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Lord Waddington: My Lords, following the point made by the noble Baroness, while it is obviously the Government’s duty to keep the law up to date so that it affords proper protection, is it not also necessary to make it clear to girls that they have a responsibility not to put themselves unnecessarily at risk by excessive drinking?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have campaigns aimed at all young people on how to keep themselves safe. If I may respectfully suggest to the noble Lord, rape is never the fault of the woman who suffers it.

Baroness Gale: My Lords, first, I congratulate the Minister on her excellent work in bringing forward legislation in the field of all violence against women, especially on domestic violence. Most rapists in this country get away scot-free and are able to maintain their anonymity. There are an estimated 80,000 incidents of rape or attempted rape. What measures will be in the report to help women in bringing forward complaints of rape and to ensure that they will be given all the help, support, advice and aid that they need so that rapists pay the price for their terrible crime against women?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her compliments and assure her that we are working hard on this issue. The Government’s consultation dealt with four issues. First, does the law on capacity need to be changed? Secondly, should prosecutors be allowed to present expert evidence concerning the crime of rape in general? Thirdly, should evidence of complaint that is not recent be admitted? And, fourthly, should changes be made to the special measures provisions? All those issues may impact on our ability to accurately identify those who have perpetrated rape and bring them to justice. The results of that consultation will come soon and our work on sexual assault referral centres is making a helpful impact.

Iraq: Casualties

11.30 am

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, every civilian death is a tragedy and must be of concern in Iraq, as elsewhere. However, we continue to believe that there are no comprehensive or reliable figures for deaths since 2003. Estimates vary according to the method of collection. The figure of 655,000 given in the recent Lancet survey is significantly higher than other estimates, including those provided by the Iraqi Government. We believe that the Iraqi Government are best placed to monitor deaths among their own civilians.

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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. But rather than boasting as the American commander did at the beginning, “We don’t do body bags”, would it not have been better if the coalition authority had devoted more resources to trying to estimate civilian casualties? Is it not the case that 92 per cent of the respondents in the survey produced death certificates, and was not the methodology the same as that used by the United States in Kosovo? Whether the survey is wrong by 10, 20, 30, 50 or 60 per cent, is it not clear that this invasion has been a humanitarian disaster?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, there is no doubt that the survey has been done by a very reputable statistical team at Johns Hopkins University; I have no doubt about their abilities in that sense. What does disturb me a good deal is the extent to which this is a very high estimate compared with others in which the methodology is also regarded as really pretty good. For those reasons it is extremely difficult to arrive at a sensible conclusion. I believe that the Government of Iraq—assisted by the Medico-Legal Institute, which itself is assisted by the International Committee of the Red Cross—and the UN human rights officials who compile a report and are on the ground, still have a very effective operation. I would be loath to try to judge which set of figures is right or to believe that we could do a better job than those who are there.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the methodology of this study was unique in the way in which it was pursued? It is difficult to see how the Government can take the line, “The study was done in a way which is well known, and it was done very well, but we don’t think that it is worth very much”.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, that is not the view that I have put at all. I said that there are different methods which have arrived at very different figures and that those methods also are legitimate. The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern and merits considerable study rather than the denunciation of one method compared with another.

Lord Garden: My Lords, does the Minister accept at least the UN estimate that there has recently been a surge to 3,000 Iraqi deaths a month? What is the situation in the British sector—where on Tuesday 10 people were killed in a drive-by shooting in Basra, and on Wednesday the Maysan province police intelligence officer and his bodyguards were blown up? Is that also going down the drain?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, my impression is that geographical and regional variations suggest that the south is relatively less prone to the numbers of deaths occurring in some other areas, although the figures probably depend on how you define the areas. The figures from the Iraqi Government and the Medico-Legal Institute and the UN human rights figures are 3,000 a month, but the bases on which those figures are compiled also have methodological flaws.

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Lord Richard: My Lords, I am bound to say that my noble friend’s Answer disturbed me somewhat. Whether this is an accurate estimate or not, we do not know, but, with respect, it passes belief that the Government do not have their own estimate of the number of civilian casualties in Iraq. Therefore, I ask the Minister what that estimate is.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, there is no such estimate, and the reason for that is absolutely plain. This is a country where people are being killed by insurgents—terrorists—in a widely distributed way, and it is not easy for the United Kingdom to gain access right across the country. We are bound to rely to some extent on research methods employed either more generally or, as I have said we prefer, by the Government of Iraq, who are the one body with authority to deal with the issue right across Iraq.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, will the Minister accept, as I am sure he will, that, whatever the estimates and the precise figures, this is a continuing tragedy on a massive—indeed, an historic—scale? Has he noted reports that Mr James Baker and his Iraq Survey Group are about to propose to Washington a change of strategy to halt some of the endless bloodshed? Can he assure us that, if this is the new situation, the United Kingdom will be fully involved in any changes of direction and plan that are proposed in the Middle East by Washington, that the Secretary of State is consulting closely with Ms Rice in Washington and that we are not just going to be told afterwards what has been decided when the whole plan has changed?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I have absolutely no reason to think that the detail of exchange between ourselves and the United States on these issues will diminish at all. It will continue and there will be a serious and proper exchange between allies. It is unimaginable that there would be fundamental shifts in United States policy on Iraq where we were not consulted or put in a position to deal with matters in detail.

Business of the House: Recess Dates

Lord Grocott: My Lords, from time to time I get requests about Recess dates, and I can give the House some information now. To save biro time, the information is in the Printed Paper Office. I am able to give the dates until the February Recess next year, and after today I shall obviously give information as rapidly as I can beyond that.

The House will rise on Tuesday, 19 December and return on Monday, 8 January. For the February Recess, the House will rise on Thursday, 8 February and return on Monday, 19 February.

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Education and Inspections Bill

11.38 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

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

Clause 5 [School improvement partners]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 10:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 11. These two amendments deal with school improvement partners. We had a lengthy debate about this matter in Committee. During that debate, we established that, although appointments are nominally by the Secretary of State, local authorities will be responsible for appointing local school improvement partners to schools in their areas with the exceptions of academies, city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of the arts. A school improvement partner will be primarily accountable to the employing local authority. Accreditation will be through the National College for School Leadership, which will share with local authorities responsibility for the training and continuous professional development of school improvement partners.

We also established that school improvement partners will be expected to spend about five days a year working with the schools with which they are partnered, but typically a SIP may have three or four schools under its wings and therefore give an average of something like 19 days a year to the job. They would be paid by local authorities, which would no longer have to fund the link adviser. So the extra money that the Government are putting into the system—some £21 million—is on top of the £7 million already spent on link advisers by local education authorities. Therefore, the rate of pay is somewhat greater than the back-of-the-envelope calculation put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, which meant that they would get little more than school dinner ladies, £6.50 an hour—I think it goes up a little but not that much.

Nevertheless, doubts have remained about the funding of school improvement partners: how much will local authorities have to pay to encourage former head teachers out of the retirement bunker, and how could and should the possible conflicts between heads and school improvement partners be resolved? However, today's amendment does not address either of those concerns. Instead it addresses what in many respects is a minor issue about which the Minister spoke en passant in the previous debate; namely, the relationship between local authorities, academies, city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of the arts in relation to SIPS.

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In one of the amendments that we tabled in Committee, we suggested that local authorities should be responsible for appointing all school improvement partners including those to academies and city technology colleges. The Minister responded very firmly. In law, those are independent state schools and, therefore, we feel it would be inappropriate for local authorities to appoint their improvement partners. That is not to say that the external accountability of those publicly funded schools is any less important.

The two amendments that we have tabled today do not question the fact that the Secretary of State will appoint school improvement partners; however, we ask that the reports made by school improvement partners should be made available to local education authorities. At present, school improvement partners for academies, city technology colleges, and so forth, report only to the Secretary of State. We put this amendment forward on behalf of the LGA, which believes that if councils are to fulfil their proposed new strategic role, which includes ensuring the education potential of all children in their areas, that must include children attending academies and other centrally directed and funded schools.

The performance of those schools will be reflected in the education element of the local authorities’ annual performance assessments. If local authorities are genuinely to champion children's educational well-being, the school improvement partner reports for academies and city technology colleges should be copied to their authorities so that they can be challenged and assisted, as provision would be for any parent or child locally. The school improvement partner reports cover all the Every Child Matters outcomes, for which a local authority is responsible for delivering to parents and children. Lack of information about the performance and the needs of the academies could lead to inappropriate or inadequate conclusions being drawn about other neighbouring schools and the authority-wide improvement needs of the children.

This is a very modest amendment asking only that local education authorities should have a copy of the reports delivered by school improvement partners to the Secretary of State in their function as being answerable to the Secretary of State. I hope that the Minister will look sympathetically on it. I beg to move.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, as the noble Baroness has said, Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are wholly unnecessary for maintained schools. School improvement partners of those schools work under contract to the relevant local education authority and it is inconceivable for the contract not to provide for the sending of reports to the authority as client. Therefore, no specific statutory requirement is needed.

In respect of the other schools that Amendment No. 11 would class as relevant, academies, as the noble Baroness said, are accountable directly to the DfES for performance. Accordingly, their school improvement partners are contracted to the DfES, but because we are introducing the school improvement partners programme nationally, we regarded it as equally important

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that the programme should apply to academies too. School improvement partners of academies work in broadly the same way as those of maintained schools, share the same national support arrangements and are subject to the same national accreditation requirements.

Amendment No. 10 would introduce a statutory requirement into these non-statutory arrangements. It would require SIPs of all relevant schools to send copies of any reports they make to the relevant local education authority. The Government obviously want co-operation across each local authority area among schools of all types listed in Amendment No. 11, but statute is not necessary for this purpose. There is, for example, a local authority representative on the governing body of every academy, and that representation is specified in the academy’s articles of association. The local authority therefore has a means to secure those reports, even if they are not directly made available. The noble Baroness’s aims are therefore adequately secured.

11.45 am

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but it would be more satisfactory if there were a statutory responsibility. You could rely on the informal links through having a councillor sitting on the governing body of the academy or city technology college, but you would be relying on informal links. One would hope that, in these circumstances, the school improvement partner would see the local authority as one of the partnership groups to which it would naturally send the report.

This is an extremely modest amendment, merely asking that local authorities should have a chance to see these reports. I cannot see why the Minister is not prepared to concede the point. However, we will think about it and conceivably bring it back at Third Reading. I am not totally happy with the Minister’s answer—it is not satisfactory—but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Clause 7 [Invitation for proposals for establishment of new schools]:

[Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Proposals under section 7 relating to community or community special schools]:

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Publication of proposals with consent of Secretary of State]:

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Proposals for establishment or discontinuance of schools in England]:

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 17:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group of government amendments relates to minor school organisation matters and parent councils. I have written to noble Lords setting out their effect in detail.

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To summarise, Amendment No. 17 is a technical adjustment to the provisions in Schedule 2, to make clear that among the provisions of the Bill that may be modified by regulations providing for the promoter to be relieved of the duty to implement approved proposals are the provisions dealing with closing schools as well as those relating to opening them.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 remove the exemption for land which is defined as publicly funded under the provisions of Schedule 4. They avoid double jeopardy on this claim for proceeds of disposal by ensuring that these provisions have force only after the disposal provisions of Schedule 22 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, as amended by this Bill, have been applied.

Amendment No. 25 corrects an omission from the wording of the Bill. It provides that regulations made under Clause 24, affecting alterations to schools, may make provision corresponding to that made in regulations under paragraphs 21 to 31 of Schedule 2, as well as that made in Schedule 2 itself.

Amendment No. 34 is similarly technical. The Secretary of State has a power to modify trust deeds relating to foundation, voluntary and foundation special schools in connection with the operation of the provisions of the 1998, 2000 and 2002 Education Acts. This amendment gives the Secretary of State the same power in relation to the provisions of this Bill. Amendments Nos. 20, 35, 36 and 37 update the reference to “promoters” in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, to take account of the fact that provisions of that Act continue in Wales, but are replaced by the provisions of this Bill in England.

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