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Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I do not want to go into the argument about the Government's aspiration to reintroduce secondary-modern education in every town and city in the United Kingdom. It seems to me from the Statement that that is the Government's aspiration. Perhaps I may touch on something the Statement says rather more specifically which gives me cause for concern because of relatively recent experience in the city of Manchester. As I heard it, the Statement suggested that all grant-maintained schools could select up to 50 per cent. of their intake.

One of the things most of us experienced at school was an esprit de corps, a feeling that our school was different from other schools. That brought us together. Our experience in Manchester as a result of a reorganisation which was interfered with by the then Secretary of State for Education, who later became Lord Joseph, resulted in three schools being singled out to stay as they were and not be part of the rest of the reorganisation that we were undertaking. One of those schools was a boys' school which was singled out by the Secretary of State for Education as a school of proven worth. It had been a grammar school and had become a comprehensive school.

In the immediate following years the intake of the school assumed two distinct profiles. One was from parents who aspired to an academic education for their sons who came from all over the city. The other was for a local school serving the local community. So within that school there were two separate and distinct communities of scholars. It is very sad to relate that that splitting of the school into two distinct communities within the one school resulted in conflict. It actually resulted in the death of a pupil who was knifed by another pupil.

That is a kind of experience that is relatively recent. It should be within the ken of this Government to gain some clue as to what might happen if they pursue this path of effectively allowing grant-maintained schools to have two separate communities within them. I ask the Government to think again on this particular element as it will be so divisive within the schools themselves.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am certainly not going to follow the noble Lord in attributing the tragic death of a pupil at a school to the policies of Her Majesty's Government or to some such other cause. That would be over-simplistic and it is not the way to look at things.

The noble Lord is right to say that we put forward as one of our proposals the fact that grant-maintained schools have a policy for the selection of up to 50 per cent. of their pupils without coming to the Secretary of State. As it is, at the moment there are a number of grant-maintained schools which are selective and as the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, reminded the House somewhat gleefully, there are not very many. But there are some and the provision can be made by going to the Secretary of State.

All we are saying is that obviously that can be done in the future. If the schools desire to make statutory proposals of that sort they can be made to the Secretary of

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State. But there should be further freedoms to develop the schools without coming to the Secretary of State. We believe that one of those freedoms should be the right to select, by whatever is considered the appropriate means--and I emphasised that that does not mean necessarily returning to the 11-plus--up to 50 per cent. of pupils by ability or aptitude. The same applies to the technology and language colleges. For some reason that is welcomed by the party opposite despite its hatred of choice and diversity. The schools should be able to select by aptitude or ability some 30 per cent. of their pupils in particular subjects. We make no bones about it. It is a matter for the schools themselves whether to pursue that particular line.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may point out that he keeps referring to the hatred of choice and diversity on this side of the House. Will he explain to me how my choice as a parent is extended if my local school changes its nature from being a comprehensive to a selective school on grounds of academic ability and I enter my child for that school and the child fails the entrance exam? I fail to see how that extends my choice as a parent.

If my child were able enough to go to that sort of school, but in a system where there were schools for the academically able and the less able, I fail to see how my choice to have my child educated with a range of abilities among the children in the community will be enhanced. It is not a question of simple hatred of choice but the fact that these issues are very complicated and that there is a history in the selection process in this country as regards education that has been a millstone around this nation's neck. It is that more than the comprehensive system which has created the problems that we have today. The choice we want concerns quality schools for all our children.

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to say that this is a very complicated issue. It is the party opposite which is trying to reduce it to a simple matter of putting us back into the position of the old grammar school--secondary modern divide. We are not doing that. We are trying to extend the diversity and range of schools. The party opposite desires a comprehensive system of a sort that will offer no choice whatever. We reject that. We believe that the noble Baroness's choice is being extended.

Housing Bill

5.25 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 172.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 266:

Page 100, line 2, after ("that") insert ("suitable").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 266B. Its purpose is to ensure that, when a local authority has a duty to secure accommodation which is available for a person who is homeless and in priority need, the accommodation shall be suitable for occupation by the applicant. Under this clause, a local authority has a duty towards people who are homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and

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not intentionally homeless. That duty can be met by the local authority securing accommodation that is available for occupation by the applicant.

However, there is no mention in the clause of the accommodation having to be suitable for the individual requirements of the applicant. For disabled people it is particularly important that any accommodation should be suitable for their needs because of their disability. There are certain areas in which suitability for the individual disabled person is vital. The first of these is access. Any offer of accommodation must be accessible. The requirement for access and the level of accessibility will depend on the needs of the disabled individual. However, that individual must be able to get into the property independently, move around the dwelling and use the facilities of the main rooms to include the living room, bedroom, kitchen, lavatory and bathroom.

The next requirement is safety. The property must be safe for the person. Again, the requirements will depend on the needs of the individual disabled person. The basic requirements would be to have adequate arrangements in case of fire or evacuation, safe access to facilities and adequate circulation space and, if necessary, lighting. Any safety features such as locks will also need to be suitable for use by a disabled person.

The next factors which have to be taken into account are facilities and care arrangements. Many disabled people need access to facilities such as particular schools, day centres or work. Arrangements to attend these can take a considerable time. It is important that such arrangements are maintained. For example, if a disabled child is attending a particular school it is essential that he should be able to continue attending that school if he wishes. Therefore, any housing should be in an area which will allow the child to continue attending the school straightforwardly. The same concerns are important for the care arrangements which should not have to be rearranged. Making such arrangements can be difficult and disruptive to the family.

There are other issues which many non-disabled people take for granted when considering whether housing is suitable; for example, transport. That is something that many people never consider when looking at housing. Many disabled people who cannot use public transport have to use a private car. Parking near their home is not only necessary: it is essential. Arranging a disabled parking bay can take several months and it is necessary if there are parking restrictions in the area. Therefore, the availability of parking for disabled people who cannot use public transport, but who are orange badge holders, should be considered when looking at the suitability of housing.

Any accommodation offered or secured by local authorities, whether it be permanent or temporary, must be suitable for the needs of the household or the individual it is being offered to. As I have already said, it is particularly important that disabled people, who often have specific requirements, should have suitable housing in terms of access, safety, facilities and care arrangements. The intention of this amendment is to

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ensure that the accommodation secured for homeless people is suitable for those who are disabled and in priority need. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth): As this amendment stands in my name also, perhaps I may briefly add some words of support. As the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, has already explained it clearly and comprehensively, I shall not bore the Committee by repeating some of the physical, psychological and social effects that non-suitable housing can have on a disabled person and, indeed, a whole family. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to the amendment.

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