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Baroness Blackstone: We have reached group number seven of the amendments on the Marshalled List and we have over 30 groups to go through this evening. It is now 25 minutes past nine. One of the reasons for this situation is that the noble Baroness speaks about four times on each amendment including those tabled by her fellow Front Bench spokespersons. She also asks a whole range of questions which have absolutely nothing to do with the amendment on the Marshalled List. The amendment we are dealing with is about training of adjudicators. I am happy to try to answer some of the noble Baroness's questions, but I hope that Members of the Committee will agree with me that we must make progress with the Committee stage of the

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Bill. On an amendment about training, we have had 15 different questions which have absolutely nothing to do with it and which could have been asked earlier when we were discussing other amendments; or if they were not asked then, they could be asked on Report.

The noble Baroness suggested that there is a difference between what my noble friend Lord Whitty and I are saying. She is completely wrong. She has totally neglected the fact that earlier my noble friend was talking about school organisation committees, not about adjudicators. School organisation committees are part of the Government's new procedure for devolving decision-making locally. The adjudicator system is a national system that is to be set up to resolve disputes where issues cannot be settled locally. Nothing that either my noble friend Lord Whitty or I have said suggests any difference between us.

The noble Baroness seems to misunderstand the system of adjudicators. They will not be attached to one, two or three local authorities. There will be about 20 adjudicators to cover the whole country. That is the purpose of the system. It would be over-rigid to make it a condition of appointment that, whatever the case, they would never operate in an area of which they have some knowledge. In fact, that would be patently ludicrous. At the same time, it is important, as I have said more than once, that they should not be parti pris but should make their judgments as dispassionately as possible. There may be many advantages in doing so if they come from a different part of the country.

The noble Baroness also asked whether the adjudicator's report will be as full as that undertaken by the Secretary of State with regard to his decisions. The answer is yes; they must be just as full.

We really must move on. In the light of what I have said on the issue of training, which is what this amendment is about, I ask my noble and learned friend whether he feels able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I take personal offence at the remarks made by the noble Baroness. In Committee we are in the business of doing two things. We seek to solicit from the Government information which is not part of the Bill or part of the background papers. We are asking questions where we have a gap in our knowledge. This is most important when we reach the next stage.

The noble Baroness said that my questions were not pertinent to the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. My noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking asked a question about training. We are anxious to know whether there will be reports and whether that will form part of the training. We are anxious to know whether evidence will be taken in public and whether that will form part of the training. We are anxious to know whether or not adjudicators will act locally. Those are very important questions, all of which are relevant to the issue of training.

One of the hazards of being in government--I have been there myself--is that the Opposition have only these stages of the Bill in which to solicit such information. All of the points I have made have been

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entirely pertinent to the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord. In the event of there being an adjudicator system, I support the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone: The questions which the noble Baroness has just asked about training are completely different from the questions she asked earlier. I am happy to respond to her questions; I want to be helpful. I also want us to make progress. I am sure that everybody in the Chamber would like us to make progress. I do not believe that we shall be able to do so if we continue as we have for the past four or five hours.

Those who will take on the role of adjudicators will have to be trained in exactly the matters which the noble Baroness has just identified. They are all extremely important. The Government endorse what has been said about the need for training. Indeed, as I said, our officials will consult the secretariat to the Council on Tribunals about the details of the training programme. I think--the Government think--that it is right that expert advice should be sought on a matter as important as this. That is what we intend to do.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in this debate. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend for concentrating on the merits of the amendment. I confess that the debate has ranged rather more widely than I envisaged. I fully appreciate the position of the noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Maddock. They would prefer not to have a system of adjudicators. However, given that there is to be a system of adjudicators they both believe it is better that it operates well than badly. I do not believe that there is any great issue between us on that matter.

I was invited to respond to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. I hope he will forgive me if I resist the temptation, save to observe that although a planning inspector reports to the Minister, an adjudicator will make the decision for himself. I do not believe that that distinction should be reflected in whether or not he has local knowledge. Local knowledge is just as good or bad if one is reporting to the Secretary of State as if one is making the decision for oneself. But if we are talking about people who make decisions for themselves perhaps when a High Court judge whose home is in Devon next goes to Norwich Crown Court to try cases the noble Lord will address the same arguments to him and see what kind of reaction he receives.

Turning to the merits of the amendment, I hope that the adjudicators will receive training in all the skills that are necessary for them to undertake their work. It will consist not only of analysing issues and controlling procedures, but matters such as taking evidence in public and formulating reasons for a decision when it is given. If there is to be training at all it is pointless if it does not include those issues. I am grateful to my noble friend for indicating that the Council on Tribunals will be consulted about that matter.

I hesitate in relation only to one matter. My noble friend and I are entirely at one on what we should like to see happen. My noble friend did not say that she

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wanted this to be written into the Bill, which is the purpose of my amendment. However, it may be that we should both consider what has been said this evening and reconsider the issue at a later stage. For the moment, I am grateful for the indication that she has given and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 109A:

Page 118, line 32, at end insert--
(" . When taking any decision an adjudicator 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.

On Question, Whether Schedule 5, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Maddock: As I indicated earlier, I believe that we have already had this debate. I do not intend to pursue this matter any further tonight.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 25 [School organisation plans]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 109B:

Page 23, line 10, at end insert--
("( ) No school organisation plan prepared under this section shall include proposals to--
(a) discontinue sixth form provision at a particular school;
(b) introduce pupils of the opposite sex into any age group or teaching group in a particular school in which that school currently offers single sex education; or
(c) eliminate selection by ability, in part or in whole,
unless the proposals submitted within the school organisation plan have previously been accepted by the governing body and parents of the school concerned.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment owes itself to the advice given to me by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. Out of pure generosity of heart, he advised me that I had tabled the amendment in the wrong place. I thought that in all honesty I should table it in the right place. No doubt the noble Lord will be able to assure me with the same conviction that he showed over the education development plan that this does not present any problem to Her Majesty's Government.

I shall not dwell on these points. These matters are very precious to schools. If one discontinues sixth form provision one destroys the school. Single sex schools are very valuable. The way in which they select is of enormous value given the nature of the schools and their appointments. As a former headmaster presiding over schools, this amendment is close to my heart and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for helping me to table it. This is a headmaster's amendment which I hope the Government will be able to accept, given that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, assured me that there were no problems as regards the education development plan. I beg to move.

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