noble friend Lord Glenamara, if the teaching profession is to have the position that it wants in this regard, it must in the end choose its own membership of the general teaching council. The word "election" has been used. I should certainly like to see election rather than selection and both rather than choice by the Secretary of State.
I regard our job today as being to let the Secretary of State know what we think ought to happen. To go back to the remarks of my noble friend the Minister, I regard this as part of the consultation process. We do not need to divide; we simply want to express our views in the hope that the Secretary of State will read them, or, more 1420 to the point, that my noble friend the Minister will stand over him and say, "This is what they said; you really ought to do it".
§ Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
Perhaps I may briefly respond with regard to my amendments and those of my noble friend Lady Young. I believe that the process of consultation has begun. I should like to underline what the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said. The Secretary of State and the Minister now have a lot of information at their disposal. The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, gave examples of area constituencies; I spoke of more narrow constituencies. Having heard the debate, I believe it would be very much appreciated by the Committee if, at least in this matter, the Government would put something on the face of the Bill. That should be easy to do with my question about independent and state schools, for example. I realise the complexities of putting together such a body, but I believe that, if the department and the Ministers put their minds to it, it should be possible to put more detail in the Bill. These are probing amendments, and I do not intend to press mine. However, I have to say to the Minister that, if the Government do not intend to include more detail, I might have to ask my colleagues to vote to put something on the face of the Bill. It would be helpful, and would spare us some late nights, if the Government were to bring forward an amendment between now and Report stage.
Perhaps I may once again reiterate the importance of including some detail in this clause. The noble Baroness talked earlier about wanting to involve people in a true consultation. This matter is a minimum point. If it is not on the face of the Bill, teachers will not be as enthusiastic as they might be about the general teaching council. For that reason, I, like others, press the Minister to put something on the face of the Bill in this clause.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I agree with my noble friend Lord Peston and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that we have had a useful debate and that it is helpful to hear views aired in the Committee about who the members of the general teaching council should be. I know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will want to read the debate and to take it into account.
However, Members will perhaps not be surprised to hear that I shall resist the amendments; I believe that they would unhelpfully constrain and pre-empt the consultation which we have promised with the teaching profession and the other interests about the composition of the council. We must, of course, be sure that we have the right balance of interests on the council in order to ensure that it has the confidence of the profession and the whole education system. However I believe that at this stage, as the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, said, it would be unnecessarily prescriptive to put any of these amendments on the face of the Bill. I was particularly interested in what the noble Lord said about the General Medical Council; that is certainly a model that we need to consider in some detail.
1421 As the note which we placed in the Library indicates, we shall issue a consultation paper in March inviting views on a range of issues associated with both composition and membership. I am happy to offer Members a commitment that in that consultation we shall invite views on the case for ensuring that the membership should reflect a wide range of interests, including those suggested in the amendments before the Committee today.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that we shall also consult on the right balance of teachers and non-teachers in the membership; but I am clear that a significant part of the membership should be serving teachers. I can see a great deal of merit in those other interests which have been mentioned during the debate—commerce, industry, denominational interests, the independent sector—having a role to play in the council. We also invite views on the merits of those who are consumers of our education system, such as parents of pupils, being represented on the council. I personally see a great deal of merit in that. I believe that at Second Reading my noble friend Lord Whitty made it clear that it was our intention that parents should be represented on the council.
I note also that some of these amendments reflect a concern about the involvement of independent schools in the GTC. It might be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, if I clarify our position on that. I know that representatives of the independent sector, such as the Independent Schools Joint Council, want to ensure that teachers in independent schools are not excluded from the GTC. We are equally keen to involve the independent sector in the council. The Government made clear their intention to build bridges between the state and private sectors. All teachers in the independent sector who have qualified teacher status will be eligible to register with the GTC on a voluntary basis.
Perhaps I can say also to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that we see no reason at all why representatives of school inspectors should not be members of the council. In relation to constituencies, I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Quirk. We must be careful that we do not involve so many constituencies that we end up with an enormously complex electoral college. Some of us have experience of electoral colleges and they can lead to difficulties. That is something that must be looked at with care.
In addition, it will be open to the council to involve others—such as experienced independent sector teachers without a full teaching qualification (we are all aware that there are more teachers in private schools who are not fully qualified in the sense that they have a specific teaching qualification)—in its activities, and some form of associate membership may be introduced for those people. Our consultation will seek views on the merits of any further measures to ensure that the distinct interest of the independent sector is properly represented on the council.
I am sympathetic to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that the council should reflect the interests of disabled people. Indeed, I was touched by some of 1422 the examples that he gave of the fantastic work that is done by some teachers who themselves have disabilities. I was grateful also for the generous but entirely appropriate remarks he made in relation to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
The Government are committed to supporting comprehensive, enforceable civil rights for disabled people against discrimination in society or at work, developed in partnership with all interested parties. As Members of the Committee may remember, they recently set up the Disability Rights Task Force to consider how best to secure those rights. On a related theme, we also published a Green Paper setting out our vision of how we intend to raise education standards for children with special needs.
I am not yet convinced that amending Clause 1(4) is the only or the best way of ensuring that the GTC contributes to those aims, which I know will be shared by the noble Lord. Clause 1(4) is not intended to provide a detailed or exhaustive list of all the interests which will be reflected in the council membership. That clause underlines our intention that it should be a general teaching council rather than a general teachers' council. The categories listed are intentionally broad and are intended to cover the wide range of real and important interests which will have a role to play in the GTC. It would not be appropriate to include a long and detailed list in Clause 1(4).
I am not sure that it would be sensible to pre-empt the consultation when we shall certainly seek views on the issues. That would allow us, for example, to seek views on whether the GTC should include people with knowledge and experience of special educational needs. Given that the GTC is about regulating the teaching profession and raising standards in the interests of the public in general, and parents and pupils in particular. the right focus may be on special educational needs. It would be better to put the flesh on the bones through the consultation and subsequent regulations rather than try to do it now in primary legislation. We shall certainly be consulting on the matter and I share the aim of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, of ensuring that those interests are not forgotten.
I am confident that the clauses as drafted lay down the core requirements for the council's membership and I should not wish to see our flexibility for meeting the wishes of the profession and the education system further constrained by primary legislation.
§ Baroness Blatch
Before the noble Baroness sits down perhaps she can respond to one small point. The noble Baroness used the phrase yet again that this body will regulate the teaching profession. Can I ask a straight question? Is this a body that is being given powers to regulate the teaching profession? If so, Clause 2 needs to be amended.
§ Baroness Blackstone
Perhaps I can clarify that point. Under the Bill the GTC has powers to advise and register. It would need more primary legislation if a whole lot of new regulatory powers were to be given to it. However, the GTC will be able to advise the 1423 Secretary of State about all kinds of regulatory matters and the Secretary of State will want to take seriously the views of the GTC on all of those matters.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 7 to 15 not moved.]
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 2, line 13, at end insert?—
("() No regulations made under subsection (3) shall come into force until they have been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.").
§ The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 16 requires that no regulations made under subsection (3) shall come into force until they have been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. I always thought that that was a good piece of advice that we received from the scrutiny committee. However, am all the more concerned that it should now appear on the face of the Bill. The debate that we had and the response to my question makes it all the more important that regulations made under this part of the Bill should come before both Houses of Parliament.
The GTC will not be a regulating body if the Bill goes through in this form. The Secretary of State remains the regulator; the body remains an advisory body. If it is to change to be a regulatory body, then Clause 2 needs to he amended. Indeed, amendments have been tabled to come immediately after my amendment which may give the body powers, though if we are to give the body powers through the schedule, Clause 2 will have to be amended as a consequence of that.
The constituencies that were talked about in the course of the debate on the last amendment gave me reason to believe that this is an important amendment. The noble Baroness gave reasons why none of those categories should appear on the face of the Bill. I mentioned the constituencies of different types of schools—independent, maintained, comprehensive, grammar, city technology colleges and specialist schools. A small category of schools such as the technology colleges—of which there are only 15—supported by the present Government could be left outside of the council. We seek some assurance that all types of schools will be represented including, as the right reverend Prelate said, supported by my noble friend Lord Pilkington, voluntary controlled and voluntary aided schools. Given the absence of any detail in the Bill, people will want to look for some evidence that the Government are serious about making sure that the council will be inclusive rather than exclusive.
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, wished—I have no reason to doubt his aspiration—for the body to become more independent and more powerful. There is no way that that can happen under the Bill. If it is to become more independent and more powerful, there needs to be another piece of primary legislation. Room will have to be found for another Bill in a future legislative programme. Unless the Government accept the amendments, we are talking about an advisory body.
1424 The noble Lord, Lord Peston, said that the debate is useful. It certainly is useful. It will send a clear message to the Secretary of State as to how Members of this House feel about the Bill. We are not having a cosy debate about education. From time to time we have very illuminating debates on educational matters but we are part of the law-making process. We are making legislation. If we are making legislation, the dots, the commas, the powers, the functions and the way in which the proposals are to work are very important. Detail matters. That is why I have the fall-back position that if we cannot have more detail on the face of the Bill there should be an affirmative procedure for any regulations made not just in this part but throughout the Bill. We shall fight very hard to put some detail on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
I strongly support the amendment and the remarks made by my noble friend Lady Blatch. As the Committee stage has proceeded, I have become increasingly disenchanted to the point where one wonders whether one is taking part in something perilously like a farce. As my noble friend said, we must be satisfied that what leaves us commands the support of the majority of the House. In that case the specific amendments need to be discussed, points need to be argued in detail and provisions placed on the face of the Bill. It appears that the Government have set their face against that. I seriously wonder whether one would not do better to write a letter to the Secretary of State saying that this is what we think the teaching council should be, as we appear to be just part of the consultation process. I make my protest. I do not think this is a sensible way for this House to conduct itself on legislation.
I come to the particular point of the amendment. Since we have no specific proposal on the face of the Bill but only the most general words and the responses of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, as to what she thinks might or might not form part of the consultative document to be published in March—that is about as far as she is prepared to go—we have to insist that every set of regulations should be subject to the affirmative procedure—this is the kind of issue on which this House can so insist—so that they have to be debated in both Houses. They cannot be amended, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said in our earlier debate. We recognise that he has been very skilful in previous parliaments in devising procedures which enabled him to require that regulations should be amended. But that is the kind of process into which, in the end, the Government will drive this House. We must have the affirmative procedure.
In looking at this subsection of the Bill, I rather suspect that Ministers have said, "We are going to have to give way on this. Let us put it in as the negative procedure and then we can appear big-hearted and make the concession at a later stage". I have done it; I have no doubt my noble friends have done it: and, if anyone can remember that far back, the party opposite has done it. I see the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, in his place; I am sure that he did it when he was last in office. It is a normal thing. I say to the Minister that on this point 1425 there can he no alternative. If we are not to be allowed to debate the detail of the Bill other than as part of a peerage consultative stage of the process, which is what it amounts to, then when it comes back with the details it must be properly debated in both Houses.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Peston
I think that the remarks of the noble Lord. Lord Jenkin of Roding, about our proceedings being farcical were just a trifle harsh. I would not want him to stop saying it but I think he was going too far.
Perhaps I may refer to the nature of the Bill itself. My ambition, which I thought was shared by virtually all your Lordships, is to see the teaching profession as a self-regulating profession. We have all made speeches of that kind and I am convinced that must be our objective. What lies before us is how we get there from where we are now. I have said several times that I am willing to go with the Government in the sense of saying that we should get started this way, subject to the one proviso—I was not overwhelmingly happy with the reply just now of my noble friend—that a majority of the council must be elected by practising teachers. That is a minimum requirement. Subject to that condition being met, I would want to go along the general lines of the Bill, bearing in mind that the pressures will he to go along the lines set out by my noble friend Lord Glenamara—taking more time than he would like, and perhaps even more time than I would like, in the evolutionary process. That is my general position. The central question is self-regulation. The central amendment, whether it is done on the face of the Bill or by the Government bringing forward regulations, must be that a majority of the council be elected by practising teachers.
Perhaps I may turn to the specific amendment. Despite "rituality", if there is such a word in the language—namely, we say what we do according to which part we have been assigned in life—I do not change my view. I would have argued from the Opposition Front Bench exactly as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has argued. I hope my noble friend the Minister will say not necessarily that she can accept the amendment but that, with no promise, she will go away and think about it. I hope that she will at least give us the encouragement that when we argued it ourselves we were sincere and therefore we ought to respond sincerely when the argument is put to us.
§ Lord Tope
I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. He spoke to us earlier about the ritual that takes place in the House from time to time when the two sides change. I speak from the same Bench on which I have sat since I arrived in your Lordships' House. I do not feel any need to explain why I adhere to the view that we always had. I look forward to the time when we can end this ritual and when my colleagues and I are on the opposite sides of the House. We can then say in Government that we meant what we said in opposition.
The Minister has explained to us that, primarily for reasons of pressure of parliamentary time. the Bill has had to come before us at this time, that the Government 1426 have had to take the opportunity of a legislative slot and that, of necessity, it is therefore a skeletal Bill which needs to have flesh put on the bones following the consultative process. I hope that is an accurate reflection of what the Minister said.
Whether that is the right way round is a matter of opinion, but we are where we are. We are dealing with a skeletal Bill. I tend to feel that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, spoke a little strongly. This is a useful debate. However, it is only a useful debate if we are able to demonstrate that we are not part of what has just been called a peerage consultative process but that we are part of a legislative process. That is what we are here for. It is not just a consultation session; it is a legislation session. If it has to be this way, when the Government have concluded their consultation and decided the form and nature of the GTC, that will be right and proper. Were I on the other side of the House, I hope that I would still be arguing that it is right and proper that the House should have the opportunity to review and comment on the regulations and ultimately to pass, amend or deny them. I certainly support this amendment. I agree with previous speakers that it is a very important one, on which I hope the Minister, if she cannot accept it today, will reflect because it represents the views of all sections of the Committee on the process.
I hope very much that the Minister will accept this amendment and also the very important point that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has made about the teachers being a majority on the general teaching council. Based on what my noble friend Lady Carnegy said, I believe that we would all agree on this issue.
Perhaps I may now return to the amendment before us. This is a serious matter. 1 have been an education Minister and so has my noble friend Lady Blatch. We all know the difficulties of legislation and we have all had the experience of taking Bills through the House. My noble friend Lord Jenkin has also had a great deal of such experience. But in all the education Bills that I had to take through the House, I am quite certain that none of them appeared as this Bill does. We are a House of Parliament. We are deciding the law of the land, which everyone has to obey. It is not a sixth-form debating society and neither is it a pressure group arguing for something. That is an organisation in a completely different position.
These are very serious matters indeed. No one is being critical about the issue. We are all trying to be constructive about something which we regard as important. So in a sense we are all on the same side. But we are not being offered anything that is clear cut. We are actually buying blind and, as a House of Parliament, we are being asked to buy blind. I believe that is what lies behind the remarks of my noble friend Lord Jenkin. He was quite justified in saying that. I hope that the Government realise how serious this matter is. When people come to look at it they will see that it is impossible to make serious decisions about it.
The very least we can do is to put in what my noble friend Lady Blatch has suggested. which is a kind of long-stop power. Nobody believes that it is a very good 1427 provision, but it is certainly better than nothing. It is clearly going to be the only provision that we shall get. I believe that a great measure of responsibility rests on the Government because they are not going to get the benefit of the advice of Parliament on any of these matters. We shall come to all this again at a later stage. If anything goes wrong, the Government will have absolutely no recourse to anything that has been said or debated because there is very little input that we can make. The kind of generalised statement, "We shall take into account everything that has been said", does not mean much at all. The only general statement that means anything is that there should be a majority of teachers on the general teaching council. So this is a long-stop provision. It is the very least that we can do. I hope very much that the Minister will accept it.
§ Lord Butterfield
Perhaps I may enter the discussion for a short time to say that when the question of the general teaching council first came before this House I was then a Cross Bencher and one of those who moved that it should be accepted. It was not acceptable at that time. One of the matters that has emerged clearly in my subsequent discussions over the years with the prime movers behind the general teaching council is their concern that the regulations should include an indication that at least half the members of the council should be elected by teachers. They are very concerned that the teachers could be swamped if the regulations subsequently go against their interests.
§ Lord Whitty
I do not want to go over again the substantive concerns that lie behind the request for us to adopt the suggested procedure. They have been debated at length. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred to changes in function beyond what is on the face of the Bill. This amendment as it stands does not address that issue. Any change in function would indeed require a change in primary legislation. As I understand it, this amendment deals with the composition and constitution of the council. In that regard—
§ Baroness Blatch
The noble Lord is entirely wrong about what I mean. My amendment means that any regulations made about this part of the Bill shall come before both Houses of Parliament for consideration, debate and approval. That is what I mean.
§ Lord Whitty
I do not believe that the amendment actually says that. However, I understand what the noble Baroness is driving at. Before we go to the procedural issue, may I say that it is clear from what my noble friend has said that we shall be consulting very widely on the composition and constitution of the council. We intend to issue a consultation document in March. We shall then consider carefully the issues which arise during consultation. We shall try to achieve consensus, including taking into account the points made by Members of this House. All the key interest groups will have an opportunity at that stage to comment on the provisions.
1428 The noble Baroness requests the affirmative resolution procedure. We have to be a little careful about that. That is a procedure which is used sparingly, and quite rightly so. Only half-a-dozen or so examples exist in the education field. It would be unusual for orders specifying membership to be dealt with by the affirmative resolution procedure. On the face of it, it does not appear that our approach is likely to be novel or contentious enough to require such heavy use of parliamentary time and such a substantial procedure.
However, I take the points that a number of Members of the Committee have raised. We shall consider carefully the remarkable consistency of my noble friend Lord Peston on these matters. Perhaps some Members opposite have not been quite so consistent when dealing with similar propositions when in government. Nevertheless, I understand the concerns. I believe that in practice the Secretary of State would not wish to establish a framework for the composition of the GTC that does not command the confidence of the teaching profession, the general public, the council itself and this House. Indeed, without that consensus and confidence the role that we all expect of the council would be impossible to carry out.
Moreover, the amendment as it stands does not deal simply with the initial constitution of the council: it deals with any subsequent change. It will require Parliament to debate the regulations again each time they were changed. That is contrary to the evolutionary process which I thought we all favoured. We would not expect frequent changes in the composition. It could involve the use of parliamentary time to examine very minor changes. For example, in our consultation last year it was suggested that some major and specified trade unions and other representative bodies in the education world might be able to nominate some of the council members. If, after consultation, that was thought sensible and then at a later date some of the organisations named in the regulations changed their name, merged or changed their function, it would be necessary to come back and debate it again in both Houses of Parliament. Another possibility in this context is that the council itself would ask for the framework to be fine tuned if some elements did not prove to be workable in the way that the legislation intended.
Therefore, I am not persuaded that, in the form of this amendment, an affirmative resolution is sensible. It could seriously inhibit the organic development of the general teaching council in a way to which a number of Members of the Committee have referred. However, we should further consider this issue because of the concerns reflected here this afternoon to see whether there is any other form of assurance. We need to come back to this issue at a later stage of the Bill. I take on board the remarks of my noble friend Lord Peston and others. We shall consider this further, with the leave of the Committee.
§ Baroness Blatch
We shall certainly return to this point. I am not surprised that the noble Lord has argued against the amendment because he has completely misconstrued itဤ
§ Lord Peston
Before we get somewhere where we do not want to be, perhaps I should point out that I did not 1429 hear my noble friend arguing against the amendment in the terms just used by the noble Baroness. Perhaps a slightly more modified response would help us to get to where we want to go. I do not want to advise the noble Baroness, but perhaps she will reflect on that.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
I take the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, but I repeat that my amendment has been completely misunderstood. It does not refer simply to the composition of the council. If the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, reads the amendment, he will see that it states:No regulations made under subsection (3) shall come into force until they have been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament".Subsection (3) states:The Council shall be constituted in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State".So, we are talking about the setting up of the council and not simply about its composition.
Perhaps I may take the noble Lord back to the very beginning of the Bill. Clause 1(1) states:There shall he a body corporate known as the General Teaching Council (in this Chapter referred to as 'the Council"'.As I have said, subsection (3) states that it shall be set up according to "regulations". We are saying that, because we have had no details whatsoever, we should like to see any details arising from the consultation even though that consultation will not take place until well after the Bill has passed through both Houses. We should see the details of those regulations and Parliament, which I believe is sovereign in these matters, should have an opportunity to see, comment on, debate and, if necessary, vote on the detail.
I said earlier—I repeat it because I mean it sincerely—that I have never doubted the Government's intention to consult. They have consulted widely already. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, the noble Lord, Lord Tope, myself and many others in the Chamber are in receipt of many detailed, thoughtful and fully argued representations which give full responses to the suggestion that there should be a general teaching council.
Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord one question before we move on to the next amendment. I am not a betting lady, but if I were I would bet that at the end of the consultation process, with one voice will come at least one message: there should be a GTC and the GTC should have powers. That is what has come out of every representation that we have received from teaching and education bodies. This Bill does not allow for that. It does not allow for anything other than a talking shop. It allows for an advisory body only. Therefore, my question is this: if, at the end of the consultation process, there is an unequivocal response from those who are interested in these matters that there should be a general teaching council with powers, and the Bill has already 1430 passed through both Houses of Parliament, what will be the Government's response, given that they have genuinely said that they want to work with the teachers?
§ Lord Whitty
I thought that my noble friend had indicated on several occasions that these are the GTC's initial functions and that we want to see an organic development of those functions. As I have just said, if there are substantial changes in functions under subsection (2), primary legislation will be required. The noble Baroness is right in that respect.
However, with regard to the initial matter raised by the noble Baroness about subsection (3), my point was that that subsection relates to the constitution only. I agree that it is not simply a matter of the composition. It relates to the way in which the council will operate. Subsection (2) deals with the functions. That is why I said that the amendment as drafted does not address the problems raised by the noble Baroness. I reiterate that we are prepared to take account of the concerns expressed about the constitution of the council and that we shall return to the matter at a later stage. In the light of that, I wonder whether the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw her amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
Although I did not get a straight answer to my question, I certainly beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 [General Teaching Council]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 not moved.]
Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 24. line 38, leave out ("Secretary of State") and insert ("Council").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 19, I should like to speak also to the batch of amendments on the Marshalled List up to and including Amendment No. 25. I shall not detain the Committee for long on this substantial group of amendments because they all address the same general issue to which we have already referred several times today. Again, they relate to the independence of the GTC. These amendments refer to particular powers which are given to the Secretary of State which we feel that the Government should trust the GTC, as a responsible body, to carry out for itself. I do not think that I need to go through each amendment and refer to each specific power. Each relates to a specific power as listed in Schedule 1.
§ If the teachers, and others, are to believe that the GTC is being treated seriously and as a responsible body, there must be a limit to the amount of supervision from the Secretary of State. In our view, that limit should be well below that set out in the Bill in which the Secretary of State is given the power to determine, or at least to approve, the remuneration of the GTC's staff. That is excessive. The purpose of this batch of amendments is to recognise that we trust the GTC as an independent 1431 body which should be given the power to manage its own affairs without undue supervision from the Secretary of State. I beg to move.
§ Lord Whitty
I am afraid that I must resist these amendments. Although we intend that the GTC will eventually become self-funding, initially the GTC will be in receipt of significant public funds. The Secretary of State must be accountable for these funds. It is right, therefore. that his consent should be sought on the financial arrangements for staff and members.
The GTC will be a public body. The provisions here governing its employees' terms of employment, pensions and other expenses are, as they should be, in accordance with rules which apply across the public sector. These rules are designed to safeguard the efficient and proper use of public money. They provide also for proper accountability to Parliament. There may be scope, when the GTC becomes self-financing and its systems of financial control have bedded in, for seeing whether some of these safeguards might be relaxed.
However, I/b do not envisage a circumstance where the Secretary of State will be in disagreement with the GTC, its members and staff about the pension arrangements. The involvement of Ministers in pensions allows GTC staff to become members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, which is widely recognised as an excellent pension scheme. The provision also ensures that if the council wishes to make other arrangements, they should not be excessively generous to the detriment of teachers paying the registration fee; and they should not generate future liabilities which some might then expect a future government to underwrite.
Amendment No. 21, which is part of this batch of amendments. has not been mentioned. There would be great practical advantage in having a chief officer in place as early as possible to oversee the full establishment of the council. We are in favour of the Secretary of State appointing the first chief officer. All subsequent appointments would be a matter for the council. For those reasons, I must resist this group of amendments.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 20 to 25 not moved.]
Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 26:
Page 26. line 2, leave out ("The Secretary of State may") and insert ("Parliament may authorise the Secretary of State to").
§ The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 26 is very much in line with the sentiment expressed many times in the Committee today that Parliament should regulate the actions and powers of Ministers. I am grateful to the noble Lord who has just made it quite clear that the Minister will be responsible for significant funds and that he should be properly accountable to Parliament. If so, perhaps the Government should accept this 1432 amendment this evening. However, I do not believe that I shall have any better luck than others this evening. This is a serious point. Unless there are sufficient funds to enable the general teaching council to operate properly it will not be able to do what we want it to do. If we have a government that is minded to cut off the funds available to the general teaching council—if I may dare to suggest it—that body will not be able to operate. It is important that it has sufficient funds with which to operate. At the same time, I and my noble friends believe that this matter should be scrutinised by Parliament and that the Minister should not be given carte blanche. I beg to move.
§ Lord Whitty
The effect of this amendment is a little unclear. It suggests that the Secretary of State would be required to obtain the consent of Parliament. It does not set out the form of that consent or its frequency. I note from the comments of the noble Baroness that she has shifted the goal posts from the immediate period when there is funding by the Secretary of State to a period when the GTC will be funded solely by registration fees, although it is possible that the Secretary of State may still wish to make specific payment to that body, possibly by way of contract, to fund research projects or similar activities to aid policy making. I do not believe that it is an appropriate use of parliamentary time for us to debate such specific grants which may he in operation at that second stage. That practice would also reduce the capacity of the Secretary of State to judge the relative needs of the GTC against other claims on resources in the educational area.
The accounts of the GTC, including any grants that it has received, must be published and will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Therefore, Parliament will be able to scrutinise and comment upon the level of grants made to the GTC. In accordance with the normal practice, the GTC will also be expected to produce an annual report which will give a rounded picture of its activities in each year. The GTC has built-in accountability for its funds. I therefore resist the amendment and ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it.
§ Baroness Maddock
I thank the noble Lord for his full answer. In view of the commitment that he has given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.45 p.m.
Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 26. line 8, at end insert—
("() The Council shall establish a committee to advise the Secretary of State on matters related to teacher training, and shall ensure that—
§ The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 27 and speak also to the other amendments in this group. Amendment No. 27 requires the general teaching council to set up a separate teacher training committee 1433 to discharge its responsibilities in that area. The amendment ensures that the committee has the necessary expertise in teacher training. In its current state the Bill envisages the general teaching council having an extremely limited range of functions, in particular in relation to teacher education and training. If the general teaching council is to operate effectively and be the voice of teachers it must have a central role in influencing the standards of that profession, especially the training of teachers and in-service teacher training. A separate teacher training committee which reports to the council will be able to focus its attention on these matters. I believe that it will provide a great deal of scope for involving teachers in their training and in preparing advice to the council and Secretary of State.
§ The remaining amendments in this group deal with other important matters, such as recruitment, teacher support and the professional development of teachers throughout their careers. Amendment No. 29 is an important matter because it adds to the independence of the general teaching council. It enables the council to take the initiative in offering advice and allows it to choose who receives its advice. We believe that the general teaching council should be an independent body. It is important that it can advise Ofsted and whatever teacher training agency there may be; or it may be that it needs to advise a local education authority. As the Bill stands at the moment, the present or any future Secretary of State for Education can tie the hands of the general teaching council and restrict its influence in this area. I hope that the Minister will look favourably upon this amendment so that, even if we do not get something on the face of the Bill tonight, this matter will be looked at carefully.
§ Amendment No. 31 is concerned with support and recruitment. The problem of recruiting teachers was raised earlier today during Questions. There was some discussion, not agreement, about whether the recent advertisements had been successful. It is important that we bring teachers into the debate and give them the ability to help with recruitment and supply. At the moment there are great concerns within the teaching profession about this matter. The general teaching council needs a key role in promoting the profession and encouraging suitably qualified people to enter it. I believe that if accepted this amendment would achieve that. In the past there have been problems about forecasting how many teachers are required and about supply targets. When I entered teaching many years ago there was an incredible influx of teachers. I believe that we are still suffering from certain things that we did wrong at that time. To have a wider group of people in charge of looking at the number of teachers to be recruited may avoid some of the events of the past.
§ Amendment No. 32 is also concerned with the advisory role of the GTC and deals more specifically with recruitment targets and adds to the other amendment to which I spoke previously.
§ As regards Amendment No. 34, here we request that the general teaching council looks more carefully not just at recruitment but at the career development of teachers. This area has been neglected in the past and it has given rise to difficulty in schools. If teachers are 1434 missing from schools because they are on courses or are undergoing training in the present climate it is difficult for those schools to have others standing in their place. I believe that this could be dealt with very effectively by teachers working with the Government through the general teaching council.
§ Referring to Amendments Nos. 35 to 37, this is a rather long list. Despite pressures, we have resisted adding further to it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has said, we have been inundated with information about how teachers want the general teaching council to be set up. We have resisted as much as we can. I am seeking to deal with them as quickly as possible because they are fairly self-explanatory. These amendments spell out other areas in which the general teaching council should have its say. It is vital that it has the authority to publish what it says, and in part that is what these amendments are about. Curiously, Clause 7(3) provides similar powers to the general teaching council for Wales. I shall be interested to hear the reply of the Minister. Do the Government intend to end the situation in Wales or will the situation change here? I hope that she will clarify the position when she replies to these amendments.
§ The grounds for suspending or dismissing teachers constitute an important matter with which teachers should be involved through the GTC. We have had many changes in recent years. The Government have said that they want to change what is happening in education. The fact that we are discussing tonight a Bill which many people have described as a skeleton without any flesh, and that consultation is going on while we are discussing it, shows that the Government themselves recognise that there will be a great deal of change in education. For that reason, it is important that the GTC is set up properly so that it can enable everything that we all want to take place in education to happen properly.
§ I shall not detain the Committee any longer. As I said, many of the amendments are self-explanatory. They relate to important matters that many people outside this place—not just myself and my noble friends on these Benches—want to see in the legislation. Teachers, in particular, want to see them. I beg to move.
§ Lord Glenamara
I do not want to prolong the debate. I shall raise just one point. Earlier I complained that the Bill was turning the Secretary of State into a great national nanny, because he is keeping everything in his own hand. If the amendments were to be agreed to, Parliament would be doing the same thing. Surely we should trust the teachers on the GTC to work out their own procedures and the things that they want to do, and not lay everything down in the Bill. It would be a mistake to try to dot every i and cross every t about what the GTC should do. Please, do not let Parliament do what we are accusing the Secretary of State of doing.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Amendment No. 41 is included in this group. I shall put everyone's mind at rest. I have made my speech about disabled people, and I do not intend to make it again. The Minister gave a fair reply about the disabled. I hope that the extent and 1435 method of how the interests of disabled people may be properly represented on the council, and what the council's functions should be with regard to them will figure in the consultation. Having put the case for this at length on an earlier amendment, I am prepared merely to say that it applies equally well here.
§ Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
I believe that I shall be the one that hits the jackpot, because I do not doubt that the Government will agree to Amendment No. 40. I think they will agree because they entered power with a belief in open government. I suggested the amendment because, even if we accept that the body is advisory, it is crucial for its evolutionary development that, if the Secretary of State refuses to take its advice—I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, that it must develop its own procedures—we know why the Secretary of State has refused its advice.
If the Secretary of State decides in good time that he is not going to introduce further primary legislation, because he says that the body has proved to be inadequate, and, "I want it to remain advisory", we should all want to know why. If, for example, the body suggested something similar to what the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, put forward, and the Secretary of State said, "No", then it should be on the public record. I should be amazed, and I have been amazed many times in my life, if, with a government who professed open government, the Minister or her colleague were to refuse the amendment. I hope that I shall have achieved the record tonight and have my amendment accepted. I look forward to it.
§ Baroness Blackstone
The GTC will be a new professional voice for the teaching profession. It will bring together and reflect the interests of all those who have a stake in ensuring high standards in teaching. It will be a powerful new partner in our drive to raise standards. In that respect, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Glenamara for what he said about the GTC's role in developing its own procedures.
The GTC will provide advice to the Secretary of State on the matters related to teaching listed at Clause 2(2): standards of teaching; standards of conduct for teachers; the role of the teaching profession; the training, career development, and performance management of teachers; recruitment to the teaching profession; and medical fitness to teach. It may also advise on individual cases of teachers' misconduct.
From time to time, the Secretary of State may also require the council to advise him on other matters related to teaching or ask the GTC to advise other bodies which are involved in work which affects the teaching profession on the matters in Clause 2(2).
I do not think it right that the advisory role of the GTC should be expanded to cover all other aspects of education of which one might think. In the initial years at least, the advisory role of the GTC should be clearly focused on teaching. I hope those taking part in this Committee will agree with that. We need to give the GTC time to develop and establish itself before its role expands any further. This is too important a 1436 development to rush. We must be wary of asking the GTC to do too much too soon. Nor should we duplicate the advisory responsibilities of other public bodies, which already look to teachers—and will certainly now look to the GTC—to inform their advice.
I do not therefore see a major role for the GTC—at least at the outset—in advising on school funding, the school curriculum, syllabuses, examination and testing. There are, of course, close links between such issues and the practice of teaching. The GTC would take account of that, but there is a danger that the body would lose focus if given such a broad remit, especially when there are other bodies working in those areas.
I do not believe it would be helpful to give the GTC a role in advising on the grounds for suspending and dismissing teachers. There is already provision at Clause 2(2) for the GTC to take a role in advising on standards of conduct for teachers and the performance management of teachers. We might, for example, expect the GTC to provide advice on a professional code for teachers. Clause 2(4) also provides for the GTC to advise on cases of teacher misconduct. Beyond this, however, I do not feel that the time is ripe for the GTC to take a role in advising on the suspension or dismissal of teachers for incompetence. Our consultation exercise on the GTC—we have already had one consultation exercise—revealed very mixed views on such a role, and we have, of course, recently agreed new procedures with employers and unions. It is for line managers and employers to identify teachers who are not performing to standard, or who ought to be dismissed for other reasons. I therefore think that a role for the GTC on those issues is adequately covered in the existing clauses.
The GTC may already advise on the continuing professional development of teachers under Clause 2(2)(d), so there is no need to add a further specific item to the list in Clause 2(2). Clause 2(2)(e) also already enables the GTC to advise the Secretary of State on the promotion of the teaching profession.
The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, mentioned Wales. She may have based her amendments on looking at Clause 7 of the Bill. This allows the GTC for Wales once established to undertake the roles of promoting teacher recruitment and teachers' continuing professional development. This would enable the Welsh GTC to perform an executive role in undertaking promotional campaigns, as well as the advisory role set out in Clause 2. In England, these functions will remain with the TTA as part of its statutory responsibilities and the major remit we have set out for it. The TTA also undertakes these functions in Wales, but only at the express request of the Secretary of State for Wales rather than as a statutory duty. It performs no other functions in Wales, so the TTA unit for Wales has a very small number of staff. Clause 7 will allow the Secretary of State for Wales and the Welsh assembly to determine which body could most effectively perform these functions in Wales.
In England, the TTA has now become well established. We have appointed a new board under the excellent chairmanship of Professor Clive Booth and we 1437 have set out a demanding remit for the agency. The TTA has a key role to play in our programme to raise standards in schools. I believe that it would be wrong at this stage to undermine its crucial work by preparing to limit its functions. There will be scope to review the relationship between the GTC and the TTA once the GTC is established. If experience shows that we need to consider the balance of statutory duties performed by the GTC and the TTA then we may return to that in the next Parliament.
Likewise, the power to advise on recruitment at Clause 2(2)(e) is sufficiently wide to enable the GTC to advise on recruitment targets and the provision of advice on teacher demand and supply. We have recently published details of how the department's teacher supply model works as part of the process of opening up discussion in this area.
I turn to how advice is formulated, delivered and responded to. Paragraph 2 of Schedule I already allows the GTC to undertake conferences, lectures, publications and other similar initiatives which are calculated to facilitate the carrying out of its statutory functions, including the giving of advice. These would generally he on a relatively modest scale.
It may be that the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, has based this amendment on Clause 7(3) which specifies that the Welsh GTC can undertake such activities. The difference here is that Clause 7 refers to the promotional work which the Welsh GTC may be required to undertake. That is an executive role rather than an advisory one. In that case, we felt it should be put beyond doubt that the Welsh GTC could organise conferences and publish material as promotional activities in its own right. The provisions of the schedule allow the GTC for England and Wales, and later perhaps for England alone, to undertake all the activities listed in the amendment where this is part of the process of formulating its advice. Clause 2(5) also empowers the GTC to publish that advice. I believe that the amendment is therefore unnecessary.
The GTC's role in advising the Secretary of State will ensure that teachers have their say in how their own profession develops. It will speak with the authority of the teaching profession, and Clause 2(5) empowers the GTC to be able to publish its advice. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that there will be clear expectation, reinforced by our continuing moves towards open government, that the Secretary of State would respond to such advice. It should, however, remain a matter for the Secretary of State to determine how and when he should do so. I do not. therefore, agree that it is necessary to include such a duty in primary legislation.
It is also proposed that the council should be free to determine which other persons or bodies it should advise on matters under Clause 2(2). Where the council wished to offer advice to a person or body, I find it difficult to conceive of a situation in which the Secretary of State would not be prepared to consider and agree to such advice being offered. Any published advice by the GTC will, of course, be available to other bodies. I therefore believe that the proposed amendment is unnecessary.
1438 I would also certainly expect the Secretary of State to consult the council before designating a third party to whom the GTC should offer advice. I envisage that the GTC will be content to provide advice to others to ensure that teachers have their proper say with government and their partners about how their profession develops. Those bodies would similarly be free to take account of the GTC's published advice.
Paragraph 9 of Schedule I enables the Secretary of State to make regulations which would require the council to establish a committee for any such purposes as the regulations specify and to set out the membership and procedures of such a committee. As the document I placed in the Library indicates, we will consult on the case for requiring any statutory committees to be established. I would not like to pre-empt that consultation, but, in general, we are keen to allow the greatest flexibility to the GTC itself to determine for itself its own organisation. My noble friend Lord Glenamara indicated that that would be right.
We would want to keep any prescription to the minimum. It is possible, for example, that the Secretary of State will require the council to establish a committee to provide advice on individual cases of teacher misconduct. In general, however, it will be for the council to consider what committees it requires and the membership and procedures of such committees.
Clause 2 enables the GTC to advise the Secretary of State on matters related to teacher training. It will therefore be for the council to consider whether the best approach to fulfilling that function is to establish a committee on teacher training as proposed in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. These are matters which the council is best placed to decide and the amendment would constrain it unnecessarily. The amendment is also unnecessary since such provisions could be made, if appropriate, through regulations were they proved to be necessary.
I do not believe the council needs the power to initiate advice on all matters related to teaching. Clause 2(2) already sets out a very broad remit, and to widen it from the outset risks the GTC losing focus, especially during the early years when it is still establishing itself. Allowing the Secretary of State to request advice on other teaching matters provides a useful flexibility if over time that remit proves overly restrictive in any respect. The council could of course suggest topics on which it would welcome a request from the Secretary of State.
I do not believe that this threatens the autonomy or independence of the GTC. I cannot envisage a circumstance when the council will not wish to advise on a matter related to teaching when required to do so by the Secretary of State. It is also worth noting that Clause 2(3) triggers Clause 2(4), which sets out the GTC's role in advising on individual cases of barring teachers on misconduct, ill-health grounds or educational grounds. The Secretary of State will need to be able to require the GTC to advise on these cases.
I am prepared to give further consideration to the noble Lord's proposal to place the council under a general duty to have regard to the requirements of 1439 disabled people. I know that similar statutory duties are already placed on other bodies such as the Teacher Training Agency, the Higher Education Funding Council and the Further Education Funding Council. We will want to consider whether such a duty is appropriate, given the GTC's range of responsibilities. The TTA has a major role as a funding agency, for example, which the GTC does not.
The GTC has a role in advising on issues of medical fitness to teach. There are, and there will remain, some medical conditions which would prevent someone from following the very demanding profession of teaching. We must take particular care in cases where teachers' medical conditions could pose a risk to their pupils or themselves. We would need to ensure that any general duty on the GTC would not inhibit its ability to give clear and impartial advice.
On a technical matter, I should also wish to consider whether Clause 2 was the right place in which to make such an amendment. The wording of this amendment would seem to extend across all the GTC's functions, and not just its advisory role.
I conclude by saying that I am supportive of the general intention behind the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, and several other noble Lords have worked hard on the establishment of a GTC for many years. Without their very real valuable work and commitment, we might not be discussing today the establishment of just such a body, and I should like to record my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and to others.
The Bill gives the GTC a very real and significant role in advising Ministers. Its advice will carry the weight of the teaching profession and help to restore the morale of teachers. I understand the desire to push ahead quickly and give the GTC a wide and impressive remit. But for the reasons that I have outlined, I do not believe that the time is yet ripe for the sort of additional duties set out in these amendments.
The Bill gives the GTC a clear and focused role. I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive me for taking a little time to respond to this group of amendments in setting out that role. We must be wary of giving the GTC too much to do too soon. For now, we should focus on establishing the GTC and building its standing among the teaching profession and the public. Once it has established its track record, then perhaps we can start to consider how best the role might be expanded. If experience shows that we need to revisit primary legislation in order to underpin the major and wide-ranging role that we envisage for the GTC, that could be addressed in the next Parliament.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
Before the noble Baroness sits down, does she not feel that even from the beginning there is a certain lack of symmetry in the 1440 GTC being empowered to establish and maintain a register but to have no role in suspensions and dismissals?
§ Baroness Blackstone
No, I do not believe that there is any lack of symmetry in relation to individual dismissals and suspensions but we shall come to that later in our deliberations in Committee.
§ Baroness Maddock
I thank the Minister for that extremely detailed and helpful answer. In particular, I am grateful to her for pointing out so clearly how the Welsh teaching council will operate and the difference between that and the GTC here. As part of the consultation exercise, that will be very helpful to people outside. I hope that, despite what the Minister said this evening, should views be expressed through the consultation which are in favour of some of the measures proposed in the amendment, the Minister will look favourably upon them. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ 7.15 p.m.
Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 28:
Before Clause 2, insert the following new clause—
§ FUNCTIONS OF THE COUNCIL
- (" .—(I) The Council shall be responsible for determining the following matters—
- (a)standards of teaching:
- (b)standards of conduct for teachers; and
- (c)medical fitness to teach.
- (2)The Council may be required to seek advice from
- (a)the Secretary of State; or
- (b)such other persons or bodies that he may from time to time designate,
- on matters falling within subsection (1).
(3)This section has effect in relation to regulations made under subsections (2), (3) and (6) of section 218 of the Education Reform Act 1988 (regulations relating to schools, etc.) as they apply to teachers at schools.
(4)The Secretary of State shall make provision in such regulations for a determination or direction under those regulations to be made by the Council.").
§ The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 30, 33, 39, 43, 49, 51 and 52 which are consequential upon it. At the outset of my remarks, I make it clear that this is a probing amendment. However, this issue has recurred throughout our debates and it has been raised most clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara.
§ This amendment, which I tabled at the request of the National Association of Head Teachers, would give the council its full responsibility as a council rather than as an advisory body. In moving the amendment, I am perfectly clear that that is not what the Government intend. However, I believe that we should look hard and long at the arguments that there are for making the council responsible, as my amendment provides, for standards of teaching, the standards of conduct for teachers and medical fitness to teach.1441
§ In doing that, the amendment makes it quite clear that the Secretary of State would have power to require the GTC to seek his advice or the advice of bodies designated by him on those matters. Subsections (3) and (4) place with the GTC the power to determine whether a person is qualified to teach; to determine provisions in relation to licensed teachers; and prohibiting or restricting the employment or further employment of teachers along similar lines to those proposed by Clause 8 in relation to the GTC for Wales.
§ The proposed clause requires that paragraphs (a), (b) and (f) of subsection (2) be deleted, along with subsection (4) of that clause and subsection (3) of Clause 5. References to the Secretary of State in relation to directions given by virtue of Section 218 (6) of the Education Reform Act 1988 must also be removed as a consequence.
§ These are really major issues. However, it is quite clear that they are extremely focused points. They do not spread over a great area. It is a matter of principle as to whether or not one believes that the GTC must be more than an advisory and administrative body. I believe that the Government are saying in effect that they will set up an advisory body and at some time, not named, in the indefinite future, it could become a body like the General Medical Council or the Law Society, but they do not know when that is likely to be.
§ The issue of principle is quite clear. Teachers will see their body as a second-class body right from the outset. I do not believe that we need to pretend that it will be anything other than that. I put the matter in those crude terms because frequently that is the way in which advisory bodies are looked upon. It is worth looking at the powers which I have suggested in the amendments to see whether or not we believe that teachers cannot be trusted to deal appropriately with those conditions.
§ The first is in relation to the standards of teaching. In view of all the back-stops there are in teaching now—league tables, statutory tests, inspections and everything else—it would become quite clear if standards of teaching were falling. The GTC would then consider what it was going to do about that, because there are other measures.
§ The more important issue is the question of standards of conduct for teachers. If an organisation has its own responsibilities, it seems to me fundamental that it should regulate itself. In regulating itself, one of its most important tasks would be to decide who is in and who is out. Of course, in the case of teaching it is terribly important that if a teacher is to be dismissed for misconduct—I am not now talking about a teacher who simply teaches badly but I am talking about what we all understand as misconduct—the GTC should be the responsible body to deal with that.
§ As long as we feel that the GTC is not a responsible body to deal with that, we are weakening it all the time. We are also creating quite a lot of bureaucracy. As a matter of interest, if the GTC is to be advisory, I should like to know how the matter of a dismissal will work. Let us suppose there is a case of misconduct and the GTC advises, "Teacher X should be dismissed". What will happen then? The matter goes to the department 1442 which then goes through all its processes. Does it then go back to the GTC and then something happens, or does it stop with the department?
§ What particular purpose is served by having the view of the GTC on such matters? I do not know whether that is one of the ministerial responsibilities of the noble Baroness, but it was one of my less happy responsibilities when I was in her place at the Department of Education. I cannot quite see what purpose would be served by having yet someone else giving advice on what are really very tragic but most important matters from the point of view of the safety of schoolchildren. We are discussing a most serious matter. Therefore, it will be most interesting to know how all that will work in practice.
§ It seems to me that the same applies as regards the issue of determining matters relating to "medical fitness to teach". Again, this is a measure to determine whether a teacher is medically fit to teach. It is something for which presumably one would obtain outside professional advice. That is why we feel that a GTC would not be able to undertake the task and that it would only be able to act in an advisory capacity.
§ The other point I wish to raise is one which was touched upon in the Minister's response to the previous group of amendments. Indeed, she covered so much in her reply that I shall have to read most carefully in Hansard what was said because it was somewhat difficult to take it all in. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised the point as regards Wales. It seems to me—I should like to know whether I have read the Bill correctly—that there is a read-across to what will happen in Wales and it looks as if the council in Wales could from the start have more powers than that in England. We already know that the council in Scotland has more powers than the council in England. My English nationalist spirit is now rising and I ask myself whether that is fair. A certain noble Lord is tempting me to say something about this, but I shall be careful because I can say things.
§ However, rather more seriously, we should know the nature of the council's powers in Wales as opposed to those for the English council. As a matter of natural justice, I feel that the two organisations ought to have similar powers because the situation could give rise to great difficulties. It would be most helpful to have a clear explanation as to what the powers of the Welsh council are and what the powers of the English council are, so that we know where we stand. That is the serious point about the whole matter.
§ In summary, it would be helpful to know, and to have on the record, an idea of the timetable envisaged for the development of the GTC as regards when it will reach the stage that I have suggested in the amendment with full powers on a par with those of the General Medical Society and the Law Society. It is most important for us to be able to say to teachers that that is our ultimate objective and that we expect to reach that stage within a relatively short time.
§ Moreover, at the stage when those full powers belong to the GTC, it will be important to know how the Government will make the judgment as to whether or 1443 not the council has succeeded as regards its advice. How does one judge whether its advice was good or bad? Does one judge it by the fact that every time advice was given the Government accepted it and, therefore, it was very good? Alternatively, although the council's advice may be very good, the Government may not accept it. Does that mean that the advice was not so good and, therefore, merited a black mark, thus holding up the council in its development? These are big and important issues which need to be determined.
§ As I said, this is a probing amendment and clearly one that I shall not press to a Division this evening. However, it is a serious amendment and one which relates to an important consideration which is being demanded, as others will know better than me, by many teachers. If we want to create an organisation which gives teachers the respect that we want them to have, we need to think most carefully about giving it the powers of a fully responsible, self-governing organisation. I beg to move.
§ Lord Walton of Detchant
I warmly support the amendment for a variety of reasons, as I believe it is a fundamental one and one which strikes at the very heart of many of the concerns that have been expressed in Committee this evening. For several years I chaired the Hamlyn Foundation National Commission on Education. In our report published in 1993, entitled Learning to Succeed, we said:It is important that those who are actually teaching have a degree of control over and responsibility for their own profession and involvement in the process of change. The Commission, in line with a wide range of individuals and organisations that have provided it with evidence on the teaching profession, recommends statutory self-regulation of the teaching profession through a General Teaching Council. Most professions in Britain have such a body and Scotland has had a GTC since 1966. A GTC south of the border might eventually have more extensive powers, but its initial functions should, we suggest, be: maintenance of a register of all teachers with qualified status; responsibility for professional standards of discipline and conduct, taking appropriate action in cases of serious misconduct and ill-health: [and] a statutory source of advice on issues such as professional training and development, qualification level of teachers, and changes in curriculum and assessment".
The register of teachers is included in the Bill, but I entirely agree with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin; namely. that to have a register and to have a GTC responsible for maintaining it but not having the authority to suspend or erase the name of a teacher from that register on good evidence is illogical.
The purpose of the amendment is to give the GTC authority over professional standards of discipline and conduct and over issues relating to ill health. As matters stand, under Clause 2(4) any recommendation or advice given by the GTC to the Secretary of State relating to the potential dismissal, suspension or erasure from the register of a teacher would be subject to a decision of the Secretary of State.
Even though it has been suggested to us that the powers of the GTC might well be extended through subsequent amending legislation, I can only say that I have been lobbied extensively over the past few years by colleagues from the General Medical Council and the 1444 General Dental Council, each of whom have been seeking amending legislation for several years to introduce amendments to the relevant Acts for very important purposes. During the time of the previous government and of the present Government, we have been advised that it is simply not likely, within the foreseeable future, to find legislative time for such amending legislation.
Therefore, if we are to be given an assurance that the powers of the council may be extended, the question is when? I believe it is right that such issues as set out in the amendment should be the responsibility of the GTC from the outset; for example, standards of teaching, standards of conduct and medical fitness to teach. It is clear that the amendment is modified by the council being required to seek advice from the Secretary of State or from other bodies. Indeed, subsection (4) of the amendment says:The Secretary of State shall make provision in such regulations for a determination or direction under those regulations to be made by the Council".I wholly agree it is important that if the council is given those powers, the regulations should specify whether the powers will include the authority to suspend, erase, admonish or even to impose conditions upon the registration of a teacher.
All of those issues are covered by this amendment which I believe is of fundamental importance. I hope very much that, despite what the noble Baroness said a few moments ago to the effect that the Government are opposed to giving authority for these powers to the general teaching council, they will think again. As the national commission recommended, that leaves several other issues in the Bill to be the subject of advice from the general teaching council. I believe that these issues are of such fundamental importance that they should be on the face of the Bill as this amendment proposes.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
I wish to speak to Amendment No. 51. I address what is really a point of equity. If it is proposed to remove a teacher from the register, that teacher should have,a right of appeal to an appellate body. established for the purpose and chaired by a person of high legal standing".That is an elementary right. I believe that it could be insisted upon in common law on the basis of human rights. In the previous century it was customary when new governing bodies were established that many teachers who were dismissed had a right of appeal. If a person's livelihood is taken away, I believe that some form of appeal should be allowed. If that is not the case. unfortunate circumstances will arise. I hope that the Minister will give some thought to allowing teachers that right.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ripon
I intervene briefly to support the amendments, particularly in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I believe that her reference to a second-class body is appropriate to a body which is merely advisory and administrative. I have reflected upon the points made by the Minister as 1445 regards the evolutionary approach. It seems to me that a body which is generally viewed as second class, perhaps by the profession too, is in danger of attracting people who are not of the highest calibre. A body which has executive powers, such as those proposed in the amendment, would draw to itself people of real calibre and ability. I wonder whether an advisory body would attract such people. That makes me wonder whether this idea of evolution will work in relation to the general teaching council. If it begins as an advisory body it will draw to it people who are interested merely in that kind of function. I wonder how it will gain a track record—to use the phrase of the noble Baroness—which will enable it to have executive powers.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I am bewildered as to why the teaching profession in Wales is regarded as having the maturity to undertake executive powers whereas the teaching profession in England is not regarded as having such maturity. Unless the general teaching council has some executive powers it will not command the confidence of the teaching profession, nor indeed—dare I say it—of the general public. I find it difficult to see how it could then evolve into the kind of body which we all hope it will become.
§ Lord Parry
I believe it will not surprise the Committee to learn that I share some of the reservations that have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, about the emphasis in the debate. There is no surprise in that as I was a classroom teacher in Wales when the noble Lord was Secretary of State for Education. I wish to make two points. It seems to me that the debate, both in its scratchy period earlier and in its more mellow and important stages towards the end, has ignored the fact that the proposals the Government are putting forward do not exist in the kind of vacuum that the Committee seems to assume.
I have heard two or three references to Wales and to the better provision that the Committee seems to think is being made in Wales for the Welsh teaching council. One of the reasons that the Welsh education system has evolved as it has is that the local authorities created a system which was geared to providing a standard of education in the Welsh counties that was always the envy of the English regions.
This proposed body will not evolve on its own but in the context of the assembly for Wales. I do not refer to the Welsh assembly because the Chamber recently decided that it was an assembly for Wales and not a Welsh assembly. In that context there will be an evolution in terms of control. The whole stature of the Secretary of State for Wales will itself evolve. At this stage we do not know what duties the Secretary of State will keep to himself and what duties will pass to the assembly for Wales. In ignoring that development the Committee has fallen a little in its standard of debate.
While serious reservations have been expressed, particularly on the other side of the Chamber, about some of the proposals on which some of the amendments have focused, we also have to remember a further point. I have been distracted from what I wished to say about the right reverend Prelate's remarks. I shall therefore leave that matter at this point. The Secretary 1446 of State for Wales may pass functions to the assembly for Wales—that was the point I wished to make—and he may not have the sort of total control that might be feared. My final point that I thought would come back to my mind has not done so after all, and therefore I shall sit down.
§ Lord Glenamara
Before the Minister replies I wish to say a few words. I wish to support these amendments as strongly as I can. I believe that these amendments should constitute the absolute core of the Bill. Without these amendments, or something very like them, this exercise is a waste of time. There is no point in setting up the GTC unless it has control over who goes on to the register and who comes off the register for misconduct or for whatever reason. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind. I implore the Government to concede that point, otherwise the whole exercise is futile. There are plenty of consultative bodies now; we do not need any more bodies to consult. What we need now is a regulatory body for the teaching profession. We owe it to them. They are a responsible body of workers and they can control their own profession.
I ask the Minister please not to leave these powers in the hands of the Secretary of State. Let us imagine the nonsense of a situation where the Secretary of State decides which teacher will be allowed to teach and which teacher will not be allowed to teach, when sitting in the next building there is supposed to be a general teaching council for the whole profession. That is ridiculous. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind and concede something on that because without that we may as well all go home; there is no point in doing this. I as an old teacher ask the Minister please, please, please, please, please—I fought for this all my professional life—to concede this point. I ask the Minister to give the teachers the power to decide who goes on the register and who comes off it.
§ Lord Monkswell
I hope I may make two points. I know that the Committee wishes to break for dinner but I shall be brief. First, both the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, referred to the dismissal of teachers. I am sure we understood that they meant the withdrawal of teachers' registration and their inability to teach thereafter because they would not be legitimate teachers. I hope that the record will show that that is what the Committee understands by that.
Secondly, we seem to be having a major debate about the difference between control and advice. We live in a monarchy. We are summoned here to give advice to Her Majesty. Ultimately, Her Majesty makes the decision whether to accept our advice. For the past 100 years the monarchy of this country has always accepted our advice, but it is still within her power not to do so. I hope that the advice the general teaching council will offer to the Secretary of State will over time be accepted 1447 as inviolate advice where the Secretary of State effectively rubber stamps the advice as being from the decision-making body.
§ Baroness Blatch
The monarch will be perplexed when the Bill is presented for approval because it contains no detail. It does not state what will be the outcome. Therefore the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, is pertinent. The monarch will be asked to approve this skeletal Bill and the detail will follow after consultation which has not yet taken place. Indeed, the consultation to take place will not be on the basis of whether the body should have powers because that pass will have been sold by the passing of the Bill as it stands.
However, that was not the point I rose to make. I wish to give notice to the noble Baroness that I wish to place a question on the record. Perhaps the noble Baroness will write to me. I do not ask for an answer now.
The point is important with regard to any Bill which goes through this House. Perhaps the noble Baroness will tell us specifically on a clause by clause basis which parts of the Bill fall to the reserve matters for the Scottish parliament and those for the assembly for Wales when dealing with secondary legislation. It is important that we now have some detail as to which matters fall to the Westminster Parliament and which to the Scottish parliament and the assembly for Wales.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
Perhaps I may answer that question straight away. I shall be very happy to write to the noble Baroness in particular in relation to Wales which is relevant here. I am not sure that Scotland is particularly relevant; it already has its GTC. As regards later parts of the Bill, I have no problem with that request.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that these were probing amendments. Therefore she will not be surprised to hear me say that I cannot support them. I shall probably also disappoint my noble friend Lord Glenamara despite his forceful plea that the Government should accept these amendments. I assume that they are intended to give the GTC full responsibility to decide whom to register and whom to deregister. This may seem an admirable aim and it is possible that in the fullness of time the GTC will be able to develop in that direction. I am most sympathetic to that happening in the longer term. But it would be premature at this stage to move immediately down that road. It is a little premature to give a precise timetable. For a number of reasons which I shall set out, I do not think that the time is yet right and it would be wrong to include such an intention on the face of the Bill before we have some experience of the GTC playing a role in such matters.
Registration with the GTC will be a condition of entry to the teaching profession. It is therefore right that the conditions to be fulfilled for registration are set out in the Bill at Clause 3. One of those conditions is that a person should be a qualified teacher. New standards for qualified teacher status were issued by the Secretary of 1448 State last year. They have a crucial role in driving up the quality of teaching. We are committed to these standards and they need time to work through the system. We need to ensure that the GTC register is a robust and reliable list of persons with the necessary skills to teach, based on the new standards.
Our approach is not novel or unusual. The basic registration arrangements are often laid down in legislation for other professional bodies. And the regulations on registration may of course allow the GTC to make its own arrangements on many issues. That is to say, they will set a framework within which the GTC will be free to make its own more detailed rules. The criteria for admission to the register are simple but nonetheless rigorous. Teachers must hold qualified teacher status, must not have been barred from practising the profession and have paid a registration fee. One either holds QTS or one does not. Similarly one has either paid one's fee or one has not. These issues are not matters for interpretation on which an appeal can be based. Those barred from the profession will have had an opportunity to make representations before being barred. Perhaps I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. To introduce an appeal mechanism of the kind proposed would be unnecessary.
Nor would it be appropriate to give the GTC full responsibility at the outset for de-registering teachers and thereby barring them from the profession. I need not remind Members of your Lordships' House that these are important and sensitive duties. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who has had extensive experience of them, they do not fall within my policy responsibilities. Indeed, no part of the Bill that we are considering in Committee today which relates to teaching falls within my policy remit. The Secretary of State's ability to bar or restrict the employment of people in schools is a crucial child protection measure as well as upholding high standards within the profession. Any new proposals then face a difficult test: we must be certain that they would improve on the existing system and would not generate any new uncertainties or loopholes. I hope that my noble friend Lord Glenamara accepts that.
It is important to retain the best features of a system which has worked well. It is true that other professional bodies, as the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, said, have the power to de-register; but these powers have generally been introduced in very different circumstances—to regulate a profession where little or no regulation previously existed. Moreover, in none of these other professions is child protection such an important consideration, although I accept that it may be of some importance in medicine.
There is also a range of technical difficulties in giving the GTC full powers to bar or restrict employment under Section 218(6) of the 1988 Act. The existing powers cover anyone working in a school who has regular contact with children, not just teachers. And they cover further education colleges and independent schools as well as the maintained sector. So the Secretary of State has powers to bar a range of people who do not fall within the GTC's remit. I believe that it would be damaging to take the approach proposed in this 1449 amendment where the GTC would take the decision in some cases and the Secretary of State would continue to make the decision in other cases. It could be a rather unfortunate recipe for different judgments, and different standards to apply to different groups of people. I hope that Members of your Lordships' House agree that that would be an unfortunate consequence.
The public have a right to expect that the protection of children will be governed by a coherent, consistent and rigorous barring regime. The present system has worked well, and I think it would be right for the Secretary of State to continue to make the final decision. The GTC would be able to give its professional advice on cases concerning teachers at schools, and the Secretary of State will take due account of that advice.
As my noble friend Lord Parry said, our proposals for Wales are different, in order to reflect the different constitutional framework in Wales, and in particular to give the Welsh assembly sufficient powers to determine the best way forward in Wales. As I have said, a TTA does not operate in the same way in Wales as in England. Therefore, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that I do not think that the English need feel too hard done by because we have a TTA which is working well.
As we said at Second Reading, it may be possible to review this area once the GTC has established itself; indeed, I hope it will be. I believe the best approach is to give the GTC an advisory role at the outset which might then be developed over time once the council has proved itself to the profession and the public and developed its experience and expertise in these vitally important areas.
I thank the noble Baroness for that explanation. However, I do not think that she has quite dealt with the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon as to whether an advisory body will attract the best people. At the end of the day, it is the people on it who will make or break it, who are responsible for its success. I pose that as a point that the Government ought to bear clearly in mind. The measure should be: will this body attract the best people?
The noble Baroness is very persuasive over the whole question as to whether the Welsh council will have more powers. One fully begins to see, as devolution proceeds, that the assembly for Wales will be a factor, and this will be one of the ways in which more powers will be given in Wales. That is all right; however, it is an important political point (political with a small "p") that the arrangements for England should not be less effective than those for Wales.
I entirely take the noble Baroness's point about the Teacher Training Agency, and I should like to pay tribute to Professor Clive Booth, whom I know very well; he is an excellent choice. However, the fact is that we do not want different standards as between England and Wales. That would be a most undesirable outcome and a quite unnecessary recipe for difficulties. I hope that the Government will look clearly at the matter.
I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, and I know that my late noble friend Lord Joseph, when he was Secretary of State, tried hard 1450 to set up a general teaching council. He was not successful either. The idea has been around for a long time. I am bound to say that the more we proceed with this Committee stage, the sadder I feel about the outcome. What the Minister has said is that there is no timetable for moving to a fully self-governing, responsible organisation. Even if we had a timetable, it would require primary legislation, as she said. We all know how difficult it is to introduce a Bill into the legislative programme. The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, said how difficult it has been for doctors and dentists to get the amendments that they want. That is a kind of wishful thinking.
To return to the key question about the conduct of teachers, of course everybody understands that child protection is essential. There can be no difference of opinion about that at all. I should have thought that the regulation of the medical profession is similar. It deals with children as well as adults, and with matters of life and death. Teachers act in loco parentis and it is a serious matter.
But are we saying that teachers on the general teaching council would be incapable of or unwilling to make the same difficult and painful decisions about colleagues? Either you think that teachers can do that or you think that they cannot. It is a sad fact that the conclusion on this Bill is that teachers will not be fit to take that responsibility. When we go into the whole question of registration, that makes something of a nonsense of it all.
I will take this amendment back and examine the Minister's remarks carefully, and I shall consider all the points raised. I think we shall all consider carefully what has been said at Committee stage. I have made it quite clear that I have no intention of dividing the House. However, we ought to consider carefully whether this is an issue to which we should return at a later stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Whitty
I beg to move that the House be now resumed. In moving that Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begin again no earlier than 8.55 p.m.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.