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Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I warmly support Amendments Nos. 14 to 16. Following on from what was said earlier by the noble Lords, Lord Glenamara and Lord Howie of Troon, I remind the House that some years ago the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, said that professional self-regulation is one of the glories of a civilised society. In a subsequent lecture Sir Ralf Dahrendorf (later the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf) said that, in his view, regulation of the professions by the state was a fearful thing. He spoke with authority, being a German citizen and having noted the regulation by the state of many of the professions in his native country.
This group of amendments follows on from that which was passed by your Lordships earlier today and gives authority to the general teaching council. I remind the House, as the noble Earl, said, that the authority for similar actions is vested in the Acts which govern the professional regulation of professions such as medicine, dentistry, chiropractic, osteopathy, and others. At Report stage I mentioned that those bodies were answerable not to the Secretary of State, but to the Privy Council. If any decision is made by those regulatory authorities relating to the registration of a professional, there is an automatic right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
At that time I suggested that the same authority was vested in the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting. In fact, that used to be the case with the old General Nursing Council. Now the UKCC is not answerable to the Privy Council but to the Secretary of State for Health. In that instance the right of appeal against a direction of the council is not to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but to the High Court. I venture to suggest that, as the general teaching council will be ultimately answerable to the Secretary of State, the right of appeal against such a direction, referred to in Amendment No. 16, is one which also ought to lie with the High Court.
I believe that to add these powers on the face of the Bill is of crucial importance. It is right that the authority should not only allow removal from the register but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said in the earlier debate, experience of the other regulatory authorities indicates that the professionals are often much more fierce in their condemnation of their colleagues. For instance, in the Professional Conduct Committee of the General Medical Council, on which I served for many years, I found that doctors were much tougher than the lay members who were involved in the decision-making relating to issues of registration.
I believe that it is right that the general teaching council, in establishing its disciplinary conduct and professional procedures, should have a sufficient number of lay members on committees concerned with decisions in that regard to enable them to assist in reaching determinations. I firmly believe also that the right of appeal is appropriate and must be enshrined either in the Bill or in regulations. I warmly support Amendment No. 14.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I should like briefly to reiterate what I said at the previous stage; that is, that this power of the General Teaching Council for Scotland is one which teachers appear to value most.
I am told that the appeal system which that council operates is extremely tough. As the noble Lord, Lord Walton, said, its members are extremely robust and detached. Of course, the Privy Council is not involved; it is an internal matter. However, it has a good appeal system and there is no reason why that power should not be included in the powers of the new general teaching council.
I have an anxiety that the noble Earl may be able to assuage. The council has the power to suspend or terminate a teacher's membership. However, the teacher is not employed by the teaching council; he is employed by an education authority or a board of governors. What would the board of governors do where a teacher's membership had been suspended or it was felt by the council that the teacher should not continue in the profession? How would the employing authority act?
My point is that the matter must be thought through and explanation offered. We are dealing with the work of the teaching council at the sharp end and one needs to know what arrangements are envisaged in order to make sure that the decisions of the council carry weight. If no arrangements are made, then the whole thing could fall into disrepute, which would not be desirable.
Baroness Young: My Lords, I apologise to the House that I was not in my place when the noble Earl moved Amendment No. 14. My name is attached to the amendment because I believe that this amendment fits neatly with my earlier amendment, to which your Lordships agreed.
I support the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, on the question of providing some kind of appeal system. The amendment gives effect to the detail of working out how the whole question of dismissing a teacher should work. It is important and, for all the arguments set out, I am glad to support it.
Lord Mishcon: My Lords, when this matter was dealt with at Report stage, understandably the question of appeal had not been considered. I ventured to suggest then that it was an omission that should be looked at and, with his usual diligence, the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, has done so.
I turn to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Walton, that an appeal under anything in this section should go to a High Court judge. If we look at the amendment we will see that the council is given the power to admonish or issue a warning. It cannot possibly be suggested that an appeal against that should go before a High Court judge.
The only time that one envisages an appeal to a High Court judge would be under paragraph (d), which is removal from the register. That is not the position under Amendment No. 14. Appeal should lie with another body or even with the Secretary of State in respect of matters covered by paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). Paragraph (d) is the only one which ought to go anywhere near a High Court judge.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, perhaps I can answer that point by saying that in other regulatory authorities there is no appeal against a decision to admonish or to attach conditions to registration; there is appeal only against decisions which affect an individual's registration, such as suspension or erasure. I felt that I should clarify that point in case it is necessary for this issue to be dealt with in another place by a further amendment.
Lord Howell: My Lords, I hope to have an opportunity for a moment to express again my unease at the removal of parliamentary accountability which is inherent, first, in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and, secondly, in Amendment No. 14, though I acknowledge that its drafting is far superior to the earlier one.
The noble Lord, Lord Walton, mentioned other professional bodies. He will know that there is some unease among other professional bodies about accountability to the public. I have a little experience in this area as for five years, as Under-Secretary of State for Education, I was solely responsible, subject to the Secretary of State, for dealing with these unfortunate disciplinary matters. I was dealing with 350 cases a year, an enormous number. If children are abused in school, parents are understandably irate about it. The first thing they do is go to see their Member of Parliament. After that Members of Parliament came to see me or raised the matter in the House. One notorious case, with which I shall not bore the House, was raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, whose name was mentioned earlier. He demanded greater accountability regarding the actions I had taken which were supported by the then Home Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. It merited being raised on the Floor of the House by the Member concerned and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, although they were totally misdirected in what they were saying at the time and they lost the argument. For heaven's sake, let us not put that out of our minds. If parents cannot get severe grievances raised on the Floor of the House and receive proper answers, considerable difficulties will be caused. I have read that as far as concerns the General Medical Council there has been no public accountability about the private investigations carried on there.
I hope that my noble friend the Minister will confirm my view that the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, is more reasonable than an earlier amendment. He has gone to great trouble to meet the wishes of the House, as expressed earlier, and so I would not want to vote against it, even though I have my reservations about it. I hope that the Government can see their way clear to meeting the various differences of opinion.
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