HL Deb 23 May 2002 vol 635 cc899-957

4.21 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland)

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

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne) in the Chair.]

Baroness Blatch

moved Amendment No. 202: After Clause 48, insert the following new clause— "APPEALS PURSUANT TO DECISIONS OF THE ADJUDICATOR In section 25 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (c. 31) (adjudicators) there shall be inserted— (5) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements for a body to hear appeals pursuant to decisions of the adjudicator." The noble Baroness said: The amendment poses the question whether an original jurisdiction should be allowed to exist, with no room for appeal—except by judicial review on procedural grounds only. It raises also the technical question of whether Section 86(7) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 makes it possible for the adjudicator to treat entry to a test as an expression of preference for a school.

We all know that organisation committees and adjudicators were set up to allow the Secretary of State to pass to an elected, unaccountable body the responsibility for making decisions that are tiresome for a Secretary of State, including the merging or closing of schools and the alteration of school structures at local level. That development wrote out of the loop the responsibility of local education authorities and put such decisions at arm's length from the Secretary of State. The most significant deficit is that parents, school communities and schools themselves are in no position to counter the adjudicators' absolute power.

If, when an organisation committee receives a proposal written in the organisational plan, one sector of the committee takes a different view, the proposal automatically goes to the adjudicator for determination. The adjudicator can uphold the majority or minority view, alter the proposition or substitute a wholly different decision. There is absolutely no appeal to the adjudicator. We and members on the Liberal Democrat Benches were extremely disquieted by the advent of organisation committees and adjudicators because they were unelected and unaccountable and adjudicators were given absolute power.

At least one adjudicator has already been taken to the courts and found wanting because he had exceeded his powers. The Government's answer was to extend the adjudicators' powers—so if the same decision were made today, it would not be against the law. It certainly would be against the interests of people locally and of schools.

The Government argued that committees and adjudicators would bring decision making closer to the people. Anyone who has examined the areas for which adjudicators are responsible will know that they are extremely wide—they extend far beyond local authority areas. In my area of Cambridgeshire and East Anglia, the adjudicator could not possibly know all the nursery, primary and secondary schools in Cambridgeshire because that individual is responsible for several county areas—yet that one person has absolute power.

Different adjudicators have different ways of working. There ought to be a test of fair process—not just correct process, in terms of judicial review. As I said, the only recourse open to a school community or parent body is to make an adjudication the subject of judicial review on the basis of process only, not its merits or demerits. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.

My preference would be to see adjudicators removed from the 1998 Act, but if we must live with that unaccountable aspect of local decision-making, there ought to be a process of appeal. If the Minister argues that there was not previously the right of appeal to the Secretary of State, that is not true. There was a system of review and judicial review. Those of us with experience of local authorities, particularly on the Liberal Democrat Benches, know that they had to make judgments about the number of places available; and took views on mergers, closures and additional schools. Such propositions were considered at working party level and there would be road shows, talks to local communities; and discussions with governors, parents, and parish and district councils.

After the working party, a proposal would go before the primary and secondary sub-committees and the county council. Then the decision would go to the Secretary of State. If there was concern about a proposal before it reached the Secretary of State, parents could approach the Secretary of State—himself an elected individual—through their Members of Parliament and make their input. The people who submitted the proposal in the first place and the individual decision-maker were elected.

The Government should be generous with the amendment and at least allow appeals to the all-powerful, all-pervasive adjudicators. I beg to move.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I underline what my noble friend said. Since the end of the 19th century, it has been a tradition in this country that local authorities should play a prominent part in education, in particular in relation to the more delicate situations, such as school closures and entry problems. It is a fairly novel development in English education for that role to be handed over to an official appointed as a result of patronage. As my noble friend pointed out, one can escape that only by judicial review. But judicial review is an enormously expensive process. It is possible that large local authorities could afford it, but schools and parents could not unless they had a large amount of money.

In addition, adjudicators have not always been as careful as they might be. For example, in Kent, when they considered the matter of choice of schools after someone had tried to get into a grammar school, the adjudicators did not consult the grammar schools in the county. Another adjudicator subsequently altered the decision of his predecessor. That was a messy situation and, had the county been able to afford it, it would certainly have made mincemeat of the Government at a judicial review.

I do not understand why the Government cannot allow appeals. We all know why the situation occurred. The Secretary of State did not want angry parents or angry local authorities on his doorstep. The best way to avoid that was to appoint, in the French Napoleonic manner, an official who would do the work for him, and not allow appeals. That is a denial of democracy, and a Government who care about the people should do something about it.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Before the Minister replies to the amendment, I believe that part of the problem with this debate and our other Committee stage debates is that we have been unclear as to precisely what the Government intend for the future of local education authorities. Because of that, I believe that, throughout the Bill, a whole series of initiatives are being taken to put in place what are almost substitutes for local education authorities. We have not had a clear view from the Government as to whether, in the long term, effectively they wish to make all schools independent, with no local education authorities at all. Thus, I believe that we are getting the worst of all worlds. From the number of letters and representations that I have received from people involved in local education authorities, the provisions that the Government seek to introduce are certainly perceived in that way. If that is not the intention of the Bill and if that is not the long-term intention of the Government, I believe that it would be helpful for the Government to put that on the record.

I also believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is right to say that parents will be looking for a way, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, has just said, to ensure that, where there is dispute, a fair and proper means of resolving it exists.

Another theme that has run through our debates is that we should do nothing to dissipate accountability. Local education authorities may have their failings—I was a member of one for many years. Nevertheless, they have virtue because they contain an elected element—most of their members are directly elected local councillors. I believe that the more we diminish their powers, the less people will be prepared to serve on such bodies and, even if it is not the intention of the Government to abolish them, they will simply wither away.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

This is an interesting way to start this Committee day. I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for giving me the opportunity to talk about local education authorities. There is no question but that local education authorities provide an invaluable role within our school education system. This Government have no intention of seeing them disappear.

We are trying to ensure that we develop our relationship with schools and local education authorities so that each performs the duties, responsibilities and functions most appropriate to them. That means enabling schools to have control over their own budgets, and allowing them to grow and develop for their community. It means ensuring that local education authorities play a strategic role, and it also means that the Department for Education and Skills and, of course, the Secretary of State, have a responsibility and a duty to all our children and all our schools. I set the Bill within that context. We are trying to ensure that each plays the part that we consider to be appropriate and valuable. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord because I know that there are issues to be teased out and debates to be had.

Perhaps, for Members of the Committee who are less familiar with it, I may say something about the role of the adjudicator in general. The adjudicator has two different roles: one is concerned with admissions; the other with school organisation. The first concerns determining objections to admission arrangements. In a sense, therefore, it is an appeal role. With regard to school organisation, the adjudicator determines school organisation plans and proposals where there is no unanimity on the school organisation committee.

Of course, these issues were all debated in the School Standards and Framework Act before I had the pleasure of being part of your Lordships' House. It is my view that the adjudicator process is working in practice. Fundamentally, it is the appeal process.

I believe that the Government are in a type of "cannot win" situation. If we said to the noble Baroness that we would take the view that the adjudicator role was not working and that we would return to the previous position, that would be a centralisation process. It would place decisions firmly back in the hands of the Secretary of State. That is not what we wish to do. We believe that such decisions are best left to an independent adjudicator. He is appointed by the Secretary of State but on the basis of his educational expertise. Members of the Committee will be able to see that process in terms of the people who have been appointed and who, rightly, we are proud to have in that role.

Therefore, we believe that adjudicators are independent. We believe that they should, and can be, challenged through judicial review. That process is open to those who wish to follow it. That would affect not only the cases about which Members of the Committee may be concerned; it would also affect adjudicator decisions allowing mid-year variations to admission arrangements and school organisation decisions.

We believe that adjudicators provide an independent mechanism. They work on a good timescale. Our objective is that decisions should be reached within six weeks. The process takes longer when objections are put forward, in particular, during the school summer holiday period. However, even in those cases, on average decisions have been reached in fewer than 10 weeks. We believe that the adjudicator performs the role of the appeals process and that, therefore, the provision should stand. We hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I hope that this does not bode badly for the rest of the day. That was the most disappointing answer that I have had. The noble Baroness said that there is no question that LEAs are threatened, but I need some convincing of that. We have learning and skills councils, national learning and skills councils, organisation committees and adjudicators. Sixth-form funding is about to be removed from local authorities. We also have sector skills councils and national sector skills councils, most of which are now regionally based.

The subject of county councils was brought up in a Statement the other day. There is no question that county councils—predominantly those who are responsible for the decisions that we are discussing today—look very vulnerable. That certainly came out in the debate. The Minister who replied to the Statement gave no comfort whatever to this House that county councils would be safe in the future. If one removes local education authorities from county councils, there will be almost nothing left. Therefore, I say to the noble Baroness that her answer on that point was less than convincing. Certainly the point that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, made is well taken in that respect.

The noble Baroness also went on to say that fundamentally we have an appeals process. The point that I made was not picked up by the noble Baroness. Once the organisation committee has considered the proposition but one vote on that committee has disagreed with it, the adjudicator can uphold the majority decision that has been considered; or he or she can uphold the minority decision that has been considered; or he or she can modify and alter the proposition; but under the law he or she is free to substitute a decision that has not been considered. How can such a situation be democratic? If one person can take a decision, which has not had full consideration by such bodies as the local authority upwards, how can that be democratic?

The noble Baroness considered that it was something of a virtue that such decisions can be made in six weeks. I have been involved in making recommendations to Secretaries of State in relation to decisions on possible school closures, and those who experience the pain of such decisions would like to believe that it would take more than six weeks to consider all the representations and all the aspects of a decision. To boast that all that can take place in six weeks is no answer. Therefore, I want to test the opinion of the House.

4.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 202) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 63; Not-Contents, 93.

Division No. 1
Alton of Liverpool, L. Marlesford, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Miller of Hendon, B.
Astor, V. Moynihan, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Biffen, L. Noakes, B.
Blatch, B. Northbourne, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Northbrook, L.
Burnham, L. Northesk, E.
Colwyn, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. O'Cathain, B.
Cuckney, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Dixon-Smith, L. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Elles, B. Platt of Writtle, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Plumb, L.
Elton, L. Quirk, L.
Ferrers, E. Rawlings, B.
Freeman, L. Renton, L.
Glentoran, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rotherwick, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L. Saatchi, L.
Holderness, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Hooper, B. Selsdon, L.
Howarth of Breckland, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Howe, E. Strathclyde, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L. Swinfen, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Taylor of Warwick, L.
Jopling, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Liverpool, E. Trumpington, B.
Lucas, L. Vivian, L.
Luke, L. Waddington, L.
Lyell, L. Weatherill, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Wilcox, B.
Acton, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Ahmed, L. Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Filkin, L.
Alli, L. Gale, B.
Andrews, B. Gibson of Market Rasen, B
Archer of Sandwell, L. Gilbert, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. Golding, B.
Bach, L. Goudie, B.
Barnett, L. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Grenfell, L.
Berkeley, L. Grocott, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Harrison, L.
Billingham, B. Haskel, L.
Blackstone, B. Hattersley, L.
Borrie, L. Hayman, B.
Brett, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Brookman, L. Howells of St. Davids, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Carter, L.[Teller] Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Chan, L.
Christopher, L. Jay of Paddington, B.
Clark of Windermere, L. Jordan, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Judd, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. King of West Bromwich, L.
Crawley, B. Lea of Crondall, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Lipsey, L.
Dearing, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
Desai, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Dubs, L. MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Elder, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Mishcon, L.
Mitchell, L. Strabolgi, L.
Morris of Manchester, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Nicol, B. Temple-Morris, L.
Ouseley, L. Tenby, V.
Peston, L. Thornton, B.
Pitkeathley, B. Turnberg, L.
Puttnam, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Radice, L. Whitaker, B.
Rea, L. Whitty, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B. Wilkins, B.
Rix, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L. Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Simon, V. Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.50 p.m.

[Amendment No. 202A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Schedule 4 [Admission arrangements]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 203: Page 133, line 30, at end insert— () After subsection (3)(c) there is inserted "; or (d) if the child has been identified upon an assessment requested by the head teacher of the school as having significant emotional and behavioural difficulties and the local education authority responsible for maintaining the school is unwilling or unable to provide to the school such resources as may reasonably be considered appropriate to meet the needs of the child" The noble Baroness said: The purpose of Amendment No. 203 is to ensure that schools have adequate resources to support pupils with significant emotional and behavioural difficulties. Schools cannot be expected to know whether they have the appropriate resources unless they know the full nature and extent of the problem. That is why this amendment proposes that head teachers have the right to refer pupils for an assessment prior to admission to a school if they have reasonable grounds to believe that he or she has a serious problem. Therefore, the amendment seeks to amend the Schools Standards and Framework Act to that effect. I beg to move.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

We have already in place, as noble Lords are aware, a system for assessing and supporting children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, through the special educational needs framework. The special educational needs code of practice for England and Wales sets out a systematic process for schools to identify and to provide for children's special educational needs in school.

With reference to children with challenging behaviour, the school admissions code of practice makes it clear that admission authorities should not make subjective judgments as to the suitability of children for a school. Of course, if the pupil, once admitted, is seriously and persistently disruptive, the school may take appropriate disciplinary action, including temporary and, ultimately, permanent exclusion from the school.

We want education to be as inclusive as possible and the admissions code makes clear that children with special educational needs, but without statements, must be treated as fairly as other applicants. Admission authorities may not refuse admission simply because they consider themselves unable to cater for his or her special educational needs. Nor can they refuse to admit such a pupil on the grounds that he or she does not have a statement or is currently being assessed for one. It is not acceptable for a school to refuse to admit a child merely because he or she has exhibited potentially challenging behaviour or because it considers that the child should first be assessed for special educational needs.

We shall require the mandatory admission forums in England to discuss issues relating to the admission of children with challenging behaviour, including those with emotional and behavioural difficulties. That will enable local admission authorities to agree strategies for their areas in relation to how their admission arrangements might best work to ensure a more even spread and the best possible resource for each child between all their schools.

In the light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Before the Minister sits down, figures published today show that 9,000 children have been excluded from schools—a large number of them from primary schools, where there has been an alarming increase in the number of exclusions. Will the Minister agree that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has a valid point; namely, that before putting children into schools simply to place them at risk of exclusion, we should first consider and address the reasons that such children exhibit emotional and behavioural problems? I welcome the Minister's concluding remarks, but does she agree that we need to give a little more thought to that matter?

Baroness Blatch

My point is related to the noble Lord's. The Minister will be aware that today some very disturbing news has been announced about the dramatic increase in the number of young people in schools who are behaviourally disordered and resort to violence, for which there appears to be no answer. Teachers, especially those who have to deal with older and physically stronger secondary school children, feel unprotected. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is right that it is depressing to know that that kind of disruptive and sometimes violent behaviour is now a feature of our primary schools.

I should like to pose a question to the Minister. We are now almost at the end of the school summer term. As I understand it, a large number of county councils do not presently have full-time education places to offer all the young people who have been excluded. That now is a pledge—nay, even a guarantee—that by the first day of term early in September full-time education will be made available, either in pupil referral units, in learning support units and/or in other forms of provision, for every excluded child, a pledge which many councils cannot at this time honour. That will happen in a matter of weeks. Will the Minister therefore say how that can be achieved in the time remaining between now and the beginning of the new term?

Lord Northbourne

Having been a governor of a school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and having provided for their holidays over a number of years, I support this amendment. Not enough is being done by the Government to understand the terrifying reality of these children's problems. Without additional resources, it is unhelpful to place those children in mainstream schools. All they do is damage the mainstream schools. With resources, it may be possible to bring them along in mainstream schools in such a way that they do not need extremely expensive special provision later.

Lord Lucas

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. However, I do not agree with the amendment. It would not be right for schools to play ping-pong with children. If schools have disputes with local education authorities about the level of provision, they should take up those disputes with the local education authorities and not seek to deprive children of an education while they are resolved.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I, too, should like to seek some clarification from the Minister in her response. A number of noble Lords have mentioned the worrying rise in the number of exclusions that have taken place. Some surprisingly young children have very difficult emotional and behavioural problems, with which teachers find it extraordinarily difficult to cope. Many of those children are excluded from other schools and then allocated to new schools. However, if resources are not in place to cope with those difficulties, they become excluded again, which does them no good whatever. If a head teacher perceives that she and her staff do not have the resources to cope with such children, that poses very real problems. It also raises the question whether admitting children into a school at that point, rather than being able to cope with them, does more harm. I am not sure that on such occasions admissions authorities will be able to help.

Lord Dearing

If I may comment briefly, first, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that ping-pong should not be played with children. Secondly, referring to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, the issue of resources is immensely important, and the resources are not there. I know how long it takes to get a client statemented, and I suspect that that is linked to the inadequacy of resources for handling these children. It is a growing problem throughout the educational system. The funding of education was one of the crying needs for action highlighted by the Local Government Association. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. However, the Government must face up to the fundamental problem. If these children are to be placed in normal schools, the schools must be funded properly to cope with them and to give them a good education.

5 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

I listened this morning to the Secretary of State for Education speaking on a radio programme about the increase in the number of expulsions. She was not able to reveal the figures at the time, but she made great play of the fact that the situation had changed since 1997 in that there were far more referral units to which expelled children might be sent. Can the Minister give the Committee some detail on the number of expelled children who would be attending referral units? For example, would this option be available to all, or only some of them? Can the noble Baroness say how extensive such units are? Further, can she tell us how many of those excluded children would fall into the category covered by the amendment?

Baroness Andrews

I intervene to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that I am well aware of the situation, working, as I do, with many schools. I should declare an interest as the director of a national education charity. One of the most effective ways of dealing with disturbed children and those who are prone to violence and general disaffection has emerged through the provision of learning mentors, classroom assistants, and learning support assistants. They are increasing in number, especially in primary schools, and are able to give the sort of individual attention to which these children respond. Indeed, we shall discuss later a similar amendment relating to children leaving care.

The support that an individual learning classroom assistant can provide is absolutely vital. Indeed, I have seen the difference that it can make to "school-phobic" children and those whose parents fail to support them. We know that there is a major problem regarding parents who collude in truancy. These assistants are incredibly effective people in primary schools—often very motherly. As I said, the numbers are increasing, though clearly we do not have enough of them; otherwise we would not be in the present position. When searching for individual attention for many of these children both in and out of school, pupil referral units are a last resort choice.

Baroness Blatch

I understand the noble Baroness's point, and I know that schools have welcomed the provision of the 20,000 additional classroom assistants. However, during the period that they have been working in the classroom, the number of permanent exclusions has risen by 11 per cent. There are now more children being excluded than previously. The teachers' unions have drawn attention to the demand on the teacher in the classroom and the disruption to the education of the other children. The unions accept that those exclusions are justified; but, equally, the National Union of Teachers—this links very well with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing—argues that: Government must make sure that schools receive the staffing, support and training which is necessary to tackle unacceptable pupil behaviour and that those who are excluded receive the education their needs demand, whether in units or special schools". It is a fundamental question. We all know that there is a distinction between wilful naughtiness and disturbed behaviour that arises from other difficulties, such as social or mental problems. Nevertheless, it is a very practical issue for teachers in the classroom.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I apologise to the Committee for responding too early to the noble Baroness's amendment. I recognise that we have some later amendments that are based specifically around the area of exclusions. I shall attempt to give noble Lords some of the answers, but, obviously, I shall welcome the opportunity to talk in more detail, if appropriate, at a later point.

It may be useful for me to explain something about the figures that were released this morning, so as to give Members of the Committee an understanding of what is interesting about them, beyond the headlines. There have been an estimated 9,210 permanent exclusions. The word "estimated" is used in these cases, because we still have to confirm some final details with a few LEAs. It is worth comparing them with two figures: in 1996–97, the figure was 12,700; and, last year, the figure was 8,323. Of the latter, noble Lords will probably find most worrying the fact that there has been an increase of around 19 per cent within primary schools, while figures for secondary schools revealed an increase of 10 per cent.

However, I should draw noble Lords' attention to the decrease of 11 per cent in exclusions in special schools. Noble Lords have often described their concern that children with special educational needs were six-times, or possibly seven-times, more likely to be excluded. However, the figure in respect of statemented children with special educational needs appears to have dropped, as they are now three-times more likely to be excluded. I accept that that is still not on the right side of the equation, but it is an interesting figure. We are thinking most carefully about what that development is really telling us. I also note that the figure for black Caribbean exclusions is down from 46 in every 10,000 to 38 in every 10,000. I hope that those improvements have arisen as a result of new government policy, but I wish to study the situation to see what is happening.

I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Dearing and Lord Lucas. We must be most careful about ping-ponging children. Although I paraphrase it, the thrust of this amendment is that some decision would have to be taken about a child's suitability before he or she had even got into the school. That is not the direction in which we want to see education move in this country. However, I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said about resources. That is an important consideration. We have put £178 million into schools specifically to cover issues arising from behavioural problems. I am the first to say that there is more to be done, but we want to achieve that within a context of an inclusive system in which such children at least get a chance to get through the door of a school, and the chance to prove themselves. Therefore, such resources must be made available to enable schools to work with those children.

There are 331 pupil referral units at present. They form a very important part of a strategy that is about guaranteeing full-time education. We are working closely with every local education authority. We expect the pledges to be met. There will be full-time education for every excluded child from the beginning of September—a policy of which I am deeply proud. Before we took this route, children who were permanently excluded were often excluded on to the streets. That is an unsatisfactory position from any perspective. We are now ensuring that every child receives full-time education. That is our intention. We are working closely with LEAs in order to achieve that aim. It is not an easy task—indeed, no one would say that it is—but we want to ensure that we complete it.

Of the children who are excluded, roughly 50 per cent will be in pupil referral units, while others will be placed back in other schools. Sometimes exclusion from one school can lead to reinstatement at a different school. With some support that can make a difference. However, sometimes it is time for the child to move on. As the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will be aware, there are also learning support units within schools, which attempt to ensure that children do not end up on the road to exclusion. They focus quite heavily on children with challenging behaviour, and behavioural problems.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, was really searching for early identification. I could not agree more with him. It is very important that our health, education, and social care services work very closely together with our youngest children right the way through the schooling process to ensure that we identify those who have special educational needs, which are often the reason for such behaviour. We must ensure that we give those children and their families the support that they need.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, talked about EBD schools. I have been talking to some of the head teachers who are working with children with emotional and behavioural problems. It is interesting that those heads see themselves as part of the continuum of education for such children. The success criteria often used—namely, "How many children can we put back into the mainstream?", or "How many children can we claim as a success?"—will not apply to every child. I want to ensure that the expertise within those schools is made more available to our education system in the broadest possible sense. I am, therefore, considering how those special schools can work more closely with mainstream schools by offering their expertise and experience to our teachers.

In the light of my full explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I am most grateful to the Minister for her extended reply to my amendment, and to all the queries that we subsequently raised. Serious problems still remain in this area. On such an occasion as this, it is not a question of the child being excluded; it is a question of a child having been excluded from one school on grounds of emotional and disturbed behaviour being allocated to another school where the head teacher genuinely feels that the school does not have the necessary resources to cope with the situation. It does not do the child any good to go into another school, only to be excluded again.

There are some real problems to solve. As the Minister said, it is a question of adequate resources being available; and, indeed, of being able to obtain the services of a teaching assistant. I take very much the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, that many of these children are lacking tender loving care. That is what they are looking for. They need someone to give it to them and to provide them with stability in the school.

Perhaps we shall return to this matter on Report, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rix

moved Amendment No. 204: Page 134, line 14, at end insert— (8) After subsection (9) there is inserted— (10) "Ability" and "aptitude" shall be interpreted to include among selected children those children with special educational needs who require additional support in displaying and developing the relevant ability and aptitude." The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 204 which stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. It is somewhat surprisingly grouped with Amendment No. 204A which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Listowel. My amendment is about children with special educational needs and/or disability, while his is concerned with children in care. This clearly, in theatrical terms, is a double booking, for both are fighting for the same page and the same line. Surely, there is room for both.

Last year the Special Education Needs and Disability Act fulfilled many of our ambitions for pupils with special educational needs and disabled children. The emphasis was on education in mainstream settings, while carefully preserving the special school option for those children for whom this is the better option.

I fear that the important changes secured during the passage of that Act, which makes discrimination in schools illegal, could be threatened by admission arrangements that extend the scope for selection. Many tests by aptitude are indistinguishable from tests of ability. The Sheffield Hallam research, to which the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, have already alluded in a previous debate, also raises concerns about the nature of the tests used to determine aptitude in selection arrangements for specialist schools.

Some of the tests are very close indeed to tests of general ability. The study states that some of the criteria used are, diverse, largely unaccountable and sometimes obscure". Examples of this include: Chosen by the Governors as likely to contribute to the life of the school". Clearly, any such criterion might well disadvantage children with special educational needs, who may not be the governors' natural first choice. I find the reassurance by the Government that only a small percentage of specialist schools do use aptitude tests to select pupils is not enough to dissuade me from pursuing this amendment.

I have a further concern. The ability to select should not lead to the concentration of children with special needs in non-selective schools which are less esteemed and less well resourced. The other concern is that children with special needs who could benefit from a specialist education should not be denied that education because they require extra resources to fulfil their potential.

If the Minister wishes to offer assurances rather than legislation, I shall of course listen carefully to what she has to say, but, as an actor who lost his trousers on many occasions with comparative ease, I would prefer the belt and braces of regulatory security rather than a bland reassurance that they will not end up around my ankles again. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I support the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. I do not know whether I approach it from the right angle, but there are many young people with special educational needs who, with support, can compete and sometimes even surpass their counterparts in mainstream education. For example, when young people go to university there is a raft of available facilities—readers, technology that assists people, walkers, physical adaptations, or whatever. Believing in opportunity for all means that, where the needs of someone with special needs can be met so they stand on a par with those who have been selected by ability and/or aptitude, the door should be open for them. I hope that the noble Lord accepts my angle, but I do believe in the thrust of the amendment.

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel

I speak to Amendment No. 204A which stands in my name. It seeks to ensure that local education authorities can place a child in public care in a particular local maintained school. Local education authorities already have a similar power for children with special educational needs.

Admission forums have many attractions. I welcome the Minister's assurance that they will contain a local authority representative. But the current situation for looked-after children is so poor that more is required.

The Minister may be concerned that a looked-after child imposed on a school is likely to become aware that he is unwelcome. She may be anxious that that imposition will repeat the child's previous experience of rejection. I am assured, however, that this should not be the case. A responsible local education authority will discuss carefully the placement of a child with the proposed school. Identical arrangements for special educational needs children have not given rise to significant problems.

Local education authorities need this power to ensure that the better performing schools, sometimes over-subscribed by more than five to one, accept looked-after children.

The Minister may be concerned also about meeting a placement during the course of the school year. I point out that special educational needs children whose statements are being adjusted and are delayed on their entry, are currently accepted after the start of a school year. I am unaware of any problems arising from that matter. I am told that it is possible for the children of diplomats and senior politicians who arrive in an area in the course of a year to be found a place. It should not be difficult to make space for this relatively small number of children.

There should always be careful consideration and dialogue between school and local authority before a looked-after child is placed in school. Amendment No. 204A ensures that authorities and carers have the full attention of proposed schools.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I want to speak to both Amendments Nos. 204 and 204A. My name stands to Amendment No. 204 in support of the noble Lord, Lord Rix. I echo very much his words. We shall return to this whole issue of aptitude versus ability when we debate city academies and entry into them. On this issue of children with special educational needs I endorse strongly what the noble Lord said about the need for such children to have access to the specialist facilities that are often available.

I also want to add support to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. Looked-after children are in a special situation. They do not have parents to fight for them. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 4 is entitled "Parental preferences". One needs someone to fight for one. It is very important that these children's interests are looked to and that they are encouraged to take an interest in what they do. We should give them every chance.

Lord Swinfen

I support Amendment No. 204 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. One of the purposes of education is to turn out well-rounded and useful members of society. If we find that a child with special educational needs has an aptitude it should be encouraged and developed. That is particularly so for those with behavioural or emotional problems. Very often those children are very bright. It may well be that they are not being properly stretched. Therefore, if we can find something that interests them and where they can shine, they will take pride in themselves and develop properly and cease to be a nuisance to the country as a whole.

Baroness Andrews

Perhaps I may briefly join the debate by offering two examples that exemplify what the noble Lord, Lord Rix, spoke about to express my approval of the amendment. First, years ago I supported a mathematics club in a special needs school in which some gifted young mathematicians invited children from a maintained school to share the maths games that they had developed. One benefit of that was to show children from the maintained school how bright and able were those young children with special needs. Secondly, I have seen the difference that handheld computers can make to severely handicapped children's access to the curriculum. They have phenomenal abilities—there is nothing wrong with their brainpower; the main difficulty is often their inability to handle a keyboard. We can and should provide such computers, but they come at a cost.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

I, too, rise to support Amendment No. 204, moved by my noble friend Lord Rix, for the reasons that have already been advanced. For five years, I worked with children with special needs and one of the last children whom I taught was a young boy who was dying of cystic fibrosis. Many of the children with whom I worked during that period may have had physical disabilities, but they were, as has been said, bright children who just needed the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

An issue which always perturbed me and still worries me is that some selective schools that are highly esteemed for their academic achievement are some of the worst schools for making proper provision for those who have physical disabilities. That is a key question. If someone is in a wheelchair or has other difficulties with mobility, it becomes impossible to go to some schools where proper provision has not been made for access and so on. I realise that the law has changed in a positive way—I welcome the most recent changes. Nevertheless, we must still encourage such schools to realise that beyond the disability often lies a person of enormous talent. Everything that we can possibly do should be done to encourage such children to fulfil their potential.

I remember when I was in another place being profoundly affected by a young woman whom II met who had been told that she would be dead by her teens. She was then in her late twenties. She had Duchenne muscular dystrophy. She had a classics degree; she had presented the "Same Difference" television programme; she had written poetry; and she was able in every sphere of her life. When I attended her funeral in Bristol, the place was overflowing its capacity with all the people who had so valued and appreciated the contribution that she had made to their lives. From all that has been said, we understand the importance of the point made by my noble friend Lord Rix. I hope that we can go beyond assurances to legislation.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed. It is not a case of going beyond assurances; it is simply that we believe that the amendment is unnecessary. I want to explain why we think it unnecessary—not that what is being asked for is not important.

Current legislation already provides children with special educational needs with the protection sought through the amendment. The school admissions code of practice advises that, as far as possible, any arrangements for testing ability or aptitude should be accessible to children with special educational needs and gives examples of how that might be achieved. It also makes clear that children with special educational needs but no statement should be treated as fairly under a school's admission criteria, including its oversubscription criteria, as other applicants.

Where children with special educational needs, but for whom statements are not maintained, fulfil the criteria to be admitted to a selective maintained school, the school is under a duty under Section 317 of the Education Act 1996 to use its best endeavours to make the provision for which their learning difficulties call. That may include support for any particular aptitudes and abilities that such children may have. The SEN code of practice, to which all maintained schools, including selective schools, must have regard gives guidance on identifying and meeting children's special educational needs.

I agree with what Members of the Committee have said: children with special educational needs can have the same range of ability as those who do not have special educational needs. As I would expect, the Committee is fully aware of that. Paragraph 8.83 of the SEN code states that local education authorities should not name a maintained school in a statement if the school is selective and the child does not meet the criteria for selection. But if a child with a statement meets those criteria and the school is named in the statement, the governing body will be under the duty imposed by Section 317 to make the provision for which the child's learning difficulties call.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, specifically mentioned those with disabilities. From September, changes to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 will make it unlawful for admission authorities to discriminate against disabled prospective pupils in the terms on which they offer to admit a child or by refusing admission. They will be under a new duty not to treat a disabled prospective pupil less favourably than they treat a non-disabled child, without justification, and to take reasonable steps to ensure that such children are not put at substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled.

Schools that operate a permitted form of selection will continue to be able to do so but they will be expected to make such reasonable adjustments to their selection arrangements as may be necessary to ensure that disabled prospective pupils are not substantially disadvantaged. I hope that on that basis, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

I turn to Amendment No. 204A. I have a great deal of sympathy with the intentions behind the amendment. I fully agree with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that we should seek to protect that vulnerable group of children.

Of course, where a school is not oversubscribed it is in any case under a duty to comply with parental preference—in this case, the corporate parent's preference. Even if the school is full, the local education authority can decide to admit a child who is the subject of a care order to a community or voluntary-controlled school because it is the admission authority. Alternatively, it could direct the governing body of any foundation or voluntary-aided school to admit the child.

We are, however, aware of the particular needs and difficulties that children in public care and other vulnerable children may have. We will therefore attempt to assist their admission into popular schools in other ways. When we revise the admissions code of practice later in the year to reflect the Bill's changes, we intend—subject of course to consultation—to recommend to all admission authorities that they give looked-after and vulnerable children top priority in their over-subscription criteria and place them at the top of any waiting lists.

The Committee will be aware that we intend to prescribe in regulations for England that admissions forums must discuss the admission arrangements for vulnerable children, including children in public care. We shall shortly be consulting on proposed regulations that will give admission forums responsibility to consider the issues relating to children in public care and how to ensure that such children are placed in schools that meet their social, pastoral and academic needs by means of local protocols. We also propose through regulations to introduce a requirement that social services should normally be included as a member of the admissions forum and to explain in the admissions code that they should be in attendance for consideration of all aspects of sharing vulnerable children and in-year admissions. I hope that those steps meet the noble Earl's concerns.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

Before the Minister sits down, can she tell the Committee what happens now when a child subject to a care order is excluded from school? Is any special attention given to that child, bearing in mind that, as she acknowledges, such children are vulnerable and do not have parents but only the authority in loco parentis?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The reality is that the situation varies. Local education authorities, who are responsible through the local authority for corporate parenting, would act in loco parentis for those children. However, we know that the educational attainment of such children is extremely low. Although we have set targets, we admit that they are quite low. We want to ensure that we address the needs of such vulnerable children. I said that most of those children have been neglected or abused—that is why they are in public care—and many of them will have additional needs.

It is important that we consider the new arrangements to ensure that across the country, admissions forums take seriously such children and that we put in place a series of measures to ensure that their educational, pastoral and social welfare is looked after. We know that education is crucial to such children, so we want to do as much as we can. What happens in some areas is better than in others, but the provisions are entirely designed to ensure that we seriously addressed the educational needs of such children.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Rix

I thank noble Lords in all parts of the House for their support for the amendment. I am also grateful to the Minister for the courteous way in which she assured me that my amendment was not necessary. Unfortunately, I do not have the benefit of having a brief quoting all the Acts and guidance, as the Minister did. I shall, therefore, read what was said in Hansard tomorrow, consult my colleagues and decide whether to bring the amendment back on Report.

I heard the dread words "as far as possible". That seems to me to be the beginning of a cop-out. I am sure that the House will forgive we if I do not seek its view on this occasion. I shall consider the amendment in the light of Hansard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 204A and 205 not moved.]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 206: Page 134, line 25, leave out "by the governing body The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 206 and 207 are technical amendments. I shall speak to both.

An admissions authority need not, at present, comply with a parent's preference for a school for their child, if the child has been permanently excluded from two or more schools during a period of two years. As the Bill stands, the change made by paragraph 4 of Schedule 4 would have the effect that, in certain circumstances, a pupil ought not to be regarded as having been permanently excluded for the purposes of Section 87, even though a direction to reinstate the pupil concerned was not given. Typically, that would happen if the pupil would have been reinstated, had it been practical to do so. An obvious example would be the case of a child who is now too old to be reinstated in the original school.

In the Bill as drafted, that change will not apply to pupils excluded from a pupil referral unit, who would have been reinstated if it had been practical. The amendment will correct that position, so that the same provision applies to pupil referral units as to schools. The two amendments will extend the definition of "relevant authority" in the revised Section 87(4) to include the definition of a "responsible body" in Clause 49(5), so that those new provisions also apply to pupil referral units. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

If we remove the words "by the governing body" the clause simply says: a review of his exclusion". By whom? I am not sure that the Minister covered that point.

I have another rather rhetorical and slightly cynical point to make. I cannot remember precisely when the Bill was given a Second Reading in the House of Commons, but I know that it has gone through all its stages there and has come this far in this House, and only now are we correcting that error. It is extraordinary that it has taken so long for us to discover it.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The effect of removing the words would be as I described. It will make sure that "the relevant authority" referred to in revised Section 87(4) includes the definition of "responsible body".

The noble Baroness will know well that, when we are dealing with legislation, there will always be issues to which we will need to return. I apologise to the House that we need an amendment, but I am pleased that it will make sure that the position is clear in respect of children in our maintained schools and in the pupil referral units. On that basis, I hope that the House will forgive me for tabling the amendment and accept that it is necessary.

Baroness Blatch

I accept what the Minister has just said. However, my point was that it was not a matter of returning to the point; it has not actually been discussed since the Bill was produced on 4th December. We are correcting a part of the Bill, that relates to an issue that has not been discussed. It is not the case that we are returning to the issue; someone has discovered, very late, that there is a mistake in the Bill.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I meant that the department would have to return to it, rather than Parliament. We discovered that we needed to correct it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 207: Page 134, leave out lines 38 to 41 and insert— "the relevant authority" means—

  1. (a) the responsible body as defined by subsection (5) of section 49 of the Education Act 2002, or
  2. (b) a panel constituted in accordance with regulations under subsection (3)(c) of that section."
On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 208: Page 135, line 43, leave out paragraph 6 and insert— (1) Section 90 of the 1998 Act (reference of objections to adjudicator or Secretary of State) is amended as follows. (2) In subsection (1)(b), for "consulted by the admission authority under section 89(2)" there is substituted "who were, or would but for subsection (2A) of section 89 have been, required to be consulted by the admission authority under subsection (2) of that section". (3) In subsection (2), paragraph (c) is omitted. The noble Baroness said: The amendment would enable parents to refer to the adjudicator any objections about a school's admissions arrangements, if they believe them to be contrary to the interests of local children and parents. At present, under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, admissions authorities—local education authorities for community schools and governing bodies for foundation and voluntary schools—are required to consult other admissions authorities in their area before finalising their admissions arrangements. The consultation is voluntary, but if any admissions authority—the LEA or the school—is of the view that it is disadvantaged by the arrangements, it has the right of appeal to the adjudicator.

Parents, however, have limited powers of appeal. A group of 10 or more parents may appeal, but only if the school concerned was partially academically selective prior to 1997. Paragraph 2.4 of the policy statement issued as the precursor to the new code of practice on admissions made it clear that the right to object would be extended to allow two or more parents to object to the number of pupils that a school proposed to admit. That does not extend to objections about admissions arrangements. The amendment would enable a group of parents to make such complaints.

Parents often realise that their children are disadvantaged by the admissions arrangements of local schools only when they make applications. By then, it is too late for appeals to have any effect before the opening of the following school year. Schedule 4 already proposes to extend the right to refer objections to the adjudicator to the governing bodies of community schools. Until now, they had to rely on the LEA to object on their behalf. Although that change is welcome, it does not go far enough.

The need for such a power is well illustrated by two recent cases. The first concerns the Prendergast School in south London, where parents had, since 1998, complained about the school's practice of interviewing applicants for places. As a foundation school, the school was its own admissions authority, but the code of practice on admissions made it clear that, although the school could decide whom to admit, interviewing, which can discriminate against less articulate pupils, was not to be encouraged. Nevertheless, although the school was aware that admission via interview was frowned upon, it continued to do it. Neither the LEA nor the schools in the vicinity raised a complaint with the adjudicator. Eventually, a group of parents complained to the local government ombudsman, who recently found in the parents' favour and against the LEA, on the grounds that the school's admissions practices were unfair and that the LEA had not done enough to ensure that the school complied with the Government's code of practice.

The second case concerns the Coopers' Company and Coborn School in Upminster. Again, some parents complained to the local government ombudsman that the LEA had not done enough to ensure that the governors followed the Government's code of practice on admissions. In both cases, if parents had had the right to refer objections to the adjudicators, the breach of practice might have been discovered and put right earlier.

The amendment would not open the floodgates for objections from individual parents. Subsection (2)(b) would continue to allow the Secretary of State to prescribe which parents might refer objections. Currently, they must be parents of a child of compulsory school age receiving primary education. Subsection (9)(a) would continue to allow the Secretary of State to prescribe the conditions to be satisfied before an objection could be referred by parents. Currently, the regulations require that at least 10 parents are involved. Both conditions are reasonable, and we do not seek to change them. We seek to open up the opportunity for parents to make such objections. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

Having spoken to my first amendment today, it will be no surprise that I seriously object to this amendment. I believe that it ascribes to the adjudicator powers which are not, and should not, be contained within the Act. It would give the adjudicator powers of investigation which I believe would be quite wrong. He would then acquire a bureaucracy and a back-up service that would duplicate the work of the Ombudsman. In fact, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, described a remedy that was available to aggrieved parents if a school was breaching the law.

I do not agree, but the law says that schools are not allowed to interview for admissions. If schools were found to be interviewing, and the governing body was not prepared to remedy the situation, the local education authority could step in. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said that in some cases local education authorities turn a blind eye. However, the Secretary of State has powers to intervene and investigate whether the law is being broken by a particular school. Indeed, the Secretary of State also has powers to instruct the local authority to do something about a breach of the rules and regulations by an individual school.

All the remedies are there in law. I am sorry that schools do not have freedom to interview for admissions to their schools, but that is not the point of Amendment No. 208. The amendment is to invoke the procedures, including the adjudicator, and I strongly oppose that idea.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

I have concerns about this amendment and I was intrigued by the two examples that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, gave to the Committee. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, I am also worried about the issue of interview. I do not believe that there is an overwhelming case against schools having the right to conduct interviews—in fact, sometimes it can be fairer than some of the other methods that are used. These are issues that are best settled by common sense rather than by diktat. As the noble Baroness has said, if there is an unfairness there are now ways of remedying that.

My greater concern is not, therefore, about the specific cases which have been laid before the Committee, but that we can go so far down this road that we will actually encourage a process of complaint. We live in a blame culture and there will always be aggrieved people—whether it is by interview, by examination or by going to the head teachers of primary schools. Whatever system is used there will always be complaints about the way in which the system has worked. Although I believe that there are really deep concerns, there ought to be a mechanism, as there has been in the past, for resolving them.

I believe that to incite and encourage even more complaint will lead to even greater unhappiness. Therefore, I do not believe that the amendment will solve the problem, although I recognise the sincerity with which it has been raised today. I suspect that it will only add to the sheer level of complaint and the number of people who do not like the decisions that have been made. Even though some people may not approve of it, we must decide locally on an admission's policy.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, this amendment would remove the Secretary of State's power under Section 92(c) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 to prescribe the type of objection about admission arrangements which parents of a prescribed description may refer to the school's adjudicator.

The current situation is that under regulations parents in groups of 10 have the right to refer an objection to the adjudicator. However, those objections are restricted by the regulations to admission arrangements which make provision for partial selection and which have been in place continuously since before that legislation came into force. We gave parents that right because we believe that they should have the opportunity to make their views known when such partially selective arrangements are an issue. As noble Lords will know, we believe that it is up to parents to decide the future of selective admissions to existing grammar schools through a ballot and petition process.

We have considered whether we should extend parental objection rights further. We intend to do so by amending the regulations to enable parents of the prescribed description to object where an admission authority determines an admissions number which is lower than the one indicated by application of our new net capacity assessment formula. We believe that to be right, bearing in mind that standard numbers are to be abolished, together with the statutory process for changing them in which parents had a right to be heard.

However, there was not a great deal of support in our consultation in England for extending parental rights of objection beyond what we have proposed. We asked consultees whether they thought we should go further. Just under one third of respondents thought we should, and not all of those suggested going further in that particular respect. Existing legislation does allow us the flexibility to extend parental objection rights further in the future if we consider it right to do so.

We are fully aware of the two cases of Prendergast and Coopers schools to which the noble Baroness referred. As regards interviews, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will know, Church or boarding schools may interview as part of their admission's process—Church schools, of course, to assess religious commitment and boarding schools to assess suitability for boarding. That is a provision we would not want to see removed. Of course, in the case of the Coopers School the issues were about the use of interview. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, heard this, but in the case of the Prendergast School the local education authority was found guilty of maladministration.

We hope that the signal that has been sent out to local education authorities is a strong one. We want them to take seriously the issues concerning the questions with which they are dealing. Nominally, we believe that we should be able to rely on the rights of objection which admission authorities already have, and community and voluntary controls will, of course, be given by the Bill.

As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, parents are interested in the effects that admission arrangements have on their own child's chances. For example, it could be that one group of parents may want to object to the inclusion of criteria which are quite normal and acceptable, such as priority for siblings. Another parent group might object if that priority were removed.

As our consultation did not produce a strong call for an extension to parental rights, we have not yet been persuaded of the need to give parents additional rights of objection other than those relating to admission numbers, to which I have already referred. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her reply. I am unhappy in the sense that I do not know precisely what the consultation processes were. Of course, questions in a consultation document can actually steer the answer to that and it may be that parents were not actually given the opportunity explicitly to answer the question. It does seem that there is an asymmetry at the moment between the rights of parents in the sense that they have the right to object on number, but not actually to object on admissions arrangements. It seems rather unsatisfactory that they have to go through the longwinded process of going to the local government ombudsman. I agree that one hopes that this will send out a clear message to schools such as Prendergast which were contravening the regulations.

I will do further homework on this issue, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 209 and 210 not moved.]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 211: Page 139, line 3, at end insert— "Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991 13A In section 3 of the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991 (1991 No. 2) (transactions for which advice or consent of Board is required), after paragraph (c) there is inserted— (cc) consulting under section 89(2) of that Act about proposed admission arrangements for any school year;". The noble Baroness said: I rise to move Amendment No. 211 and to debate Amendment No. 246 also in my name. The two amendments relate to the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991 and have been agreed with the Church of England. Starting with Amendment No. 211, Section 89 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 requires admission authorities for schools to consult on their proposed admission arrangements for the following academic year. They must consult with all other admission authorities, including local education authorities, within a specified relevant area. They must take into account any representations made when reaching a final determination of their admission's policy.

Many governing bodies voluntarily consult the diocesan board but that is not a statutory requirement. Therefore, there is no formal mechanism for ensuring that a school has a say in admission to its schools. The General Synod Board of Education has asked the Government to amend the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991 so that diocesan authorities can have greater influence in local decisions about admission arrangements for Church of England schools. By requiring governing bodies of these schools to consult with diocesan boards of education and to have regard to their advice, we can provide the Church with a means to encourage schools to fulfil their commitment to have more inclusive schools. I hope therefore that Members of the Committee will accept the amendment, which is supported by both the Church of England and the Government.

I turn to Amendment No. 246. I want to begin by acknowledging and welcoming the support of the Church of England for the academy's programme. The Greig Academy in Haringey, one of the first opening this September, is sponsored by a Church of England trust and by the London diocese. The diocesan authorities for Leeds and Liverpool are involved in plans for a Church of England and ecumenical academy respectively in those local education authorities.

My noble and right reverend friend Lord Sheppard, who is not in his place, was kind enough to refer to the plans in Liverpool during his speech on Second Reading of this Education Bill. The Government have already provided in the Bill for Church of England academies to be added to the categories of schools which can benefit from funds held in uniform statutory trusts; a type of trust which holds the proceeds of sale of closed Church schools and allows for them to be used for other Church schools.

We are now bringing forward the amendment in response to a request from the Church of England. The Church has asked that the remit of the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure should be extended to academies with links to the Church of England. The DBEM gives diocesan authorities rights to advise, issue certain directions to and be consulted by Church of England schools. In practice, and for academies, that will mean under Section 2 of the DBEM the relevant diocesan board will be able to advise the governors of Church of England academies on any matter and promote Church of England academies within their area.

Under Section 3, the governing body of a Church of England academy would need to seek the advice of a diocesan board and have regard to that advice before disposing of any part of its premises. The trustees of a Church educational endowment held wholly or partly in connection with a Church of England academy would need to obtain the advice of a diocesan board and have regard to that advice before altering the purposes for which the endowment might be used. Where a diocesan board was satisfied that the trustees of any Church educational endowment held wholly for a Church of England academy was using the endowment in a way that was not in the best interests of the school, or the trustees were failing to discharge their functions, the board would have the power to direct the trustees on how to act and the trustees would have to comply.

I commend the amendment to the Committee and I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

It would be a great service to me and to the Committee if the Minister were to read the order as it will be amended. The order as it is available from the Printed Paper Office is completely incompatible with the amendment because, apparently, it has been amended so many times subsequently. While the Box has been extremely helpful to me, I do not have a copy with me and the amendment as it appears makes no sense as against the papers we are examining. If the Minister could say how the diocesan order will now read, that would be a great service to me and to other Members of the Committee.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn

While that is being done, I rise to thank the Minister for her courtesy and to declare an interest as chairman of the Church of England Board of Education. I was also the Bishop who steered the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure through the Synod and came to give evidence to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament all those years ago. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is right in saying that the Measure has been amended to meet developing changes and circumstances in education, as the past 10 or 11 years have rolled by.

Amendment No. 211 is most important because it brings forward the fact that our Church of England schools are part of a family. Some of our earlier debates on "exclusive" and "distinctive" and so forth are greatly affected by that. Those Members of the Committee who were privileged to read last week's Times Educational Supplement will have seen a serious letter from the headmaster of a school in Bolton. He seriously disagrees with the policy of the board of education and has been trying to drive a wedge between its officer and myself as chairman, which is quite unworthy of the issue. The fact remains that we want governing bodies of Church of England schools to take account of the diocesan policy. I am therefore most grateful to the Minister for bringing forward Amendment No. 211.

Amendment No. 246 is a way of helping exciting developments to take place and ensuring the Church's continuing interest in the academy as it is. However, it also ensures that should the academy fail the rightful assets of the Church are returned for educational purposes, as though it were any other Church of England educational trust.

There are exciting developments to which the Minister referred, not least in Liverpool where the proposal for a joint Anglican/Roman Catholic academy is far advanced. But throughout the country, through the auspices of diocesan boards of education and other Church sponsored bodies such as the Church Schools Trust, interesting developments are coming forward. I am grateful that Amendment No. 246 will enable those to go forward with an underlying sense of the interests of the Church as the providing body to be preserved.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

I hope that it will help the right reverend Prelate to know that, following the correspondence he referred to in the Times Educational Supplement, I spoke today with a group of teachers from Church schools. They had seen that correspondence and wholeheartedly supported the position taken by the right reverend Prelate during our Committee proceedings. I have personally supported the position and have associated my name with a number of the amendments tabled by the right reverend Prelate in relation to these issues.

I was pleased that, like the Minister, he mentioned the initiative in Liverpool. I have been involved with that and have supported it and I pay great tribute to Bishop James Jones who spearheaded that initiative in the city. During the 30 years since I was first elected to Liverpool City Council, I have been privileged to see such a terrific change in the relationship between the different denominations. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, is also aware of the relationships developed between her noble friend, the right reverend Lord, Lord Sheppard of Liverpool, its former Bishop, and the late Archbishop of Liverpool, Derek Warlock. That has flowered in the continuing relationships between the leaders of the Churches, including the Moderator of the Free Churches and perhaps more importantly on the ground in a city which was once caricatured for sectarianism.

As recently as the 1950s, the two Bishops refused even to say the Lord's Prayer with one another because they did not recognise each other's orders. We have had our Orange Day marches to celebrate the crossing of the Boyne and the St Patrick's Day marches, too. Although some of the city's past has been disfigured by sectarianism, it is a model for the future and shows how far we have come and that it is possible for the Anglican and Catholic communities in that city to work closely together on education issues. Yes, differences will remain but that is not the point. Where people can stand together they should,

I want to pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, for the way in which she has dealt with these issues throughout the proceedings of our Bill. It should not turn into a mutual admiration society and I am sure that it will not, but occasionally Ministers are entitled to be told how well they have done. I have frequently encountered Ministers who can be difficult or obdurate and who knock down any reasonable amendment simply because it was not one of their own Members who put it forward. I have noticed in the way in which the Minister has dealt with these sensitive questions throughout our proceedings a real willingness to involve all those who are affected by them and to try and find a rational and sensible way forward. This amendment provides an opportunity for putting that on the record.

Baroness Blatch

I rise to welcome any development in the academy programme. They are city technology colleges in all but name. They have been most successful and, although during our previous debate the noble Baroness said rather dismissively that she hoped there would be no more of them, there are to be more of them and with the Government's blessing. I welcome that.

I particularly welcome the Church's involvement with that, and even more particularly welcome the way in which the Anglican and Catholic Churches are working together. Indeed, they have worked together before, but in the academy's programme that is particularly welcomed.

Furthermore, I welcome the advent of the academy in Liverpool because it ought to have benefited from the first tranche of city technology colleges. Sadly, it did not although the area was right for such experimentation at that time. It is late in the day but I welcome it.

I want to make two technical points. The first is to support my noble friend Lord Lucas, because reading the orders is most important. Although the legalese is complex and defeats most of us, they must make sense and I am not convinced at this stage that they do. Therefore, my noble friend with his eagle eye has made a valuable intervention which in a technical sense needs to be answered.

My other question is purely technical and relates to Amendment No. 246. My understanding is that when a third party, whether the Church or a private commercial venture, enters into an agreement to establish an academy, usually the ratio of the third party contribution to the Government's contribution is a relatively small one: in some of the academies it may be a £2 million capital grant, against many more millions put in by the Government. If at some future date the premises are disposed of, are the Government saying that all of the Government's input, together with the relatively small input of the third party—in this case the Churches—would fall to the Church of England?

6 p.m.

Lord Dearing

The remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, prick my conscience. I am conscious that when the Minister rises to respond, she stands so frequently alone. Looking at the Benches behind her, I cannot recall many occasions when there has been overwhelming support—with notable exceptions, of course, including the noble Lord, Lord Peston, as he indicates.

I am grateful to the Minister for the first of the two amendments. I was involved in a report about the way ahead for Church of England schools in which my committee was concerned to endorse the principle of inclusiveness. We recommended in the report that all dioceses should adopt the policy, already employed by many dioceses, of offering guidance to schools on their admissions policy. This was against a background of encouraging greater inclusiveness in those schools where the policy was to admit Church of England pupils only—such schools are a small minority.

I have been much heartened by the line taken on this matter by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the House of Bishops. The adoption of this amendment will help to encourage inclusiveness policies throughout Church schools.

I also pay tribute to the work of the Bishops in Liverpool. This is a triumph. The Church of England Synod, in its discussion of the report on the way ahead, specifically and strongly advocated an ecumenical policy—and here we have it, as a flagship. I hope that it will serve as an example to many.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I was nearly overwhelmed for a moment. I, too, want to pay tribute to all that happens in Liverpool. I was involved in 1975 in the World Council of Churches events that took place. They were truly ecumenical; they were something of a novelty at the time and recognised fully the work of the two Bishops who became synonymous with Liverpool and with unity. I should pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for the part that he has played.

Perhaps I may quote from Section 3 of the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991, and then state where the amendment fits in. I hope that that will help the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. The section deals with transactions for which advice or consent of the board is required. It reads as follows: (1) The governing body of any church school, and the trustees of any church educational endowment held wholly or partly for or in connection with any church school shall obtain the advice of the Board for the diocese in which the school is situated and shall have regard to that advice before— (a) publishing proposals for any prescribed alteration to the school under section 28(2)(b) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998; (b) publishing proposals for the discontinuance of the school under section 29(2) of that Act; (c) serving notice of an intention to discontinue the school under section 30(1) of that Act". The amendment would insert a further paragraph: (cc) consulting after section 89(2) of that Act about proposed admission arrangements for any school year". To return to the technical question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, it was a very good technical question. I am afraid that I must write to the noble Baroness. I cannot answer it.

Lord Lucas

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. There is no paragraph (a), (b) or (c) in the original 1991 Measure, so one can become totally lost trying to find where the amendment fits.

This is very much where I had hoped that we should end up. Schools will have to pay attention to what the diocese says and we can berate the Bishops, at least for a few years yet, if the diocese is not saying things that we like.

I am encouraged, too, by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, which seemed to indicate without being specific that the Roman Catholic Church will follow along similar lines. I know that it has had its difficulties in the past with particular foundations which have not chosen to follow diocesan advice or indeed have said that diocesan advice is of no relevance to them at all. A few exceptions do not matter. What matters is that the broad thrust of religious education in this country is inclusive. I shall be delighted if this turns out to be the way it works in practice.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 212: Page 139, line 3, at end insert—

"Selection by aptitude

In section 99 of the 1998 Act (general restriction on selection by ability or aptitude) subsection (4)(b) is omitted. Section 102 of the 1998 Act (permitted selection: aptitude for particular subjects) shall cease to have effect."

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of the amendment is to drop the provision now open to specialist schools to admit up to 10 per cent of their pupils on the basis of aptitude.

Section 102 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 allows the admission authority of schools with a specialism to give priority for up to 10 per cent of the pupils who can demonstrate an aptitude in the relevant subject. Current regulations allow selection in physical education and sport, the performing arts, visual arts, modern foreign languages and technology. The Government are now extending the range of specialisms to include maths, science and business and engineering specialisms.

Our objection to the ability to select by aptitude is threefold. First, it is unnecessary. Government-funded research undertaken by Dr Anne West and colleagues at the London School of Economics found that of the schools responding to their survey—namely, schools with a specialism—only 7 per cent were actually selecting by aptitude. In other words, in practice, very few schools use this facility. Indeed, when pressed about the legitimacy of such selection processes, the Government's usual response has been to say: "Very few schools do it, so why worry?". But it is very strange to justify legislation in such a way. It would be better by far to remove it from the statute book.

Secondly, there are real doubts about whether it is possible to distinguish testing for aptitude rather than ability. Professor Peter Mortimore, then director of the Institute of Education at London University, writing in the Guardian in 1998, declared that it was not possible to diagnose specific aptitudes for most curriculum subjects. Where it is used, it is more likely to be used by voluntary-aided and foundation schools. A Written Answer to a Question posed by Mr David Chaytor in another place on 5th March 2001 listing specialist schools operating as of that date showed that, of the 24 schools using the facility to select by aptitude, 19 were foundation or voluntary-aided schools. In most cases these schools set tests and/or interviewed pupils.

Tests and interviews of the type used in these circumstances do not widen choice—they give more choice to those few children (and their parents) who pass the test or interview, but for most children and parents it means that, whereas their local school used to take pupils from across the whole ability range, it is now restricted, and it is the school, not the parents and children, which is doing the choosing.

Thirdly, although little used at present, the substantial expansion in the number of specialist schools may lead to the process of selection becoming more commonly used. There is a domino effect: when one school in a neighbourhood starts setting an "aptitude test" to select 10 per cent of its intake, neighbouring schools feel obliged to follow suit. In many areas—my own area of Guildford is an example—all secondary schools will be specialist schools of one sort or another. Parents who in the past have been confident of a place on the grounds of nearness to a school put their children in for the test "just in case", with the result that more and more children—on top of their year seven SATs—now face entry tests for secondary school, with all the worries and, if they fail, the perception of failure that this entails. Is this really what the Government want?

To return to my first point, at present so few schools test by aptitude that this is an unnecessary procedure. We should like to see it removed from the statute. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

This really is high politics. We are returning to what I have always regarded as the politics of envy. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, speaks against the background of a very recent press release from Mr Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrats' lead education spokesman in another place. The press release states: Let me make clear my opposition to selection in whatever form it takes. By ability. By aptitude. By specialism or by faith". That is the background against which she speaks.

I profoundly believe that education should educate children so as to match their aptitude and abilities as closely as possible. As the Minister herself has argued, the "one size fits all" approach certainly does not work and we need different types of school for different children.

There is already a great deal of selection. Parents select school by moving house—to an area where there is a school that they would like their children to attend—but that option is not available to those who cannot afford to move. There are tests and entrance examinations for young people seeking to enter dance schools, drama schools, language schools and schools specialising in science and technology. There are arrangements for young people wishing to do particular courses after 16. Some young people present themselves for a particular course at a further education college, but, sometimes, when their aptitude and/or ability is tested, they are counselled that they are perhaps over-reaching themselves or seeking to join the wrong course for their particular aptitude and abilities. Although the colleges may not be able to stop young people taking those courses, they nevertheless try to counsel them in a manner that accords with their best interests. Aptitude and ability are tested also in colleges and universities.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

We are saying in this amendment that we are against testing for aptitude at 11, not 16 or pre-university. We accept that it is possible to set tests to measure aptitude at those ages, but we do not think it feasible to do it at 11.

Baroness Blatch

I really would like the noble Baroness to attend some of these schools to see just how successful they are. I am pleased to support the Government in their policy objective of expanding the number of specialist schools. They want more children to have the choice. They want more and more children to receive an education that matches their needs, aptitudes and abilities as closely as possible.

As I was about to say before the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, I do not want to get into the issue of the difference between ability and aptitude. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who preceded the Minister in her role as education Minister in this House, never succeeded in distinguishing ability from aptitude, and I do not want to get into those semantics. I know that someone with an aptitude for science and technology usually has to have an ability in relation to the same. Equally, those with an ability to be proficient in dancing, drama and/or music usually also have an aptitude for them. It is an arcane argument that I do not wish to enter.

I really do believe in opening up the education system and selecting children. I remind the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that even some special schools select children. Some pupil referral units select children. It seems absurd to say that selection should cease regardless of whether it is on the basis of ability, aptitude, specialism and/or faith.

Perhaps I am remiss in not familiarising myself with Section 99 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. However, given that legislation and the Government's programme for city technology colleges, city academies, specialist schools and even their bursaries for dance and music schools, I cannot see them accepting this amendment. Nevertheless, if they were to accept it, my understanding is that that would be the end of grammar schools, specialist schools and city academies, all of which are comprehensive in every sense of the word. By law, under a band system, they have to accept pupils across the ability range. Consequently, if the amendment were passed, many young people could be disappointed. This is a mean-spirited amendment and I hope that it will not be accepted.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Peston

I am deeply indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, because she has done a better job than I could possibly do in stating everything that I disagree with in education. I am rather shocked that the Conservative Party, of which she is an official spokesman, has gone back that many years in defending selection, secondary modern schools and all the things that we have spent most of our lives trying to get rid of.

Baroness Blatch

I did not go very far back. City technology colleges, city academies, specialist schools, the remaining grammar schools and the introduction of 10 per cent selection at many of cur schools are all current policy, not only of the recent Conservative government, five and a bit years ago, but of the current Government of whom the noble Lord is a member.

Lord Peston

I am not a member of the Government. That may be to the Government's loss, but perhaps I may make the famous remark, "I am not and never have been a member of the Government". I was speaking for myself. I was saying that the noble Baroness has outlined everything that I have spent my whole life in education opposing. I should add, just to rub the point in, that the sooner we get rid of the grammar schools, the better it will be for the education system of this country. The same applies to specialist schools and so on. I am opposed to selection, which is disastrous for our education and for the education of all of our children.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, mentioned the politics of envy. However, people like me who are incredibly clever do not have to be envious of any of these things at all, because we were the ones of whom everyone was envious. We got everything. We had to grow up and mature—I certainly did—to know that, apart from everything else, that was morally wrong. As I have said before to your Lordships, in the grammar school I attended, we were divided from the moment we arrived. Everyone thought it was a great triumph to get past the 11-plus, but, before one looked round, some of us were in the A form and quite a few were in the D form. It is that that some of us have fought all our lives to try to take out of our education system.

On the aptitude/ability theme, I know that my noble friend the Minister has previously tried to explain the distinction, and I am sure that she will try to explain it again today. The research evidence is overwhelming that aptitude measured in a narrow sphere and ability measured in a broad sphere are enormously highly correlated. As those of us who remember the 11-plus will recall, we had a test that tested our aptitude in mathematics and our aptitude in English. The idea that it was a measure of general ability was simply the view of people like Sir Cyril Burt, who probably did more damage to the education system of this country than anyone else we can think of. The idea was that these measures of aptitude were measures of general ability. Therefore, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, is entirely right.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that the Government have gone down this path. However, that does not mean that I personally have to accept it. I think that, one day, we shall realise what an error that was. I regard all the other forms of selection she mentioned as equally bad. I am therefore particularly indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, as I was wondering when I would get an opportunity to make a pro-comprehensive speech today. Until the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, spoke, I did not realise that this debate would give me that opportunity. Some of us ought to go on record as saying that we believe in what we have always believed in. Sometimes we may deviate from that but we at least like to believe—I say to the right reverend Prelate that this may be a matter of faith rather than anything else—that one day the education system of this country will revert to what it should be.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

The noble Lord mystified me in an earlier debate when he appeared to vent his feelings so strongly against selection for particular kinds of schools. But in his latest contribution he accepted the fact that, as soon as a child enters the secondary phase, selection automatically takes place. The noble Lord referred to his own experience of selection. How on earth can one not have selection in schools by way of streaming or some children being more interested in a particular group of subjects than others—for example, the sciences or the arts? That surely is inevitable. Irrespective of whether an outside authority does the selection or a head teacher, the child himself will select.

Lord Peston

I referred to the grammar school I attended. I pointed out that it was selective before one got there and became even more selective once one was inside. My experience of comprehensive schools—I refer, for example, to the schools that my children attended—is that their philosophy is different. Their philosophy is that every child can be taught and that the role of the teacher is to bring out the best in every child being taught in the school and not to say, "Some children are capable of being educated but others are not".

All children are worthy. To go back to the politics of envy phenomenon, clever young people, as I was, have to be told, "So what? You are just a person like everyone else in the school. You do not deserve more resources. You do not deserve more attention". I am totally committed to that philosophy. I am not saying that some children do not work harder than others or that teachers do not have their favourite pupils. As my daughter, who teaches non-literate young people has discovered, it is certainly easier to teach someone who is literate. It is much easier to teach someone who is already "OK". However, our task is to regard every young person as worthy of an education.

Some of us may not have aptitudes in certain areas. I have no aptitude for drawing. It did me the world of good to be made to look completely incompetent in that field. The teacher tried to get me to understand perspective. I understood it mathematically but I could not understand how to incorporate it in drawing. The noble Baroness is entirely right to say that there is a fundamental difference of philosophy between us on this matter. She has given us the opportunity to make clear which of us believe in what. I am totally indebted to her for that.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the noble Lord. Lord Peston, for his support. At one point I felt somewhat isolated in the Chamber. I reiterate the point that we are here talking about selection at the age of 11. The Government's campaign of having more specialist schools has been successful. However, I believe that it has been successful as the route of becoming a specialist school has brought more money into those schools. It brings an extra half a million pounds of funding into any secondary school. That has been the main driving force behind it. We do not deny that that money has helped to improve performance. In this country we spend on average £2,500 per secondary school pupil. Private schools spend £6,000 plus per pupil. If we could spend an extra £500 per secondary school pupil, that would make a difference to results. The reason schools want to go the specialist route is to gain those resources.

I agreed with the Minister's comment that it is good for schools to feel that they have something to shout about. That makes them proud and gives them an ethos. Nevertheless, why select? I come back to the point at which we started. One cannot select someone satisfactorily at the age of 11 according to aptitude or ability. The important point about the comprehensive principle is that it holds open the doors so that pupils can display their capabilities and develop them. We know that children develop at different rates. Some are early developers but some are late developers. It is vitally important to hold open the doors and to give them the chance to develop. That is what the comprehensive system is about. That is why we on these Benches support it.

Baroness Blatch

This is an interesting and rather important debate. However, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that one can select at the age of 11 and it does work. One can see examples of that around the country. As this debate will be read by people outside the Chamber, I ask the noble Baroness whether it is her party's proposition that all selection should end and that all specialist schools, all city academies, all academies, all city technology colleges and all grammar schools should be converted to comprehensive schools? Is that what the noble Baroness argues for—an end to selection and a one size fits all schools?

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I answer that by saying that as a party we believe in devolution of responsibilities. Although as a party we are committed to comprehensive education, we acknowledge that local authorities have traditionally run education in this country. We believe in a regime—which this Government and the previous government, if I might say so, have done their best to ditch—of diversity and pluralism in government. Local authorities have an important role to play and, given that education is one of their responsibilities, it is up to them to make their own decisions on this matter. In this vein, we acknowledge that the boroughs of Kingston and Sutton prefer to keep their grammar schools.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Baroness has introduced an interesting confused note into the debate. We ought to act with some humility in this Chamber. We are enormously privileged to belong to it. We are increasingly privileged still—unless the impending reforms of this place change that—to be party to making legislation. If the noble Baroness believes in devolution of responsibilities, she should not in her position as a maker of legislation cut off the opportunity to allow people to make decisions at a local level on whether they want to keep selection. The amendment of the noble Baroness states that we in this Chamber decree that there will be no selection by ability. However, at the same time the noble Baroness is trying to argue that her party believes in devolution of responsibilities and that people should make their own decisions at the local level.

Lord Dearing

I do not argue from principles. As a long-standing civil servant, by definition I have no principles. I am a pragmatist. I do respect the principles expressed by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. However, if I have a principle, it is that of responding to the individual child. If all our schools could respond to all our children according to their needs, I should walk warmly with the amendment. However, in a society where we cannot equip all our schools to offer excellent facilities and teaching to all children according to their aptitudes—and I believe that we are not such a society—and are able to provide excellent facilities only on a limited scale, we should seek to accommodate a child who has a distinctive talent.

It is said that Mr Beckham has the most talented right foot in the world but I am not aware that he is equally talented in other areas. I would be anxious to give a young Beckham the opportunity to develop his talents. A child may be a talented musician. Last night I listened to and watched the Young Musician of the Year competition. A child of 12 won the strings section of the competition. That child was remarkable. All the competitors were remarkable; they were all extraordinarily talented. That talent should be nourished in schools that have special facilities.

I refer to mathematics. I remember sitting at the feet of a professor at the university I attended—a less distinguished one than the LSE. He described exceptional ability in mathematics as "spooky". I knew that I did not have that spooky ability, but some people are especially talented.

If we are saying that we cannot afford to equip all of our schools with first-class engineering, IT or music departments, and if we are saying that we seek in Guildford, for example, to ensure that all schools there have specialist school status in some area or other and that they were complementary, and if we say that we should reserve only 10 per cent of places for children who seemed to have a particular talent, I cannot see that we are adopting a repulsive policy of selection by denying the 90 per cent the opportunity to share in the specialism. We should be saying only, "Because some children have special talents, let us nourish them by giving some places—a small minority of places—to them". I do not think that this denies to the many the opportunity to have exposure to those facilities. It involves saying, "For those children who happen to have a special gift, let us ride with it and help them".

6.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn

When one thinks about it, this is a very complex debate. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, does not have a great deal of time for faith schools in contemporary society. He consistently paid tribute to the work of the Churches in earlier times. The one thing that he has to admit is that the Churches have embraced the comprehensive principle within the umbrella of the faith—both Roman Catholic and Church of England.

I stand before the Committee as the product of a small grammar school. I remember the day when I was called out with six others to the front of my primary school to be acknowledged and affirmed about going to the grammar school. As a working-class boy, I doubt whether I should be here today if that had not happened. That is just how things were. The problem at that time was that secondary modern schools were not given adequate resources.

The problem today with comprehensive education is the ability of the rich to buy the comprehensive education that they want by moving house. I remember when I worked in South London that people would buy houses within the area of the Wandsworth Comprehensive School, which in those days had a terrific reputation. I taught at the Spencer Park Comprehensive School by Clapham Junction. It was a sink comprehensive. It is closed so I can make such statements without the public record having to reveal that. We worked very hard and tried to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. In the programme for speech day, a student's degree and university were put after his name if, like me, he had been at Oxbridge. If students had been at Leeds or elsewhere, that information did not appear—they were just "BA" or "MA" or whatever was appropriate. The fact that I got into Oxford via theological college is very interesting but I shall not go into that tonight. That was the situation.

That has been replaced by a system in which comprehensive schools in urban deprived areas take only a particular group of people from homes that are, on the whole, socially deprived. I support the Government's plans involving city academies and specialist schools because I believe that the drive behind that is to enable boys like me, and girls of the same age that I was then, to develop their aptitudes and skills in the way that Beckham—if that is the example that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, finds helpful—has developed his.

The dilemma for those holding the view of the noble Lord, Lord Peston—I believe that the Churches have tried to go with that—is how one deals with the business of "choice by wealth" within the maintained sector. I do not see how one can sort that out without social engineering, which none of us favours.

On balance, I therefore come down in favour of what the Government are trying to do; that is, to enable those who have aptitude and ability to be affirmed despite a background that may be to their disadvantage, however willing their parents may be that they should grow. I do not know how we square the circle in relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, rightly wants—the best for every child— against what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, suggested; that is, that comprehensive schools are not currently achieving that. That involves not so much grammar schools—there are so few of them left—but wealth and where people are able to buy housing.

Baroness Andrews

We should do this complex debate a disservice if we did not put on record two points. First, comprehensive schools in this country display enormous talent in terms of teaching and learning. A huge cultural diversity—multicultural diversity—is visible on the walls of those schools. I refer to the music of the schools, scientific displays, their academic and cultural achievements and the way in which they work with the community. There is enormous diversity and achievement. On both sides of the Committee, we take pride in what has been achieved during the past 30 years—not least by the party opposite—in terms of abolishing the barriers to talent-flowering through changes to the system of comprehensive education. We should all celebrate that. The debate about specialism is in danger of diminishing what we all recognise are the achievements of our comprehensive schools.

Secondly, the Labour Party's commitment to comprehensive education is unconditional. We celebrate that in many different ways. I was deeply sceptical a few years ago about the growth of specialisation. I saw it as having a distorting effect on communities and schools. I have watched the debate develop and seen the impact on schools, which want to demonstrate that although they offer a broad and balanced curriculum in which there is a positive ethos and great achievement, they also want to do other things. The development of specialisation, whether in relation to arts, sports, science or engineering, provides an important opportunity.

I was concerned that we seemed to be saying that 50 per cent of schools should have those opportunities. I am reassured that every school has the aspiration. The more schools I talk to, the more convinced I am of that. The concept of working towards specialisation is exceptionally important as an aspiration and it will be an important achievement. That will be the antidote to distortion.

This is a serious debate, and it is keenly and personally felt. Diversity has brought great achievements and opportunities. I share some of the reservations that have been expressed by those on the Benches opposite. We have not compromised principles of comprehensive education in that regard.

I, too, am the product of a hugely selective grammar school system. Without that education, I, like 95 per cent of the children with whom I went to primary school, would have had a secondary modern education. Thirty years ago, that was hugely inferior and hugely disadvantageous. We have lost a tremendous amount of talent nationally as a result.

Lord Lucas

I should certainly not go all the way with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, or the noble Lord, Lord Peston, because I cannot see how one can run a music school or a dance school, for instance, without having some form of selection. The idea that I could have gone to a dance academy simply because I wanted to is ridiculous. I do not think that the noble Lord would have enjoyed the experience of watching me at a dance school, either.

There is a better way to approach this matter. I am in favour of parents choosing schools rather than of schools choosing parents. Two things need to be done to achieve that. First, we should free up the supply of schools and school places; we shall come to that in relation to a later amendment. It is crucial to stop the straitjacket that does not allow schools which are of the type that parents want to expand and come into existence but which forces parents to choose from the types of schools that exist.

Secondly, we need to change the school transport system from one that is run for the benefit of local authorities in order to make it extremely difficult for parents to choose schools, to one that is run for the benefit of parents, so that they have the maximum possible chance of getting their kid to the school that they want him to go to.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I begin by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that Beckham's left foot is not bad, either. We hope to see it in action a great deal. I was smiling to myself about that example because the person who I referred to this morning when discussing special schools was David Beckham. He is much in our thoughts at the moment.

Members of the Committee have covered much ground in relation to specialist schools. Before turning to the amendment, I want to make a few observations. We are dealing here with comprehensive schools. We are celebrating things that are the same about our schools and which we relish but also their differences. The specialist school model gives schools the opportunity to demonstrate the icing on the cake—the ability to provide something above and beyond a good education for all children.

On a visit to Stevenage last Friday, I met the head teachers of seven secondary schools—all of whom are considering applying for specialist school status. Stevenage is a new town that perhaps suffers from low aspirations and schools with a high number of children having special educational needs compared with the national figure. Those head teachers were keen on a collaborative model to develop specialisms that they could share between themselves and beyond—including all the primary schools in the area. That education model is supported by the LEA and involves working closely with the chamber of commerce and other partners.

We discussed the kind of education that children will need, particularly in a world in which technology has revolutionised how information is sought and found. Perhaps there is a need to prepare today's children differently. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, was at Stevenage. He and I have discussed on many occasions the issue of teaching modern foreign languages and how to prepare children beyond the model of French, German and Spanish for the global economy. Allowing schools to offer their local communities something extra, in addition to a good education, is good in the context of the kind of education that children will need in future.

The regulations state that with some of the specialisms that we have now schools should be allowed to select a maximum of 10 per cent of children by aptitude. I return to the example given by my noble friend Lord Peston. Some children really can draw and are superbly talented in the visual arts. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we might allow a few such children to attend a specialist school. That is not to say that such a specialism would not be offered broadly in the community.

Ninety-four per cent of schools do not make use of selection by aptitude and maybe never will, but that option is worth having in recognising that children are different. It does not mean that we want to return to the days when differential education meant that one received either a good education or practically nothing. Within a system that is geared and designed to give the best that it possibly can, specialist schools have a role—particularly in disadvantaged areas.

It is true also that the Government's aspiration is that one day every school will be a specialist school and will work together with others if it wishes. Some schools might choose different routes. It is about what a school wants to do. Specialist schools often collaborate closely with local education authorities. In Stevenage, as in other parts of the country, schools are working together to develop specialisms to serve their own communities and beyond.

I take on board the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about transport. As he knows, we are looking at pilot schemes.

We do not accept the amendment. If a community feels that selection by aptitude is not the right kind, there are opportunities for parents to lobby the admissions authority or for that authority to object. In light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

We have had a useful debate. I did not expect much support from the Official Opposition and am delighted at that which I received. Neither did I think that the Minister would concede the amendment.

We must be careful not to be too urban-centred. There are real problems with the concept of specialist schools in rural areas, where only one secondary school serves the population. The concept is something of a smokescreen because it is essentially a matter of obtaining more money to provide some schools with additional resources. I am delighted that the Minister will spread the goodies around, which is vitally important. More money needs to be spent on secondary schools.

I take on board the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Dearing and Lord Lucas. Dancing and music are talents that children develop at an early age. Few benefit from attending highly specialist establishments, such as the Yehudi Menuhin school for violinists, which produced the Young Musician of the Year. The majority of kids attend school at age 11 and develop their ability. By the time that they are 14 or 15, they know whether they are going to be a Beckham—whereas at age 11 there may be no signs.

Lord Peston

I am not under the impression that Mr. Beckham or any of our other talented footballers have got where they are as a result of attending a specialist school. The case is completely unproven so far as I know—let alone whether Mozart went to a specialist school. On reflection, the whole thing is preposterous.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I think that Mozart had a specialist father. The great thing is that the Beckhams of this world did not attend specialist schools and that the comprehensive system served them well.

I pay tribute to the comprehensive system. When I arrived at my grammar school, the pupils were rapidly streamed and I was told firmly by the lady in charge of history—I majored in history—that third or C grade children should not be attending the school because they were not up to a grammar school education. Today, 50 per cent of children achieve five A to C grades in GCSE subjects when they were not considered capable of sitting the old GCE examination. If one sets one's sights high enough, one can achieve. We want the comprehensive system to open doors, to allow pupils to achieve as much as they can. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 49

[Exclusion of Pupils]:

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 213: Page 33, line 19, after "may" insert "in exceptional circumstances The noble Lord said: The amendment would restore something that the Bill appears to remove—a provision that exists as part of Circular 11/99 but is not in the Bill. It is right that children should be excluded from pupil referral units only in exceptional circumstances. It is the job of PRUs to deal with children as they are. If units start to exclude children on the same basis that would be justified in an ordinary school, they are not doing their job. I would like the policy back where it was before the Bill.

Much the same applies to Amendment No. 214. A school's right to exclude and the parents' right to information and to make representations are in the legislation as currently drafted—one against the other. In this Bill, we find only the school's right to exclude and there is no mention on the face of the Bill of the parents' right to information and representation. I believe that the two should have equal status and, therefore, I should like that provision to be put back into the Bill.

The wording of Amendment No. 214 has an additional effect in that it seeks to give parents the right to information and representation for short-period exclusions. The reason for that, of course, is that short-period exclusions are allowed to add up to a reason for permanent exclusion. One can find examples—there have certainly been documented circumstances—where children have received a series of short-term exclusions but their parents have not received information as to the reasons and have had no right to information or to make representations. Suddenly, those exclusions are accumulated into an allegation of misbehaviour over a long period, the child is excluded permanently and one suddenly finds oneself falling off a cliff. That does not seem to me to be reasonable.

If something goes wrong with a child in school or if something happens which requires a child to be excluded, even for one or two days, then the parents should be involved, not least because there may be reasons for it and because the school may not appreciate that the child has a special educational need or a particular characteristic. There should be a dialogue between the school and the parents. It should not be open to the school simply to exclude a child without saying why or involving the parents. It is enormously important that that relationship is kept going.

Amendment No. 215 has two completely different parts. I do not know why they were lumped together. The first gives the Government the right to issue guidance. They can do so at present but the Bill appears to end that right. Again, I believe that this is an area where the Government should have an influence on what schools are doing. They should be able to issue guidance, but I am concerned that the Bill appears to remove that right.

The second part of the amendment provides an opportunity to tease the Government over Clause 50, in which they set targets for attendance. One of the principal problems that schools have in relation to attendance is that parents take their children out of school for holidays. Schools have no sanction against that. One can take one's child out of school for a couple of weeks and there is nothing that the school can do. Schools are generally grateful when parents are polite and ask permission first. But how can we hold a school to account for something over which it has no power?

Therefore, I believe that if we are to measure schools by what they achieve in terms of attendance, logically we must give them the power to do something about it. But I do not see how that can be done. Perhaps the best answer is to remove Clause 50 and not to have attendance targets. Frankly, attendance targets should be set at 100 per cent and schools should be doing their best to achieve that. To set an attendance target of 92 per cent, which is approximately the current national average, seems to me to permit and encourage children to take off 8 per cent of their school days. If they have not had their ration towards the end of June, they should take off an extra couple of weeks in July in order to ensure that they reach the 92 per cent average. I simply want to understand why the Government are setting targets without giving schools the power to act. I beg to move.

The Earl of Listowel

I strongly support Amendment No. 214 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Clearly, just as the right of head teachers to exclude is being kept on the face of the Bill, so, indeed, should the right of parents to appeal those exclusions be included.

I draw particular attention to the matter of oral hearings. I am advised that holding a hearing, even for a very short exclusion, can be worth while because it gives parents the opportunity to raise issues which may be affecting their child both at home and at school. Any emerging difficulties can then be discussed before they become entrenched. An oral hearing may be the only way that parents with literacy problems, for example, can make their views known.

I also want to speak to my Amendment No. 216, which is grouped with the noble Lord's amendment. The purpose of this probing amendment is to ensure that all assistance is available to looked-after children in appealing their exclusions. The amendment seeks to ensure that the letter currently sent out by the head teacher immediately following an exclusion informs the parent or carer of a local advocacy service or one of the parent support services established, I believe, under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001.

The importance of advocacy for such children is highlighted many times in the Government's own guidance on education and looked-after children. In their guidance on exclusions, the Government say: Schools should be especially sensitive to exclusion issues where children in care are concerned … In cases where, nevertheless, a child in care is excluded, the person (for example, a foster parent) or organisation … having parental responsibility for or care of the child will have the right to make representations and appeal and should pursue these rights if there are grounds for appeal". However, we know that very few exclusions of looked-after children are, in fact, appealed. That may be because carers are often over-stretched and under-supported. The availability of an independent, free advocate early in the exclusion process would at least help the child to feel that he had had a fair hearing and that we valued his participation in mainstream education.

I have often met young people who have come through the care system. It is most striking how very disenchanted they are with the education system and with the whole idea of learning or of picking up a book of any sophistication.

Baroness Blatch

I rise to support the thrust behind the amendments. I certainly believe that it would be not only inconceivable but wholly wrong for pa rents not to be informed at the point of exclusion. It seems to me that it would he irresponsible of an education authority and/or a school to exclude a child from school permanently, in particular, without informing the guardian, the carer or the parent.

My understanding is that statutory procedures are in place which would require the parents to become involved in everything that leads to the point of exclusion. Very few schools would reach the point of excluding a pupil without a number of measures having taken place prior to that; that is, the parents or, where necessary, the carer and/or the guardian, would be brought in and talked to.

However, through the Minister I want to ask a question of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. Again, I want to support him. It seems to me that young people in care—that is, looked-after children—are already very vulnerable. I believe that they need someone to act on their behalf. However, I wonder whether Amendment No. 216 is not a little like bolting the stable door in that the advocate is called for only at the point of exclusion.

As I said a moment ago, I believe that in a number of cases a school has taken the view that the behaviour of a child is such that it wants to take disciplinary measures against him, culminating, when all that fails, in a decision to exclude. I know that the process is lengthy and that it can be challenged, but I believe that most children will have a parent who will be involved in that process.

However, where the parent is either uncaring or wishes to have no part in supporting the child in school, it seems to me that someone should speak up for the child. In particular, where the child is in care, if the carer is not prepared to act as advocate, it is important that someone else does so. However, in relation to Amendment No. 216, I should prefer that to be done at an earlier stage than at the point of exclusion.

7 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel

Perhaps I may reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on this point. Of course, it would be better if a child received advocacy support early in his school career. Ideally even before he enters a school, someone should speak up for the child. In the other place, an amendment was moved to the Adoption and Children Bill which would put on the statute a requirement that children in care should have free access to an independent advocate. I hope that we shall consider that matter when that Bill arrives in this House. I declare an interest as a patron of A Voice for the Child in Care.

However, as matters stand, there is no independent and well trained advocate for looked-after children in the education system. Given the current position, at a critical moment in a child's life there should be an independent, free, local advocate available to him or her.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I agree with the spirit of Amendment No. 213. As I said in an earlier debate, 331 pupil referral units are registered in England. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that they carry out excellent work with some of our most disadvantaged young people, enabling many of them to re-enter mainstream schools. Exclusions from pupil referral units are rare and no decision to exclude from such a unit is taken lightly.

There is already guidance in our Circular 11/99, which says that we would expect exclusions from a pupil referral unit to occur only in exceptional circumstances. We give the example of where a pupil poses a threat to his or her own safety or to the safety of other pupils or staff. So we already have what the noble Lord wants, but in guidance and not in legislation. In practice, there are very few exclusions from pupil referral units—perhaps 10 a year.

I firmly believe that guidance is the appropriate place to set out examples of what "exceptional circumstances" may mean in practice. We believe that legislation that restricts exclusion to "exceptional circumstances" without further definition could open doors to interpretation and possible legal challenge. I want to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that our expectation is that exclusion from a PR U will be a rare occurrence. When the guidance in Circular 11/99 is revised, we shall emphasise that point.

I turn to Amendment No. 214. I can assure noble Lords that the head teacher's existing duties to inform parents about the period of exclusion, reasons for the exclusion and right to make oral or written representations to the governing body will be set out in full in regulations. Parents will have the right to make representations about permanent exclusions and fixed-period exclusions totalling more than five school days in any one term. Fixed-period exclusions of five school days or fewer in any one term will not attract the right to make oral representations. That will be a matter for the governing body's discretion. As noble Lords have said, we would expect the dialogue between school and parents, which we want for every child, to be an ongoing process and not something that comes into play only when a child has a problem. I am mindful of the burden of meetings placed on school governors. We believe that we need to give them some discretion as to the need for meetings in respect of less serious exclusions.

Turning to Amendment No. 215, Clause 49(4)(b)achieves the result sought by the first part of the amendment. A head teacher of a maintained school or a teacher in charge of a pupil referral unit must have regard to the Secretary of State's guidance. No one else may exclude a child.

On the second part of Amendment No. 215, I recognise that the noble Lord is teasing out what is in fact part of the clause stand part debate to which we shall come later. I am reluctant to get into the detail of that matter now. It will not be a surprise to noble Lords that we do not believe that absence is an appropriate ground for exclusion. To get pupils back into school, we believe that it is important to work with those pupils and to address the problems that can lead to irregular school attendance. The problems may be due to circumstances in the home, to the disaffection of the child and, in some circumstances, to bullying. We believe that our approach is the right way forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, mentioned school holidays. Schools have discretion to grant a maximum of 10 days' leave of absence for the purpose of family holidays. We recognise that schools need to be sensitive to the needs of families, but some families take extended holidays. We have approached that matter in a way that we believe is right: by working with the community so that such families understand the importance of education and of their children's attendance at school. That is a relationship that links into the Education Welfare Service. That service works to identify children's attendance problems and it recognises the importance of a child being at school. As noble Lords know, parents can face imprisonment if their child does not attend school and if reasonable steps have not been taken to ensure that he or she does so. We believe that the use of exclusion to deal with truancy or absence would be self-defeating.

I turn to Amendment No. 216, which raises a serious issue about advocacy of children in public care in the context of exclusion from school. I fully support the concern of the noble Earl to ensure that children in public care are properly supported, not only in this context, but more generally in their educational development. That is an issue that the Government take very seriously.

The noble Earl talked about the Adoption and Children Bill that is currently before another place. We are considering how best to ensure that children in public care have the necessary advocacy. I am not sure that the best way forward is to put requirements in legislation in the way that the amendment seeks to do as that may be too constraining. Permanent exclusions, for example, are reviewed to a strict statutory timetable and there is no scope for delaying meetings while independent advocacy is sought, if that is necessary. It may be more helpful to have an adult who knows the child and who can provide more continuity of support throughout the child's education and be involved in that process.

However, I can undertake to keep the noble Earl well informed of our developments in improving support and advocacy for children in public care. It is open to the Committee to return to the debate on these issues as we deliberate the Bill. I can assure the Committee that I am working extremely closely on these issues with our colleagues in the department so as to address them properly. I hope on that basis that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Listowel

I thank the noble Baroness for her response to my amendment. My amendment is grouped with that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and on this occasion I had not intended to move it but simply to speak to it. I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said and I look forward to reading Hansard.

Lord Lucas

I am grateful for what the noble Baroness has said. I believe that she has disposed of Amendments Nos. 213 and 215 quite satisfactorily. I shall consider carefully what she has said on Amendment No. 214. I still have difficulty with at least two aspects of the provision as it is set out.

I do not believe that we are providing enough incentive for a school to ensure that the dialogue with the parent takes place properly when a child finds himself or herself on the road to permanent exclusion by means of a series of small exclusions. In other words, it is not clear to me that we are providing a process that will not allow a school to get away with failing to communicate so that suddenly a parent is faced with the permanent exclusion of his or her child after a series of small exclusions. That would be a particular problem if a child had a five-day exclusion in one school year and a five-day exclusion in the next school year, and then, as has happened, was suddenly faced with a permanent exclusion for having been temporarily excluded for 10 days and for being a persistent offender, and that was the first the parent heard of it.

There has to be a duty on the school to communicate with the parent and to keep the parent involved. It is unsatisfactory for a school to be able to use the power of permanent exclusion when nothing serious has happened to justify it. There may be a failure by the school to communicate a series of small indiscretions and small misbehaviours that may well be the result of an undiagnosed special educational need. There may be an issue that should have been taken seriously by a parent and by the school at a much earlier stage rather than the matter being dealt with by minor punishment.

I shall consider the matter and I shall talk to ACE, the Advisory Centre for Education which has been helping me with the amendments. I shall return to the matter on Report if necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 214 to 216 not moved.]

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

moved Amendment No. 217: Page 33, line 23, at end insert— (aa) requiring a head teacher to provide the responsible body with information on the identification of, the assessment of and the provision made for any special educational need that an excluded pupil may have, (ab) requiring the responsible body to take account of any information provided under paragraph (aa) in determining whether or not to reinstate an excluded pupil, The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 217, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 223, 226 and 227, tabled in my name. It is a mixed hag in a larger sack about information, advice and legal protection for children with special educational needs. The amendments are very different, and I shall need to speak to each in turn. I hope that Members of the Committee will therefore bear with me, but will be consoled by the thought that they will hear from me only once today.

Amendment No. 217 ensures that a head teacher excluding a pupil is required to provide information to the responsible body about any special educational needs of an excluded pupil, and that that body takes account of the information when deciding on reinstatement.

There is information to suggest that sometimes an inappropriate SEN provision, or a failure to make such a provision, leads to the exclusion of a pupil with special educational needs. That point is underlined by the National Autistic Society, whose 2000 report on inclusion found that 21 per cent of children with autism spectrum disorders are at some stage excluded from school. It shows that frustration from lack of understanding leads to challenging behaviour, which in turn results in exclusion.

This amendment does not seek to prevent the exclusion of children with special educational needs when necessary. Nor does it impose further work on the school, because the information will be available. But the special educational consortium feels that it may prevent inappropriate exclusions stemming from a failure to meet the special educational needs of some children.

I turn briefly to Amendment No. 223, which would ensure that, where a claim of disability discrimination was being heard as part of an exclusion appeal, a legally qualified person with an understanding of the DDA would chair the appeal panel. I shall not bore the Committee by repeating my earlier arguments on Amendment No. 199 on admission appeals. The same questions and arguments apply. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is back in his place and in good voice. As the Minister will understand, this whole special educational needs package is designed to wind him up yet one further notch.

I shall be interested to hear the Minister's thoughts on Amendment No. 219, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I think this amendment means that appeals could be heard by the SEN Disability Tribunal, just as appeals for fixed term exclusions will from September go to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, where claims are made tinder the DDA for fixed term exclusions. Those panel members will have received training in DDA duties.

I ask the Minister to assure me that where a claim of disability discrimination is made at the same time as an exclusion appeal, the clerk—if not the chair—of the independent appeals panels for exclusions will be legally qualified; that the clerk will have received training on the DDA duties; that panel members will have received training on the DDA and will have access to the clerk's legal knowledge; otherwise, in view of the fact that those facing fixed term exclusions will go to the SEN DIST and those children facing the seriousness of permanent exclusions may lose out, we may have a two-tier system.

I turn to Amendment No. 226, which would ensure that parents of children with special educational needs who are excluded from school are referred to an independent source for information and advice on their and their children's rights. It is worth reminding the Committee that children with statements of special educational needs are seven times more likely to be excluded than other children.

IPSEA's casework—I declare that I am a patron of IPSEA—shows that children with statements are excluded for a variety of reasons; that simply appealing for reinstatement is not always relevant; and that, even when it is, it is rarely a sufficient remedy on its own. Children may be excluded because the LEA has failed to put in place the support that it has asked for in its statements or because the statements are so vaguely written that the parents and the school have no clear idea of how much or what kind of provision is needed. A head teacher may exclude children in order to highlight the problem, or teachers may not know how to manage particular behaviour that is not threatening or aggressive but which disrupts the work of the class—in other words, a cry for help. There are many more reasons.

Similarly, there are various or a combination of actions to best help the child: an immediate review; a reassessment leading to a statement quantifying provision; a change of school, and so on. Parents need to explore all those possibilities. They also need to consider whether to appeal against exclusion—whether they actually want the child to return to school. This amendment would guarantee parents contact with an independent organisation or person who can help them reach an informed decision.

In conclusion, I turn to Amendment No. 227. This amendment would ensure that a decision by a governing body or an exclusion appeal panel to reinstate a child who had been excluded would result in a resumption of the child's education. The Members of the Committee may think that there would be absolutely no necessity for this amendment. But, following the judgment in the case of L v Governors of J School (2001), an order for reinstatement by an exclusion appeals panel may lawfully be interpreted by a school as a requirement to admit a child on to the school premises, but not to their class or to any class or any particular educational provision. The effect of that judgment is to vitiate potentially every decision made by a governors' discipline committee or an exclusion appeal committee that an excluded child should be reinstated.

In that particular case, the reinstated child was kept out of lessons because the teachers' unions threatened to strike when they learnt of the reinstatement decision. The court held that, given the damage that would have been caused to the education of all children in the school, the head acted reasonably in bowing to the unions' threat. But Lord Justice Laws, in a rider to the judgment, raised the possibility of teachers' unions as public bodies being susceptible to judicial review because of such a threat. He suggested that if a trade union takes a position designed in terms to frustrate the lawful decision of Parliament's delegate—here the appeal panel—that might be vulnerable as a matter of public law as being calculated to undermine the rule of law.

In this Bill we have an opportunity to resolve what has suddenly become a very volatile legal situation. The amendment invites Parliament to decide what powers it intends appeal committees to exercise in the future, rather than leave it to litigation and the vagaries of case law. It would place a duty on a governing body to ensure that a child received education following reinstatement. It would not limit the powers of a discipline committee or an appeal committee to uphold an exclusion by rejecting a parent's appeal for reinstatement. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively to this issue or assure me that it will be dealt with in some other way.

I return to Amendment No. 217, which would ensure that the head teacher excluding a pupil is required to provide information to the responsible body about any special educational needs that such a pupil may have, and that the responsible body take account of the information when deciding whether or not to reinstate an excluded pupil. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Lucas

I have tabled three amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 218, 219 and 220. Amendment No. 218 asks the Government what the words, "in any prescribed case" in line 17, page 33, are intended to achieve. They appear to me to allow the Government to exclude the right to appeal in certain circumstances. I shall be interested to see what the effect is.

Amendment No. 219 is intended to be a helpful suggestion. Today's statistics suggest that there are about 1,000 appeals per year that must be made to panels constituted by local education authorities. On a rough calculation, that would mean that each LEA's panel would hear approximately eight appeals per year, and can therefore scarcely be expected to accumulate any great degree of expertise or breadth of experience.

Many of these appeals will involve children with special educational needs. Roughly 70 per cent of pupils in pupil referral units have such needs; indeed, about 20 per cent of them have statements, while 50 of them are without statements. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that a large number of pupils who become the subject of appeals will have special educational needs. The tribunal established under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 has, or will have, a greater depth of experience and a good deal more specialist experience available to it than an occasionally constituted LEA tribunal. It will also have a range of remedies available to it that may prove to be much more constructive in particular cases; for example, imposing a requirement for the training of staff or other remedial measures to be introduced into a school so that it will be better able to deal with the pupil in question.

Amendment No. 220 uses the tribunal, in whatever form it may be, to give a right to a pupil or the parents to assert the right, which, as the noble Baroness has quite correctly said, will come into force this September, to full-time education if he has been excluded from school. At present, if a pupil is excluded he theoretically has this right to full-time education. However, if it is not provided, there is no useful way to enforce that right. If the LEA is dilatory and provides the child with, say, five hours of tutorial a week and does not bother to do anything else, there is no easy comeback for the parents. Therefore, this amendment would provide a route whereby parents can enforce the right of a child to full-time education in an easy and practical way.

Baroness Walmsley

I rise to support Amendment No. 217 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, and to speak to Amendments Nos. 221 and 225 tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Sharp.

In view of the large number of excluded children who have special educational needs, it seems to me that it is vital that the nature of such needs is well understood by those charged with giving them an education—it is to be hoped with a view to reintegrating them into the mainstream, if appropriate, at some future date. It is also vital that they are obliged to take notice of that information. I echo the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, that the reason for the exclusion in the first place may be partly because of the inability of the school to deal appropriately with a child's special needs. How much more important, therefore, that this situation is not perpetuated in the child's new educational environment.

Amendment No. 221 seeks to ensure that LEAs provide sufficient resources in the school, or pupil referral unit, to meet the needs of children and young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties. It should always be the case that exclusion is used as a last resort by head teachers seeking to protect the rest of the children in the school and to find an environment more suited to their particular needs.

The Government recently introduced a number of measures that may, if successful, reduce the incidence of high level disruptive behaviour. We also welcome the commitment to provide full-time education to excluded pupils. However, there has been little so far to address the every-day concerns of both teachers and pupils whose lessons are disrupted by pupils with special emotional and behavioural needs within the mainstream. Despite the fact that there is a responsibility on central government and LEAs to meet the needs of these pupils, there is nothing on the face of the Bill to ensure that those needs are met.

There are many things that can be done in this respect. On a recent visit to Japan, I was very impressed to learn that every school has a professional counsellor available to help children with emotional and behavioural problems. I wonder whether the problem of disruption has become so great that something of the sort may be needed in this country. Whatever the solution, the matter is one of great concern both to teachers and to other pupils, as a number of recent consultations have shown. For example, in the recent teacher workload study, PricewaterhouseCooper found deteriorating pupil behaviour to be a major concern. An annual survey of pupils' views conducted by Keele University found the same concerns among them.

I recently received one view of the matter from a year 10 pupil, Sheila Begum from Swanlea School in Whitechapel. She said: From my point of view, I think kicking pupils out of school permanently is not the best thing to do and is not the answer to improve pupils' behaviours. From my school, I have seen so many pupils being expelled, whose immature behaviour has increased or stayed the same after being expelled. I think that pupils who have bad behaviours at school and put others' lives in danger should be put in a behaviour school where they can get punished, but still continue with their education". The Government have stated that they are committed to a focus on, prevention, early intervention and the provision of education for long term excluded children", so why not include the provision of appropriate resources on the face of the Bill?

The Earl of Listowel

I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 219 and 222, which are tabled in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. In doing so, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 224, which is tabled solely in my name. I should mention that this amendment has the support of both the British Psychological Society and the Who Cares? Trust. I have often heard from teachers and educational psychologists that not enough children are being assessed for special educational needs. We heard this at the beginning of our debates this afternoon; and, indeed, we have heard it several times during the course of this debate. Those with conduct disorders or emotional disorders are being overlooked and often treated as being "naughty" rather than in need of help.

Two separate reports in the 1990s of academic research found that approximately 90 per cent of excluded pupils were presenting with special educational needs. In the light of that research evidence, the case for the utilisation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal is very strong. In his critique of the school exclusion appeal system entitled Challenges to School Exclusion, Professor Neville Harris urged that panels should be able to play both a judicial and a welfare role, recommending next steps for children.

Under the terms of Amendment No. 222, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, in tandem with the Community Legal Service, could play an important role in spotting children who should have received a statement but have been missed. Together, they could make a significant improvement to current practice.

The purpose of Amendment No. 224 is to ensure that excluded children receive a fair hearing. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for her earlier support, which I much appreciated, for the idea of advocacy for looked-after children in school. Exclusion is a critical event in the lives of these children. The Leggatt report on tribunals recommended that tribunals, such as independent appeals panels, should have a legally qualified chair. Professor Neville Harris has also recommended that panels should be chaired by appropriately trained lawyers.

These cases are becoming increasingly complex—a complexity that will be sharpened by the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. An exclusion clerk, a former deputy head of a special school, suggested to me that a legally-qualified chair would ensure greater consistency in outcome, which would be welcomed by schools. I would prefer the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but, failing that, I hope that my amendment will find sympathy with the Minister.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

Before I begin to speak to this group of amendments, perhaps I may make clear the fact that I have a good deal of sympathy with the intentions that lie behind them. That applies also to the remarks made by all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. At this point it may be helpful for me to make a few general remarks which may take the debate forward.

In this Bill we are trying to set out the key principles of the law, which will be backed up by provision in regulations and in guidance. While our view is that legislation must be in place to secure the key rights and duties of all parties concerned, we equally know that legislation can be a blunt instrument when dealing with very serious matters of judgment and as regards guiding appeal panels to ensure that all appeals are heard on their merits.

I turn to Amendment No. 217, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth. Although I sympathise with the intention of the amendment, I believe that it is a matter best left to guidance. We are very aware of the increased risk of exclusion that children with SEN face. I do not think that the noble Baroness was in the Chamber earlier when I said that the figures that have been released today were interesting. The figure that such children were seven times more likely to be excluded has dropped to three times more likely. That figure is still on the wrong side, but it is interesting and I look forward to discussing it in more detail with the noble Baroness and others as we begin to understand precisely what has happened.

We have put in place a requirement on local education authorities to arrange for parents of children with SEN to be provided with advice and information about matters relating to their child's needs. The LEA must make this service known to appropriate people and must make arrangements to avoid or resolve disagreements between parents, schools and LEAs.

The guidance on exclusions also makes it clear that schools should avoid permanently excluding pupils with statements or who are being assessed for a statement. I believe that such matters are best left to guidance. But we shall look to ensure that the guidance is as clear as it can be on that point.

I turn to Amendment No. 218. This part of the Bill refers to both permanent and temporary exclusions. If it were a permanent exclusion, there would be a right of appeal, so that is why the wording is as it is. I assure noble Lords that in making regulations we intend to preserve the key features of the existing exclusion and exclusion appeal legislation which builds in rights for parents, pupils and schools.

In addition, we are establishing a right of appeal in relation to exclusions from pupil referral units. As I said, the clause deals with both permanent and fixed term exclusions. Under the provisions included in Sections 64 to 67 of, and Schedule 18 to, the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, only parents of pupils who have been permanently excluded may appeal to an independent appeal panel. As noble Lords will know, fixed period exclusions do not attract the same rights—they are a matter for the governing body alone.

Therefore, the wording in the Bill is intended only to preserve this position. There will be a right of appeal to an independent panel in relation to all permanent exclusions, but not in relation to fixed period exclusions. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

Amendments Nos. 219,223 and 224 all deal with the nature of the body that hears exclusion appeals. Amendment No. 219 seeks to have appeals heard by the SEN and Disability Tribunal, while Amendments Nos. 223 and 224 suggest that there should be legally qualified chairs of appeal panels.

It is my view that exclusion appeals are, and will be adequately dealt with by independent appeal panels. The task of an exclusion appeal panel is quite simple. It must first consider whether the pupil committed the offence, or offences, which prompted his or her exclusion. If the answer is yes, the question that it then has to consider is whether permanent exclusion is a reasonable response to that behaviour, taking account of all the circumstances and any mitigating or aggravating factors. Panels provide an appropriate forum for redress and an appropriate educational remedy. They can direct reinstatement.

We believe that a lay panel can deal with those issues without the need for a lawyer to chair the panel. There is a risk that the requirement to involve a lawyer would unnecessarily formalise the appeal process, potentially raise costs and cause delays in constituting a panel. Appeal panel members are unpaid volunteers and panels are arranged locally by LEAs, involving local people of good sense, if I may so describe them, many of whom are known to your Lordships. We believe that they can perform the job well.

We have made it clear in statutory guidance that we expect every clerk to the appeal panel to have legal training and to be familiar with exclusions and equal opportunities legislation. I hope that that gives the noble Baroness the reassurance that she seeks. Exclusion appeal panels already deal satisfactorily with issues including sex and race equality, and there is no reason to believe that they will be unable to deal satisfactorily with issues of disability discrimination.

I would also point out that the new arrangements introduced by the SEN and Disability Act will apply for the first time from September this year. During the passage of that Act, our starting point in considering rights of redress was to use the existing appeals mechanisms where they were suitable. Therefore, although the SEN and disability tribunal will hear most cases of disability discrimination, it does not have jurisdiction to deal with exclusion appeals. The House accepted during the passage of the SEN and Disability Act that independent appeal panels were the best route for hearing appeals against permanent exclusion from maintained schools. The panels work well and can provide a quick and appropriate remedy by directing the school to reinstate the child.

In turning to Amendment No. 220, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and others that we are committed to providing every excluded child with an appropriate education suitable to age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs. That is why we have said that we want every LEA by September of this year to provide full-time education for all pupils excluded for more than 15 school days.

However, I do not believe that the independent appeal panels should be given powers to deal with the LEA's duty under Section 19(1) of the Education Act 1996. The appropriate remedy if a child has been wrongly excluded is clear—reinstatement. But an independent panel has no power and is not the right body to direct an LEA as to how it should discharge its duty to provide suitable education for that child. There is an existing mechanism for resolving disputes between parents and LEAs on this duty under Section 496 of the Education Act 1996.

In relation to Amendment No. 225, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for allowing me to make it clear that we shall certainly keep exclusions guidance in force. The existing guidance is set out in circular 10/99, which explains what should be done before resorting to exclusion, when exclusion should he used and the procedures for excluding pupils. We have issued for consultation draft revised guidance and plan to issue revised guidance in its final form later this year.

I turn to Amendment No. 226. The current guidance on social inclusion and pupil support already makes it clear that a head teacher who excludes a pupil should notify the parent immediately, ideally by telephone, and should write within one school day. The letter should include the name and telephone number of a contact at the LEA who can provide advice on the exclusions process, and a helpline number for the Advisory Centre for Education, an independent body that is well known to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and others, which provides free advice and support for the parents of excluded pupils.

We have strengthened the arrangements for identifying, assessing and providing for children's special educational needs and have taken action to promote partnership between parents, schools and local education authorities. I therefore believe that strong arrangements are being put in place to support children with SEN and their parents in these circumstances.

I now turn to Amendments Nos. 221 and 227. I confirm that the important matters in Amendment No. 221 will be dealt with in guidance, which can more fully set out the subtle matters of judgment to be taken into account here. To address the first part of the amendment, Clause 49(4)(b) requires a person or body administering or reviewing an exclusion to have regard to any guidance given from time to time … by the Secretary of State or — the National Assembly for Wales". I believe that to put such matters in regulations would be too inflexible.

The second part of Amendment No. 221 covers an important issue, which is also addressed by Amendment No. 227, which is the reintegration of an excluded pupil. The noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, has already referred to the judgment that was handed down, from which I shall quote shortly. This is an important part. The Appeal Court has recently confirmed that an appeal panel's direction to reinstate means the removal of the exclusion but not necessarily a return to the status quo. Lord Justice Laws in his lead judgment said: The reality is that once he is reinstated, his exclusion is cancelled and he is to be treated like any other pupil; and in respect of any pupil, special or particular measures or initiatives may be required at any time". That means that although it must always be the intention to ensure that the re-instated pupil is fully reintegrated into school as quickly as possible, there may be circumstances when an immediate return to the classroom on the same conditions will not be possible. I think that deciding how to manage a pupil's reinstatement is best left to the judgment of the school or PRU concerned, perhaps with assistance from the LEA, taking into account all relevant factors and conditions.

I hope that in the light of all I have said, noble Lords will be able to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Lucas

I am grateful for the answer to Amendment No. 218, which I suspect answers it fully. I shall need to read carefully what the Minister said about Amendment No. 219, and see whether other aspects of the way that appeals will be dealt with need to be covered. With regard to Amendment No. 220, I think that I misheard the reference she made to the 1996 Act. The section that I thought she mentioned has nothing whatever to do with relationships between local authorities and parents. Perhaps she will repeat the reference in the 1996 Act.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I was making the point that we did not believe that independent appeals panels should be given powers to deal with what is an education authority's duty. It is a duty under Section 19(1) of the Education Act 1996.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I invite other Members of the Committee to speak to my amendment.

Baroness Walmsley

Perhaps I may say a few words. The Minister said that excluded pupils returning to mainstream are to be treated like any other pupil. Of course, that is exactly what they are not. That is the reason why they were excluded in the first place. Often they have very special needs. That is why we, from these Benches, would prefer that a commitment is put on the face of the Bill to provide appropriate resources to the school dealing with them on their return. That commitment would be most welcome. With that, I end my remarks.

Lord Lucas

I have now found Section 19(1). It does not give parents any rights at all. It puts a duty on the local education authority to make arrangements for the full-time education of pupils. But if it fails to do that, there is nothing that the parents can do about the matter. That is the problem that I was trying to address. Can the noble Baroness say whether in circumstances where a local authority fails under the duty in Section 19(1) one has to take the matter to the High Court to get it to move?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

When I continued on from the statement that I made about Section 19(1) of the Education Act 1996, I said that that was the responsibility of education authorities. I then went on to say that there was already an existing mechanism for resolving disputes between parents and local education authorities. Sections 496 and 497 of the Education Act 1996 state that, including by parents, these disputes could be referred to the Secretary of State. She of course has power to direct an education authority if she determines that it is failing in its duty. I am sorry that the noble Lord did not hear me. I hope that that answers his question.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I thank the Minister very much for her careful, considered and detailed reply. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for her support on Amendment No. 217. I think that I am reassured about the guidelines. The Minister was right; I was not in the Chamber when she said that the number of excluded children with SEN had gone down, and they are now three times rather than seven times more likely to be excluded. I am absolutely delighted about that.

Amendment No. 223 relates to the independent appeal panel. There is a good deal of support for everything going to SENDIST. So long as SENDIST is not overloaded, I might be for that too. I am happy with what the Minister said about the clerk being legally trained. It is important for the clerk to have legal training. She did not say firmly whether the appeal panel members would have a reasonable amount of training—not just an hour—in DDA.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

We would want all appeal panels to be trained. The clerk would have specific training in that function and that role, but we would expect—indeed, it happens—appeal panel members to want that training and to make sure that they have as much knowledge as possible.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

That needs to be the case because, as the Minister knows, the questions asked with regard to DDA are terribly important. There will be access to the clerk.

Amendment No. 226 relates to the helpline. I think that I am reassured by the ACE helpline for parents and children.

I shall read carefully what the Minister said about Amendment No. 227 because the matter is complicated. I think that I am a little reassured, but I shall probably need to come back to it. I am not totally sure about the judgment part. I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, is nodding. She is very supportive of the amendment, but could not be in her place earlier. I am nevertheless very grateful to her. Perhaps I could discuss the matter with the Minister at some stage outwith the Chamber. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 218 to 221 not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham

I beg to move that the House do now resume. I suggest that the Committee stage of the Bill commences again not before a quarter to eight.

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

House resumed.

Forward to