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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I have several responses to that. First, I represent the official Opposition in the House and I am doing my job. The amendments that we have discussed today have been serious and some extremely serious points have been raised. Secondly, the noble Lord will be aware from our earlier exchange

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from the Dispatch Boxes that I was outside the loop that decided that the Bill's Committee stage should be held in the Moses Room. I do not know who decided that, but that decision meant that we were not allowed to bring any subject whatever to a resolution. Thirdly, the noble Lord, who has been in and out of the House all day, will know that many of the amendments were answered very unsatisfactorily in another place. We were promised that the Government would reflect on some amendments and return with different amendments on Report. Mostly, that has not happened. Fourthly, in relation to the statistics that the noble Lord quoted, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, moved virtually no amendments during the Bill's Committee stage, and the Liberal Democrats brought forward very few amendments in Committee compared with the number of Liberal Democrat amendments that are before us now. We shall much later come to quite a number of Liberal Democrat amendments, many of which I shall support.

It was wrong of the noble Lord to use those statistics in the way that he did. I asked for the relevant information, and I will go through the night. Whether I come in tomorrow, I do not know. If there is a plan to rise any earlier than after our discussion of all of the amendments, it would be courteous to those who are waiting to speak to amendments that come much later in the Marshalled List, and it would certainly be courteous to the staff of the House, to inform us of that. Otherwise, I do not regard myself as culpable. I believe that I am doing my job as a member of the Opposition Front Bench.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I, too, am wary of having two Opposition Front Bench Members intervening on the same subject. We have--dare I say this to the noble Lord the Chief Whip--been totally and utterly co-operative in relation to the Bill the whole way through. We agreed that the Bill should go into the Moses Room. It then turned out that it was not a suitable Bill to go to the Moses Room; all those who took part in the Committee stage would agree with that. It would have been far better to have involved the Front Bench. We were trying to assist the Government, and we shall go on doing so because we believe that the Government should be allowed to secure their business; we always try to assist them in that goal.

Having said that, the Bill was considered for four days in the Moses Room. One would therefore have thought that we should have at least two days' debate on Report. The Government are trying to railroad the Bill through by allocating one day for our debate on Report, although there are about 70 groups of amendments before us. That is an awful lot of amendments to get through. At this stage--at nearly 10.30 p.m.--we have got through very few amendments.

No doubt the Government will respond by saying that we behaved differently when we were in government. That is not the case. The Government should be prepared to make a concession in relation to the Bill. There is no problem whatever with time. We do not know when the election will be--the noble Lord

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the Chief Whip does not know when it will be and--dare I say it--the Prime Minister does not know when the election will be. When it is called, some sort of deal will no doubt be done about the Bill's passage. Let us wait until that happens. For the moment, we should allow the House to do its job, and to do so properly; it should revise, as it has always properly done, legislation that comes before it.

I hope that the Government do not want to sit much later than 11 p.m., particularly because we will begin sitting at 11 a.m. tomorrow. I hope that the noble Lord the Chief Whip will take a reasonable approach in relation to the Bill, especially because we have been reasonable in the past.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am sure that this debate is completely out of order. However, at this time of night, it is important to explain the facts. It is true that the Bill spent four days in the Moses Room. That amounts to about 16 hours, which is equivalent to one days' debate on the Floor of the House.

Noble Lords: Come on!

Lord Carter: My Lords, noble Lords say, "Come on". Well, four times four is 16; if one divides 16 by two, one gets eight, and eight hours amounts to one days' debate on the Floor of the House.

I have already offered an arrangement. Because of the number of amendments, I am quite prepared for the House to go up tonight around 11 o'clock or soon after--thinking of the staff of the House--and to finish the Bill on Monday. I will rearrange the Business on Monday, as long as we get the Second Reading of the Health Bill. I will take off the Second Reading of the Capital Allowances Bill. It is a perfectly reasonable arrangement. I will deliver the Bill to the Commons, already a week late, next Thursday, on Third Reading. For some reason, the noble Lord does not want to accept this. I cannot see why. If members of staff are kept late now, it is entirely the responsibility of the Opposition for refusing what I think is the very reasonable deal that I have offered them.

Lord Henley: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip tell me what is the hurry? When is the election? We do not have to have an election for another year or so. We are not having an election in May, as far as I know, unless the Prime Minister has other ideas. There is no hurry about the Bill. We have any amount of time, and it is very important that the House discusses these Bills properly and does its job properly as a revising Chamber. This House will insist on doing that job. Why is there any hurry at all about the Bill?

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am sure that if the noble Lord had been at any time Chief Whip for the Government he would know that there is an arrangement between the two Houses by which business is managed, and we try to get Bills back to the Commons at a certain pace. I have already delayed this

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Bill by a week, and I am not going to have the Government's programme decided by the Opposition Chief Whip. I have offered a perfectly reasonable deal on this important Bill. I spent 10 years in Opposition and dealt with disability. I hate to personalise this. I have two handicapped children, as the House knows--

Noble Lords: Oh, come on!

Lord Carter: My Lords, I do not think that this is a Bill to play games with.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am not going to play games. It is the noble Lord himself who is playing games. We are not trying to delay this Bill at all. We always accept that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Opposition to allow the Government to get their legislation, but we also accept that it is the duty of the Opposition to make sure, particularly in this House, that Bills are properly discussed.

I think the noble Lord should accept the fact that this Bill must be discussed properly in this place and it is not for us to say that this Bill should go through purely at the convenience of another place. If another place is desperate to have the Bill, the noble Lord must tell us why. Is it because they want to have an election on some particular date? I do not know. The noble Lord will no doubt tell us, as Chief Whip for the Government Benches. We want to know when we can discuss this Bill properly at a proper stage of the night. Are we to discuss it until two o'clock or three o'clock, or on another occasion?

The noble Lord has suggested an alternative; that we could have another day on Report, next Monday, and then we might have a Third Reading on a later occasion. I am prepared to agree to that, but I am not prepared to agree to any suspension of the usual intervals between different stages of the Bill.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments No. 55:

    Page 8, line 13, leave out paragraph (b) and insert--

("(b) An''y setting recognised by an early years development partnership set up by a local education authority under section 119 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 55 and speak also to Amendment No. 58. On both amendments, I am speaking for the Royal National Institute for the Blind as the purpose is to allow any setting recognised by an early years development and child care partnership to request a review or assessment of educational needs.

Earlier identification, intervention and support for young children with a range of special needs, and their families, play a high-profile role in current government initiatives and programmes which include Sure Start and Early Excellence Centres. Guidance and the draft code of practice, special educational needs and national standards for the regulation of day care places are the responsibility of practitioners in early years settings who are involved in the identification of a child with special educational needs. As severe sight

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loss is rare it can be easily missed. Those involved in day-care settings are in a key position to notice subtle changes or differences in a child's behaviour that may indicate a special need. Practitioners will need the support of local education authorities and health and social care specialists in the assessment of a child's needs if they are to be identified and if timely support is to be given.

In relation to these amendments, I speak specifically about children with sight impairments but, as my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking said earlier, they would apply to children with all sort of difficulties that could lead to the need for a statement later on. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I respect the constructive way in which the noble Baroness has presented her argument on these amendments and I respect the group on whose behalf she has moved the amendment. We are sympathetic to Amendments Nos. 55 and 58. We do not believe, at this stage, that they are quite right, although they provide a useful avenue to ensure that we achieve the objectives that the noble Baroness has identified. We would like to consider the amendments and return to them at Third Reading. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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