Education Bill

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Mr. Heppell: May I come back on that?

The Chairman: Order. The Government's position is clear, as is that of the Opposition, although they do not coincide. That is not surprising.

Column Number: 422

Mr. Heppell: On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. It should be placed on the record that we have offered to move knives as long as the Opposition are prepared to put in extra time. They want the knives to be moved without extra time.

Mr. Brady: We want what we were offered at the outset—an opportunity to focus our attention on those aspects of the Bill that we feel warrant scrutiny. I have made my views known. The member of the silent service, as it used to be known, has made his position clear. Your position, Mr. Griffiths, is also clear. We are grateful to you for it.

The Minister has not given us adequate reassurance on amendment No. 466. He has not dealt with the contradictions between the treatment of academies and the treatment of maintained schools. His only direct allusion to that point was to confirm that the same rules will apply to academies as apply to maintained schools. He gets himself into an even more difficult position in that by implication he confirms that the powers under clause 2 to allow exceptions relating to innovation will also apply to academies. He again makes the point that subsection (4)(a) provides that no charging should be allowed, and yet he confirms that, as with maintained schools, other powers in the Bill will enable that provision to be suspended in relation to academies.

The Minister is getting himself into an absurd contradictory position. In some regards, he says that it is necessary to put something in the Bill even though precisely the same rules will apply as apply to other schools. In other regards, however, he says that it is simply not necessary to put a provision in the Bill, because it is absurd and not the Government's intention. Now the circle is being completed, because even where it is necessary to put a provision in the Bill, it is also possible to remove it by ministerial order and not by a decision of the Committee or the House.

That absurd position shows that the Government are either confused or are seeking disingenuously to move the debate and the legislative framework forward. Committee members are left to draw the obvious conclusion that Ministers may intend the Bill to have certain consequences and outcomes. It enables them to do whatever they please by order once it has received Royal Assent, yet they are not prepared to go into any detail or to specify how they intend to use those powers.

We have been clear about our strong support for what Ministers say they intend to do if that can have a real impact and make a real contribution to raising standards. However, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and people outside have a right to expect more specificity, clarity and openness about where Ministers want to take our schools in the longer term. The provisions for academies are wide, and they purport to limit their ability to charge, yet at the same time the Minister confirms that he expects to have the powers to remove those limitations. He has not dealt adequately with our concerns, but I said at the outset that this was a probing amendment. We sought to elicit from the Minister his true intentions. He has not been particularly helpful in that regard, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Laws: I beg to move amendment No. 416, in page 42, line 38 after 'school' insert—

    '( ) compliance with the duties imposed on the governing bodies of maintained schools'.

This is a short probing amendment. I thought that I was joking earlier when I said that we would manage only to finish dealing with clause 62. The amendment is designed to probe the Government's intentions for the duties that will be imposed on leadership groups in academies and how they will compare with governing bodies of maintained schools. In particular, does the Minister envisage that academies will have to comply with the local admissions code of practice? Will that simply be a matter between the academy and the Secretary of State?

Mr. Timms: The arrangement will be through a funding agreement between the academy and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. That is a more appropriate arrangement than the ones that exist for maintained schools with LEAs, because the academy has a direct relationship with the Secretary of State. I can give the hon. Gentleman the particular assurance that he seeks. Academies—unlike city technology colleges, by the way—will comply in full with the requirements on special educational needs and admissions and exclusions legislation as it applies to maintained schools. The hon. Gentleman was particularly concerned about the admissions point, and I can well understand why. It is an important issue. The commitment will be delivered through the funding agreement between each academy and the Secretary of State.

Mr. Andrew Turner: I am interested in the amendment because it again shows the failure of the hon. Member for Yeovil to appreciate the distinction between—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has not had much experience on the Committee. [Interruption.] I am sorry. I hope that he accepts that that was meant in friendship. I was talking about the hon. Gentleman's failure to appreciate the distinction between independent schools that are funded by the Secretary of State and state schools. He seems to be proposing that academies should comply with all the duties. Presumably he would expect that to be the case for city colleges as well. Does he understand the limits that that might place on the Secretary of State's ability to find sponsors for academies? One distinction that is evident between the private sector and the—

Column Number: 424

It being One o'clock, The chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [28 June 2001] and the Orders of the Committee [11, 13, 18 December 2001 and 10 January 2002], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Amendment negatived.

The chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.

Clauses 62 and 63 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Timms: I need to move that clause 64 should not stand part of the Bill, and that Government new clause 5 should be agreed.

The Chairman: In that case, because of the timetable motion and the way in which we conduct business, the Government will have to vote against clause 64 now, and we shall deal with new clause 5 when we reach the relevant part of the Bill.

Clause 64 disagreed to.

Clause 65 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 7

Academies: supplementary

Amendment made: No. 285, in page 150, leave out line 23.—[Mr. Timms.]

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 66 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 67

Duty of leas to secure proposals

Amendments made: No. 274, in page 45, line 30, leave out ''30'' and insert ''31''.

No. 275, in page 45, line 36, leave out ''subsection (3)(b) of''.—[Mr. Timms.]

Clause 67, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 8 agreed to.

Clause 68 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clauses 69 to 71 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 10 agreed to.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Adjourned accordingly at two minutes past One o'clock till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

Column Number: 425

The following Members attended the Committee:
Griffiths, Mr. Win (Chairman)
Bailey, Mr.
Brady, Mr.
Coaker, Mr.
Flint, Caroline
Grayling, Chris
Heppell, Mr.
Kumar, Dr.
Laing, Mrs.
Laws, Mr.
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Miliband, Mr.
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Purnell, James
Timms, Mr.
Touhig, Mr.
Turner, Mr. Andrew.

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