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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that was an extraordinary answer. The terms of the amendment read:

    (a) to a disabled pupil,

    (b) to a pupil with a statement of special educational needs maintained under section 324, or

    (c) to a pupil with special educational needs but with no statement".

It says nothing about preference for maintained or non-maintained schools. It refers to what is right for the child in question.

The noble Baroness said a number of things in the course of responding to the amendment. But she made no argument against what is a clear, unequivocal statement at the beginning of the Bill that whatever provision is made should be in the interests of and consistent with the educational needs of the child. The noble Baroness said that the amendment placed an unnecessary restriction on disabled children. It is incumbent on the Minister to tell me exactly where that restriction appears in the amendment.

The noble Baroness also said that children with special educational needs are given provision over and above other children. The Minister has given assurances and reassurances on many occasions that there will not be an adverse impact on other children. My understanding therefore is that the aim of the

20 Feb 2001 : Column 602

education service is to give all children, with or without special educational needs, the best possible provision without disadvantaging one or the other.

The noble Baroness attributed to me wrong motives. In fact she said she might be wrong and I can say to her that she is very wrong. My motives are no different from what is incorporated in the first amendment; that is, that this Bill is about making appropriate provision for young people with disabilities and special educational needs. That is stated unequivocally in my suggestion for Clause 1. The noble Baroness might like to tell us how many special and specialist schools have in fact closed in recent times.

My last comment is one of almost incredulity. The noble Baroness said that parents and children have a veto. My understanding is that nowhere in this Bill do parents or children have a veto. They certainly have the right to have their views taken into account. In fact, the Government propose that children should have their say. But I should be pleased to be pointed to the part of this Bill where parents and/or children are given a veto.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the answer to the first question of the noble Baroness in relation to the effect that the amendment will have on disabled children or children with special educational needs is quite clear. The amendment reinstates the equivalent of the first caveat in previous legislation. That has been misused, and sometimes grossly so, to deny children who have a disability and, as a result, special educational needs access to mainstream schools when in fact those children could be educated in mainstream schools to their advantage and to the advantage of other children who will learn what it means to be disabled from being educated alongside children with disabilities. That is an important facet of mainstreaming which is sometimes forgotten.

The noble Baroness asked about the role of parents. I repeat that the amendment provides an absolute parental and pupil veto. It reads:

    "The wishes of the parent and the pupil must be respected at all times".

That can only be interpreted to mean that if a parent wants something which is contrary to the advice given by teachers, people with medical expertise, doctors and others who have the knowledge and understanding of what is likely to best support and help a child, their wishes will have to be respected and taken into account and therefore the decision made that those parents want. I understand from legal advice that that is how the amendment will be interpreted.

Therefore for both those reasons I ask the House to accept the Government's commitments, made clearly throughout the Committee stage of this Bill, to specialist schools and to providing the resources necessary. This amendment runs a coach and horses through one of the Government's main commitments

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in this Bill; that is, to make available mainstream education for a higher proportion of those children who have special educational needs.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am not sure of the rules of the House. However, with the leave of the House I come back to my amendment. That response was even more extraordinary than the first answer. The amendment is unequivocal. It simply asks for,

    "The best and most appropriate available education",

to be offered. It does not talk about misuse. It does not allow for misuse. It is an unequivocal statement at the outset of the Bill. Therefore I do not understand that response.

If the noble Baroness says that respecting the wishes of parents at all times is an adverse proposition, then I am suspicious of the Government's motives and ask for the opinion of the House.

3.28 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 86; Not-Contents, 162.

Division No. 1


Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller]
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Feldman, L.
Fookes, B.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Garel-Jones, L.
Geddes, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Hanham, B.
Haslam, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L.
Holderness, L.
Hooper, B.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Hylton, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Liverpool, E.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Montrose, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Noakes, B.
Northbourne, L.
Northesk, E.
Oxfuird, V.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rogan, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wilcox, B.
Young, B.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Avebury, L.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Boothroyd, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brightman, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Chalfont, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ezra, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fitt, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooson, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Islwyn, L.
Jacobs, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Listowel, E.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Manchester, Bp.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marsh, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mishcon, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Parekh, L.
Patel, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rix, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Roper, L.
Sandberg, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Serota, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stallard, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strange, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

20 Feb 2001 : Column 605

3.38 p.m.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 1, line 11, leave out ("who should") and insert ("whom the parents of that child wish to").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Minister's tone has hardened, and she has become more explicit, since our attempt to elicit a response in Grand Committee. There is clearly an unequivocal aim to ensure that more children with special educational needs are educated in mainstream schools. I had hoped the Minister would agree that a child should be placed wherever it is appropriate to place that child--a matter that we shall debate throughout the whole afternoon. That may, or may not, mean placing more children in mainstream schooling, but that should not be the overriding aim. The aim should be to provide the kind of schooling that is appropriate for the child.

I have re-read the response that I received from the Minister in Committee. She did not meet the objection that I raised to the present wording of the Bill. The Minister claimed that my amendment was unnecessary because under other legislation non-school based education is permitted. That being the case, the Bill is in conflict with the earlier provision. It follows that if a legal challenge were to arise--for example, in the case to which I referred in Committee where a person with ME was educated at home--lawyers on both sides of the argument would seize on the two contradictory pieces of legislation.

I am no lawyer, but let us suppose that the later legislation overrides the earlier provision. Clause 1 of the Bill as drafted states:

    "This section applies to a child with special educational needs who should be educated in a school".

My amendment would replace "should" with the words,

    "whom the parents of that child wish to".

Nowhere in the Bill, or in previous special needs legislation, is it stated who decides that a child should be educated in school. By implication, it is the local education authority which makes the decision, not the parents. In other words, according to the legislation, if a local education authority says that a child should be educated in school, the child must attend school. That is not right. It conflicts with the long-standing provision that all children of a certain age must be

20 Feb 2001 : Column 606

educated but that that education need not necessarily take place in a school: it could be provided at home or by tutors, or it could be a mixture of both.

I can find no reason in the Minister's reply in Committee as to why this simple amendment is not acceptable. The noble Baroness tells us that the wording in the Bill still allows parents to choose to educate a child with special educational needs at home, but clearly it does not do that; it leaves it open to a local authority to override parents' wishes. I beg to move.

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