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Lord Parry: I, too, am opposed to the amendment in principle and in detail. I need underline only one or two of the points made by my noble friend who does not sit on our Benches but who is nevertheless my noble friend from Wales. There has been some concern expressed here--some of it real and some of it imaginary--as to the level of disagreement that exists within my own party in Wales on this issue. I refer to a conversation that took place in this Chamber during the passage of the Wales Bill in the small hours of the morning when two noble Lords from Wales had clashed strongly over an issue. Presiding over us that evening was the former Lord Chancellor, the much missed Lord Elwyn-Jones. When the arguments had echoed and re-echoed through the Chamber he asked what one could usefully add except to quote another noble Lord from Wales, Lord Lloyd George of Dwyfor, who referred to the Welsh as a nation of quarrelsome nightingales. We in Wales argue about this issue, we conduct those arguments melodiously and in the end we shall win a victory.

The Earl of Onslow: Am I alone in being slightly suspicious that those who are in favour of devolution for Wales do not want this amendment?

Earl Russell: The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, made a rather powerful point about full impartiality. Full impartiality is something which we as party politicians are not particularly well equipped to achieve, however hard we try. We might do much better to leave this to the broadcasting authorities.

Lord Hardie: I dealt previously with the position of the broadcasting authorities and the obligations imposed upon them to reflect different viewpoints and to exercise proper care to ensure impartiality and balance in their programmes. This matter is best left to the broadcasters, as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, has said. The tradition has been for government not to interfere with the position of broadcasters. I urge the Committee not to take a different approach. Should the broadcasters fall short of their obligations, they are subject to review by the courts. The courts will ensure that where broadcasters step over the line they are brought back into line as happened with the referendum in 1979 and as happened more recently when a "Panorama" programme featuring the former Prime Minister was not shown in Scotland because the BBC had overstepped the mark.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I invite the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate to address himself for a few minutes to the question of party political broadcasts during the referendum campaign.

Lord Hardie: This has already been dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas.

Noble Lords: He is not the Government!

Lord Hardie: The noble Lord may not be a member of the Government but I do not wish to delay the Committee

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on this matter. Party political broadcasts are a matter for broadcasters to determine at the end of the day. In considering whether they are observing due impartiality they will have to have regard to whether any party political broadcast ought to be allowed. This matter was addressed in the case of Wilson v. The IBC in 1979.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is well taken. As there may be more parties in favour of a yes vote than there are against it, it would not be appropriate to allocate broadcasting time on a party political basis. That was the decision in Wilson. However, it would not be inappropriate for the broadcasting authorities to allow party political broadcasting, assuming that the time allocated to those in favour of a Scottish parliament is in balance with the time allocated to those who are against a Scottish parliament. The question of balance is ultimately a matter for the broadcasters to achieve. It is not for the Government or for me to provide answers to the interesting questions raised by the noble Lord as to how time should be allocated as between those who vote yes, yes; those who vote yes, no; those who vote no, no; and those who vote no, yes. Ultimately the broadcasters must determine that issue and ensure that they observe the code which is imposed upon them. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We have had an interesting and short debate. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, thought that the amendment was unnecessary. As I listened to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, it seemed to me that the amendment was becoming increasingly necessary and my confusion increased. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, for confusing me with a Government Minister. Perhaps he did so because I explain the situation rather more clearly than do Government Ministers, but no doubt they will learn! The noble Lord said that the Representation of the People Act contained measures on elections and broadcasting. That is absolutely right. Am I not right in thinking that the section in the 1993 Act referring to broadcasting is not carried into the draft orders? I refer to that Act from memory. As I am not absolutely sure that I have the correct reference I do not require an answer today, but we do need an answer at some stage. When I read the relevant part of the Act I recall that I understood that that was the case because the matter is based on candidates for election and the balance between candidates and parties.

We all know that one is not allowed to appear on television wearing one's constituency label while one is a candidate during an election period. However, I believe that we therefore need some legislation to govern broadcasting during referendums. At the risk of harking back to the previous debate, this matter perhaps underlines the need for a general referendums Act to address these points.

I do not know who cancelled the party political broadcasts in 1979 but I am assured that they were cancelled. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, is indicating to me that the broadcasting authorities cancelled them. I am happy that they have that power and I hope that they will cancel any such broadcasts

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on this occasion. I do not wish to be described as a quarrelsome nightingale. I shall leave that description to the Welsh in case the Committee wishes to describe quarrelsome Scots as birds other than nightingales!

This is an important amendment, not in terms of pressing it to a Division or incorporating it in the Bill, but because it allows us to explore the issue of broadcasting in this context. I think I welcomed the comment of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate that it would not be appropriate to allocate broadcasting time on a party political basis. If that is what he said, I welcome that comment because that was the point I was trying to establish; namely, that broadcasters ought to allocate time according to the sides in the argument--the proposition and the opposition sides of the argument. To that extent I am grateful.

However, this is an important point. As I said in introducing this short debate, broadcasting--television and radio--will be very important in these referendums and will be increasingly important in all future referendums. I therefore believe that we must have the rules on broadcasting very clearly laid down. While I shall withdraw the amendment, I shall read with some care what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate said and may return to the issue at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I beg leave to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

School Standards White Paper

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on the Government's proposals in the White Paper Excellence in Schools which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. The Statement is as follows:

    "The Prime Minister has made it clear that education is the number one priority of this Government. This consultation document and the Budget announcement of an almost £2.5 billion increase in revenue and capital investment in education demonstrates that commitment and our priority. We will publish a separate consultation paper on special educational needs.

    "Our proposals focus clearly on the central task of raising standards. We are establishing a new partnership for schools: a new partnership with teachers and the profession. Self-improvement is at the core of success. Schools must take responsibility for accepting that challenge. Good schools will flourish. Under our proposals we will offer increased

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    support through the new standards and effectiveness unit to those schools in need of improvement. We will build on best practice from around the world.

    "We have set up the standards task force to spearhead our crusade to raise standards throughout the education service.

    "The new role for local education authorities will reflect our priorities by focusing on raising standards and not controlling schools. Intervention by LEAs will be in inverse proportion to success.

    "All schools and education authorities will establish challenging targets as part of their development plans on which they will be judged. What we propose today will make a difference for everyone involved in the education of our children--parents, teachers and non-teaching staff, governors and the wider community. Our early years plans will lay the ground work, but to provide a firm foundation the best teaching methods must be available in every classroom in the land. Our national literacy and numeracy strategy will ensure that all primary teachers are trained to use the most effective teaching methods. There will be a structured hour devoted each day to both literacy and numeracy in all primary schools.

    "Parents are a child's first teacher. They deserve better information and advice in order to increase their involvement in their own child's learning. Home-school agreements will set out rights and responsibilities for home and school. They will explain clearly what is expected of the school, the parent and the pupil. Such agreements will make clear the need for regular and punctual attendance, for good discipline and for the vital role which homework can play in supporting learning in and out of school.

    "Parent participation in the life of the school is also vital. Additional parent governors will be complemented by their direct representation on the education committee of their local authority.

    "We are offering a new deal for teachers; a new partnership between government and all those involved in education. This Government value teachers and will celebrate good practice. We will introduce a general teaching council, develop advanced-skills teacher posts and provide comprehensive in-service training. There will be a new curriculum for initial teacher training, focusing on literacy and numeracy. A probationary year for all newly qualified teachers will continue their professional development. We will introduce scholarships for the most outstanding teachers, encouraging them to spend a term sharing their knowledge and skills with others. A new awards scheme will recognise the success of individual schools.

    "This Government recognise that strong and committed leadership at every level is crucial. The role of the headteacher is critical to the success of the school. We will therefore strengthen headship by introducing a mandatory qualification for all

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    newly appointed heads. We will introduce a national training scheme for all existing heads and overhaul the appraisal process for both heads and teachers.

    "Last week I set out to the House how we will give young people hope through a new deal for under 25s. Today's White Paper outlines a new approach in order to support areas of greatest disadvantage. Education action zones will draw together a range of initiatives in a partnership approach to raising standards. We will develop the specialist schools programme so that their innovative approach to teaching and learning can benefit the wider family of schools in their area.

    "The proposals I am laying out today will make failure less likely. But we know that problems still exist. Where teachers, schools or LEAs are failing we will take decisive action. Children do not get a second chance in school. This White Paper is a vital step in our crusade to raise standards and offer opportunity to all of them. Expectations and aspirations must be raised if we are to succeed. Fair funding, fair admissions and co-operation will reunite the education service. It is time to set aside the cynicism and the culture of complacency. This is a can-do government working with a can-do service. Our children are our future. We owe it to them to give them the best possible start in life.

    "There is no more important task today than putting good intentions into practice. This Government will do just that".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.37 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, there is much in this Statement that we welcome. In particular, I should like to underline the massive change of philosophy which the White Paper exemplifies. It is a philosophy in many parts that I have advocated most of my educational life. Perhaps I can point to the issues in the paper which we on this side of the House find very encouraging and contrast them with what the present Government said in the past.

On page 7:

    "Schools setting pupils according to ability and further development of innovative approaches to pupil grouping".

On page 11:

    "The pursuit of excellence was too often equated with elitism. It was right in the 1980s to introduce the National Curriculum--albeit that it was 20 or 30 years too late."

Who was in power in the 1960s?

    "It was right to set up more effective management systems; to develop a more effective inspection system; and to provide more systematic information to parents".

That is very encouraging. It was the policy of the previous government and was attacked by those on the Benches opposite. But I am not criticising. There is more joy in heaven over a sinner that repenteth than over anything else.

I am delighted to see on page 31 Ofsted given such a favourable welcome. Even in my short time in this

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House Ofsted has seemed at times like an invention of the devil. But this repentance is total and complete:

    "We are firmly committed to regular inspection of all schools by OFSTED".

All that is delightful to those of us on this side of the House. An educational philosophy has undergone a certain change. But, as we all know, the devil is in the detail. The problem that the Government will face is the ideology that they are tentatively abandoning and replacing with setting by ability and changes in teacher training colleges in the way of teaching literacy and numeracy are deeply embedded in the education system. I have doubts whether the methods that they will use to transform the education system in a way that I welcome will be adequate. I am also worried that they may require many layers of bureaucracy. For example, the White Paper says on page 27:

    "The LEA's task is to challenge schools to raise standards continuously and to apply pressure where they do not. That role is not one of control".

I recognise that. The fact is that in many parts of the country the LEAs have failed to do that. The Government will require those LEAs to insist on setting by ability and new methods of teaching literacy and numeracy. The question I put to the Minister is: does she rely on them doing it?

On page 28 the Government give details of what they will do if the LEAs do not do so:

    "a discussion with the chair of governors and the headteacher, including an offer of help ... a formal warning, requesting a plan of action from the school ... OFSTED to inspect the school".

That is very heavy bureaucracy, especially against a profession which is very reluctant to respond to outside pressure. Will the LEAs do it? That is my first question.

Secondly, the Government say that they are more interested in standards and that they matter more than structure. I take that directly from the report.

As I have often said in the House, I am worried about the English education system providing adequate specialised teaching post-16. The White Paper pays attention to specialist schools; but in no sense--it is possible that the noble Baroness will say that she will come back to the House some months from now to reply to this point--does it give attention to the Dearing Report on post-16 education and on the structures of education that Dearing will require. I should have liked, for example, to have seen the White Paper declare that, in the efforts to improve standards and skills, concentration would be on a better vocational examination, with better vocational technological provision than is at present provided.

The Government say that they will have a new comprehensive system. Does the new comprehensive system still require post-16 schools to cover the whole range of education? They pay respect to France and Germany early in the report, which they say were much better than us historically. Are they prepared to learn a little more from them?

I am also worried about whether the ideals will translate into reality. The proposals for admissions could mean that children will not get to the school that they

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want. They begin, as does the whole of the report, with a delightful ideal. It is the kind of report which says that one must not kick little kittens.

The Government say that they want as many parents as possible to send their children to their preferred school. But--here comes the devil in the detail--

    "where demand exceeds supply and one school is more popular than another, some parents will be disappointed".

There is talk about the Audit Commission drawing attention to the level of unfilled school places: 800,000. Most of those 800,000 are in schools which parents do not want their children to attend. Will the Government force people to do so? They say how they intend to do it:

    "We will therefore expect to see the development of local forums of head teachers and governors from community, aided and foundation schools, to share information about their schools' admissions arrangements, with administrative support from LEAs".

It will be like a set of ferrets in a sack. Can your Lordships imagine the governors of a declining school advocating sending children to another school? That committee will not achieve choice. There will be problems. I shall be interested to hear what the noble Baroness says about that.

As your Lordships will expect--I shall not dwell on this matter because it will arise much more in other debates--I am concerned about foundation schools and the end of the grant-maintained schools. In effect, the Government have withdrawn their control of capital development. The foundation governors do not have a majority. Although it is true that there are only two LEA governors--I assume that the others are co-opted or parents--the grant-maintained schools will be emasculated.

On page 72 a nice compliment is paid to the independent schools. The noble Baroness can be assured that I shall not talk for too long about this point. The White Paper says that independent schools can give,

    "specialist teaching in subjects such as the less common foreign languages",

and certain other things. By the abolition of the assisted places scheme, the Government have stopped pupils from going to them to learn those languages.

This is a curate's egg. It is good in parts. I am delighted with the change of philosophy and interested to see how it will work out. I am worried, however, about the implementation of the proposals. There is a lot of local education authority power and a lot of old state bureaucracy, together with a bit too much rhetoric. "Can do" and "will do"--we shall see.

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