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Baroness Blatch: The right reverend Prelate rightly takes me to task on a point I made earlier about the FEFC. Although that council does not directly provide for schools, it does provide for some schoolchildren who are not statutory aged, who are post-16. Therefore I concede that point. May I ask the right reverend Prelate, through the normal conventions of the House, what part governors play in that? Governors are neither providers of education nor funders of schools. They have a management role but are not providers in the sense that FEFC would be and/or the LEA. How consistent is that with the points made by the right reverend Prelate?

I join with the right reverend Prelate in saying that we are pleased that diocesan authorities, both for the Anglican Church and the Church authorities for the Catholic schools, are to be represented on the committees. If there are to be such committees, that must be right. If they had not been included, we would have argued vigorously that they should be.

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I should also like to support the noble Lord, Lord Rix, in that teachers, in some form or other, should be represented. It seems extraordinary that governors should be represented. They are not providers; they are not even deliverers of education and do not fall into the interpretation that the right reverend Prelate puts on the committee. Nevertheless, they will have a place over and above that of the very people in the classroom who provide education for children.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon: The noble Baroness and I have already had this conversation. I was using the language of "delivery" in relation to heads and teachers; that is, those who actually deliver the education. I used the term "provider" in the technical sense of those who provide the financial resources. That is a clarification of language.

The point of the school organisation committees is that those who provide the financial resources shall be those who are involved in the taking of decisions. Of course, they must listen to all kinds of other people and that is why it is important that there are others who can give them advice. Those others will include governors, teachers and all sorts of other groups, including those for whom the noble Lord, Lord Rix, is concerned. However, the decision is properly taken by those groups named on the face of the Bill.

Baroness Blatch: Governors are to be part of this body and they are neither providers nor deliverers.

Lord Whitty: The debate between the noble Baroness and the right reverend Prelate could go on for some time. However, at this time we are not discussing membership of the committee, but the voting procedures.

The right reverend Prelate is right in relation to our use of the term "provider" and as to why they should be members of the committee. Governors have the corporate responsibility for the management of schools and, to a degree to which we shall come later, for managing the funds of the schools. That is why they or their representatives will be members of the committees.

The amendments deal with two issues. First, they deal with the voting procedure. The right reverend Prelate clearly indicated his support for our position that a nem. con. position should account for these purposes; that is, unanimity. Secondly, they deal with the question of equality and the duties on the adjudicators and school organisation committees in that respect.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 106B:

Page 117, line 11, at end insert--
("(3) Regulations under this paragraph must, however, include provision--
(a) for the members within each category of members of a committee to have collectively a single vote in relation to any decision to which this sub-paragraph applies;
(b) requiring any such decision which is taken by a committee to be a unanimous decision of those voting.

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(4) Sub-paragraph (3) applies to any decision of a committee as to whether or not--
(a) to give any approval under section 25(4) or to prepare such a plan as is mentioned in section 25(5)(d)(ii);
(b) to give any approval under paragraph 3 of Schedule 6 or to--
(i) modify any proposals,
(ii) specify any date, or
(iii) make any determination,
under paragraph 5(2)(a) or (b) or (3) of that Schedule;
(c) to make, vary or revoke a transitional exemption order under paragraph 21 of that Schedule or paragraph 16 of Schedule 7;
(d) to give any approval under paragraph 8 of Schedule 7;
(e) to make any decision authorised by or by virtue of paragraph 6 of Schedule 23.
(5) Where regulations under paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 8 provide for either of the following provisions, namely paragraph 3 or 5(2)(a) of Schedule 6, to have effect in relation to proposals published under paragraph 2 or 2A of Schedule 8, the reference to that provision in sub-paragraph (4) above shall include a reference to it as it so has effect.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 107 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

6.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 107A:

Page 117, line 15, at end insert--
(" . When taking any decision a committee shall have regard (so far as relevant) to the obligations which, by virtue of--
(a) Part III of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, or
(b) Part III of the Race Relations Act 1976,
are owed by any local education authority or governing body which will be affected by the decision.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 24 [Adjudicators]:

On Question, Whether Clause 24 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Maddock: I am afraid that my noble friend Lord Tope cannot be with us for the rest of the evening, though I still have friends on the Bench here with me.

The Minister will recognise that we have already had the majority of this debate this afternoon. We are unhappy with the undemocratic nature of the school organisation committees and, for similar reasons, with the role of the adjudicators. We are extremely unhappy--putting it mildly--given what we said earlier, that important local decisions over schools organisations can pass to a single, unelected, non-accountable individual who represents the Secretary of State.

It is clear from our debates earlier and those in another place that the Government wish to appoint around 20 adjudicators. It may be more; we are not sure. There were questions about this earlier this afternoon both here and in another place. We are also not sure what the cost will be. We understand that the adjudicators will be local, but we are told that they will

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not be local. They will be partly local, but there will not be enough for there to be one who understands each local area.

The adjudicators will be appointed by the Secretary of State after open advertisement. We understand that they will be salaried and will also be paid on a daily rate. There was a great deal of discussion in this regard some time ago and I remember reading with horror in the newspaper that it was estimated that adjudicators may be paid £90,000 a year. I wondered whether I would be eligible for such a post; £90,000 would be helpful to someone in my position.

We still do not know how much the Government intend to pay and how much it will cost. We do not know from where exactly the adjudicators will be drawn. We are told that a background in education will be welcome, but not necessarily a requirement. We feel that the requirement that school organisation committees should make unanimous decisions will lead to many decisions being referred to the adjudicator.

Many of us know that trying to make decisions, particularly in relation to school closures, is not an easy job and often takes a great deal of time. Questions were asked in another place about how long committees would have to make a decision and the response was that they will be asked to reach a conclusion within two months. However, I worry about how the system will operate; how the adjudicators will deal with what will be a heavy workload.

We have heard arguments about how this is devolution; that the Secretary of State is devolving power locally. Many of us do not recognise it as devolution because it will not be to a democratic body. We believe that democratically-elected local authorities should make those decisions. My noble friend Lord Tope made that point clear this afternoon.

An issue we have discussed in this Chamber on other occasions is how local people do not turn out in local elections. We are now doing something which takes away even more power from local education authorities and locally-elected councillors, yet we continue to wonder why people do not want to vote. The reason is that decisions as to whether or not a school will remain open will not be made by local people; they will be made by an unelected body and an adjudicator.

For all those reasons we are not happy that the clause should stand part of the Bill. I take this opportunity to say that a schedule goes with this, which raises serious questions about the role of the adjudicator. For example, the adjudicator can be dismissed by the Minister for misbehaviour. What does that mean? Does it mean when he disagrees with the Minister? Does it mean that he is not on message? We do not know how much adjudicators will be paid. We do not know what level of staff support they will receive.

I suggest that there are people working in local authorities who already do very much the job that an adjudicator will be required to carry out, particularly when we are talking of school closures. I have been in a situation where the people working for the local

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education authority go out and consult with parents, going through the pros and cons of why they want to close a school and what the local authority want to do.

I suspect that we shall not divide on Clause 24 tonight which is why I have spoken about Schedule 5 at this point. There is no point in talking about it if the clause is still in the Bill. Mentioning the schedule also raises very serious questions about the role of the adjudicator and it is important in this debate as we are looking to see whether we need the adjudicator. We have made it quite clear that we do not want to have the school organisation committee and therefore we do not want the adjudicator.

We have made it clear also that we understand what the Government are trying to do. We believe in devolution and recognise that there is a problem with decisions being made at the centre. But the method that has been put forward is undemocratic and does not answer the problem. I and many others believe that it will only make matters worse. We have almost begged the Government to take this matter away and come back with something better. We want partnership and decisions to be made locally, but we want that done democratically and, above all, we want a system that will work. We have heard not just from these Benches but from around the Committee the views of people who have experience of how this measure will work in local government and how local government works now. We were not in favour of the committee and the adjudicator. The way in which the scheme is being set up is deeply flawed. For that reason, we do not wish to see this clause stand part of the Bill.

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