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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, will the Government consider preparing an aide-mémoire for parents of school children so that they can make their way through the morass of various types of tables and make a sane and sensible decision about where to send their children to school?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I hope that parents do not need aide-mémoire from me to help their judgment on what constitutes a good school. The best advice I would give parents is to visit schools themselves and form their own judgment.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, what are the weaknesses of the league table system?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, taken as a whole, it has been a highly constructive addition to the education system
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and is why school results in primary and secondary schools have risen consistently and significantly since performance data have been published.
Lord Bramall: My Lords, does not the Minister also agree that education is not only about passing exams, it is even more perhaps about motivation for continuing to thirst after knowledge in future years?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I agree that that is also important in producing a rounded education for our young people.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, by what means is recognition given to those schools which make particular efforts to include children who are cared for by the state; for instance, in developing the role of the designated teacher and the personal education plans for such children?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, the value-added tables give recognition to achievement of pupils in the categories the noble Earl described. We give strong incentives to schools to recruit such pupils, and, once in the schools, they have a massive interest in seeing that they perform well.
Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.(Lord Dubs.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
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House in Committee accordingly.
[ The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brabazon of Tara) in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [Encouragement of terrorism]:
Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 21:
"( ) Nothing in this section is intended to apply to statements made solely for the purposes of academic teaching, study or research in support of such activities."
The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 21, 45 and 83 are intended to ensure that the position of academic institutions is made thoroughly safe. This issue will be spoken to primarily by my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, who was briefly absent from the Chamber when the amendment was called, but has now returned. In those circumstances, I shall give way to my noble friend. I beg to move.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: I apologise that against the breaking wave of Peers leaving the Chamber I was a little slow in reaching my seat.
The purpose of these amendments is to exclude from the sweep of the Bill, which as the Committee will know is a wide and not very clear sweep, academic research related to the pursuit of knowledge and to teaching and education. This is a crucial amendmentand it affects Amendment No. 45. Amendment No. 83 is slightly different because it relates to the sections of the Bill that deal with noxious and other substances. I will come back to that. There are two great problems for those in the academic library and university world.
First, we fully recognise and appreciate the concessions that the Minister outlined in Committee on 5 December. Nevertheless, while she graciously agreed to an extension of the defence against a charge that somebody has been disseminating publications, and in other ways instructing the encouragement of terrorism, the difficulty is that the defence does not deal with the cases that might be brought against an academic or a librarian, given that no question of intent is written into the Bill. We will come back to that in a later group of amendments.
Although there may be an effective defence because the Minister has altered the definition of recklessness to be subjective, not objective, many cases may still arise. Universities and libraries are especially concerned by what they describe as the possible creation of an atmosphere of apprehension and fear. By that they mean that, while it remains somewhat uncertain on what basis a particular instructor or librarian may be prosecuted, the possibility of going to court is a substantial inhibition to free and open expression in instruction, teaching, discussion and debate.
Let me explain what the person concerned may be up against. Initially, they would have to prepare a defence. They may well be engaged in legal expenses to prepare that defence. The very thought of going to a court is itself a considerable inhibition to someone
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who is genuinely acting as a professional in the university or library world. The real danger of the Bill is what I described on our first day in Committee as the chilling effect. People may deliberately decide not to provide their students with teaching materials or instruct in ways that draw on examples of terrorism or action involving violence. Librarians may be unwilling to loan books that could possibly be described as encouraging terrorism.
The problem here is a direct contradiction. On one side, it is the responsibility of universities and their associated libraries to try to extend the understanding of that terrifying and little-understood phenomenon. In order to teach classes about such matters as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism or terrorism of the past, such as that of the IRA, a teacher may well want to hand out information that could be used by students in analysing and discussing those matters. It is the essence of the freedom of expression and the free pursuit of knowledge that such information can be made available. However, the responsible and thoughtful academic, recognising that that is a crucial part of instructing his students in such matters, would be inhibited by the thought that he might have to go as far as a court to establish a defence. Much the same is true in the case of libraries where, especially in the case of the major university libraries, it is impossible for them to know the full content of the books that they lend and endorse in the sense of accepting and cataloguing them. That presents a major difficulty.
When the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mr Rammell, said in another place that many of those fears were misplaced, it was interesting that he immediately referred to the fact that Clause 1 had now been limited by the inclusion of intent. My noble friend Lord Goodhart and other Members of the Committee will raise that in more detail when we discuss the next group of amendments. In addition to the fact that there are real problems about establishing a defence there is the difficulty that many cases that should not come forward will. That will have the chilling effect that I mentioned earlier.
Let me give another example, which is based on Amendment No. 83. The Bill refers to:
That is not a bad description of the discipline of chemistry. What does a chemist teaching his science do when he is aware that even the most basic textbooks in chemistry deal with the use, handling and manufacture of noxious substances? The blighting effect on one of the most important areas of the advancement of knowledge in our country could be very grave. There would not just be the blighting effect on existing academics; it could extend to those whom we wish to recruit to our universities and to students. The Royal Society of Chemistry, in a letter to the Home Secretary, which was mentioned on the first day in Committee, drew attention to the extreme problems that that presents for a science teacher, whether in a university, a further education college or elsewhere.
We suggest, in this important amendment, direct exclusion of those working professionally in those fields and disseminating knowledge or making
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statements directly related to that professional responsibility. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, would agree that, when she put before us the very welcome concessions that she proposed, particularly to Clause 1(7) and Clause 2(9), some of us had a problem ensuring that that covered the area that we are deeply concerned about. Would I be right in putting the following interpretation on what she then said? I do so in a spirit of probing her intentions, not of trying at this stage to criticise them.
First, on Amendment No. 21, under Clause 1, would academic teaching be excluded unless it directly involved the encouragement of terrorism? Will the noble Baroness consider, for example, putting in a clause that indicates the exclusion of people pursuing their professional duties? The insertion of the intent in Clause 1(2)(b) has helped, and so does Amendment No. 79, which removes the reference to suspects. However, does the noble Baroness agree that that does not extend to Clause 2? Would we be right to assume that the noble Baroness proposes to delete the subsection in Clause 1 on recklessness, Clause 1(7)(a), and Clause 2(9)(d)? As such, would I be reasonably right to think that, in the case of recklessness, anyone whose teaching inadvertently encouraged terrorist activities in others would be exonerated, without the reference to intent by the very fact of those deletions?
Would it be correct to assume that there would be a legitimate defence for any teacher in a university, college or other place of education if they could show that in quoting, publishing or making available literature related to terrorist activities, he or she did not endorse the sentiments and was making them available only for the purposes of education, and that that would be no longer a criminal offence? Does the noble Baroness also agree that, even though the test of defence has been extended, the burden of proof still rests on the defendant? That came out fairly clearly in our discussion on the first day in Committee.
Is there any kind of defence on the basis of public interest? The Minister will know that in other broadly analogous legislation, for example, the Obscene Publications Act, if an objection is raised in the case of something that extends science, education or literature, that exemption is recognised. In this case would it be acceptable on the grounds of public interest that there should be a proper defence?
None of that is quite how it ought to be. It would be much better if the second group of amendments concerning intent were written into Clause 2. But short of that, there are very real concerns, which I shall sum up. First, the possibility of criminalising a very wide range of activities remains in the Bill. I think that it was the Joint Committee on Human Rights which specifically said that there should be a definition of the offence requiring intent and likelihood. So far, that has not been met. Secondly, could the defence be mounted on the basis of the professional duties of those concerned? Will the Minister consider that? In particular, will she consider the very grave dangers of the chilling effect of this legislation as it stands? It is still unclear and extremely broad, despite the concessions that the Minister has made or proposes to
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make. For example, it would be extremely dangerous, because one objection by one student, who might have many motivations for that objection, could put the career of the teacher or lecturer at risk. Amendment No. 83 addresses the position of free discussion of scientific research, which is gravely at risk because of the terminology used so extensively in that clause.
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