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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that comment. I no longer have my figures, but my query was that obviously it is a substantial figure. I was trying to question more acutely the reason why there was such a difference in funding. As I explained, in the two schools which I gave as examples, I suspect that the inner school in Leicester has as many if not more problems than the school in Tower Hamlets. Obviously, that is why I raised the issue; it was a significant difference.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that clarification. Of course, within the overall education authority the issue of how many pupils are in need of additional support will be the factor. Perhaps the noble Baroness will agree with me that in a sense we are not comparing like with like in quite the same way. That is why it has been important to have the formula for ensuring that the basic amount payable for all pupils is the same and to then recognise areas of great deprivation; to recognise areas where costs are very high—which has been the other side of that equation—and to ensure we understand that; and, as I have said before and other noble Lords have raised, to look at issues of transport.

If the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, would like more information, I shall send her a fuller reply. Essentially, that is what we were trying to do by using more up to date information, recognising that the information, which I think is from 1991, is out of date in terms of where our children are and the needs and support they require.

As I said to the noble Baronesses, Lady Byford and Lady Sharp, I recognise the issues of transport and those are built in. I shall pass on the idea of the red diesel. Of course, as noble Lords would expect me to say, from these Benches I am delighted that it is red.

Therefore, within the context of a funding formula designed to deliver for every pupil a similar amount of money and to look at the issues that face education authorities in terms of deprivation, high costs and transport, I believe that this funding formula is a significant contribution and a much better formula than that we had before. I recognise the problems within the schools. We are committed to working with our partners in local government to resolve that, not

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only for this year, but to look at the issues for future years in the context of budgets that can be for three years ahead.

I am also very conscious of the role of school forums. I dug out some of the debates we had in your Lordships' House about the value or otherwise of these bodies. As we have said to a great number of schools all over the country, I urge that school forums are used exactly as we wanted them to be. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said—I am sure that he is right—that school forums are the opportunity for transparency which is critical in all local education authorities. I believe that that is an important contribution.

This Government are committed to education, education, education. We are committed to rising investment in schools; that will remain a priority. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, put it very well: children are 100 per cent of our future.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, just before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask whether this is the formula that will be used for next year's allocations or is she telling us that during the coming year it will be refined and changed so that we do not have the same shambolic situation we have at the moment?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, what I am saying is that my right honourable friend is extremely keen to work with his partners in local government and to look at precisely what is happening. Part of that is understanding why we have the variations that we do. As I said, there are significant variations between schools which are of great interest. He is committed to looking at the implications of that and, in particular—as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield—at the Standards Fund issues, and at anything which might be done. I cannot commit him to saying that that means he will change the formula or anything of that nature, merely that he wants to ensure that as we move into this formula these concerns have been addressed.

7.17 p.m.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very comprehensive and courteous reply. It has been a debate with a lot of questions and I am sure that we shall have a great many more debates about education funding during the coming months. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the Secretary of State wants to work with the departments in local government.

We shall certainly return to this issue but I should like to thank all noble Lords who participated in this debate, particularly the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford who is making his last appearance in the House of Lords. I thank all participants. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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Regulatory Reform (Sugar Beet Research and Education) Order 2003

7.20 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) rose to move, That the draft regulatory reform order laid before the House on 17th March be approved [17th Report from the Regulatory Reform Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, probably the most remarkable thing about this order is that it is the first from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to be brought forward under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001.

The order will repeal Section 68 of the Food Act 1984 and ends government involvement in research and education in the sugar beet sector. The industry welcomes this measure, which will give it complete control over its research and education programme.

In December 1998, following a consultation exercise, the Government announced that they would begin a phased withdrawal from sugar beet research and education and that the NFU, which represents all beet growers, and British Sugar would set up new industry-run research and education arrangements. The legal requirement placed on the Minister to draw up an annual research and education programme would remain until Section 68 could be repealed. The phased withdrawal has gone smoothly and only the repeal of Section 68 itself now remains.

Because the proposal to repeal Section 68 was drawn up prior to the introduction of the procedure for regulatory reform orders, it was not framed as a regulatory reform order and, as a consequence, the consultation process adopted by DEFRA does not reflect exactly the Cabinet Office guidelines. Nevertheless, the department has demonstrated to the satisfaction of both the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform and the corresponding committee in another place that the consultation exercise carried out in 1998 fully satisfied the requirements of the 2001 Act.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee concluded that the proposal to repeal Section 68 of the Food Act was an appropriate use of the powers under the Regulatory Reform Act and would have the effect of reducing a burden on the sugar beet industry. I thank the members of that committee for the time they spent scrutinising the proposal and for recommending it to the House.

The committee in another place also considered that the proposal would remove a legal burden—it is a small one, but it is significant for members of the sugar beet industry—and would not create or impose any new burdens. The order was unanimously approved in another place. I commend the order to the House.

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Moved, That the draft regulatory reform order laid before the House on 17th March be approved [17th Report from the Regulatory Reform Committee].—(Lord Whitty.)

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting this order to the House. As he explained, in future the sugar beet industry will carry out its own education and research functions. I understand that no representations were made to DEFRA during the period set out in Section 7 of the 2001 Act. Therefore, we obviously support the order.

In paragraph 10 of its 13th report the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee concluded:

    "While we consider that the Department is correct to conclude that the proposals would remove a burden, we do not support the analysis used by the Department in reaching its conclusions".

I was slightly surprised by that comment. Can the Minister explain, first, whether his department has reflected on it? Secondly, what method of analysis was used and objected to? Lastly, was the acceptability of the method adopted queried by anyone in advance of its use? At present we can judge the position only in regard to the report itself. If the Minister is unable to respond tonight, I should be grateful if he would write to me.

Paragraph 11 explains the department's thinking, saying that two burdens on the industry will be removed. Paragraph 12 disputes that there is a double burden, while paragraph 13 makes it plain that the committee does not support either of the department's arguments in this regard. While we support the order before us, certain comments were made in the report of the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee which have caused me to raise my eyebrows. That is why I am putting these questions to the Minister.

Thereafter, the committee had no real criticisms; indeed, paragraph 22 states that the consultation had been "adequate". However, how the committee could have concluded that the consultation was adequate if it was not convinced of the methodology employed, I am not quite sure. In paragraph 31 the committee concludes:

    "On the evidence before us, it appears that the proposals would be likely to result in substantial savings to the sugar beet industry".

I am sure that all noble Lords who take an interest in this sector will say, "Thank goodness for that and we welcome the order".

The 2002–03 17th report from the House of Lords committee concludes that it is appropriate for this proposal to be made under the aegis of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001.

Having made those few comments, we accept the statutory instrument. However, we are anxious to ensure that, in the future, all sugar beet growers should be included in consultation exercises and thus kept in touch with any changes that might take place. The report makes the comment that the NFU acts on behalf of all sugar beet growers, which I acknowledge.

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However, it is important to realise that certain sugar beet growers may not necessarily be members of the NFU.

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