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Baroness Blatch: I shall reflect on what the noble Lord said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 241CB to 241CD not moved.]

Clause 112 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 241D not moved.]

Clause 113 [Early years development plans]:

[Amendments Nos. 241DA to 241E not moved.]

Clause 113 agreed to.

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1138

Clause 114 [Approval, modification and review of statement of proposals]:

Baroness Blatch move Amendment No. 241EA:

Page 85, line 29, at end insert--
("( ) In considering such statements the Secretary of State must at all times have particular regard to--
(a) such representations as may be made to him by non-maintained providers or by local bodies representative of non-maintained providers in the local authority area; and
(b) such comments as may from time to time be made by the Chief Inspector of Schools on the quality and appropriateness of the nursery education provided by maintained and voluntary aided schools in the local authority area, and on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the local education authority concerned.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 241EA, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 241EB to 241EF and 241EG, which is the final amendment standing in my name tonight.

Amendments Nos. 241EA to 241EF are designed to ensure that when considering statements from a local authority on its early years development plan the Secretary of State has a specific duty to take into account representations made by and on behalf of private and voluntary providers. That would greatly reassure them that there could be no stitch-up between the department and a local authority behind their back. It also ensures that local authorities and the department keep private providers fully informed about any changes in the plan that may be under discussion or required.

Furthermore, as is reasonable, the amendments require the Secretary of State to take into account comments from Ofsted about the general quality of the LEA and the appropriateness of its provision in deciding what weight is given to its plans.

I turn to Amendment No. 241EG. There are already great outcries about the ever increasing burden of bureaucracy. The Bill and all the apparatus that goes with it will further increase that burden. The Bill also creates an astonishingly cumbersome bureaucratic procedure for creating and monitoring the plans. I believe that we have established a right and proper principle in legislation that the compliance costs to business of any legislation should be calculated and published first. Surely, it is right that we should consider also the compliance costs on government, local government and the voluntary sector. The amendment asks the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on this and for the Chief Inspector of Schools to report on the burden as he finds it on private and voluntary providers. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: Again, to a large extent we share the desire of the noble Baroness to ensure that the drawing up of early years development plans and views from all early year interests in the area will be considered.

Obviously that consultation will raise concerns. That was certainly the case in terms of the plans that are already in place. Those concerns were considered before approval was given. That process will continue.

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1139

It is obviously also important that all providers are aware of the developments that affect plans they are part of. However, I am not convinced that we need to place a duty on LEAs to provide this information on the face of the Bill. I think the appropriate place for this is in the guidance, which will arise again for next year. This Bill will, of course, give the guidance statutory force.

As far as concerns Amendment No. 241EK, there are benefits in having a single inspection day--

Baroness Blatch: Amendment No. 241EG.

Lord Whitty: I am sorry, Amendment No. 241EG. We are talking about the same amendment. There are benefits in having a single day. However, we would not wish to legislate for that at this stage, but to consider the options in the light of consultation.

There is a further amendment relating to the impartiality of inspectors, which the noble Baroness has moved. Paragraph 12 of Schedule 26 already, in our view, ensures that inspectors cannot inspect where their connections or loyalties are suspect, so I think that is unnecessary.

With regard to the final amendment, Amendment No. 241EG, which was originally grouped separately, I think we are slightly at cross-purposes. The amendment I referred to is in an earlier group. I shall not be partisan at this stage of the evening and make more than the slightest reference to the cost of voucher schemes. Nevertheless, we consider that the conditions for participating in this Bill are considerably less than that scheme. We do not consider it is desirable to require an indication on the face of the Bill of the cost of administering this new system.

We shall of course, listen to views on this and review the guidance and requirement, and grant if necessary. But it should not be an amendment on the face of the Bill.

I hope that in the light of that rather hurried reply at this stage of the night, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: My apologies to the noble Lord for intervening on Amendment No. 241EK. He was, in fact, right. He was speaking to Amendment No. 241EK. Amendment No. 241EG was the one which came later.

We have had a lot of warm words and a lot of sympathy. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I find it frustrating that we will not know the results of our labours until many months have passed. We shall watch vigilantly but it may just be that on reflection, when we have read what the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have had to say, some of these amendments may come back at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 241EB to 241EF not moved.]

Clause 114 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 241EG not moved.]

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1140

Clause 115 agreed to.

Schedule 26 [Inspection of nursery education.]:

[Amendments Nos. 241EH to 241EL not moved.]

Schedule 26 agreed to.

Clause 116 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 241M:

After Clause 116, insert the following new clause--

Travel arrangements for children receiving nursery education otherwise than at school

(". After section 509 of the Education Act 1996 there shall be inserted--
"Travel arrangements for children receiving nursery education otherwise than at school.
509A.--(1) A local education authority may provide a child with assistance under this section if they are satisfied that, without such assistance, he would be prevented from attending at any premises--
(a) which are not a school or part of a school, but
(b) at which relevant nursery education is provided,
for the purpose of receiving such education there.
(2) The assistance which may be provided for a child under this section consists of either--
(a) making arrangements (whether for the provision of transport or otherwise) for the purpose of facilitating the child's attendance at the premises concerned, or
(b) paying the whole or any part of his reasonable travel expenses.
(3) When considering whether to provide a child with assistance under this section in connection with his attendance at any premises, a local education authority may have regard (among other things) to whether it would be reasonable to expect alternative arrangements to be made for him to receive relevant nursery education at any other premises (whether nearer to his home or otherwise).
(4) Where the assistance to be provided for a child under this section consists of making arrangements for the provision of transport, the authority may, if they consider it appropriate to do so, determine that the assistance shall not be so provided unless--
(a) the child's parent, or
(b) the person providing the relevant nursery education concerned,
agrees to make to the authority such payments in respect of the provision of the transport (not exceeding the cost to the authority of its provision) as they may determine.
(5) In this section "relevant nursery education" means nursery education which is provided--
(a) by a local education authority, or
(b) by any other person--
(i) who is in receipt of financial assistance given by such an authority and whose provision of nursery education is taken into account by the authority in formulating proposals for the purposes of section 113(2)(a) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, or
(ii) who is in receipt of grants under section 1 of the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Act 1996." ").

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1141

The noble Lord said: The provision of the new clause under this amendment would give a discretionary power to local education authorities to provide transport or help with transport expenses for children travelling to and from settings which provide only part-time education for children under 5. At present, local education authorities have no power whatever to provide such transport.

It is an enabling power. In practice its application and, indeed, whether it is needed will vary from area to area. Nevertheless, we regard it as an important provision which fills a gap in the law. It provides also for LEAs to be able to ask providers and parents to contribute to the costs of transport, which provides additional flexibility which ensures that those who will benefit can work together to reach a solution that will meet everyone's needs.

The subsequent amendment amends Section 509 of the 1996 Act, which requires LEAs to publish details of their nursery transport policy in the same way as they do for other aspects of their transport policy. I hope that

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1142

the Committee will find these helpful additions to the law which will support greater provision in the nursery sector. I beg to move.

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