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Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a simple way of improving productivity in this country would be diminished productivity on the part of the bureaucrats in Brussels? If there were fewer regulations, British productivity would undoubtedly improve.

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Lord Haskel: My Lords, it depends what is meant by regulations. The purpose of some regulations is to produce barriers in the way of business. But other regulations give people more confidence in the product; for instance, regulations in relation to aircraft and pharmaceuticals. The whole matter is extremely complex.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the noble Lord's failure to answer the question of my noble friend indicative of the Government's belief that agriculture is not an industry? Is he aware that there is a huge imbalance between imports and exports in relation to British agricultural products? Most of the products produced in the United Kingdom are of excellent quality and observe all the welfare and hygiene standards required as opposed to what often happens on the Continent. Can he say what Her Majesty's Government are doing about agricultural products in Europe?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Government have put forward restructuring proposals for the beef industry and those proposals are now being discussed. So the Government are working on the problem.

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that, when small and medium-sized companies are installing high-tech machinery in order to increase productivity, the most valuable thing for them would be fiscal incentives over the following few years? Both the companies and the Inland Revenue would benefit from the future profitability arising from such incentives.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness. Indeed, the Government have taken steps in that direction. The corporation tax rate for small companies will be cut by 1 per cent. to 20 per cent. from 1st April 1999, following a 2 per cent. cut last July. The capital gains tax taper system to promote and reward long-term investment has an effective top rate of 10 per cent. for gains on business assets held over 10 years. The Government are giving fiscal incentives to these companies in order to invest.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, where British companies have achieved high records of productivity and can easily be seen as the most successful within the EU, will the Government be vigilant in ensuring that our partner states do not involve themselves in practices which deny Britain the advantages of that achievement?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Government are very vigilant in this matter.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the measurement of increases or decreases in productivity is a matter of some difficulty, together with an agreed method of statistical representation? Will the Government therefore take into account that there still remains the largely unmeasurable factor of plain common sense and that one knows,

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factory by factory but certainly not in its generality, what underproductivity or overproductivity actually means?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Government are trying to apply common sense in that they are consulting the actual practitioners. Many of the people involved in the schemes to improve productivity are the businessmen themselves.

Lord Peston: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that my noble friend Lord Randall could have asked this Question or its equivalent at any time during the past 70 years and that it is highly likely that my noble friend on the Front Bench or his equivalent would have answered in terms of working parties? As the problem has existed for at least 70 years, would it not be sensible not to introduce working parties or their equivalent but to try to find another way to deal with this problem? Ever since the Labour Government of 1945 we have been setting up these bodies. We have constantly talked about productivity problems but our relative position has remained not entirely unchanged, but certainly not very changed. The answer is that working parties are not what is needed.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I can say to my noble friend that this time it will be different. The working parties have reported and last week the first seminar took place to discuss the reports. The Government are determined that the practical proposals will be disseminated to all companies throughout industry and we shall start to benefit from that in a very short while.

The Earl of Home: My Lords, the Minister said that he was trying to identify barriers in order to improve competitiveness. Will the noble Lord tell us whether in discussing this issue the DTI has addressed the question of the aid-to-trade provision in conjunction with the Export Credits Guarantee Department or are the Government sticking to their dogmatic view of abolishing the aid-to-trade provision, which has been a great boon to this country in the past?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the policy on the aid-to-trade provision has been clearly laid out by the Government. It is not a matter of productivity; it is a matter of doing business deals.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, following up the valid point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that what we least need is yet another working party, perhaps I may say that what we actually need is action based on what is well known over the years. Does the noble Lord agree that one of the major problems that has bedevilled British industry has been a relative lack of investment in new products and new procedures to match those of continental competitors? Is this high on the list of the studies now being conducted?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, not only is it high on the list but the Government have already taken action, as I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Platt. The

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Government have already given fiscal incentives to invest and, as a result of some of the studies being carried out, there may be further ones; I do not know. But certainly it is very high on the list of priorities.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, far from this issue being complex, does my noble friend agree that the two essential ingredients for increasing productivity are investment in technology and the training of the workforce? Unfortunately, for a number of decades a large part of British industry has failed to do either.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that investment in technology and investment in skills are important. The Government are addressing themselves to both those matters.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, how will productivity be helped by the introduction of the minimum wage?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, many of us do not need an expert to tell us that fairness at work leads to greater productivity. Many noble Lords, particularly noble Lords on this side of the House, know from their own experience that fairness at work increases productivity. As the minimum wage will increase fairness at work, it will increase productivity.


Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on the situation in Indonesia. I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on the Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification.

School Standards and Framework Bill

3.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 6 [Preparation of education development plans]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 4, line 11, after ("area,") insert ("specifying the targets for attainment for individual schools at key stage 1, key stage 2, key stage 3, and key stage 4,").

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The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 27. These amendments are deliberately designed to make more specific and more precise the exact manner in which the education development plans prepared by each school and each local authority will--and I refer to a later phrase in the clause--"raise the standards of education".

The Bill is entirely about raising the standards of British education throughout the system. The Government and those on these Benches share the same aim. We realise that things have not always been as right as they should have been in British education and we have all tried to make improvements. Our wish is that the children in our schools are taught in such a way that they leave literate and numerate as well as extended by the whole business of their teaching; and this from whatever area or background they come.

While I accept the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in previous debates that regard ought to be paid to value added in assessing a school, I am sure that he will agree that value added is often hard to define although we both share the view that in part education development plans should pay some attention to that. But that is not in contradiction to what I propose in these amendments which deal with absolute facts that are at present available. The amendments suggest that any education development plan, both from the individual school and from the area plan as it is developed, should pay attention to existing facts and to the evidence available from existing national tests. That would actually help a judgment of performance.

I cannot imagine any other organisation in the country making a decision to improve standards which would not at least start from the existing achievement of the institution or organisation. This is very important. Both sides agree that the problem in areas of the same social mix, be it rich or poor, is that different schools are producing widely different results and therefore, in assessing their future performance in the education development plan, if we are to help the good ones to do even better and the worst to improve it would be worthwhile to look at what they have or have not achieved in the past.

As Members of the Committee opposite know, the education development plan suggests that by the summer of the year 2000 pupils in year six in primary, junior and middle schools should judge what they are going to achieve in their key stage 2 English and maths tests and so on; and similarly for GCSE and other results in secondary schools. Can there be any harm in asking that in deciding these targets we look at achievements in key stage 2 and more in previous years? We can then say whether they have set the right target and whether they have achieved it. In no sense are we hindering their performance.

The amendments propose a more specific and realistic approach to improving educational standards. It is unfortunate that Form 7, prepared by the local authorities, refers to people who receive free schools meals; it does not say what academic results the schools are achieving. These are practical amendments. There is

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no ideology in them. I would have thought that the Minister could say, "Thank you Lord Pilkington for your wisdom in suggesting these amendments to me. I am delighted to accept them." I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Thank you, Lord Pilkington, for explaining your amendments so clearly. The noble Lord says that his proposals are more specific and realistic than the existing provision in the guidelines for education development plans. I certainly agree that they are more specific. They require local education authorities to include in their education development plans specific targets for individual schools at each of key stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 and that the targets so specified--I am referring to Amendment No. 27--should be based on the prior attainment of individual schools.

We intend to have a small, manageable but challenging number of targets in the first three-yearly cycle of education development plans. The noble Lord rightly described the contents of the table of targets which is in Annex 1 of the consultation document. These will cover some but not all of all key stages. In other words, they will cover key stage 2 for English and maths and for schools with secondary pupils they cover results for pupils on the roll aged 15 at the start of the various years.

However, we do not want to overburden local education authorities or schools with a target-setting process as complex as that which the amendments provide. They would increase the amount of bureaucracy and decrease the amount of flexibility. Of course, if LEAs and schools want to provide further information and agree additional targets than those required under the education development programme, they can do so. There is provision for an optional annex to the education development programme. But the important point is that they should have choice to add to a limited but reasonable set of prescribed targets. I believe that many schools would find it a serious burden to meet as many targets as those implied by the amendments. To put them on the face of the Bill would make it impossible to change the targets that LEAs and schools should agree without further primary legislation. We are proposing that the Secretary of State should issue regulations on target setting under Section 19 of the Education Act 1997 which will enable him to specify appropriate targets, taking into account changing circumstances over the years. The amendments would impose targets which, even though perhaps appropriate at the outset, might very well be overtaken by education developments later on.

We are sympathetic to the idea of such important contextual information as pupils' prior attainment, and schools and LEAs will take that into account. It is only if we do take into account prior attainment that tracking and evaluating performance and rates of improvement are possible. So what is proposed in Amendment No. 27 is what will inevitably happen as part of the process of schools and LEAs agreeing, and subsequently monitoring, targets for pupils on the school side and targets for schools on the side of the LEA. What is

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necessary will be done: it does not need to be on the face of the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

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