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Noble Lords: Next Question!

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I think that we should move on.

Electronic Vehicle Identification

3.2 p.m.

Viscount Chelmsford asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, the Government are aware that electronic vehicle identification could offer a range of benefits, including improvements in enforcement and security. However, there are technical issues which need to be resolved. We shall review our research programme in this area in line with the conclusions of the forthcoming White Paper on integrated transport.

Viscount Chelmsford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response and wonder whether she will agree to some of the benefits that the use of electronic number plates could bring. Does she agree that they would significantly reduce the number of unlicensed vehicles travelling on our roads; that they would be a support and reduce the cost of road-pricing and motorway tolling; that they would support a single database across all interested parties, including insurers, motor insurance bureaux and government agencies; and that there would be recoveries for the Government in terms of unpaid car tax and for insurers as regards claims made by uninsured drivers? There would be a general administrative reduction too. Does she accept that decisions made today affect how we live tomorrow; that it will take at least 15 years to fit all vehicles with an integrated inset manufactured identity; and that therefore we should begin the process now?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I agree that the time-frame for such technically challenging developments is long and therefore it is important that the fundamental research is done now. It is also important that we undertake research on an international basis so that countries do not go in different directions and we do not ask people to fit systems which are not interoperable with those in other countries to which they may travel.

The noble Viscount suggested certain advantages which could result from electronic developments; we agree that they could make a significant contribution to vehicle security as well as to dealing with traffic offences and the evasion of vehicle excise duty. He pointed out that they are used in the implementation of electronic road-pricing systems. There are many potential advantages and it is important that we have correct many of the great technical challenges.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although electronics have been used successfully in the fight against vehicle crime, many of us are concerned about individual liberty? We wonder how the technology may expand, because it can already do what the noble Viscount suggests, and whether the vision of Big Brother is looming even larger, with the prospect of being tracked wherever one goes and whatever one does.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Viscount is right to raise the issue. As regards tracking systems, there are data protection and civil liberty implications which we must take into account. It is important that

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when we develop policy in this area we look not only at what is technically feasible but also at what is socially desirable. We must harness the technology to the policies rather than the other way round.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that, if such devices are to be used for road-pricing or motorway tolling, at least the revenue will go towards improving transport facilities and not just to the Treasury? At present the motorist is taxed by the Treasury at the rate of 5 to 1.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's concern that the practice of the past--certainly during the 18 years of the previous government when any income from transport went into the general revenue--should not continue under this Government. He will be well aware that these issues have been discussed at length during consultation on the White Paper and he will not have to wait long for the conclusions to be published.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, as regards the technical problems which the Minister mentioned in her first Answer, if she cannot give a summary in reply to the Question, can she place a document in the Library which sets them out in great detail? Can she also say what consultations we are having with our partners in the European Union to ensure that these technical problems are solved in common and not separately in each country?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I do not know how much detail the noble Lord would like.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, lots!

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I shall give the noble Lord an obvious example. The microwave tag, which is often suggested as the most useful form, cannot be used inside a metal structure. Therefore, fitting it during manufacture is difficult. It is also a difficulty in the developments in windscreen technology, which are becoming metallised. Therefore, simply reading though a windscreen, which through plain glass with a microwave is acceptable, is not feasible. That is a difficulty.

Technical issues are also involved in global satellite positioning, which has been suggested as another way of keeping track of vehicles. Some of the many issues are dealt with in the report of the Transport Research Laboratory on electronic-tolling, which is in the Library of the House. However, I shall ensure that other material is made available to the noble Lord.

As regards work within Europe, we and the Commission are concerned that there should be interoperability between potential road-pricing systems within Europe so that people do not need to have

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different transponders within different countries. Discussions are taking place at inter-government level on that issue.

Building Regulations (Energy Rating Information) (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Teaching and Higher Education Bill [H.L.]

3.10 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The page and line refer to Bill (145) as first printed for the Commons.]


Clause 1, page 2, line 21, at end insert--

("(da) religious bodies involved in the provision of education,
(db) parents of pupils,").

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. In speaking to this amendment I shall speak also to Commons Amendments Nos. 27 and 141.

The GTC will be the professional body for teachers. It will represent the highest of professional standards and promote a positive image of teaching both within the profession and outside. It will play a very important role in improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning and will maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers.

The council's work must command the respect of teachers, of parents and of the public. Getting the composition of the council right is a vital part of achieving that aim. We must achieve a council which is authoritative, balanced, effective and independent.

The Bill allows for the Secretary of State to make regulations on the composition of the council. During previous debates I indicated that we would be issuing a consultation document on this issue. That consultation document was issued on 22nd April, with a closing date of 31st July. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The consultation document asks a number of questions about how we can secure the right balance of interests on the council.

We introduced an amendment in this House at an earlier stage which requires the Secretary of State, when making regulations on the composition of the GTC, to

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ensure that a majority of the members are registered teachers who are either currently serving as teachers or have such recent experience as may be prescribed. The consultation document invites views on how these teachers may be elected or appointed.

We envisage that employers will welcome their employees serving on the council. They will be making an important contribution to the education system. It should also be of benefit to the individual's personal development and make a contribution to the work of their organisation. There may, however, be some exceptional cases where this may cause genuine difficulties for employers. For example, in a small primary school meeting the cost of supply cover might be a disproportionate burden on the school and could act to deter some candidates from putting themselves forward. Amendment No. 141 allows the GTC to reimburse employers where an employee is away from work serving on the council or its committees. This will help to ensure that teachers at the chalk face are not prevented from serving on the council.

During our earlier debates I also undertook to consider further how we make clear our intention that the Churches should be represented on the council. Denominational schools and teacher training institutions employ and train large numbers of our teachers. I know that they are committed to ensuring high standards among the teaching profession and that they will provide a valuable contribution and perspective to the work of the council. We therefore brought forward Amendment No. 1 which adds to the list of interests which the Secretary of State should have regard to when making regulations on the composition of the GTC. We have referred to,

    "religious bodies involved in the provision of education",
to ensure that no relevant religious interest is artificially excluded. In our consultation document we propose that the Church of England and the Catholic Church should each be able to nominate one member of the council, as they have by far the largest number of schools and teacher training institutions. The document asks for views on this proposal.

I also think it is right that the GTC should be an outward-looking body. Its concerns should extend beyond protecting the interests of its own members. It must be prepared to speak out where standards are not as they should be. As with other professional bodies, the membership of the council should be wider than just teachers to ensure that the council can command the respect and authority of the wider public. Amendment No. 1 also ensure, that, when making regulations on the composition of the GTC, the Secretary of State must have regard to the interests of parents. The consultation document invites views on how parents should be represented.

We also introduced during our earlier debates a provision requiring the Secretary of State, when making regulations on the composition of the GTC, to have regard to the interests of persons concerned with the teaching of pupils with special educational needs. Amendment No. 27 places a similar duty on the

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Secretary of State for Scotland when making nominations to the Scottish GTC. The Government are committed to including all learners in their crusade for higher standards. I believe it is right that the interests of those with special educational needs should be represented on both councils. Our consultation paper on the GTC for England invites views on how these interests should be represented.

I believe these amendments will help to ensure that we get the composition of the council right. We will carefully consider the outcome of our consultation exercise. Before we proceed with the drafting of the regulations, we want to be sure that there is widespread agreement. The regulations will, of course, be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure when we will have an opportunity to have a further debate on this issue.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

3.15 p.m.



Clause 2, leave out Clause 2.

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