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Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 17:


Page 3, line 44, leave out ("two years") and insert ("one year").

The noble Lord said: In the new spirit of co-operation, and particularly after the strictures from the noble Baroness that I was somewhat too strident in my

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opposition at an earlier stage, can I give her an assurance that these amendments are purely probing amendments. I have no intention of dividing on them.

Put very briefly, as I understand it, the regulations under Section 3(2)(a) or (b) should be reviewed every two years. The simple question I wish to ask the noble Baroness is why she thinks that two years is the appropriate time and whether an annual review of these matters might not be more appropriate. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: The noble Lord, Lord Henley, may not like it when I suggest to him that I am very puzzled that he should be moving these amendments since they seem to be changing something that his own Government introduced when they were in power. It was the administration of which he was a member that provided for the regulations made under Section 480 of the Education Act 1996 to be reviewed at intervals of not more than every two years. It seemed a very sensible approach then, and I thought that by restating the provision I would avoid any objections from the Members opposite, but I appear to be wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, was accusing the Labour Party a little earlier of changing its mind. Perhaps I may say that the Conservative Party seems to be changing its mind on this occasion.

Previously amendments have in practice been made to the regulations on an annual basis essentially to uprate the parental contribution scale. Provided we think it is necessary to uprate the parental contribution scale, we shall do exactly the same; but I see no need to require annual reviews--that is, more frequent reviews than are already provided for in statute. I am told that these arrangements have worked perfectly well and I see no need to change them in the future.

Further, when the scheme begins to fade away, towards the end of this Parliament, it may not be necessary to review the regulations on an annual basis. The Bill allows exactly the same degree of flexibility as existed before we came to power. I have not heard compelling reasons why the same flexibility should not be available to this Government. I therefore ask the noble Lord not to press the amendment.

Lord Henley: I can give the noble Baroness an assurance that I shall not press the amendments. I was aware that it was our policy in the past. Sadly, we are not now in power. One of the great joys of Opposition is that one can occasionally ask questions of the Government. It is for the Government to answer. That is why I was grateful that the noble Baroness managed to give a reason. I am not sure that I would have done that; I would have stuck to the existing line, "That's what you used to do, so yah-boo, sucks!" I am grateful for the explanation.

As I said, they are purely probing amendments. I wished to know whether the Government are satisfied with what they are doing. The noble Baroness has given me exactly that assurance. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 not moved.]

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 20:


Page 4, line 7, leave out from ("to") to end of line 8 and insert ("approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: I put down the amendment originally in order to ask whether this matter should not be dealt with by means of affirmative rather than negative resolution. At that stage--the blame is entirely mine--I had not yet seen the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation.

Lord Campbell of Croy: I have it.

Lord Henley: I now have it. It quite clearly states--it is one of the reasons why the committee was originally set up--that these regulations are more appropriately dealt with by negative rather than affirmative resolution. For that reason, I do not need to press the noble Baroness further to justify why she believes that they should be dealt with by negative rather than affirmative resolution. The principal purpose of setting up that committee was that it should advise us on just that point should the House or Committee question what was appropriate.

I have now formally moved the amendment; I cannot say that I do not move it. However, I intend to withdraw the amendment. Whether the noble Baroness wishes to respond is entirely up to her; I do not expect it. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Croy: I wish to say a few words on this issue. First, I was one of the original members of the Select Committee on delegated powers when it was set up and I did my stint of two or three years on it. Secondly, if a change to the affirmative procedure were accepted, a similar change would have to be made for Scotland. Clause 5 does not contain an equivalent provision to Clause 3(8) which we are now considering. That is because the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, to be amended by Clause 5, already provides for the negative procedure for the relevant regulations.

I agree with my noble friend. The Select Committee has made its report and indicated that the negative procedure is appropriate. Therefore we do not need to make an amendment to the Bill on Clause 5.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Lord, Lord Henley, virtually invited the Government to respond in minimal terms. I have great pleasure in doing so. Although it is true that the affirmative resolution procedure existed for the later years of the assisted places schemes, a number of noble Lords have indicated that this was a chore from which they would gladly withdraw--even if, in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, there might be certain withdrawal symptoms. It is right to say that the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation thought that the negative resolution procedure was appropriate and I hope that the Committee will take the same view.

Lord Henley: All I can say is that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Construction of sections 1 to 3]:

[Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Phasing out of assisted places scheme in Scotland]:

[Amendments Nos. 22 to 27 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Campbell of Croy: I rise to speak to oppose the Motion that Clause 5 stand part of the Bill, having given notice of my intention to do so.

Some time ago I rearranged my travel to Scotland for tonight because I suspected that this would be the last debate in Committee. During the debate I was summoned to the telephone an hour or two ago and informed by British Airways that even my flight on Sunday morning to my home in Inverness was cancelled. I pass that on for what it is worth; they describe it as the knock-on effect of the strike. I am glad to be here.

Towards the end of the debate on the first group of amendments the noble Lord, Lord Peston, described the amendments as having been hijacked by the Scots. I think that I was supposed to be responsible for that. I must point out that four of those amendments were to Clause 5, which deals with Scotland. The grouping followed the normal practice in this House to enable a debate to take place on a common subject and avoid a second, repetitive debate, which would have occupied time at this late hour.

We can now consider Clause 5 as a whole. It covers no less than two pages of the Bill. This will be the last debate at Committee stage, I hope. The clause dealing with Scotland is, of course, drafted in a different style from the rest of the Bill. Members will no doubt recognise--having spent nearly 40 years in the Houses of Parliament, I certainly do--that the Scottish draftsmen incline towards amending and inserting new chunks into existing statutes. That style has been adopted here. In this case the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 is the statute.

The assisted places scheme in Scotland is broadly similar to the scheme in England and Wales. One difference is that in Scotland each school has a maximum allocation of money annually whereas in England and Wales there is a maximum number of places. I am glad to say that both north and south of the Border the parental contribution scale is the same.

I feel obliged, with some sadness, to speak on this clause because I was involved in formulating the Scottish scheme from 1976 to 1978 when I was chairman of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools. I pointed out in the debate on Amendments Nos. 1 and 22 the strong reasons for the postponement of these proposals for Scotland. The amendments we were then discussing were to change the years prescribed in the Bill. The reasons I put forward then are also reasons for taking Clause 5 out of the Bill for

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further consultation and consideration. I do not propose to press the matter, as Members of the Committee will understand. Perhaps another Scottish Bill could be introduced later if the Government adhere to their intentions.

Following the Scottish Office press conference on Monday last--held at the same time as the publication of the White Paper for England and Wales--the media indicated that there would be no equivalent White Paper for Scotland. There was an admission by the Scottish Minister that not enough money could be raised to carry out the commitment to reduce class sizes in Scottish schools, and that raises another point.

Today the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, indicated that the shortfall in Scotland would be made up by pooling the money raised in England and Wales. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, here and I am sorry to keep him so late in the evening. I am sure he will recognise that debating these two pages on Scotland is extremely important. Perhaps he can confirm and tell us a little more about the pooling of the money to be raised both north and south of the Border.

Education in Scotland is not administered by the Department for Education and Employment, but by the Scottish Office, and has been for many years. Administration methods are different. For example, the national curriculum does not apply to Scotland. I am conscious that other matters are different also but I know about the curriculum because I was making preparations for the Scottish curriculum as long as 25 years ago when I was Secretary of State for Scotland. There are other differences such as the fact that the Office for Standards in Education--Ofsted--does not have a writ in Scotland, nor does the Chief Inspector of Schools; Scotland has its own chief inspector. So far as I know, Sir Ron Dearing has never been given any brief for Scotland and the teachers' unions are quite different. The EIS--the Educational Institute of Scotland--as the noble Lord will know, is the main teaching union for Scotland, and the NUT--the National Union of Teachers--does not operate north of the Border.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, can clarify, first, whether a White Paper for Scotland equivalent to the one published on Monday, the 7th, for England and Wales, will eventually be issued. That would be contrary to the reports in the press following last Monday's press conference. Secondly, can he confirm that the money raised in England and Wales will be used to help to reduce class sizes in Scotland? Thirdly, can he give an assurance that Scotland in general will not be treated in terms of education as the poor relation or the lame duck?

9.30 p.m.

Lord Henley: Perhaps I can add a word or two in support of my noble friend. He raises some serious Scottish questions and points that need to be answered. I am grateful to the noble Baroness that her colleague the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, is here to answer those questions.

I speak not as a Scot, as does my noble friend. I may live north of Hadrian's Wall, but I should point out to the Chamber that there are probably around 1 million people

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living north of the wall but who live firmly in England; I am one of those. Having said that, there are some serious Scottish questions which need to be answered.

My noble friend mentioned the remarks of the noble Lord's honourable friend Mr. Brian Wilson who was reported in the Scotsman as saying that the abolition of assisted places would not necessarily raise enough money to do what they wanted to do in Scotland. That was partially addressed by the noble Baroness on an earlier occasion.

Other questions arise, particularly technical questions. As a non-Scot, I do not fully understand them. There is the subtle problem of the primary seven and primary six children. I see a look of recognition on the face of the noble Lord and I am sure that he is ready to answer that question. We need an answer. I know that my noble friend Lord Campbell requires an answer and we look forward with bated breath to hearing what the noble Lord has to say on this, the last part of the Committee stage of this Bill.


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