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The Earl of Lindsay: The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, wondered whether there should be any repeal of social security legislation. I am advised that is not the case. If between now and Report stage he feels that there are technical requirements for such a repeal, I would suggest we discuss it prior to Report stage in case technical explanations are needed.

My noble friend Lady Carnegy raised three points, the first of which was the definition of a civil servant and the second, whether paragraph (b) of the amendment is soundly drafted. My draftsmen assure me that it is sound drafting. I am also advised that the definition of a civil servant is an employee of a central government department. The formulation in Clause 26 is modelled on the Social Security Administration Act, therefore it is well precedented.

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On the point my noble friend raised about the extension of the clause to incorporate the whole of the United Kingdom, one of the principal reasons is so that the offence, for instance, of unlawful disclosure of information can be applied to a civil servant anywhere in the United Kingdom.

I would just add for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, that the effect of the amendments is to permit for this particular purpose the disclosure of information which would be prohibited by social security legislation. To repeal any of the general social security legislation would go far wider than is necessary. I hope that may be helpful.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: Anyone who has been in the other place and has represented a constituency will know that Members of Parliament spend a fairly large part of their lives in contact with the social security offices. I have a high respect for those offices. This, however, is a slightly different issue from most of them--this is more in the education field. I hope that steps will be taken to emphasise, through the area managers, just how delicate this matter is, not just to the family but particularly to the young student or the young child who is going to school. It is vital for the self-respect of people that there is total confidentiality.

Lord Sewel: I wish to reinforce that point. It extends to those non-civil servants who are charged with the administration of the scheme. Real care has to be taken to make clear to these people, who perhaps are not aware of the public service to the extent that civil servants are, that they have a very strong duty not to reveal anything of a highly sensitive nature at all and that great penalties will properly fall upon them if they do.

The Earl of Lindsay: I agree with the points made by both the noble Lords. The sensitivity of much of the information held by the Department of Social Security is such that we are determined that robust measures should be in place to prosecute any unlawful disclosure of that information. The only information to be released from the child benefit database will be parental names and parental addresses. Members of the Committee may be aware of the strict confidence in which the Department of Social Security holds the very sensitive information which it receives on the personal financial circumstances of members of the public. That point was well made by both the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and the noble Lord, Lord Sewel.

It is incidental to the voucher system, but it requires access to some peripheral and uncontentious parts of that vast database--essentially the names and addresses of pre-school year children. Yet rightly, every detail of social security information is protected by stringent statutory provisions. This clause is designed to allow access to the information required for the voucher system, and only such information, while still retaining all the necessary controls over the use of personal information. We agree with the emphasis that both noble Lords have placed on the importance of providing that protection.

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4 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I wish to comment on the effect of these amendments on one another. Does Amendment No. 46 alter the meaning of paragraphs (a) and (b) of Amendment No. 33?

The Earl of Lindsay: It does not affect the meaning.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 12, line 15, leave out from ("person") to end of line 16 and insert ("which he acquired while acting as a person to whom this section applies.").

The noble Earl said: I have just spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 13, line 16, leave out subsection (8).

The noble Earl said: I spoke to Amendment No. 35 when moving Amendment No. 33. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 26, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: There is no need to repeat myself. I merely give notice, yet again, that we shall return to this matter on Report when we shall take the opportunity to pursue it further.

Clause 26, as amended, agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 27 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My previous comments apply also to Clause 27.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clauses 28 and 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [School Boards: conflict of interest]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 17, line 13, after ("theirs") insert ("or any appointment committee").

The noble Lord said: This is a small amendment but it is quite important. It seeks to address a conflict of interest which might arise when school board members are acting as members of a local authority or a sub-committee, for instance, and an appointment committee. We are trying to show that a conflict of interest may arise as regards the appointment of similar staff, which is an important part of the school board's functions. Members of the board should be required to declare an interest if, for example, they are teachers who work or have recently worked, in the same school as one of the applicants. In such circumstances, that applicant may or may not have a marginal advantage over the others. However, members of the board should be required to declare an interest. It is a very simple amendment which improves the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: This is a very sensible amendment which would improve the Bill. I believe that such

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amendments, and indeed the provisions in Parts III and IV of the Bill, are far more appropriate to today's procedure than were the provisions in Part II. Less direct political conflict is involved and we can achieve a greater consensus as a result of our discussions.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, whether he is referring to appointment committees not of the school boards but of the local authorities in respect of posts in the school to which the board relates? Is that what he is talking about, or is he talking about appointment committees within the school board?

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I was not aware that school boards made appointments of this nature and therefore I assume that they would be local authority appointments. I have a feeling that the Minister is in sympathy with the amendment and, whatever changes he makes, he empathises with what I am trying to do. A member of a selection committee who has strong interests in a candidate must be required to make that clear and, if possible, should not become involved in the selection process.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, is saying. If the amendment is referring to an appointment committee of a local authority that should be stated. If it says "any appointment committee" it could be something that had nothing to do with the matter, unless the drafting of the rest of the clause precludes that. I am slightly surprised by the noble Lord's reply. I am not quite certain what the implications are but I wonder whether the definition is clear enough.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I can see that there may be a problem of semantics here. Someone on the committee may have nothing to do with normal appointments and know someone; one cannot stop that. Someone may be on the committee of a bowling club with one of the members. But we are speaking here on purely official levels. At whatever the level, it should be declared, but it would be up to the committee to decide whether a person should be sitting on a selection panel. There is a certain semantic argument here that I am sure that the Minister will have cleared up for all of us.

The Earl of Lindsay: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for moving the amendment, which he described as important and which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, described as sensible. Amendment No. 36 would extend the conflict of interest provisions set out in new Section 5A as inserted by Clause 30 to include an appointment committee set up under Schedule 2 to the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988. Where an education authority intends to appoint a head teacher, a deputy head teacher or an assistant head teacher to a school, Schedule 2 requires the authority to set up an appointment committee comprising nominees of the education authority and the school board, where there is one. For posts below head teacher, the appointment committee also includes the head teacher.

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Serving on an appointment committee is one of the most influential and important duties carried out by a school board member. In principle, therefore, we are sympathetic to the intention behind the amendment and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for bringing the matter forward. However, if I may beg patience from the noble Lord, I should like to take away the drafting that he has submitted to the Committee and bring forward a government amendment on Report.

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