|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Monkswell: I hope I may make two points. I know that the Committee wishes to break for dinner but I shall be brief. First, both the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, referred to the dismissal of teachers. I am sure we understood that they meant the withdrawal of teachers' registration and their inability to teach thereafter because they would not be legitimate teachers. I hope that the record will show that that is what the Committee understands by that.
Secondly, we seem to be having a major debate about the difference between control and advice. We live in a monarchy. We are summoned here to give advice to Her Majesty. Ultimately, Her Majesty makes the decision whether to accept our advice. For the past 100 years the monarchy of this country has always accepted our advice, but it is still within her power not to do so. I hope that the advice the general teaching council will offer to the Secretary of State will over time be accepted
Baroness Blatch: The monarch will be perplexed when the Bill is presented for approval because it contains no detail. It does not state what will be the outcome. Therefore the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, is pertinent. The monarch will be asked to approve this skeletal Bill and the detail will follow after consultation which has not yet taken place. Indeed, the consultation to take place will not be on the basis of whether the body should have powers because that pass will have been sold by the passing of the Bill as it stands.
However, that was not the point I rose to make. I wish to give notice to the noble Baroness that I wish to place a question on the record. Perhaps the noble Baroness will write to me. I do not ask for an answer now.
The point is important with regard to any Bill which goes through this House. Perhaps the noble Baroness will tell us specifically on a clause by clause basis which parts of the Bill fall to the reserve matters for the Scottish parliament and those for the assembly for Wales when dealing with secondary legislation. It is important that we now have some detail as to which matters fall to the Westminster Parliament and which to the Scottish parliament and the assembly for Wales.
Baroness Blackstone: Perhaps I may answer that question straight away. I shall be very happy to write to the noble Baroness in particular in relation to Wales which is relevant here. I am not sure that Scotland is particularly relevant; it already has its GTC. As regards later parts of the Bill, I have no problem with that request.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that these were probing amendments. Therefore she will not be surprised to hear me say that I cannot support them. I shall probably also disappoint my noble friend Lord Glenamara despite his forceful plea that the Government should accept these amendments. I assume that they are intended to give the GTC full responsibility to decide whom to register and whom to deregister. This may seem an admirable aim and it is possible that in the fullness of time the GTC will be able to develop in that direction. I am most sympathetic to that happening in the longer term. But it would be premature at this stage to move immediately down that road. It is a little premature to give a precise timetable. For a number of reasons which I shall set out, I do not think that the time is yet right and it would be wrong to include such an intention on the face of the Bill before we have some experience of the GTC playing a role in such matters.
Registration with the GTC will be a condition of entry to the teaching profession. It is therefore right that the conditions to be fulfilled for registration are set out in the Bill at Clause 3. One of those conditions is that a person should be a qualified teacher. New standards for qualified teacher status were issued by the Secretary of
Our approach is not novel or unusual. The basic registration arrangements are often laid down in legislation for other professional bodies. And the regulations on registration may of course allow the GTC to make its own arrangements on many issues. That is to say, they will set a framework within which the GTC will be free to make its own more detailed rules. The criteria for admission to the register are simple but nonetheless rigorous. Teachers must hold qualified teacher status, must not have been barred from practising the profession and have paid a registration fee. One either holds QTS or one does not. Similarly one has either paid one's fee or one has not. These issues are not matters for interpretation on which an appeal can be based. Those barred from the profession will have had an opportunity to make representations before being barred. Perhaps I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. To introduce an appeal mechanism of the kind proposed would be unnecessary.
Nor would it be appropriate to give the GTC full responsibility at the outset for de-registering teachers and thereby barring them from the profession. I need not remind Members of your Lordships' House that these are important and sensitive duties. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who has had extensive experience of them, they do not fall within my policy responsibilities. Indeed, no part of the Bill that we are considering in Committee today which relates to teaching falls within my policy remit. The Secretary of State's ability to bar or restrict the employment of people in schools is a crucial child protection measure as well as upholding high standards within the profession. Any new proposals then face a difficult test: we must be certain that they would improve on the existing system and would not generate any new uncertainties or loopholes. I hope that my noble friend Lord Glenamara accepts that.
It is important to retain the best features of a system which has worked well. It is true that other professional bodies, as the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, said, have the power to de-register; but these powers have generally been introduced in very different circumstances--to regulate a profession where little or no regulation previously existed. Moreover, in none of these other professions is child protection such an important consideration, although I accept that it may be of some importance in medicine.
There is also a range of technical difficulties in giving the GTC full powers to bar or restrict employment under Section 218(6) of the 1988 Act. The existing powers cover anyone working in a school who has regular contact with children, not just teachers. And they cover further education colleges and independent schools as well as the maintained sector. So the Secretary of State has powers to bar a range of people who do not fall within the GTC's remit. I believe that it would be damaging to take the approach proposed in this
The public have a right to expect that the protection of children will be governed by a coherent, consistent and rigorous barring regime. The present system has worked well, and I think it would be right for the Secretary of State to continue to make the final decision. The GTC would be able to give its professional advice on cases concerning teachers at schools, and the Secretary of State will take due account of that advice.
As my noble friend Lord Parry said, our proposals for Wales are different, in order to reflect the different constitutional framework in Wales, and in particular to give the Welsh assembly sufficient powers to determine the best way forward in Wales. As I have said, a TTA does not operate in the same way in Wales as in England. Therefore, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that I do not think that the English need feel too hard done by because we have a TTA which is working well.
As we said at Second Reading, it may be possible to review this area once the GTC has established itself; indeed, I hope it will be. I believe the best approach is to give the GTC an advisory role at the outset which might then be developed over time once the council has proved itself to the profession and the public and developed its experience and expertise in these vitally important areas.
Baroness Young: I thank the noble Baroness for that explanation. However, I do not think that she has quite dealt with the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon as to whether an advisory body will attract the best people. At the end of the day, it is the people on it who will make or break it, who are responsible for its success. I pose that as a point that the Government ought to bear clearly in mind. The measure should be: will this body attract the best people?
The noble Baroness is very persuasive over the whole question as to whether the Welsh council will have more powers. One fully begins to see, as devolution proceeds, that the assembly for Wales will be a factor, and this will be one of the ways in which more powers will be given in Wales. That is all right; however, it is an important political point (political with a small "p") that the arrangements for England should not be less effective than those for Wales.
I entirely take the noble Baroness's point about the Teacher Training Agency, and I should like to pay tribute to Professor Clive Booth, whom I know very well; he is an excellent choice. However, the fact is that we do not want different standards as between England and Wales. That would be a most undesirable outcome and a quite unnecessary recipe for difficulties. I hope that the Government will look clearly at the matter.
To return to the key question about the conduct of teachers, of course everybody understands that child protection is essential. There can be no difference of opinion about that at all. I should have thought that the regulation of the medical profession is similar. It deals with children as well as adults, and with matters of life and death. Teachers act in loco parentis and it is a serious matter.
But are we saying that teachers on the general teaching council would be incapable of or unwilling to make the same difficult and painful decisions about colleagues? Either you think that teachers can do that or you think that they cannot. It is a sad fact that the conclusion on this Bill is that teachers will not be fit to take that responsibility. When we go into the whole question of registration, that makes something of a nonsense of it all.
I will take this amendment back and examine the Minister's remarks carefully, and I shall consider all the points raised. I think we shall all consider carefully what has been said at Committee stage. I have made it quite clear that I have no intention of dividing the House. However, we ought to consider carefully whether this is an issue to which we should return at a later stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.