|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General for his reply. As I made clear, the purpose of the amendment is to raise the issues, not to seek a decision on them this evening. There are arguments on both sides. Some of the reservations felt by the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General are shared by some of my noble friends, who are not unanimous on the subject. I shall not go through them again at this point, but there are important arguments in the other direction. I hope that the review which the Government are undertaking will take those arguments into account. Serious problems are involved. I believe that some, if not all, of the provisions proposed would help to ameliorate those problems.
Perhaps I may make two points in reply to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. First, he suggested that we had overlooked subsection (2) of Section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976. We certainly did not overlook it since the amendment specifically proposes that it should be repealed. Views on whether reasonable grounds should be had regard to as a defence may have changed since 1976.
Secondly, leave to bring out a defendant's sexual history under the existing law, which we do not seek to change, is required only as regards the complainant's sexual history with other persons. The amendment does not bring the defendant's personal history into account if all he raises is his sexual history with the complainant. The amendment applies only where sexual history with other men is involved and where the defendant's defence is, "Because the complainant consented to sex with X, Y and Z, I therefore reasonably believe that she consented to sex with me." That brings the complainant's character into issue and in that case the level playing field of allowing the defendant's character to be brought in is entirely justified. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. The Statement is as follows:
19 Mar 1998 : Column 861
"The Chancellor pledged an extra £250 million for schools and skills in the coming financial year. Let me remind the House that this increase is part of the £2.5 billion boost for education and skills which we have already earmarked in the 10 months since we were elected last May.
"We inherited a situation where between 1993 and 1996 the party opposite had cut £110 in real terms from every secondary pupil in the country and £44 from every primary pupil. Already we have made a substantial start to repair the damage of years of Tory neglect by providing an extra £110 for every pupil in the coming financial year. We have increased the Standards Fund to over £500 million for 1998-99, which includes an extra £59 million to improve literacy standards. Today I want to detail the big difference which this week's Budget increase will mean to our schools and their pupils, outlining four further major steps we shall be taking.
"First, I can made this pledge today. We shall bring to an end the scandal whereby children in 600 of our schools, most of them primary, still have to go outside in order to use the toilet. Tens of thousands of children have to go outside to use facilities which often date back to the Victorian age. That is simply unacceptable in the last years of the 20th century. We are inviting the authorities affected to apply for a share of the extra £35 million which we are earmarking so that they can provide the decent facilities that every modern school should have. By next year we shall have ended the scandal of outside toilets forever. It will take our schools from the Victorian age into the age of the new millennium.
"Secondly, I am concerned at the number of schools which have inefficient boilers and heating systems which often break down. They waste energy and leave thousands of children spending their winter days in cold and draughty classrooms. We shall provide an extra £15 million which will allow up to 500 schools to replace or improve their inefficient heating systems. That will make classrooms more comfortable and learning-friendly places, save a great deal of money which is now being wasted and bring environmental benefits, including reduced carbon dioxide emissions. As many as 100,000 children will have, at long last, the kind of working conditions which they should be able to take for granted in a civilised society.
"Thirdly, we have already announced the first £22 million to provide the extra teachers to ensure that we make an immediate start on our class-size pledge, which will mean that by 2001 every five, six and seven year-old is in a class of 30 or under. That first tranche will mean that 100,000 infants will benefit from September this year.
"When we announced that funding, redirected from the phasing out of the assisted places scheme, we made clear that there would be extra money to build extra classrooms where they were needed. Today, I
"These three capital spending measures will be in addition to the £250 million from the new deal for schools to be allocated in 1998-99 and additional to the £800 million which LEAs and schools are spending in the normal way on repairs and maintenance this year.
"And there is a fourth piece of good news on schools from the Budget. I can further confirm that we shall be expanding rapidly our education action zones programme. We shall fund a five-fold increase to establish 25 zones by January 1999. We have already had considerable interest from imaginative partnerships between schools, LEAs and business at a local level.
"The zones offer extra flexibilities in order to help schools in challenging circumstances to meet demanding targets and to make significant improvements in standards and in expectations. By making a substantial expansion in the coming year, I am confident that we shall be able to extend the programme yet further in the lifetime of this Parliament.
"Taken together, this is a coherent programme which will help the process of transforming schools for the future. It means: no more children having to go outside to use the toilet; improvements in the heating of schools; substantial further progress to meeting our class size pledge; and a big boost to our flagship programme of education action zones.
"In the years ahead, we will meet our manifesto commitment to increase the proportion of national income spent on education. We are making a substantial start in the year ahead. By doing so, we are transforming the life chances of millions of children. We are modernising the fabric of our schools. And we are making real progress in raising standards for all our children. A New Labour Budget. A Budget for a modern Britain in a new century. A Budget to turn ambition into achievement".
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I was persuaded earlier today to take this Statement later than usual. I was not particularly happy to do so, but nevertheless I agreed. I believe that the noble Baroness, at the time the Statement was due, was in the Division Lobby, and that is understandable.
I stayed in the Chamber throughout the whole of the last amendment on the grounds that discussion on any amendment can end at any time; that votes are not always pressed; and, indeed, it looked for one moment as though the amendment was not going to be pressed. The noble Baroness was not present in the Chamber throughout any of that time, and, in the event, it would have been possible for somebody on the Government
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said. She knows that I have already apologised on behalf of the Government for the delay; I have not apologised on behalf of my noble friend Lady Blackstone, who has done nothing wrong.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, knows that a Division is called because there are those who shout "Not-Content". It was those on the Opposition Benches who shouted "Not-Content", including the noble Baroness. It was their responsibility to put in Tellers. They failed to do so. As a result, there was understandable confusion and my noble friend Lady Blackstone was entirely within her rights to be in the Division Lobby. She considered the matter to be important. It was also right for the Deputy Speaker when the vote was negatived, to carry on with the business. I do not believe that any further apology is called for from anybody on this side of the House and I hope that the noble Baroness will feel, on reflection, that she has been fairly treated.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page