|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Walton of Detchant: I share some of the anxieties expressed so clearly by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, relating to the unfettered powers of the Secretary of State in relation to this Bill. I speak with the experience of having spent 18 years on the General
As the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said, one of the anxieties about the Bill as at present drafted relates to the fact that so much will be left to be covered by regulations, which are not dealt with specifically on the face of the Bill. At Second Reading I posed a question which I wish to pose again today. The other regulatory authorities concerned with professional self-regulation in the UK--medicine, dentistry, nursing, midwifery and, more recently, osteopathy and chiropractic--are answerable not directly to a Secretary of State but to the Privy Council. That has always been regarded as a cherished position which the professions in question have held on to if only because they have felt that their regulation would no longer be subject to the political whim of a Secretary of State or of a particular political party. It would be interesting to know why, in the instance of this profession, self-regulation by the Privy Council, with the constitution and other rules being made by Order in Council, has not been followed.
But it does not say that the Secretary of State is required to accept that advice. Equally, with regard to other issues such as the possibility of erasing teachers' names from the register of teachers where the persons concerned "have ceased to be eligible for registration" or "have failed to pay any such fee, or otherwise", the Bill leaves so much to be dealt with by regulation. For this reason, while I have not put down any amendments at this stage, I would be interested to have the Minister's advice as to why the council has not been given much more in the way of teeth and why the Secretary of State, and not the Privy Council, is to be responsible for making regulations.
Lord Tope: Perhaps I may speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 17 and 18, which have been grouped with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Russell. My amendments relate to Schedule 1 to the Bill and specifically to paragraph 3, which deals with the chairman and members of the council. In part my concern has been echoed by the two previous speakers about the words "regulations may", but also--and perhaps more so--about the point we were discussing earlier. I refer to the independence of the general teaching council. If it is to be seen as an independent body, the Government must learn to trust it, although sometimes it may be uncomfortable to do so. Part of that--I have put down amendments which reflect the same point--is trusting it to make its own rules and regulations, to elect its own chairman and to determine his period of office, and so on. In other words, it should be a trusted, professional and responsible body which is able also to regulate its own affairs and not be subject to prescription from the Secretary of State. That is the purpose of the
Lord Peston: One reason why I am so enamoured of your Lordships' House is that we have certain rituals. One of the rituals is that when you are on the other side of the House, where I spent a great many years--too many years--you always complain about regulations. It is a standard thing. You get up and say of every Bill, "Too much is in regulations". I made goodness knows how many such speeches. If there is some catastrophe and I end up on the Benches opposite again, which I do not expect to happen in my lifetime, I am sure I will make exactly the same speech.
I look forward with great interest to my noble friend's reply but I think I can guess precisely what it will be. It will be a fair copy of the kind of reply the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, used to give. That does not get away from the substantial matter that this is still an interesting topic, particularly if we were in a more philosophical mood. But we are not. We have a Bill before us and we have to consider it as it is.
Baroness Blatch: The noble Lord, Lord Peston, is my old sparring partner. I am grateful to him for giving way. There is a difference. It is that the whole Bill is a Henry VIII Bill. In fact the whole of the Education (Schools) Bill is a Henry VIII Bill. It is the volume of Henry VIII legislation which most concerns us. I remember the noble Lord's colleagues bringing the House to a halt because I had not produced, on behalf of the government, the draft legislation so that when the House came to discuss Henry VIII clauses it would be aware of what was going to be in the Bill. We have had a plethora of background papers in the past day or two but we still do not know what the shape of this body will be. We shall be passing the powers to set it up but we do not know what the shape of the body will be.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, has made an important point. There is a fundamental question to be decided. But I do not think we will be able to decide it because the Government have set their face against a body with powers. They have decided that it is to be an advisory body, and that, presumably, is what will go through. However, there should be a debate about the nature of this body and whether it should have powers and teeth. We should be dealing with those powers in detail on the Floor of the House in this debate. Sadly, we are having a debate in a vacuum. There is a difference between the fun we had when I was sitting on the Government Front Bench and what is proposed in the Bill.
Lord Peston: I thank the noble Baroness. She confirms my point about the ritual and related matters. I would make exactly the same speech she has just made if I were sitting opposite. However, I do not believe we are debating in a vacuum. We are debating the substance. My noble friend Lord Glenamara has made some substantial points. He was not prevented from making them and the points at least are being made at this stage.
It so happens that I could be persuaded that certain provisions should be in the Bill. I am simply making the point that that is not the way we go. If I may refer to past history, I led for the Opposition on what I regarded as the most infamous Bill of all. I refer to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill. I thought it was a constitutional monstrosity, but I was soundly defeated on that.
I see the first amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, as nullifying the Bill. If subsection (3) of Clause 1 is deleted, no council will be set up at all. He cannot mean his amendment to be accepted. He is putting it forward in order to debate the question of regulations generally. As the Bill stands, with no further amendment, if the council cannot be set up by regulation, it cannot be set up at all. I am sure the noble Earl does not want that to happen. I am not sure which of my noble friends is to reply but I look forward to hearing what the Government have to say.
Perhaps I may raise a point which I was going to raise on the next amendment. I refer to the role of the Privy Council. I was going to inquire whether it would be appropriate for the council to be set up by the Secretary of State or whether, following other examples, it should be a Privy Council matter. I should be quite happy to see that point replied to now rather than in a few moments.
The last point I would like to make--again, I welcome my noble friend's reply--is that I regard this as the first stage in setting up the teaching council. Someone else has used the word "evolutionary". I believe it may even have been the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, from the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that my noble friend will confirm that this is an evolutionary matter. We are not setting it up once and for all but in order to get the matter started and to gain experience. I believe that we are setting it up partly in order that the teachers themselves can gain experience in becoming self-regulating as a profession. Again, I had not read the Bill--it may be that I have misunderstood--as saying that in due course the general teaching council will not evolve to do many more things on an obviously self-regulatory, professional basis. So I am less pessimistic than one or two others about this.
I said also at Second Reading that my view is that this provision gets us started with something that is dear to our hearts. There is more that I would like, and once this provision has been achieved, it may well be that I and my noble friends will ask to have other matters added as the basis of experience. I am not pessimistic. I do not believe that Members of the Committee should attack the Bill because it is not yet doing everything that deep in our hearts we want to see happen.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley: I join in supporting this group of amendments because at the moment I believe that the Bill, as it is drafted, has gone too far in the direction of relying solely on regulation. I well remember in the past 10 years, when the present Government were on the other side, that they joined with the rest of us who worried in particular about the excessive powers being given to the Secretary of State. I remember at the time of the Bill in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, there were 200 to 300 extra powers being bandied around as accruing to the
The noble Lord said that this provision is going to be evolutionary. I understand that. But do we take it from that that there will be another Bill following on to extend it, or how else will it happen?
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page