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Baroness Blackstone: The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked what the clause was about. It provides that banding--that is, the use of testing to ensure a representative spread of ability--will be a permitted form of selection. We made clear in the technical consultation document that such arrangements would be acceptable.

Banding was used extensively by the former ILEA. That may not commend it to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, or to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, but it was widely accepted by parents and useful to pupils at that time. It was used from the late 1960s until the authority's abolition in 1990 to try to secure an even distribution of ability across its secondary schools. The aim was to ensure that schools did not contain a disproportionate number of children from one ability band. To this end, children were tested, usually in reading, in their final year at primary school and placed into one of three broad ability bands according to their results. Schools then admitted a set number of pupils into each band, typically in the proportions 25-50-25, taking into account parental preference. A number of inner-London boroughs have retained banding to the present day. Indeed, Hammersmith and Fulham, having abolished banding after the break-up of the ILEA, recently reintroduced it.

I say to the noble Lord and to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we are committed to the comprehensive principle. We believe that banding is compatible with that principle. I listened carefully to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and fully accept that banding may not be appropriate in all areas. We are certainly in the business of prescribing how the admission arrangements of comprehensive schools should best be organised. That must be a matter for local determination. The new admissions framework, as we have said on a number of occasions already today, is about local partnership and local agreement.

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We believe that it is right that the Bill should recognise that banding arrangements are working well in some areas and that other admission authorities should be free to consider whether they want to introduce such arrangements, if they believe that they fit their circumstances. That is entirely consistent with the overall aim to put in place an admissions framework based upon consultation and co-operation between partners at local level.

At the same time, we recognise that it is important to ensure that the freedom to introduce banding is not misused. In the past we have seen individual schools using proposals to introduce banding as an alternative to partial selection in order to recruit a higher proportion of high ability pupils. The clause contains a number of safeguards to ensure that, in future, banding cannot be used in such a way. For example, it provides that no level of ability is substantially over or under represented; that any tests will only be used to determine the ability band into which a specific child falls--it will not be open to schools to give priority for admission to those pupils who achieve the highest test scores within a specific band; and that the introduction of banding shall require the publication of statutory proposals under the regulations to be made under Clause 27.

Ultimately, of course, schools which band will be caught by the provision in Clause 81, preventing schools which are not wholly selective by high ability or aptitude from keeping places empty. I may not have convinced the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about the usefulness of the clause, but it allows a well-tested system used in certain authorities to be continued if they wish.

Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness one question. If testing by interview is not allowed, and testing by examination is not allowed, then what kind of test will be used to establish the different ability levels that will be a balance of representation in a school that operates a banding system?

Baroness Blackstone: I have already answered that question. The normal test that is used is one of reading ability.

Lord Lucas: I am grateful for that explanation. I do not find myself convinced by it, but am nonetheless grateful for it.

Clause 96 agreed to.

Clause 97 [Permitted selection: aptitude for particular subjects]:

[Amendments Nos. 230F to 230H not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 231:

Page 73, line 40, at end insert ("or such greater percentage as may be prescribed").

The noble Lord said: This amendment asks a number of simple questions of the Government. First, why is 10 per cent. the right figure? Secondly, if the Government, as I suspect, plucked this figure out of history and the air would it not be a good idea if the

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Government gave themselves the power to adjust that figure, in the light of experience, without having to come back for primary legislation? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: All I shall say at this time of night is that there is no point in our legislating for a reserve power which the Secretary of State has no intention of using. We consider that 10 per cent. strikes the right balance between promoting specialism in a school and safeguarding the interests of local children. We do not therefore believe the noble Lord's amendment to be necessary.

Lord Lucas: I will hold the noble Lord to those words. Nothing in the Bill shall include a power which the Secretary of State has no present intention of using. I shall look through the Bill carefully and hope to bring the noble Lord's words to his attention on several occasions on Report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 231A not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 231B:

Page 74, line 4, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Baroness said: I must apologise that due to an oversight this group of technical amendments has been tabled at a late stage. I hope they will provide helpful reassurance to those parents and others who have questioned whether the adjudicator will have the power to end existing partial selection by ability where an objection is made to him.

Although it has always been the case that the continuation of existing partial selection is covered by the provisions in Clauses 84 and 85 because admission arrangements providing for partial selection will be subject to annual consultation, Clause 98 presently refers only to the introduction, variation or abandonment of partial selection, and this may have given rise to doubts. We made it clear in the White Paper that the adjudicator, guided by the code of practice, would need to be empowered to end existing partial selection. These amendments dispel any doubts about his ability to do so. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: I have a very brief comment. On the basis of what the noble Baroness said, I feel entirely vindicated. It is the adjudicator who will eventually get rid of selection. He has the power. It is now made explicit. I rest my case.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 97, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 98 [Permitted selection: variation or abandonment etc. of arrangements]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendments Nos. 231C and 231D:

Page 74, line 14, at beginning insert--
("(A1) In connection with the determination of a maintained school's admission arrangements for a particular school year, sections 84 and 85 shall, except to the specified extent, apply in relation to the making or abandonment by those arrangements of

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provision for any permitted form of selection by ability or aptitude as they apply in relation to the making or abandonment by those arrangements of provision for other matters.
(B1) In subsection (A1) "the specified extent" means the extent to which those admission arrangements would effect an alteration in the provision made by the school's admission arrangements as respects any such form of selection (whether by introducing, varying or abandoning any such form of selection) which constitutes a prescribed alteration for the purposes of section 27.").
Page 74, line 18, leave out subsections (2) and (3).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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Clause 98, as amended, agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Reported from the Grand Committee without amendment.

        House adjourned at twenty-two minutes before two o'clock.

8 Jun 1998 : Column CWH1

Official Report of the Grand Committee on the Committee on the

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Monday, 8th June 1998.

The Committee met at four of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one respect, our proceedings are exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard. The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in the Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should also explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. The Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division bells are rung and will resume after 10 minutes, and if the noble Lord who is speaking could finish his sentence, then we can adjourn.

Title postponed.

Clause 1 [The Police Authority for Northern Ireland]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

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