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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, with the greatest respect, I cannot agree with the noble Lord's comment. The Human Rights Act has not been shown to be unenforceable; it has been demonstrated to be an extremely well crafted Act, about which we should all jointly express great pride.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Joint Committee that drew up the report. When my noble friend considers the report, will she bear in mind, and communicate to her colleagues in

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the Government that, above all, our recommendations affect very positively the performance of the public services?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we will bear that in mind. I do not hesitate to repeat that there is much in the report that deserves careful consideration and much that many would welcome.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, do the Government consider that there already exist in this country organisations that possess the powers and functions to promote and maintain human rights? If not, will the first task of any commission be to obtain general agreement on defining what constitute human rights?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, all those issues are important. I do not know whether the noble Lord has yet had the full benefit of looking at the report, but many of those matters are explored in it. The noble Lord will know that the committee took evidence from very many people. I hope that the report will do just what it is doing today—exciting much debate and discussion—so that we can all have an appropriate level of pride about what comes out of it when the Government conclude their deliberations.

The Monarchy

3.16 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will recommend the establishment of a Select Committee to consider the future of the Monarchy.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, no.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware of the decreasing support for the monarchy, caused largely because people are against an unelected head of state? For that and other reasons, is it not time for a wide-ranging examination of the status of the monarchy, which could be undertaken by a Select Committee?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not believe that there is decreasing support for the monarchy. Recent history—the Jubilee year—demonstrates that. So, when my noble friend Lord Dormand asks me again for my answer, it is "No".

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, notwithstanding the views of those who share the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, is the noble and learned Lord aware that most people in this country

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will be immensely encouraged by what the Leader of the House has said? On behalf of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition we concur entirely.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, yes.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House agree with me that one does not have to be a republican to believe that it would be in the interests of the monarchy for a review to be held now in the light of its role in modern circumstances, particularly with regard to the exercise of the Royal prerogative?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am aware of the current political—and perhaps legal—debate about the Royal prerogative. I know that views on the matter are strongly held, not always by republicans, as the noble Lord says. But this is a specific Question, with which I think I have dealt to the general satisfaction of noble Lords.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord suggest to his noble friend Lord Dormand that he might get together with me to make a survey of the states around the world that have elected heads of state—there are perhaps 150—to see whether he wishes to reconsider his views?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, yes.

Lord Carter: My Lords, we have heard the views of the Official Opposition. Is my noble and learned friend aware of the views of the Liberal Democrats?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, they do not normally have any.

Lord Roper: My Lords, I thought that the Government had noticed that we have them at least in the Division Lobby from time to time. But we appreciate the Lord Privy Seal's reply to the Question.

Children at Protest Meetings

3.18 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action will be taken as a result of the attendance of children of school age at recent protest meetings if persons with professional responsibility for the children are implicated in encouraging such attendance.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, questions about the professional conduct of any member of a school's workforce are for head teachers, governors and local authorities to resolve. Serious cases of teacher professional misconduct can be referred to the General Teaching Council.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. As a former schoolmaster, I

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agree with the professional associations, which feel that children should not take part in demonstrations and protests in school time. There is parental concern because of the question of legal responsibilities. Where children are away from school, with the encouragement or assistance of adults—whether they be on the school staff or not—the relevant school governors should take the matter seriously. Will my noble friend invite school governing bodies to consider the matter carefully?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I recognise that, as a former member of the profession, my noble friend intends to do his utmost to uphold its prestige and reputation. There is no need for us to remind governing bodies of their responsibilities; they are able to discharge them. In the one or two cases in which the issue has arisen, the governing bodies have acted in exemplary fashion.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, for the benefit of parents who meet their legal obligation by seeing that their children attend school, can the Minister say who is in loco parentis for children who, having taken time out of the school day to protest, are injured?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, when the pupil is registered at the school, the responsibility lies with the school for the duration of the school day. That is why schools recognise that children who leave the premises must do so under supervision and can be at risk. We are all conscious of the fact that, at times, things go wrong on school trips and visits. However, it is highly unlikely that pupils would be supervised on a demonstration, and, as far as the school is concerned, any student who has left the school during school time has broken the agreement with the school to attend.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, on these Benches, we agree very much with the Answer that the Minister gave. However, although we should discourage children from leaving school during school time to demonstrate, we should encourage them to demonstrate. Is that not a good way of encouraging them to take an interest in politics?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that would depend on the subject about which the students were demonstrating. I can think of subjects that might cause consternation to all of us.

We all recognise that we live in a democratic society and that young people are part of that democratic society, although, if they are under voting age, they have limited rights. Like the noble Baroness, we want young people to have an understanding of the issues facing society, and we are keen to promote citizenship. From time to time, that is bound to give rise to interesting and involved debates about current issues.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord did not answer my question. I asked who was in loco parentis in such a situation.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I thought that I had made the situation clear. If the pupil has registered

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for attendance at the school, the school takes responsibility. If the students then take themselves off away from the school without permission, the school has an obligation to do something about it. In the first instance, it would notify parents, who would need to know about that unauthorised absence.

There is no doubt that, when a child under school leaving age registers at a school, that child is under the auspices of the school authorities.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will my noble friend consider the fact that, in some cases, children from primary schools were involved in the demonstrations? Will he express the hope that the Liberal Party would not wish to see those children involved in demonstrations?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I imagine that anybody who wants to be a Liberal has to start fairly young and, I hope, give up fairly young as well. My noble friend will recognise that my reference to the citizenship education that is part of the school curriculum did not apply to junior schoolchildren, only to those in secondary education.


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