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Lord Lucas: In dealing with the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, the Minister suggested that these plans would cover such things as provision of equipment for the hard of hearing and laptops. I do not see how that fits under the phrase "physical environment". If I were asked to describe the physical environment of this room, I would say it was cold and dark, and I would be right, but the fact that I do not have a laptop in front of me has nothing to do with the physical environment of this room.

If we were to put the words "and equipment" after "environment", then I would understand that what the Minister said corresponded to what was in the Bill, but that is not there at the moment. Would the Minister consider their inclusion?

Lord Davies of Oldham: At the very beginning of our Committee proceedings there was a complaint about the physical dimensions of this room and about the acoustics. I thought it was indicated that they could be improved. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said on this occasion and I will look further at that point.

Lord Rix: Before my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester concludes the debate, as I imagine he will,

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I would like to say that I cannot totally accept what was said by the Minister. The amendment does not place an additional burden on LEAs and teachers and schools any more than is already put upon them in the Bill. It clarifies the situation and it also puts a belt and braces not only on the physical access, but also on the teaching access which is essential for all disabled pupils.

I fear that I must return to this issue possibly when we come to the next stage of the Bill, but I shall consult with the Special Educational Consortium who will, I hope, in turn have words with officials in the department. I hope that some compromise may be reached.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: Before the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, winds up, I would like to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Rix, has said. We have had a great deal of explanation on the essence of the clauses and in particular on the vital role played here by the long-term strategy. It gives completely the wrong message to mention just the physical environment here. It is very important that the concept of access to the curriculum is embedded on the face of the Bill.

Lord Morris of Manchester: We have had an informed and worthwhile, if discursive, debate on these important amendments. I trust I may be forgiven for expressing special pleasure about the speeches of my noble friend Lady Wilkins and the noble Lord, Lord Rix.

Turning to the reply from the Minister, while I had hoped for more today I am not unhopeful of a more favourable reply when we return to these issues on Report. After all, the Minister said that he favours the intention of Amendment No. 113A. Is it unreasonable to expect that he may take one further step and discuss with those who support the amendment any necessary improvements to its drafting if that would help matters along?

Meanwhile, I again reserve the position of my noble friend Lord Ashley in regard to Amendment No. 112, and on this occasion also my own position in relation to Amendment No. 113A. On that basis, I shall not press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 113 to 113A not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham: This may be a convenient moment for the Committee to adjourn.

The Chairman of Committees: The Committee stands adjourned until Tuesday, 6th February 2001. The Committee adjourned at one minute past eight o'clock.


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