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Lord Renton: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may mention that the expression

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"must have regard to" can have various legal effects, depending upon the circumstances. However, when she says,


    "must have regard to any relevant provisions of a code of practice issued under section 53A",

does that mean that it will have a binding legal effect or does it mean that it is something that merely must be considered?

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, many amendments have been moved today. The question that arises from them is whether the requirements should be on the face of the Bill or in the code of practice. Throughout the Bill, sometimes the Government have favoured one option; sometimes they have favoured the other. I can quite understand that.

My noble friend's opposition to Amendment No. 1 concerning whether the needs of the child should be placed on the face of the Bill was that it provided an excuse for local education authorities to abuse it. We all know that that abuse has taken place. However, that argument applies equally to these amendments--at least, I believe that to be the case. The duties on local education authorities and schools should not be prescribed rigidly on the face of the Bill. I believe that it is far better that they appear in a code of practice. That will encourage rather than discourage action and will provide the essential flexibility.

I believe that the provision for disabled children in mainstream schools will improve enormously after this Bill is enacted, thanks to my noble friend and her many efforts. What is inappropriate or unreasonable today will become routine tomorrow. I believe that we need to allow for changes in the expectation of both schools and parents. We should not conceal the difficulties of the future but neither should we highlight them on the face of the Bill. Therefore, I believe that the best means are those spelt out in the amendment.

Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I strongly support this amendment, argued so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and added to by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley. It seems that the right place for the guidance is in the code of practice. I strongly support the amendment.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I, too, briefly give my warm support to the amendment. In particular, I support Amendment No. 35 because SKILL, the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, of which I am president, was particularly keen that the guidance should appear in the code of practice rather than on the face of the Bill.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I gather from those paeons of praise that this is the coin for which the Liberal Democrats sold Amendment No. 1. If so, at least they have a real coin. I believe that their amendment is well worth supporting. It will make a positive difference to the Bill and will enable my amendment, Amendment

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No. 19, to be dealt with in another, and perhaps better, way. Therefore, my gloom will be lightened slightly if this amendment is agreed to by the Government.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, for once I shall be able to please everyone who has spoken in this debate. When considering whether it is reasonable to have to make a particular adjustment, we firmly believe that it is right that a school or post-16 institution should have regard to any of the factors currently set out in new Sections 28C(4) and 28T(2) respectively.

However, although we believe that there is no problem in those factors appearing on the face of the Bill, I accept that there has been much debate on the issue. We have listened very carefully to the points raised both in Committee and on Report. Given the strength of feeling and the fact that the DRC has confirmed that all those factors will be covered in the code of practice, we have decided that we can accept Amendments Nos. 18 and 35 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. Of course, that will have the effect of incorporating Amendment No. 19 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I may pose one question. I do not object to such a meeting, but why was time found to have a meeting with the Front Bench of the Liberal Democrat Party when a meeting was denied to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, to discuss matters in relation to this Bill?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the reason was that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, had already held a number of discussions on the issue that he raised on Clause 1. There have been no discussions either with officials or with Ministers about the matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. Therefore, it seemed perfectly reasonable to agree to a meeting on that issue.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much indeed. We are obviously extremely grateful to her for conceding these amendments. I believe that the Bill will be the better for them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 20:


    Page 12, leave out lines 1 to 6.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall be brief. The amendment relates to proposed new Section 28C(6), which makes no sense whatever. It is entirely otiose and the Bill would not lose anything if it were removed; in fact, throughout our deliberations on the Bill no Minister has given any explanation of the provision's importance. For the last time, I shall read it out. It states:


    "In determining whether it is reasonable for the responsible body to have to take a particular step in relation to that person in order to comply with its duty under subsection (1), regard shall be had to the extent to which taking the step in question is consistent with compliance with that request".

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That provision should be taken out of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I believe that my noble friend explained in a letter that she sent to the noble Baroness that removing proposed new Section 28C(6), as Amendment No. 20 proposes, would nullify the effects of Amendment No. 21, which is tabled in the name of my noble friend and which I know the noble Baroness supports.

It may be helpful to noble Lords if I make it clear that new subsections (5) to (7) of new Section 28C should be read together, as should subsections (3) to (5) of new Section 28T. When they are read together, the subsection to which the noble Baroness objects becomes much clearer. She insists on looking at such provisions in isolation; I am not sure why she does so.

In addition, I reiterate to noble Lords what was said on Report. We want to make it completely clear to schools and institutions that, in discharging their duties under Clauses 13 and 28 to make reasonable adjustments, they should take into account any request that has been made to maintain confidentiality. The provisions in question--that is, new subsections (5) to (7) of new Section 28C and new subsections (3) to (5) of new Section 28T--will deliver that effect.

For the two reasons that I have highlighted, we cannot agree to the amendment. We hope that the noble Baroness will agree that it is not necessary.

I shall also speak to the government amendments that are grouped with Amendment No. 20. Government Amendment No. 21, which appears on the Marshalled List in the name of my noble friend, takes forward the commitment that we made on Report to introduce an amendment to ensure that schools take account of requests that are made by disabled children to keep their disability confidential when considering whether it is reasonable to make a particular adjustment. The amendment takes forward the commitment that we made to noble Lords on Report.

Government Amendment No. 21 will ensure that when considering a reasonable adjustment schools take account of a disabled child's confidentiality request, provided that the school reasonably believes that the child has sufficient understanding of the nature of the request and its effect.

Government Amendment No. 37 mirrors for the post-16 sector the wording of Amendment No. 21. As noble Lords will recognise, that is being done purely to achieve consistency in the drafting of the Bill.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, when I moved the amendment, I should have said how much I welcome Amendments Nos. 21 and 37. I did not regard them as being connected with Amendment No. 20 because confidentiality is a different issue. I am grateful to the Government for tabling them; they are much welcomed. Many noble Lords have spoken in favour of such amendments during the Bill's passage through the House.

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I have read the Bill and Clause 13 very carefully. Subsection (1) states:


    "The responsible body for a school must take such steps as it is reasonable for it to have to ensure that"--

various duties, which are set out in the clause, are complied with. However, subsection (4) states:


    "In considering whether it is reasonable for it to have to take a particular step in order to comply with its duty under subsection (1), the factors to which a responsible body may have regard include"--

a whole list of provisions, which are set out in the Bill. The degree to which a body has complied or been seen to comply is implicit in subsection (4).

I continue to believe that subsection (6) is a gobbledegook passage. No doubt the Government's arm would be strengthened by the support of the Liberals if I tested the opinion of the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


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