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Lord Howie of Troon: Like my noble friend Lord Peston, I follow the rituals of the House, but with one difference. I make the same speeches regardless of which side I am sitting on and, unfortunately, frequently in the same words, which is rather a pity.
This is a very important debate because we are not only dealing with the council as a council but with the definition of teaching as profession. If the council is set up in such a way that the teaching profession is not self-regulating--and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Glenamara and with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, as regards the Privy Council--it is not a profession at all. The word "profession" becomes debased if it is used in that loose way: it becomes a mere occupation.
It may be that my noble friend Lord Peston is right and that this is the first evolutionary step which will take the teaching profession away from being an occupation to becoming a true profession. But if it is to be a profession, the Secretary of State must not have this key role in it. He is no doubt important in terms of education as a whole, but he must not have this fundamental regulatory function as regards the profession. At some stage, which I hope is soon, the profession will become self-regulated and will then be on a par with the other professions in this country such as medicine, architecture, the law and even engineering, if I might mention it. I hope that we can get to the position we want very rapidly. I support the idea of the council, but I hope that it is the first step in a fairly quick march towards self-regulation and the establishment of teaching as a true profession.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is right. He is doubtless much better informed than I am that the Government do not want to go further at the moment because they do not feel that they can trust the teaching profession fully to involve itself in a general teaching council with powers such as those possessed by the council in Scotland. I spoke about this at Second Reading at some length.
I have to take the Government's word for it. I do not know what the situation is in England and Wales from experience, but I pointed out that the Scottish council is working quite well. There are some aspects that I would like to refer to as we continue our discussion.
As regards the noble Earl's amendment, he has an extremely important point. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I believe that as regards Clause 1(3) we are debating in a vacuum. We do not know how the
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, suggested and the noble Lord, Lord Howell, endorsed the point--it depends which side of the House one is sitting on as to what one says about it. But I would simply point out to them that perhaps when they have been sitting behind the Government for some time they will find that the best way to get change on this matter is to talk to them privately. That is what we used to do. Many of us felt strongly about this matter. I feel no different now, but I did not always go on about it in the House because I was told that the Government wanted to get on with the Bill and did not want to hold things up, so I consulted privately. The noble Lords may be doing that already, but it is a very effective way to proceed. I support this amendment in so far as I believe that the noble Earl is bringing out an extremely important point.
Lord Glenamara: I support the noble Earl. I am not going to follow him, but I agree entirely with what he said. I cannot recollect any Bill brought forward under the previous government--I am not one of their supporters--which relies so heavily on regulations as this one does. The reform legislation brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, when he was in the other place pointed out the governance of the institutions involved in the greatest detail. The minutiae was all there. I do not know why we cannot do that in this case, perhaps not to the same extent, but we could do something in that direction. This Bill, which in part deals with student loans, tells us nothing at all except that the Minister is going to make regulations. For the most part they will be subject only to the negative procedure in Parliament. I believe that is very unfortunate.
As regards this provision, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walton. The Privy Council is about the most undemocratic body in the country, but as an ex-Lord President I am very attached to it. It is a great safeguard of our freedoms in many ways. If one of the new universities wants to change its name or anything else, it has to get approval from the Privy Council. I do not know why the Privy Council could not have been brought in to this proposal. It would have given the teaching profession a bit of class and status. Instead, all we have is this dreary provision about the Secretary of State making regulations. In this part of the Bill he is making regulations about the form of the council, who should be on it, how many people are on it and all the rest. That is a matter for the teachers themselves.
The Secretary of State is going to be a great super-national nanny. The teaching profession should be trusted. One should trust the teachers. After all, four years ago the then government trusted the polytechnics to become universities and they were put in charge of their own affairs. If one body functioning in a town in Britain can be trusted to run its own affairs, then surely the teaching profession can.
For some years now, a body organised by the teachers themselves has been planning a general teaching council. I cannot imagine why the Government have not followed its model in the main, but there it is. I believe that we should have tried to follow that model which is very different from this proposal. I very much hope that the Minister will give us some reassurance on that point.
My only other point is that I certainly agree that the council should not be composed entirely of teachers. However, teachers must form the majority. We cannot pretend to be giving teachers regulatory power over their own profession if they do not have a majority on that body. Please can we be assured that the teachers will form the majority on the council?
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I, at least, am free from hostages to fortune in this debate. I must agree with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the regulations. I shall not refer to them generally but, in relation to this Bill, it is an enormous tragedy--the Government will regret it--that Ministers have decided to use regulations so extensively.
I say that because, as I said earlier, I support the evolutionary approach, but that approach is being taken against a profession of great sensitivity which has felt that in the past it has not been given all that it wanted. Had the Government issued more detailed regulations so that the teaching profession could have seen them, I am quite sure that it might have accepted the need for an interim period while the council worked out its procedures. One important element of setting up an executive with its support staff is the question of who will be secretary to the council. That is a crucial appointment. By not issuing detailed regulations now, the Government have made the tasks of that council much greater and have decreased the possibility of it being accepted.
I prefer an evolutionary approach because such a body is new to England. I emphasise that we are dealing with a profession which is completely different from those of the law and of medicine, in particular with regard to numbers. There are 460,000 teachers in England and the teaching profession covers a wide variety of people. One cannot simply set up such a body in this way. It is as though the Government were to set up a body for the medical profession to include also masses of ancillary health workers.
I support the delay, but I hope that we can return to this to put more flesh on the bones, otherwise the Government will be making a rod for their own back. However, it is for those reasons that I cannot support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. One is caught in a cleft stick. One does not
Baroness Blackstone: Perhaps I may begin by addressing the questions raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in moving the amendment. The noble Earl began by asking what could be done under the regulations if the Secretary of State chose to go to their outer limits. I cannot answer that question. It makes no sense to try to expose the outer limits of what may be done under any regulation-making power. That poses a quite impossible question. We could all start to fantasise about it--
Earl Russell: Whichever parliamentary draftsman drew up the words must have done so with a point in the words which sets limits to the powers. The Committee has a right to know what those limits are.
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