HL Deb 28 May 2002 vol 635 cc1310-22

(1) The Education Act 1996 (c. 56) is amended as follows. (2) In section 509 (provision of transport etc.)—

  1. (a) subsection (2) is omitted;
  2. (b) in subsection (3), leave out all words after paragraph (b); and
  3. (c) subsection (4) is omitted."
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 347 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 348. These subjects are entirely separate. I hope that the Minister will not pay particular attention to the drafting of Amendment No. 347. Education Acts are extremely difficult to tackle these days. I set these amendments against the copy of the 1996 Act that I have, but it has been amended by several Acts since then. I have no idea whether the Act that I acquired from the Printed Paper Office is the Act in force or whether the parts that I am trying to amend have disappeared entirely. We may return to that on another day on another subject, but it appears to me that noble Lords should be able to have access to the Act as it is rather than the Act as it was about 10 years ago.

Dealing with school transport is a problem for all local authorities, particularly those in rural areas. Most of them seem to respond with a mixture of resignation and inflexibility. If they generally have quite efficient systems for organising the buses—people would complain if they did not—it is one of the few opportunities that they have for saving money.

But the result is often that parents have a greatly restricted chance to choose schools. The example I know best is Winchester. There are three very good secondary schools there. A pupil is allocated to one of them according to where he or she lives. If a parent chooses another, as many do, then one has to use a car. The schools are about half a mile apart in the middle of Winchester. It would be dead simple for the bus which brought pupils to one school to trundle off to the others afterwards. It would cost very little extra, but it cannot be done because the local authority says that it cannot.

One of the principal reasons why the local authority cannot do it is that there is a prohibition on charging anything. It cannot charge for the extra half mile involved and so there is no way of recovering the extra cost and so it does not do it. The result is that instead of a school bus with 40 pupils on board travelling half a mile, one has 40 parents travelling eight miles each, which is an enormous waste of time, money, road space and the convenience of everybody else.

I hope that what I am proposing here is unnecessary because it will all be possible under Clause 2 of the Bill in that it will be allowable for a local education authority to say that it wishes to dis-apply under the relevant parts of the 1996 Act and to run a new school transport system on a new and innovative basis. People are entitled to have their statutory entitlement free, but if a child lives two and a half miles from the school and wants to use the school bus, that can be paid for. That is for the convenience of everybody because the parents do not have to travel in by themselves and the child gets a lift into school each morning, but pays rather less than it would cost the parent to run a car.

I believe that one would reach a position under those circumstances where it became possible for a local authority to turn its attention to what the parents want rather than to how it saves as much money as possible on providing as little as possible under its statutory obligation to provide school transport.

That is very much the argument I make as regards Amendment No. 347 and I hope that it is one which the Government, if they are not tackling it now, will view sympathetically should a local education authority come to them under Clause 2 and say it is something that it would like to do. One or two experiments exist at the moment which seem to point in that direction. I hope that the Minister can give help on that.

Amendment No. 348 tackles a very small but longstanding problem about who is in charge of discipline on school buses. At the moment it is meant to be the bus driver, but he is supposed to be driving the bus and really has very little ability to control what goes on in the back of it. There can be occasions when bullying and indiscipline occur. At present there is no easy way of controlling such things. I am proposing that we should move to the American model where discipline on school buses is the responsibility of the school. In many parts of the American system there are video cameras on the buses. The tape is handed to the school at the end of the run and if there have been any complaints the tape can be looked at and the school then deals with the matter as part of its discipline. That seems to work extremely well. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 348A and the consequential Amendments Nos. 379A and 379B. Before doing so I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that while there are obviously difficulties in Hampshire, they appear to be less so in Surrey where we run some joint school buses and are about to introduce an American yellow bus scheme which will link feeder primaries and secondaries. They will be taking a group of children along a feeder route. It will be very interesting to see how it works out.

As regards Amendment No. 348A, it relates to transport of those over the compulsory school age. Section 509 of the Education Act 1996 and its predecessors have long been recognised as inadequate in ensuring that individual learners receive assistance with the transport they need in order to participate in learning after the age of 16. The main reason for this is that the current formulation allows a local education authority to determine whether it thinks that transport is necessary to facilitate attendance. Faced with increasing financial pressures many local education authorities have become increasingly restrictive in their policies for assisting with transport over compulsory school age. That trend accelerated in 1993 after the incorporation of the colleges. Many local education authorities saw the loss of control of colleges as a justification for further withdrawal, both in respect of transport and of further education student support generally.

As a consequence, many colleges came under pressure to provide assistance with transport. Colleges increasingly found it necessary to provide financial assistance from the resources available for learning delivery. The position eased a little with the introduction of college access funds which provided an additional source of funding for student support. The available data suggest that some 45 per cent of access funds are spent on transport assistance. However, that has done little to improve the overall funding available for student support, since total resources for access and related funds amount only to some £110 million a year. That is excluding the EMA pilot scheme that we discussed earlier.

Clause 193 and Schedule 19 to the Bill offer some acknowledgement of these problems. In doing so, first, they strengthen the obligations on LEAs while not laying on them an absolute duty to secure adequate transport provision. Secondly, they assume that colleges' governing bodies will continue to have to make a direct provision in respect of learners for whom the LEA fails to provide support. Thirdly, they focus only on the 16 to 19 year-olds, leaving the present position in respect of adults unchanged. Lastly, they fail to recognise the additional transport needs which will arise from the development of vocational and work-based learning at key stage 4.

The proposed new clause, which of necessity must be seen as a replacement for rather than a complement to, Clause 193 and Schedule 19 to the current Bill, seeks to address these weaknesses. It gives the LEAs sole responsibility for dealing with student transport matters. It lays a duty on LEAs to secure transport provision, rather than allowing discretion, which can be used to shift the burden on to learners and their families. It ensures that the duty extends to adults as well as the 16 to 19 year-olds. It ensures that the duty can be objectively assessed by integrating the criteria proposed in Schedule 19 for the assessment of transport needs into an expanded duty. It ensures that that duty extends to the provision of transport to colleges and employers' premises where this is required as part of the key stage 4 learning programme. Lastly, it strengthens existing provisions in regard to equity of treatment between school and college students.

Amendments Nos. 379A and 379B are purely consequential upon the clause.

Baroness Blatch

I think that it was at Second Reading that I flagged up one of the issues arising from the Government's plans. We know that at this stage they are only proposals. We also know at this stage that there is still consultation to be had about plans for 14 to 19 year-olds. One of the huge issues that needs to be addressed—and I suggest that it should be properly addressed by the Government—is the logistics of creating timetables for individual students from the age of 14 through to 19, particularly in the rural areas where a student can be educated partly at school, partly in the workplace and partly in a further education college. These young people will not be moving around in neat packages but in ones and twos across towns and down country lanes.

The whole issue of transport will be much greater than even the one described by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. One cannot go forward with an exciting proposition for 14 to 19 year-olds without remembering that if this issue is not addressed it will not be an option available to many people in rural areas. They are many villages, including my own, where one bus leaves in the morning and comes back in the afternoon. It does not dovetail with the institution's venues, nor with its starting times. We are talking about people moving about in mid-timetable, spending an afternoon here and a morning there, with one lesson here and another somewhere else. That issue cannot be ignored in consideration of provision for 14 to 19 year-olds. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said—and, indeed, with my noble friend, who wants to open up the issue to more innovation.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that the issue needs to be addressed and that it gains in complexity against the background of changing educational demands. However, the amendments are not the solution to what I acknowledge is a complex problem.

First, I shall address Amendment No. 347, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Approximately 800,000 children each year benefit from free home-school transport provision. Its removal would hit many families hard. Secondary school children would be the hardest hit because, due to the statutory walking limits, they are currently more likely to be entitled to free home-school transport.

Provision of home-school transport has been around for a long time—nearly 60 years. It is an entitlement on which many parents rely in order to get their child to school. If there were no national minimum standards, parents across the country could be treated very differently from one authority area to another. While a low income family in one authority area may be granted subsidised or free transport to their nearest school, a family in a neighbouring authority area on the same income may not.

Straightforward removal of that important provision, as proposed in the amendment, would leave some disadvantaged families much worse off. Any proposal to effect improvement in that area of legislation will, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said, need careful consideration and the widest consultation so that we consider closely the implications of change on all children.

Restrictions on local authorities are not as intense as the noble Lord suggested. Some local authorities provide transport for children who live within walking distance. The children then have to pay, because the authority is under no obligation to provide free transport, but LEAs will sometimes provide a larger bus, aware of the fact that there is demand from children who want to cover a shorter distance who will pay to travel on the bus. So there is greater flexibility than the noble Lord suggested.

Turning to the issue of discipline that the noble Lord raised under Amendment No. 348, the case of Bradford-Smart v West Sussex County Council has already confirmed that in the context of the bullying of a pupil outside of school the head teacher may exercise his disciplinary powers against one pupil who attacks another. In the case, the Court of Appeal also considered that in certain limited circumstances a failure to exercise that power would be a breach of the school's duty of care to the other pupil. That suggests that in certain circumstances a court may be prepared to find that a school has a duty to take disciplinary action against pupils who misbehave outside school. That may extend to transport provided by the school or LEA.

The difficulty, of course, lies where the indiscipline occurs on public service transport over which the LEA or the school has no control. Unless particular factors exist that would make it reasonable and possible for the school to take disciplinary action, it falls to the bus or train operator concerned to deal with any disruptive behaviour. That may include ejecting a pupil during the course of a journey. It is difficult to see how the school would act in such circumstances. It would be unreasonable and impractical to impose a greater duty on schools, which would have no means of monitoring or enforcement.

Indiscipline of that sort outside school is primarily for parents to deal with. That is especially the case where the transport is not the responsibility of the school or the LEA. The amendment would place a duty on schools only in regard to discipline on transport, leaving every other form of indiscipline outside school not covered by the legislation. I hope the noble Lord will accept that, although it is an interesting probing amendment, it is not one that we can accept.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for her contribution. She is right that we need to look at the question of the importance of effective transport support to pupils of compulsory school age and, in particular, the needs of those pupils and further education students who also need help. She will recognise, however, that children under the age of 16 are in the compulsory category and have different needs from those in further education. Older students attend FE on a voluntary basis. I agree with the noble Baroness that we should seek to increase that voluntary commitment and we want to give them every encouragement. She will know of the increasing resources being devoted by colleges to give support for transport.

The position for the post-compulsory group is different from that for younger children for the obvious reason that there is an obligation on the parents of those in the compulsory age group to ensure that their children attend school. If the difficulty is one of considerable distance and cost, it is only right to offer help to certain parents. Research shows that FE students use a range of different transport facilities that require different kinds of support. That is best determined locally and supported by the Learning and Skills Council, colleges and other institutions as well as LEAs.

Clause 192 and Schedule 19 are designed to ensure that these needs are effectively met for students of sixth form age in FE and for students of sixth form age in schools. Neither Schedule 19 nor the proposed amendment are compatible with, or appropriate to, support for pupils of compulsory school age, so we cannot put the two together in quite that way. Education institutions covered by the proposed amendment differ little from those already referred to in Section 509 of the Education Act 1996. In relation to the matters to which an LEA shall have regard, the 1996 Act already places a requirement on the LEA to make arrangements for the provision of suitable education for children of compulsory school age and the right of parents to express preferences for schools.

Such existing provisions alongside the duty on an LEA to provide free transport to a pupil attending his nearest suitable school which is more than two or three miles away make the proposed amendment unnecessary.

Amendment No. 379A would deprive the vast majority of students who are currently eligible for LEA transport of that entitlement. The amendment would repeal the whole of Section 509 of the 1996 Act. Section 509 places a duty on the LEA to make such arrangements as it considers necessary for the transport of a person of compulsory school age, in further or higher education or receiving education, or receiving education or training outside those sectors, to and from his place of learning. Schedule 19 complements Section 509, but makes provision only for a person of sixth form age who is receiving education or training—someone who is over compulsory school age but under 19. The amendment, taken on its own, would remove all legislative provision relating to transport for any person who did not fall under Schedule 19 to the Bill.

I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, will recognise that I share with her the concern that we should have to ensure that we build up a better provision of transport if we are to encourage students in their commitment to further education, especially those from more disadvantaged homes. Although the amendments are against a background of appropriate sentiments, they would not work effectively.

1 a.m.

Baroness Blatch

As a matter of interest, who is in loco parentis if a child of statutory school age boards a bus at school heading for home?

Lord Davies of Oldham

I must admit that that is a question to which I do not know the direct answer. Indeed, I am unlikely to receive immediate help from the Box on such indirect questions. Obviously, the judgment to which I referred indicated that the school would have some responsibility for the behaviour of children outside school premises. It is an important judgment, but it does not change the position that the school is primarily responsible in loco parentis while the children are on the premises and, of course, if they are off the premises in school buses, or other school transport, or if they are involved in school trips under supervision.

As I understand the position under the law, it is the parents who take responsibility—with certain particular exceptions—for any actions that a child carries out when he or she is outside the school gates or on public transport—

Baroness Blatch

I should like a proper answer to the question because it is pertinent to the issue of school bullying on a bus.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I recognise that the noble Baroness does not find my answer particularly satisfactory. I shall, therefore, write to her with the correct answer.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

At this hour of the morning I should just thank the Minister for his response. I am sorry that Amendments Nos. 379A and 379B would be quite so sweeping in their effect. I had not appreciated that they were not quite appropriate. However, the present situation is unsatisfactory, and that applies also to Schedule 19 and the attendant clause in the Bill. It is not clear whose responsibility it is to provide such transport.

Colleges have been shelling out substantial funds, which are all too scarce, to meet this need. Young people will not be encouraged to stay on in education after the compulsory leaving age in such circumstances. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, spoke about rural areas. I should point out that the cost of public transport these days, even within relatively urban areas, is substantial. For example, if one travels from one side of Guildford to the other in order to attend a college, it can easily cost £3 each way. That soon piles up each week to become a great deal of money.

At present, such costs are met in a very higgledy-piggledy way; but they are undoubtedly a disincentive to young people to attend courses. This is a very real problem, and one that needs to be considered more seriously than is the case with the Government at the moment. However, at this time of the morning I shall not pursue the matter further.

Lord Carter

Before the noble Lord decides what to do with his amendment, I should tell him that I was struck by his opening remarks as regards his difficulty in drafting the amendment. I remember experiencing similar problems during my 10 years on the Opposition Benches. I am reliably informed that if the noble Lord visits the Library of the House and consults Butterworths "Law Direct", he will find that most helpful. Alternatively, the noble Lord could speak to the ever-helpful staff in the Public Bill Office who will tell him exactly how to draft the amendment on the basis of the various amendments that have been made over time to successive Acts of Parliament.

Lord Lucas

Yes, that is a possibility. Unfortunately, I cannot bring such material with me into the Chamber to enable me to react appropriately to what the Minister may say in response to the amendment.

The Minister was given an extremely obtuse and unhelpful brief; indeed, it is by far the worst that I have listened to this evening. It almost deliberately set out not to address the questions addressed by the amendments. On those rare moments when the noble Lord allowed himself to ad lib, he talked the purest of sense. In his last answer to my noble friend Lady Blatch, it was clear that he understands what school transport means in Amendment No. 348: it means transport under the terms of Section 509 of the 1996 Act which is provided by the local authority—the school bus. The Minister's reply to me on that amendment was entirely concerned with what would happen on public transport, which is nothing to do with the amendment. It requires the most extraordinary twist of meaning to occupy the whole of the noble Lord's reply.

I am most disappointed with the Minister's brief. I shall not pursue Amendment No. 348. In his response to my noble friend Lady Blatch, the noble Lord almost implied that he understood that behaviour on school buses was the responsibility of the school. If that is the case, I am happy with the position. Indeed, he could have given me a very short answer just to say, "Yes, it is already there in the statute book". I should have been very happy with that. Having received two opposite answers from the noble Lord this evening, I shall resist the chance to pursue the matter. However, if the noble Lord can decide which of the two is the truth, I shall be delighted.

The Minister failed to answer my questions on Amendment No. 347. My principal question was whether the powers under Clause 2 would allow such an amendment to this part of the Education Act 1996; in other words, can a local authority come to the Department for Education and Skills and discuss how this part of the 1996 Act might be adapted to allow it to produce an innovative scheme on local transport? I would he grateful for an answer before I withdraw the amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I regret that the noble Lord does not find my answers on his amendments sufficient. Those are the answers I am able to give him this evening. If he wishes to be in correspondence with me before Report, I shall seek to give him further answers.

Lord Lucas

I would like an answer to that question in time for Report. It should not be beyond the department, given a few days in which to think about it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 192 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 348 and 348A not moved.]

Schedule 19 [Transport for persons over compulsory school age]:

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

moved Amendment No. 349: Page 181, line 3, at end insert "and disabled persons and persons with learning difficulties of all ages". The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 351, 353, 355 and 357, all of which would extend the new improved transport provision in Schedule 19 for people of sixth form age to disabled people up to the age of 25 and preferably beyond.

Schedule 19 is most welcome for its increased transport provision and for the new requirement on LEAs to produce transparent and full policy statements on their transport provision, including arrangements for persons of sixth form age and disabled persons. I understand that guidance notes for the Act are to state that cost and availability will not be valid reasons to deny transport. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that.

I should declare that I am president of SKILL—the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities. It warmly welcomes the measures but feels that the clauses do not go far enough. It is continually hearing of disabled people of 19 and over—those beyond sixth form age—who are denied access to further education because of the lack of appropriate transport or funding for transport.

That is an issue for all disabled adults, but above all for young disabled adults up to the age of 25 whose education has been slower for one reason or another. For example, many young people with severe and complex learning difficulties stay at school until they are 19. Some of them are then unable to access further education because they are too old to receive LEA-funded transport.

I have findings from two three-year research projects managed by SKILL. The first, in conjunction with Cambridge University, is looking at needs of adults with profound and complex learning difficulties. The second, funded by the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, is looking at the needs of young people from a south Asian background with learning difficulties. Both projects show the urgent need for appropriate transport provision for both those groups of learners.

Adults with profound and complex learning difficulties are completely unable to access public transport. Those from a south Asian background have expressed over and over again that the main barrier to their going to classes is a fear of travelling independently. Their parents have reiterated those fears. That is particularly true for young Asian females with learning difficulties. Both groups of learners are significantly under-represented in further education. SKILL's research has shown that representation will not increase unless transport for people with learning difficulties is substantially improved. Delivery needs to be flexible, imaginative and centred on the needs of learners.

In a sense this is a probing amendment because I have a nasty feeling it is in the wrong place, but it is serious in its intent. Therefore, I hope the Minister will give an encouraging response on how the Government may be able to make FE a reality for those groups of people. I beg to move.

1.15 a.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, for sharing her keen interest in the area and raising these important issues in relation to disabled people and people with learning difficulties. We share her concerns but we do not see the current legislation as the appropriate vehicle for addressing it. Clause 192 and Schedule 19 are designed specifically for improving transport arrangements for students of 16 to 19 and students continuing courses started at these ages. The clause and schedule make provision for students with disabilities and learning difficulties.

The reasons for not extending the coverage to adult students are that learning opportunities for students of 19 or over, and the support that learners need to enable them to access and complete their learning, are normally provided by colleges and other further education providers who are more likely to receive their funding from the Learning and Skills Council for England or the National Council for Education and Training for Wales, rather than from LEAs.

Existing legal requirements through Section 13 of the Learning and Skills Act, provide that the LSC must have regard to the needs of people with learning difficulties, which includes people with disabilities which hinders the use of the education or training facilities generally provided. Similar provisions apply in Wales. We have formally asked the LSE to review its guidance and to ensure that it continues to work with providers and all other relevant agencies—including LEAs, LAs, the Department of Health and social services departments—so that effective support is available to students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

In addition, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 requires that responsible bodies—that is, educational establishments—must not treat a disabled person less favourably than others for reasons related to his or her disability. Responsible bodies will be required by law to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that a disabled student is not placed at a substantial disadvantage.

The department provides the LSC with learner support funding and requires that this is made available to students, and in particular those with disabilities and learning difficulties, so that they can access and complete their learning. Over the past five years, the funds have risen from £6 million per annum for students of all ages to £51 million for students of 16 to 19 years and £67 million for students who are over 19. Even allowing for transfers of discretionary support from the LEAs to colleges, that amounts to an eight-fold increase in support.

The guidance for priorities for funding under these arrangements makes students with disabilities and learning difficulties a priority for support. We know that the funds are effective in practice as the on-going evaluation of the funds by the Institute of Employment Studies finds that they have a disproportionate impact on these students.

The combination of the SEND Act and the provision of learner support funding should therefore ensure that all learning providers make adequate and effective support for these students, regardless of their age.

Arrangements for supporting adults in further education, including transport arrangements for students with disabilities and learning difficulties of all ages are currently under review. The review will consider, among other things, the need for financial resources to support adult students with disabilities and in particular their transport needs. We are looking forward to the findings and recommendations of the review and we will consider the need for any further improvements in the light of findings, recommendations and budget constraints. We will ensure that those representing sector interests are included in the consultations for this.

I hope that I have explained why we do not believe that this legislation, and therefore the amendment, is the appropriate vehicle for enhancing the opportunities of the group of students about whom the noble Baroness has spoken so enthusiastically and effectively today. However, I assure her that we are keeping the situation under review with the intention of producing proposals for more effective support for the students, which I know she holds dear to her heart.

Baroness Blatch

If the Minister is arguing, as he seems to be doing, that the only problem is that Bill is not the vehicle for such a provision, then he has not spelt out what the vehicle is for achieving the aims of the amendment.

Secondly, as a reason for rejecting the amendment the noble Lord cited the fact that post-19 young people go to different educational institutions and that it would therefore be a matter for the colleges. But this part of the schedule refers to a statement of the transport needs of such young people up to age 19. Therefore, including a reference to those aged 20 to 25 would not seem to present many problems.

Where the funding falls is a separate issue—whether it falls with sixth form colleges or further education colleges is a secondary issue. If the noble Lord is saying that he is supportive of what the amendment is trying to achieve but that this is not the appropriate vehicle, it would be helpful, first, if he were to say what is the appropriate vehicle—then the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, could attend to that on Report. In addition, it is a fallacious argument to say that the fact that post-19 students are scattered among the institutions is a reason for not stipulating this in the statement that would be prepared by either the LEA or the local learning and skills council.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I sought to identify, as is my obligation, why the Government cannot accept the amendment in this piece of legislation. I also indicated in the most positive terms the fact that the Government shared the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, about support for students with disabilities and learning needs, and that we are in the process of carrying out a review of those provisions with the possibility of an enhancement of the position.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is absolutely right. The issue comes down to funding heads, and that must be taken into account by the Government. We are consulting on the best ways in which we can effect this. I cannot identify the piece of legislation to which the noble Baroness should address her mind at this point. It would be inappropriate for me to do so. I am seeking to assure her that she and the groups of people whom she represents will be in the position of being consulted on how we can enhance provision under the auspices of the review.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

First, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for her intervention. It was very helpful. She has a huge and detailed knowledge of this area. I also thank the Minister. At first, I thought that we were not getting anywhere. I thank him in regard to all the help that is available, but I felt that we had not progressed very far with the real issue in the amendment. Then, his mention of the review sent my spirits rising. I hope that we shall get somewhere. Making courses and buildings accessible is all for nothing if disabled people and people with learning difficulties cannot get to the classes. I shall go back to SKILL and then consult with him. Perhaps we can have some talks outwith the Chamber about what is the best piece of legislation in which to address this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 350 to 358 not moved.]

Schedule 19 agreed to.

Clause 193 [Remission of charges relating to residential trips]:

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 359: Page 117, leave out lines 25 to 32 and insert "of a prescribed class The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 360. These amendments are intended to be entirely helpful. This is information which should be in secondary, not primary legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Appropriately, I shall be brief, but I shall take a little longer than the noble Lord—if only to thank him for his attempts to improve the flexibility of the legislation. I appreciate the sentiments behind the amendments.

We have considered this possibility very carefully. However, the adult allowances in income support and income-based jobseeker's allowance are fundamental qualifying benefits. There is no need to have the flexibility to change them. We are unlikely ever to want to take away entitlement to remission of charges or free school meals from families in receipt of these benefits. Should there ever be a change to the benefits system affecting these benefits, then the primary legislation amending that would consequentially change this. Additionally, the Bill also creates flexibility in allowing the Secretary of State to be able to prescribe in regulations additional qualifying criteria, and this is likely to be sufficient to enable us to respond to the foreseeable changes to the welfare system.

I very much appreciate the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. However, on the basis of the arguments that I have put forward, I hope he will recognise that we are confident that the way in which these benefits are dealt with will guarantee that there will be only improvement and not deterioration in the position.

Lord Lucas

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 193 agreed to.

Clause 194 [LEA functions concerning school lunches, milk etc]:

[Amendment No. 360 not moved.]

Clause 194 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 361 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch

moved Amendment No. 361A: After Clause 194, insert the following new clause—

"Drugs and alcohol policies