The right honourable Helen Lawrie Liddell, having been created Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, of Airdrie in Lanarkshire, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale and Baroness Ford, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Guy Vaughan Black, Esquire, having been created Baron Black of Brentwood, of Brentwood in the County of Essex, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Wakeham and Lord Marland, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Angela Frances Browning, having been created Baroness Browning, of Whimple in the County of Devon, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and Lord King of Bridgwater, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has described as essential the role of the BBC World Service in helping to deliver an ambitious foreign policy agenda. We continue to respect its complete editorial independence, and it is of course respected worldwide for its balanced and well informed programmes. The BBC World Service is funded through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through grant in aid. In line with the rest of Whitehall, we face budget pressures and are carefully scrutinising all expenditure. The BBC World Service is not exempt from that ongoing process.
The World Service has an audience of 180 million people a week across the globe-a figure far higher than that of any other international broadcaster. Is not the World Service an unrivalled way of demonstrating the values of this country?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I heartily endorse everything that my noble friend, with his considerable experience, rightly says. The World Service is an immensely powerful network for soft power and for underpinning and promoting the values for which we all stand. Everything that he says is right.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: Does the Minister agree that in these very unstable times there is a clear need for unbiased and independent news and information, which is uniquely provided by the BBC World Service? Does he also agree that a 25 per cent cut will inevitably lead to challenges that the World Service will find difficult to meet? That is what is being proposed and it is an unacceptable threat to the world's most respected broadcaster.
Lord Howell of Guildford: I certainly agree with the first point that the noble Baroness makes. Indeed, one wants to see a well funded and effective BBC World Service, but she has to recall that under her Government a substantial cut was imposed as a result of the fall in the value of sterling, which must have hurt a lot. Under the cuts announced on 22 June by my right honourable friend the Chancellor, the BBC World Service has to make a modest further contribution and-I have to say, given the appalling financial situation that we have had to unscramble and are still unscrambling-there will be further spending-round cuts. That is unavoidable and we will all have to share them.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, given the general recognition that peace in our world requires more religious understanding and peace between religions, does the noble Lord share my disappointment that over the past 10 years the religious programming output of the World Service has dropped to a third of what it was before?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, I share the right reverend Prelate's disappointment. Although this is strictly a matter for the editorial decision of the BBC World Service and has nothing to do with government guidance, I share his view and hope that some changes may be possible. However, that is a personal view.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, one of the lessons that we should learn from the Cold War is that benighted people living in beleaguered lands were often told the truth as a result of BBC World Service transmissions. Particularly in this day and age, against the hubbub of internet transmissions often made by
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Lord Howell of Guildford: It certainly is. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is absolutely right and I emphasise that the overall budget still allocated is substantial, has risen substantially over the years, and amounts to more than 20 per cent-possibly almost 25 per cent-of the total budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We are talking about very large sums of money backing the BBC World Service, not small sums.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the FCO is not ring-fenced like DfID and clearly always looks to the grant-in-aid bodies such as the British Council and the World Service when cuts come. Can the Minister confirm that the BBC Arabic TV service and the BBC Persian service are both at risk and explain how that coincides with the vision statement of the Foreign Secretary on 1 July this year, when he spoke of extending our "global reach and influence"?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the question of what services are adjusted, reviewed and so on is for the BBC World Service. The Arabic service is under review, not, I think, for funding reasons but because impact and competition have been the problem. The Farsi service continues to be well funded, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said the other day in the other place.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, in view of the rather ominous last sentence in the Minster's original Answer, I ask whether he is aware that the World Service has made cuts in the last two financial years of some £11 million. It is making strenuous efforts to use the new technologies and reduce costs. If the Foreign Office grant is cut, can we not look to DfID to make up any shortfall?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, it is possible that some of the BBC World Service activities can be categorised as overseas aid and could be supported by DfID. I know that matter is being looked at. The other problem for the BBC World Service is that, as the shortwave transmission systems tend to become outdated, it has to seek transfer on to FM systems with local co-operation of local stations around the world. I am afraid that all that costs money. The cuts in the past as the result of the fall in sterling were bitter and tough. The cuts under the 22 June restraints announced by the Chancellor are modest. For the future, I can only say that I totally share your Lordships' view that this is an immensely valuable service. We will do our best to safeguard it but we are not ring-fenced.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, while understanding the need to make necessary cuts, as a former Development Minister I recommend that my
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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right and I always listen closely to her recommendations. This is a correct recommendation: we are having such close talks. The possibilities for the future are there but it remains the fact that the World Service is independent, financed by grant in aid. It is an immensely valuable tool, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said, in the promotion not only of this country's interest but of peace and stability throughout the entire world.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, we believe it is for individuals to take responsibility for their health, including healthy eating. The Government can put in place ways to make this easier and support people. We are developing our proposals to achieve this.
Lord Krebs: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and declare an interest as a former chairman of the Food Standards Agency. The Minister will be aware that dietary ill health contributes to about 100,000 deaths per year in this country and that during the past 10 years the three major initiatives to improve dietary health have been instigated by the Food Standards Agency: improved labelling, restrictions on the marketing of food to children, and the reformulation of processed food. Why does the Minister think the dietary health of the population will be improved by moving responsibility from the Food Standards Agency to the Department of Health, which has so far shown no interest in this matter? I understand health officials have calculated that it will be more costly to consolidate this responsibility in the Department of Health rather than the Food Standards Agency.
Earl Howe: My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Lord's distinguished chairmanship of the Food Standards Agency. The Government recognise the important role that the agency plays, and a robust regulatory function will continue to be delivered through the FSA. As part of our wider drive to increase the accountability of public bodies, and reduce their number and cost, we are also looking at where some of the functions of the FSA sit best to ensure that they are delivered most efficiently. No decisions have yet been taken, but we are examining the matter carefully.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one major problem with diet is far too much liquid in the form of alcohol? Is he aware
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Lord Cunningham of Felling: My Lords, one of the principal reasons for the creation of the Food Standards Agency was to remove such decisions from political and ministerial control. This came about because of the loss of trust of the British people in guidance and statements from Ministers following things such as BSE and other terrible food infections across the country. In the light of that, is not what the Government are now considering a completely retrograde step?
Earl Howe: My Lords, as I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, we fully recognise the important role that the FSA plays. I identify myself fully with his remarks about the reasons why the FSA was created. I speak as a former junior Minister in the department that he led in such a distinguished way, and I realise fully the force of what he said.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, given that the Government, directly and indirectly, are one of the largest employers in the country, and therefore the provider, directly or indirectly, of lunch and other meals, is there anything they can do to ensure that the meals provided and the diet available to employees, direct or indirect, of the Government are improved in line with what the noble Lord asked?
Earl Howe: My Lords, there is, and I am grateful to my noble friend. He will know that the healthier food mark initiative is one thing that the Government can do to enable the public sector to lead by example, in schools, hospitals and care homes. The healthier food mark has been developed over the past two years as a benchmark to raise the level of nutrition and sustainability of food served in the public sector. It sets clear guidelines on healthier and more sustainable food and recognises achievement, so I hope that it will lead the way.
Baroness Coussins: Will the Minister explain why the Government are scrapping the extension of free school meals when there is such a clear link between nutrition and academic performance? Would it not be better and more cost-effective in the long run to make sure that as many children as possible from low-income families get at least one nutritious meal a day?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the school fruit and vegetable scheme is continuing. However, future responsibility for running it will no longer lie with central government; it has been devolved to primary care trusts.
Baroness Thornton: They are being abolished. I declare an interest as a former unpaid trustee of the Fifteen training restaurants. Does the Minister think that it was wise of the Secretary of State to attack Jamie Oliver's school meals campaign, particularly given that he was incorrect in saying that the take-up of school meals had gone down when it had gone up? Will the Minister join the rest of the country in applauding Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve the quality and nutrition of school meals?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Baroness saw my right honourable friend on television recently talking about this issue, but this is a good opportunity for me to put the record straight. He has not criticised Jamie Oliver's work on school meals: on the contrary, he has applauded Mr Oliver and the many people who have worked very hard to improve the standard of school meals. The point that he made was that a very important initiative started by Jamie Oliver to make people more aware of what healthy eating is all about turned into a kind of prescriptive, top-down management process from Whitehall-and that is counterproductive.
Lord Rea: My Lords, how will the Government ensure that the principles of openness, independence and scientific accuracy in their pronouncements and advice, developed by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, when he was the chair of the FSA, will be continued by whatever successor bodies are appointed to carry on the tasks of the FSA?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord is assuming that the Food Standards Agency is going to disappear. I have seen those reports but do not recognise the stories at all. As I have told the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and others, no decisions have been taken about the future of various functions within the Food Standards Agency, but we are clear that there has to be a role for a body setting standards objectively in the way that he has described.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): My Lords, British passports have contained biometric information in the form of facial recognition technology since 2006. There are no plans to introduce a second biometric, such as fingerprints, into passports.
Lord Dubs: First, given that many countries have said that they expect visitors to have full biometric data in their passports, will that not make it much more difficult for British people to travel in the future, especially to the United States? Secondly, will the
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Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, the noble Lord has raised various points. There are no reasons at all to suppose that the absence of a second biometric in British passports will in any way hinder the ability of British citizens to travel to whichever country they wish to enter. The United States takes the fingerprints of people entering the country but does not insist on fingerprints in passports. The US does not itself have, or intend to put, fingerprints into its passports.
This Government entirely agree with the noble Lord that passport security is extremely important. Although the move to introduce a second biometric will not continue, one part of the programme that definitely will continue is the strengthening of security surrounding the existing facial biometric.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that effective passports are a crucial weapon in protecting this country from both terrorism and crime? Will the Government ensure that the e-Borders system, which was introduced by the previous Government but is taking far too long to put into effect, happens? At the moment, there are huge gaps in passport control. On 27 April at about 10 o'clock in the morning, I was leaving the UK from terminal 3 but no one made the slightest attempt to look at my passport. When I asked why, I was told that they did not have enough staff. That is not good enough.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, I think the whole House will agree that secure passports are an extremely important part of combating terrorism. It is certainly the case that there are no exit controls at the moment but it is intended that they should come into operation as part of the e-Borders programme.
Lord Brett: My Lords, first, the noble Baroness reminded us that exit controls were removed. Can she remind us which party was in government when they were removed? Secondly, she said that we are going to strengthen the security of passports. Can she tell us how?
Baroness Neville-Jones: The existing facial biometric is a chip inside the passport, and that type of passport has been issued since 2006. It is possible, and we intend, to strengthen the security technology that surrounds that chip to decrease the ability of any forger in any way to clone it or counter its security.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the Minister rightly acknowledges the importance of passports to our security. However, does she agree that it is most important to ensure that the existing system is well bedded in and working well before attempting to go on to a second stage? That is one reason why I, for one, support the Government's intention not to move on to a second stage of biometric passports.
Baroness Neville-Jones: The Government entirely agree with my noble friend that passport security is extremely important, and we intend to ensure that security. However, our view is that the interests of the country are not well served by the Government starting to maintain a database of all passport holders, which amounts to 80 per cent of the population.
The Earl of Erroll: I welcome the fact that biometrics will not be kept on the national identity register-this is essential-but we ought to have biometrics in passports which match ICAO standards to make it easier to travel. We should not be frightened of that as long as they are not held centrally.
Baroness Neville-Jones: We agree that it is extraordinarily important that passports should have adequate security, and we believe that British passports with the single facial recognition biometric will achieve those standards. There are actually a number of countries other than the United Kingdom that do not have plans to introduce a second biometric.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: Can the Minister say whether, over the next three years, the e-Border workforce will increase, stay the same or decrease? If it is to be decreased, what level of performance will be affected?
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, is the Minister satisfied with the security of the country particularly in relation to people with dual nationality when one passport is used for entry into the country and another for exit?
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the Maldives Cabinet was reappointed on 7 July following its resignation on 29 June. This represents a step towards the restoration of political stability. We continue to monitor closely developments and press the Government and Opposition to co-operate on the key issues of national interest.
Two Members of Parliament have been released but the Deputy Speaker of the Maldives remains under house arrest. We have stressed to the Government the importance of all being treated in accordance with Maldivian law.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, does the Minister share my disappointment that President Nasheed seems to be reverting to the bad habits of his predecessor, which he criticised at the time, of arresting MPs-which has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court-and pressurising the Maldivian media and the courts? Will the United Kingdom Government use all their contacts-governmental, party and personal, as the Foreign Secretary is a good friend of President Nasheed-to ensure that all democratic freedoms are restored as quickly as possible?
Lord Howell of Guildford: We are pursuing full encouragement through our high commission in Colombo and other means to ensure that democratic development continues. We regard the restoration of the Cabinet as a step forward. We have a friendly, constructive and supportive interest in the sound stability of the Maldives and we will continue on that path.
Lord Naseby: Is my noble friend aware that the Maldives is no longer a protectorate of the United Kingdom? The country has gone from being a sultanate to a single party presidential system, to-with all our support-a democratic society. That being the situation, what role do we have at all to interfere in what is in fact the Maldivian exercise of democracy as they interpret it?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The word "interfere" is wrong. It is supportive because we and other democracies have a concern about the dangers of extremism taking hold in communities such as this throughout the world. This would lead to immensely damaging consequences for neighbours and ourselves, so we have a broad concern and the idea of friendship and support. In return, the Maldives has been a good supporter of our interests in the whole region. The Maldives has of course been very strong in its support for sensible and balanced concerns over climate change, including having a Cabinet meeting underwater, though I understand there are no plans for the British Government to do the same.
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I appreciate the Minister's concern for what is happening in the Maldives. However, can he turn his eye to what has happened in relation to Palestinian parliamentarians? The Government of Israel,
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Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Government are working directly with regional governments, especially the Sri Lanka Government, who have been involved to some extent? Will he also confirm that the European Union, as a major donor to the Maldives, is actively working to assist in efforts to find a resolution to this crisis? Is this not essential, when so much is at stake, not least, as the Minister said, the threat to foreign investment and the need to deal with the massive fiscal deficits which the Maldives has?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Baroness is correct that the Sri Lankan Minister has been there and played an important part, as has the US ambassador. I am not sure about EU representation at the moment, but it obviously has an interest. We are working with all our partners in a proper concern to see that this republic prospers, without in any way interfering, as was suggested in an earlier question.
Lord Bates: Does my noble friend agree that representations to the Government of the Maldives would be a lot easier to make if the diplomatic representation was present there rather than in Sri Lanka?
Lord Howell of Guildford: That is certainly true, but there have to be constraints on our resources. The high commission in Colombo is very active and a British official is now in the Maldives and about to attend a major climate conference in the coming week.
( ) the parent governors of the school are elected by the parents of children at the school."
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, in Committee and on Report, we had interesting discussions on the role of governors. Over the past 10 to 30 years, we have seen governing bodies take on major new
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Academy status will bring even more responsibilities to those governing bodies, and we on this side think it important that parent governors play a full role in their deliberation. In Committee and on Report, we debated the proportion of parent governors who ought to be on a governing body. However, in the course of the debate on Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, asked for an assurance that however many parent governors there will be on a governing body, they should be elected by the parents of students at the school.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, my noble friend knows how very much we, too, believe in the importance of parent governors. The Minister was kind enough to send us the model funding agreement, but he will be aware that annexe A, which is the memorandum and articles of the academy trust, was not attached to it. The previous model, from the previous Administration, required at least one parent governor to be elected. Can the Minister confirm that that will be in the model when it is published? As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, the Minister confirmed in response to a question from my noble friend Lady Sharp at col. 260 on 7 July that there will be elections for parent governors. I hope that he will be able to confirm that further today.
However, the Labour amendment is not helpful to new academies as it does not allow a parent to be appointed in the run-up to the opening of a new academy, as did the previous articles. That would be a very desirable time to have a parent governor, while the new school is taking shape, but the amendment would not allow for that. I do not know whether the noble Lord has taken that into account.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, it will not surprise your Lordships to know that I fully support the amendment, and would be grateful for the additional reassurance asked for by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley: that, at least in the old academies, as it were, there will be elections. Sadly, I remain unconvinced that we do not need to specify a number of parent governors to be represented on the board, which was the whole purpose of my previous amendments. I will not go into that again, because we are on Third Reading, but I would love to have more reassurance from the Minister.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, I am grateful for the points that have been raised and believe that I can provide that reassurance. First, I echo the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the importance of governors, which is accepted across all sides of the House. The point that lies behind the
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The articles therefore make clear, first, that the election of governors should be by parents of pupils attending the academy and, secondly, that parent governors must be drawn from among the parents of pupils at the academy. Those are the current arrangements for the election of parent governors in academies, and I believe that they are known to be effective.
The articles of association of an academy trust cannot be amended without the agreement of the Secretary of State, so the position as set out in the articles cannot be unilaterally changed by an academy. The previous Government argued and accepted that the funding agreement was the right place to deal with issues of that kind, and I agree with them. We do not need a requirement in the Bill of the sort set out in the amendment. That said, I take the point that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, just intended to clarify the situation. I hope that that has done so and provides reassurance to all noble Lords who have raised the point. With that, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that; it very much reassures me and other noble Lords. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, raised the question of new schools, which do not have an existing governing body. It would be difficult to see how you could include the parents of children who have not yet enrolled in the school, but perhaps that takes us to consultation issues that would probably be better dealt with in a later debate. In not pressing the amendment, I should say that the overall view of many noble Lords is that the stronger the parental involvement in academy governing bodies, the better.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, this amendment is also tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote. Both in Committee and on Report I have spoken about my concerns that a large increase in the number of academies will have the unintended consequence of dispersing funding for children with low incidence or complex special educational needs. As a result, vital support services for these children and their parents will become untenable, and there could be large numbers of deaf and blind children and others with multi-sensory impairments who do not get the support they need.
These concerns have received the support of all sides of the House and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. They are also shared by the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, the Special Educational Consortium and, particularly, the National Deaf Children's Society, RNIB and Sense. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and his officials for taking the time to meet with me yesterday afternoon, as he offered to do on Report, and it is therefore with regret that I must speak again to say that these concerns have still not been addressed. Sadly, while the Government are willing to recognise that the problem is real, they have shown no real urgency in coming up with a way forward. As the Special Educational Consortium points out in its briefing, the Government should recognise that there is a need to address the impact of the Academies Bill on individual children currently receiving specialist provision when a number of schools convert to academy status in September 2010.
I am alarmed that the Government should seek to pass this Bill knowing that potentially it could damage the educational prospects of some of the most vulnerable children in the country. The number of children may be small and the impact may not be immediate, but that is no excuse for failing to come up with a solution that will reassure parents and children that they will get the support they need. The National Sensory Impairment Partnership believes that the Government should set up a working group to consider solutions. The working group should be time-limited and have clear terms of reference to consider this issue and make urgent recommendations. The group must be led by Government and its recommendations must be communicated by the Government to all local authorities and schools across the country. I stress that the working group should also include representatives of the parents of children with sensory impairments, and I strongly urge the Government to accept the recommendation.
I hope that the Minister can give a positive reply before the Bill moves to the other place. But in the absence of that positive response, I have spoken to Members of the other place who have said that they will continue to raise this matter until we are certain that the educational prospects of disabled children will not be damaged by these proposals. I beg to move.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I, too, support this amendment, as I have done on previous occasions. It is sad indeed that the Minister has not yet been able
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Specialist support services are not focused solely on the delivery of the curriculum. They also provide much-needed training and skills to support independent living, and examples of some of those specialist services give a clear view. I cite the teaching of Braille and of British sign language, independent living training to enable independent personal care skills and home skills, mobility instruction and pre-employment support. Local authorities have traditionally provided specialist support services to all schools, using funds retained from school budgets to ensure adequate provision throughout their areas. There are strong concerns that, as academies move out of local authority control, so will their revenue, reducing the amount available overall to specialist support services and relying on academies to commission the services they require. I hope that while the Bill is still with us, we will have further assurances from the Minister. Otherwise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, said, the issue will come up again in the other place.
Baroness Walmsley: There are indeed many complex issues to be further explored and I am sure that this will be done in another place. This morning I briefed my honourable friend Dan Rogerson MP, who will be handling the Bill on behalf of these Benches in another place, beginning on Monday.
One of the complex issues, for example, is that the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins-the spirit of which we certainly support-does not explain how the money retained centrally can transfer to the academies. Is it the expectation that a local authority will make the provision in an academy? Can the Minister confirm whether a local authority will have physical access to an academy to ensure that provision for low incidence SEN pupils is satisfactory? After all, it is being asked to pay directly for that provision.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: In the conversation that the noble Baroness had with her group in the other place, was it discussed whether any amendments will be allowed by the Government? Given the tight timetable of Second Reading and Committee stage on the Floor of the other place in the same week, it looks as though the Government want to get this Bill on the statute book before the Recess; therefore there will be no amendment because there would not be time for it to come back here.
Baroness Walmsley: I understand the point that the noble Lord, Lord Knight, is making, but I did not discuss that matter with my honourable friend. After all, the procedure at the other end is not a matter for a Member of this House; it is entirely for the other end.
On statementing, the general duty on local authorities to ensure that appropriate children are statemented is not within the scope of the SEN obligations. It is a
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That the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, has felt it necessary to table this amendment again highlights the fact that many noble Lords are still not satisfied that the mechanism is fair and transparent for calculating how much extra funding goes to the academies and how much will remain with the local authorities to enable them properly to carry out their duties in relation to the children in maintained schools.
The ready reckoner on the department website has a lot to answer for and the funding mechanisms are clearly a work in progress. We have suggested that someone needs to take an independent view that these arrangements are fair to children in and out of academies. However, because of the rules on Third Reading, we were not allowed to table amendments containing further ideas on how this might be done.
We are not convinced that the YPLA is up to the job and remain concerned about this matter. As I said earlier, we have briefed our colleagues in another place, who will now have the opportunity to explore these issues further. The Government have time to get this right and we on these Benches hope that they will do so.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I was not in the House when the Bill was presented, but I wish to raise an issue on this important amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins. Since 1979 and the Warnock report, Governments of all persuasions have committed themselves to the principle of inclusive education, of allowing children with mild and complex special needs to be taught with their able peers within mainstream schools. Will the Minister say whether the Bill recognises that the small number of SEN children who appear in mainstream schools, and who will appear in some of the academies, may be refused entry simply because the school does not have access to adequate facilities to make provision for those children? They have specific needs that require funding. I hope that my noble friend will respond appropriately when he replies to the amendment.
Lord Low of Dalston: The case has been well made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilkins and Lady Howe, and others. I spoke on the issue on Report so I shall not labour the point further. Indeed, it is hardly necessary as I think that the Minister acknowledged, in responding on Report, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, said, that there is a problem. There is a case to answer but the Minister has not answered it. I very much hope that he can do a little better when he
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It is not only that there is a problem; it is an increasing problem. The dissipation of local authority budgets will increase with the number of academies. There are few private providers who can take over the provision of the specialist services that we are talking about. The only way realistically to provide them is for local authorities, which have a sufficient critical mass to sustain services for these low incidence groups, to do so. If the budget is removed from local authorities so that they cannot provide specialist services, there is the problem of knowing where academies will buy them in for their pupils from low incidence groups. The problem is serious and is likely to grow. I hope that the Minister can give us further reassurance when he replies.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I am concerned that there is continuing anxiety about the protection for children's special educational needs in the Bill. I am grateful to the Minister for the meetings he has had with Peers interested in this area and I will listen to his response with great care.
Concern about the continuance of educational psychologists has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in previous stages of the Bill. In the past there has been a lot of concern that there were insufficient educational psychologists and that more was not done to ensure that their development was of the highest quality. I hope that the Minister can, either now or in writing later, provide some further reassurance that the changes in the Bill will not impact on the future supply of educational psychologists.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, this has been mentioned on a number of occasions and I want to intervene very briefly. In the letter that the Minister sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, on 2 July 2010, he made quite clear the division of funding between what was going to be kept centrally and what was going to be distributed. Included in the funding to be kept centrally were educational psychology services; SEN administration, assessment and co-ordination, monitoring of SEN provision, and SEN transport. Included in funding to be distributed to the academies as a share of local authority funding was the funding retained from the schools' budget for centrally provided SEN support services. This is the core of the issue we are discussing today. Services for deaf children, for blind children, and so forth, are part of these centrally provided support services. The problem is that if this share is taken away from the centre, there is not enough money left at the centre to provide these services adequately. The Minister has so far not been able to give us assurances that there will be adequate provision, and this is the core of the case that many of us are worried about. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says today.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I agree that this is a problem which needs to be sorted out as we move to a world where there are many more academies and they play a greater role in the local provision of schooling. As my noble friend Lady Sharp says, there is this budget for SEN support services. I think private providers, in particular not-for-profits, will come into this area, given the chance. I do not see why the RNIB should not play a role in the provision of services for blind people. It would mean that good practice spread pretty rapidly round the country rather than being isolated in little pockets, so I can see a lot of advantages in moving away from pure local education authority provision. None the less, the mathematics of dealing with low incidence means that if you distribute the funding, all you can be certain of is that the funding is not where you want it when you need it, and we have to solve that problem.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, I also support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins. I am sorry I was unable to speak at Report. Unfortunately my health stopped me participating. However, this is an extremely important amendment. I met with two young disabled people with support needs last week who both told me that if the funding gets changed in the way they think is going to happen, then the academies cannot deal with their extremely heavy and expensive accessories so they will be compromised. We really have to think again on this one. I, too, am looking forward to hearing what the Minister has to say because thus far we do not feel secure in this Bill's current form.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I also support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins. As a child whose parents used the Warnock report to enable me to go into mainstream education, and had several discussions with the local education authority over a number of months to enable me to do that and not be shipped off to a special school, I have direct experience of budgets not being allocated. I went to school at a time when there was no statementing for disabled children. I had an education and went to school, but there was no access and there were no lifts. The local education authority employed six people to carry the wheelchair users up and down the stairs. So I had an education and went to a school but I was away from home and I felt quite isolated in the environment that I was in. My concern, if this is not properly addressed, is that children will, like me, receive an education but they will be isolated, away from their peer group, and they will not receive the rounded education that they all deserve.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there seem to be two issues here: one is the question of how to deal effectively with low-incidence SEN and the necessary funding arrangements; and the second is the issue of whether the other place is going to have any time at all to deal with this matter, as some noble Lords hope it will.
On the question of the principle, throughout this Bill the Minister has described the tension between the risks on the one hand and the advantages on the other of each academy having much more discretion over its
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Yesterday we had a four-hour debate on working practices in your Lordships' House. A week ago we had a seven-hour debate on reform of your Lordships' House. The consensus view of the dozens of noble Lords who spoke in those debates was that this House is the effective revising Chamber and this House is the place that effectively scrutinises legislation. Yet we are told that noble Lords who share that concern are prepared to leave it to the other place to deal with this matter. My understanding is that this Bill will be finished in the other place in two weeks' time because a rushed programme will enable it to get through. There is virtually no possibility that the other place will be able to consider this matter in detail. That is why the matter should be decided in your Lordships' House.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I am grateful for the points that have been raised in this debate. We have, rightly, spent a lot of time on this Bill talking about various sensitive issues to do with our most vulnerable children. As I said in Committee and on Report, I accept the practical concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, and others. When we met yesterday, we went through some of those. I hope that some of the answers I can give this afternoon may take us a little further. However, I certainly recognise the concerns that she has raised.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, and others have been kind enough to accept that, with the parameters within which I am operating, I have sought in general to approach SEN issues throughout this Bill with an open mind and, so much as I have been able, taken concerns on board. I hope that, in some cases, I have gone further than perhaps noble Lords thought was likely to be the case when this process started.
On the specific point of low-incidence SEN, I can say to the noble Baroness that, as part of looking at funding for academies from 2011 onwards, we will work closely with local authorities. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the importance of local authorities and other parties in this area. I can confirm that we will look specifically at the funding of low-incidence SEN. This work will start during the autumn. I have today instructed officials to ensure that the Special Educational Consortium is kept abreast of developments and is able to make its views known.
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We have also established an advisory group to help us work through the issues particular to SEN and special schools in relation to the establishment of academies. We want to use the practical expertise in that sector and the group will include heads and governors from special schools and mainstream schools with specialist units, as well as local authority representation at officer and political level. As I said on Report, and as I underlined to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, yesterday when we met, I am very happy to put on the record our undertaking to monitor the impact of increasing numbers of academies on local authority sensory impairment services. We will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that adjustments to their funding in respect of academies properly reflect their continuing responsibilities. Our officials will also work with organisations such as the National Sensory Impairment Partnership on this.
Listening to the debate, I am very conscious that I am not expert on SEN, and I am not the Minister responsible. However, as part of the advisory groups and the work we will be taking forward, I would be very happy to enable a proper exchange with the relevant Minister in the department so that we can work through these issues, using the experience and expertise of noble Lords, to make sure we come up with practical solutions that meet the concerns that noble Lords have raised. So I am alive to the concerns. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that that provides some slight further reassurance from yesterday. In the light of that I ask her kindly to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I am most grateful to all Members of the House who have spoken in support of this amendment and to the Minister for the reassurances that he has tried to give. Unfortunately, it does not meet the needs of those children who are going to be at school in September. Given the strength of feeling in the House, I would like to test the opinion of the House.
(1B) The Secretary of State shall issue guidance as to how governing bodies should conduct such a consultation with parents, pupils, teaching and non-teaching staff and their representatives, neighbouring schools and the local authority and such other parties as he may think appropriate; such guidance would also specify the information that should be made available to consultees in relation to the proposed arrangements for Academy status."
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I think we have just seen the need for the Government to listen. Amendment 3 is about consultation on this whole process. It does not seek to reopen the whole issue of the strategy behind this Bill-noble Lords will know there are different opinions in this House. However, it does bring home the need for consultation. This group of amendments relates to the conversion of maintained schools into academies and the next group relates to consultation on additional schools, as the Government are now calling free schools.
We all recognise that the transformation of a maintained school into an academy is a momentous decision for the school-for the pupils, for the parents, for neighbouring schools and for the whole community. Yet originally we had a Bill that had no provision whatsoever for consultation with any of them. I acknowledge that the Minister has listened to some degree and that he came forward on Report with an amendment, which is now Clause 5, which deals with consultation.
I have to return to this as Clause 5 is deeply flawed. It is seriously flawed in three places and has a minor flaw in a fourth. First, the clause places all responsibility on the school governing body and none on the Secretary of State. Secondly, it makes no attempt to define those who must be subject to the consultation and refers simply to those whom "they think appropriate", as subsection (1) states. Incidentally, the minor flaw is that there must be some slipping up in educational standards in either the Department for Education or the parliamentary counsel as in my young day "governing body" was actually singular and would not be referred to as "they". No doubt that can be sorted out in another place.
In other words, the governing body could have met and decided to have put in an application without consulting parents, staff or anybody else. The Secretary of State or his officials could have decided to make an order on the basis of that application without having consulted anybody. The terms of that order could have been negotiated, the financial arrangements could have been set up, third parties could have been lined up, all without consultation, and the order could have been issued without consultation. Only at the point just prior to implementation would consultation be required. That seems to me a common-sense reading of the option "or after" in subsection (3).
The Minister was quite helpful on Report. He explained that in practice the governing body would consult and the Government would encourage it to consult. They would issue guidance on consultation, and that guidance would be on the department's website. I was very glad to hear that and I am sure my colleagues elsewhere were, but why we do not put it in the Bill? That would greatly reassure all the bodies concerned and set a process for every local conversion. Regrettably, I think we know why it is not in the Bill; my noble friends Lord Knight and Lord Hunt referred to the reason earlier. It may have been altered slightly by the last vote, but it is not in the Bill because the business managers are anxious to get this Bill through before the end of July, and any process that was built into statutory requirements would slow down the Government's aim to get this through so that they could meet their deadline of bringing some academies into being in September.
I have to say to the Minister and his colleagues that it may sometimes be a bit boring and may be a problem for Ministers, but they have to slow down. Frequently, in 13 years of government, those on our side of the House found that they had to slow down and that often it was this House that required us to do that-usually at the behest of Liberal Democrats insisting that they would accept the principle as long as we engaged in widespread consultation. No doubt similar representations are being made these days rather more privately. However, if Ministers really want conversion
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The amendments provide that governing bodies should engage in consultation before they apply for academy status; that the Secretary of State would issue guidance to them on whom to consult, how and with what information; and that before agreeing to an academy order, he would have to be satisfied that such consultation had indeed taken place. That is a reduction from what I was looking for on Report and puts a lot of power into the hands of the Secretary of State and the guidance that he would issue. However, separately, the amendments still require the Secretary of State to consult the local authority. That seems to be crucial, as we recognised in the previous debate. The local authority is crucial in these decisions, because the relationship between it and the school will change dramatically if the school converts to an academy. The local authority is responsible for ensuring educational provision in the whole community, not least on special needs, as we have just heard, and because the local authority has responsibility for sustaining educational provision beyond this generation of pupils and parents.
According to the speech the other day by the noble Lord's colleague, the Secretary of State, to the Local Government Association, he wants local authorities to continue to play a strong and strategic role in the schools system. If that is the case, surely at the very least there should be a provision in the Bill that before a school converts to an academy, the Secretary of State should have consulted the local authority in question.
These amendments would require these issues to be put in the Bill, let the Secretary of State issue the appropriate guidance on the consultation, and let the Bill recognise the crucial role of the local authority. These would not derail the process unless it was being rushed. I advise the Minister to accept the amendments or indicate that in another place he will ensure something similar is put in place. I beg to move.
Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, I am surprised and sad that the amendment has come back at Third Reading in this form. Like many other noble Lords, I have engaged in a lot of discussions with a lot of schools that have for some weeks been engaged in the process of moving to academy status. The normal procedure that they have described almost universally-with slight variations, although they have all consulted-is that the head of the school first talks the proposal through with the staff to get the feeling from inside the school. What head is going to go ahead with a change to the school's status such as this without taking her or his staff with them? That scenario is unthinkable. Then there is a lot of discussion between the governing body and the head. After that, the governing body goes out to talk to parents.
Almost all these schools have had meetings with parents to explain what academy status would mean and why they want to move ahead. The church schools have consulted the diocesan board and the church; there have been long discussions and many of the diocesan boards have had extensive consultations with their schools and, in many cases, with each other.
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Once again, there is an arrogance in this House that we are the only people with good intentions. Just 20 minutes ago we were talking about those excellent governors and our faith in them. Why can we not trust the people who run our schools and education services to behave in a sensible and honourable way? That is how they have always behaved. The schools that I have talked to-I am sure many noble Lords have had the same kinds of conversation-have behaved in that way. To be prescriptive, to write down as a rule that we are consulting only because it is the law, would be alien to the way in which good schools operate-and only good schools will come this way.
I am equally certain that, when we move past the stage of the first Ofsted excellent schools wanting to become academies and move to some schools that may be more questionable, the Secretary of State and the civil servants in the department will closely question them as to the nature of the consultation they have had as part of due diligence. The amendment is unnecessary, arrogant and plain rude to the people in the education service that we all support. I very much hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, we on these Benches are second to no one in our enthusiasm for proposing the most widespread appropriate consultation on a matter such as this which is so important to every school. That is why we were so pleased that the Minister brought forward the amendment on Report to put into the Bill the consultation that had been lacking in the original Bill. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin, and her predecessors, has convinced us on numerous occasions of the dangers of lists and of being prescriptive as to who you should talk to about this, that and the other.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, does the noble Lady agree that we are still convincing those on the other side of the Chamber of the dangers of lists? The right honourable Secretary of State for Education is experiencing a very difficult time with lists at the moment. We stand firm on that position.
Baroness Walmsley: The noble Baroness is very quick on her feet this afternoon but that is not the sort of list we are talking about. The list in Amendment 3 is dangerous because it probably leaves somebody out. In an individual school's case, there may well be somebody who is appropriate to consult but who is not in the list. There are times when you have to trust schools. You have to trust what was in the Government's amendment on Report, which is now in the Bill, that appropriate consultation must take place. Matters such as this will have widespread publicity within a local area, and any organisation that believes it is an appropriate group within the terms of the previous amendment from the
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I remind the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that a school does not become an academy until the point of conversion. Although I personally strongly encourage schools to consult at the earliest appropriate moment, as I have already encouraged them to do in this Chamber, it must be done according to what we have in the Bill now, before conversion. That is vital.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I have learnt so much about conversion in the process of this Bill. I have learnt about the noble Baroness's conversion to the benefits of the academy model promoted by those on these Benches and now by the party opposite, too.
We come back to what the Minister has talked about through our deliberations: the need to get the balance right between central prescription and local innovation, and the need to trust schools. Nobody in their right mind would think it a good idea for anyone in central government to be rude to schools or to put themselves in a position where they have to apologise individually to them. That is something that all of us around the Chamber take seriously.
Listening to my noble friend Lord Whitty proposing his amendment, I thought that what he said was very reasonable. At the heart of what he is asserting is the need for good guidance for schools. We are talking about potentially large numbers of sometimes quite small schools having to go through a process, and about giving them the right kind of support and guidance. I looked at the guidance that is available on the Department for Education's website. Consultation does not feature very strongly in that; it does not even get its own little blue box in the summary of the conversion process.
I would be happy if the Minister would explain whether the advice on the website has been updated since Report. We are in a very fast-moving process and if the Government are committed to providing full and proper advice and guidance to schools on consultation, that needs to happen quickly. The advice that schools get from the website about the communication that they should have with the local authority suggests that they should simply ask it to prepare for them details for the transfer of land-deeds and such. That is the context in which a conversation with the local authority is suggested.
There are good, simple suggestions on the website about how schools might consult parents, such as sending a letter to them explaining the proposals and perhaps meeting them. However, I am concerned that the only communication with the local authority should be to ask the local authority,
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, we return again to the issue of consultation-and we will have another go in a moment with the next group of amendments. We have had detailed debate on the subject both in Committee and on Report. These amendments cover much of the ground that we have already debated and on which I have brought forward amendments, so I hope that the House will forgive me if I am relatively brief in rehearsing familiar arguments.
As my noble friend Lady Perry argued, it is the Government's view that the individuals who lead schools-the governors and the head-are best placed to make decisions. They know the local area, the local circumstances of the school and how it relates to other schools in the area. We trust them to determine how to consult and we do not intend to provide an inflexible checklist, which would not make the consultation any more meaningful. The trusting of professionals to do their job is a key principle that the Government are keen to pursue on many fronts, and it underpins this Bill.
Amendment 3, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, set out, would also require the governing body to consult before applying for an academy order. We had this discussion last week on Report. It is not until the academy arrangement is finally entered into that the conversion process is legally agreed. That is why it is appropriate to leave it to governing bodies to decide when they should consult, so long as they do it before they enter into academy arrangements. However, I accept that they will frequently want to do it-as my noble friend Lady Walmsley said-early in the process rather than later.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin, rightly said that we are amending our advice on the website. I do not believe that it has yet been amended. I do not think that what she read out has been updated and we need to do that urgently. We will obviously discuss with an applying school the arrangements that it has made for consultation and we do not believe that we need to be more prescriptive than that.
Amendment 4 seeks to require the Secretary of State to consult the local authority over any academy proposals. Schools or proposers for free schools will, and have to, consult whomever they consider appropriate, and in many cases that will include the local authority. However, we do not believe that the Secretary of State needs to be involved in any consultations in addition to the school or the proposer, and we do not think it necessary to give local authorities a role which could-although perhaps only in some areas of the country-undermine the purpose of the Government's policy; as we know, that has been the case in the past.
Given that we have had these debates and rehearsed these arguments, and are to return to them in the next group of amendments on consultation more generally, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am disappointed by that. I have been reasonable: I have listened to what the Minister has said on previous occasions and have not specified a definitive list. Indeed, the amendment leaves the final definition of the list to the Secretary of State, so I trust the Secretary of State. It would be odd if any consultation excluded the parents, pupils and staff, and I think that the House, and indeed society as a whole, need some reassurance on that.
I, too, had a quick look at the website after the previous stage of the Bill. It gave very little guidance on consultation and virtually none on substantive consultation with the local authority. I am afraid that the relationship with the local authority seems to be the most disastrous aspect of this policy, because sometimes the Government explain their commitment to academies as taking as many schools as possible out of the so-called control of local authorities. However, even if we accept that objective, the relationship with local authorities will be crucial in the future, as they will have to take on board the consequences for other schools in the area of a single school or a significant number of schools becoming academies within the area of their jurisdiction.
I have moved quite considerably towards the Minister in not being prescriptive. I have no doubt that he thinks I could move further, but I also think that he could move further. At the very minimum, he should probably look at Clause 5(3) to see whether the phrase "or after" is unnecessary, as it raises a significant number of fears. If the whole process is gone through with consultation in the terms described by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry-and I am sure that that is true in relation to schools that are already enthusiastic for academy status-future cases will undoubtedly be more controversial with the governing body, the staff, the locality and the local authority. Therefore, enthusiasm for consultation may be somewhat diminished in future and the need to provide guidelines as to how the consultation should take place will be more important.
Even if we assume that in most cases the consultation can take place very early in the process, Clause 5(3) allows it to take place at the very end. That is not consultation; it is presenting an option with all the terms of the agreement and the financing tied up and with a commitment on the curriculum and the governance also tied up. It is then presented to the parents and the public effectively as a fait accompli. It is true that that consultation could still reveal a no response but there is no option for the public, the parents, the pupils, the other schools and the local authority to influence or negotiate a change in the provisions. Therefore, if the Minister is not even prepared to consider that the other place might delete "or after"-and I think that what he said today indicated that he was not-we had better have it on the record that the coalition is now against consultation at the local level.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, if you still allow consultation to take place as "or after" implies in subsection (3), you are not wholeheartedly committed to consultation. I respect everybody's views, I respect the experience that the noble Baronesses, Lady Perry and Lady Walmsley, have referred to, but it still allows for a sham consultation to take place. I would like to close that door and therefore would like to test the opinion of the House.
(a) ensure that a consultation has taken place with appropriate parties;
(b) consult the local authority."
(2) The Secretary of State must take into account what the impact of establishing the additional school would be likely to be on maintained schools, Academies and institutions within the further education sector in the area in which the additional school is (or is proposed to be) situated.
(a) it does not replace a maintained school that has been or is to be discontinued, and
(b) it is not a school in respect of which an Academy order has effect.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to move Amendment 6 and speak to Amendment 7. These two amendments follow our discussion on Report and are designed to make clear the situation regarding new free schools, which are defined as additional schools in the amendments. My noble friend Lord Phillips tabled an amendment on Report designed to require the Secretary of State to take into account the likely impact of a new free school on neighbouring schools, and I accepted the principle of it then.
Amendment 6 will ensure that, when the Secretary of State is considering whether to approve proposals for additional academies, such as a new free school, he will be required to take into account the impact of those proposals on the other schools and colleges in the local area. As I have explained before, the Secretary of State has a duty to act reasonably in all matters, which includes considering all the relevant implications of the proposals. The amendment puts that requirement into the Bill, and will ensure that no free school proposal will be approved without due consideration of its wider implications.
When assessing the impact, the Secretary of State will consider a range of information and issues. These might include things such as performance data relating to local schools, admissions data, surplus places data and any sensible school reorganisation plans in the area. This will be done with a view to gauging whether introducing additional competition into the local area will be helpful or otherwise. Subsection (4) makes it
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I have also tabled Amendment 7. If accepted, this will require any promoter of an academy which does not replace the maintained school-that is, a new free school-to consult those it sees fit on the issue of its proposal. As I have said, noble Lords raised concerns on Report that the requirement to consult on academy proposals, on which I brought forward an amendment at that stage, was aimed at converting schools and therefore did not capture proposals for free schools. The point was made not only by my noble friend Lord Phillips but also by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. Even though I think that a free school proposal, which will need to demonstrate parental demand and support, will by definition involve and require consultation, I accept the point of principle and believe that I have addressed it with this amendment. It replicates exactly the requirement on a governing body under new Clause 5 in that the person who is to enter into the academy arrangements with the Secretary of State must both take a view on those with whom it is appropriate to consult and consult with them on the question of whether to enter into the arrangements.
Taken together, Amendments 6 and 7 reflect the concerns that have been raised on all sides. I believe that they provide further reassurance on consultation to those noble Lords who flagged these issues on Report. I beg to move.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for listening to the arguments advanced at the previous stage, with which I was involved, and for bringing forward the new provisions that meet satisfactorily the matters concerned. There is just one point on which I would be obliged for his assurance. Some noble Lords will find that the wording of subsection (1) of the proposed new clause, although it mirrors the new consultation clause, still appears somewhat subjective, requiring the people promoting the new or additional school to,
It would be helpful to have in Hansard an assurance from the Minister that, in considering the impact of a new or additional school on other schools under the new impact clause, the Secretary of State will have to take a view as to whether the consultation undertaken by the promoters of the new school is adequate and sufficient in order for him or her to come to a view on whether the impact is on the right side of the line.
As I say, I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the House that, if the Secretary of State considers that the consultation undertaken by the promoters is simply not adequate to establish whether the impact is on the right or wrong side of the line, he or she will be able to undertake further consultation as will lead to the facts that he or she must have in order to reach a proper conclusion on impact.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: I pay tribute to the Minister for ceding the principle around the impact of additional schools. He has listened to the House and
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Given the excellence of the people drafting the clauses, I am sure that that is perfectly sound technically. However, it is wide in its effect. I would argue that in the case of additional schools, in particular, we have to include in that consultation the local authority and possibly the schools forum. I ask the Minister to commit to amending the Bill in the other place, particularly as he already may need to do so. If he does not like the amendment agreed earlier, that may open up the possibility that he will agree to an amendment on this.
My concern is around the funding of these additional schools and it may help your Lordships if I briefly explain how the existing funding works. The bulk of schools funding comes through the dedicated schools grant-except for academies, which are funded directly by the Secretary of State. The dedicated schools grant is then allocated by local authorities as agreed by the schools forum, which is made up of schools, pre-schools, further education colleges and other 14 to 19 providers. It is notable that the Minister does not include pre-schools in Amendment 6 and, given that under his policy academies can now include primary schools, which may be providers of pre-school education, there may be an issue about pre-schools not being consulted. However, I shall not dwell on that.
When academy arrangements are entered into, the necessary funding for the academy is taken away from the local authority's dedicated schools grant and allocated direct to the academy. Additional schools need revenue funding, and that will come from that local authority allocation. That is why it is essential that the local authority is consulted-unless, of course, the Minister has a pot of money for revenue funding. I know that capital funding is allocated and, like other noble Lords, I have been on the web today trying to understand these issues. On the Department for Education's website I found a press release from the Secretary of State dated 18 June in which he refers to capital funding by reallocating £50 million from the enhancing technology grant to create a standards and diversity fund. However, there is no mention of the revenue funding needed for these new schools.
Determining the revenue of an additional school requires a prediction of pupil numbers. This then determines both how much the new school will get and how much the other schools will lose because we are working within a constrained pot-unless, of course, the Minister has his pot of gold. Can the Minister tell the House where the revenue will come from in the first few years as the additional schools are established? A modest-sized, virtually unviable, secondary school
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Who agrees the predicted number of pupils for the additional school? That will have an impact on the surrounding schools because they will then know how many they are likely to lose. What form of appeal will there then be for those schools, the local authority and the schools forum, which advises on the detailed allocation to each school? What form of appeal will they have on the decision on the predicted number of pupils? Has the Minister taken legal advice on whether the current process that we are being asked to agree today is challengeable if there is no consultation with local authorities or schools forums?
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I apologise to the noble Lord but I am trying to get the parlance correct. It would be helpful if he would explain the funding arrangement under the previous Government when a new academy came into a local authority area. How was the money clawed back to balance the places and resources?
Lord Knight of Weymouth: The noble Lord will know that academies have been used to replace failing schools, so there is a fundamental difference in the policy reflected in this Bill. We are being asked to agree arrangements for academies to convert from outstanding schools and, in this case, we are discussing additional schools. There are one or two additional schools for which my noble friend sitting next to me, or I as the Minister responsible, might have been able to find the additional money. That is why I keep asking the Minister whether he has some revenue funding that he has not told us about and whether he has agreement from the Treasury. In these straitened times that is unlikely, so it is most likely that it will come from other schools in the local authority area.
Is the Minister aware that following the unfortunate Building Schools for the Future announcement, there is a considerable appetite among local authorities to take legal action against his department when things are rushed out without working through the details? That is what is happening because of the unexplained desire to get the Bill on the statute book this month.
I know that I have asked the Minister a lot of questions, and he may want to write to me with some of the answers. Since I raised it in this Chamber last week, I would be most grateful if he could explain in his summing up how revenue funding will work for these additional schools, and why the Bill does not provide for consultation with local authorities and school forums.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I, too, welcome Amendments 6 and 7, and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, has responded to the persuasion and effective blandishments of my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury on this matter.
Will the Minister explain that, because it is not covered by the letter which he wrote about the government amendments of 9 July 2010? I think it means that it excludes from consideration as an additional school an academy that decides to establish, for example, a sixth form that did not exist before. I would not want this part of the Minister's amendment to work as a loophole that would allow schools covering substantially the same age range, but with a little tweak at one end or the other, to be established without the Secretary of State having the very serious job of considering the impact on other good schools in the area.
Lord Bates: Briefly, I support my noble friend and place on record a slight disagreement on the amendment from this perspective: I am rather pleased that the wording is retained-that an additional school should consult with such persons as appropriate. It is fair to say that there is potentially a different view. I believe that it is a philosophical point about how we do government. It is about whether we want to go back to the day, which has been tried before, when we have Bills that run to 250 pages. They are so prescriptive about what everyone has to do, and people respond to that simply by taking a tick-box approach to everything-"Have I spoken to them? Have I spoken to them?". They never bother to contemplate and absorb the issues. There is an attempt by the new coalition Government to do things differently. They are saying, "We are prepared to trust people and introduce legislation which is not prescriptive but is simply enabling people. If your school has been judged outstanding by Ofsted, clearly you are doing a good job and we trust you to do the right thing in the right way. If you are a new school and you have support for that, you have greater authority and we want to trust you". That message needs to come across so I urge the Minister not to concede any further ground on this amendment. I think that it is fair enough as it stands.
Baroness Walmsley: I do not want the noble Lord to get away with the idea that I do not support these amendments. I simply asked the Minister a question about subsection (4) of the proposed new clause.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hill, on his Amendments 6 and 7. He has gone as far as he reasonably should to meet the concerns about consultation in respect of new schools. He will obviously explain his response to the particular issues to do with funding raised by my noble friend Lord Knight. I do not regard the concerns raised on other issues to be matters of substance. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, was concerned that the definition of what constituted a replacement school in subsection (4) of the proposed new clause might mean
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Regarding the concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, about the subjective nature of the consultation, I do not read the amendment as being entirely subjective. He is the lawyer and I am not, but my reading of subsection (2) of the proposed new clause is that because the Secretary of State must take into account the likely impact of establishing the additional school on maintained schools, academies and institutions within the further education sector, he will have to be satisfied that there has been a consultation in respect of them. It would not be possible for the Secretary of State to take into account the impact on those institutions unless they had been consulted. My reading of subsection (2) of the new clause proposed by the Government's Amendment 6 is that it substantially limits the subjective scope, because the Secretary of State would need to be satisfied that they had been consulted in order to be able to evaluate the impact.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way; he may have finished. It was precisely to elicit a clear statement along those lines that I raised that query. Being a lawyer, I think the wording as it stands leaves things a little open, hence the clarity I seek, which I hope will be given.
Lord Adonis: I had almost finished. I just wish to make one concluding point. I support the policy of new school providers getting a fair opportunity to establish new schools where there is a need for additional schools in an area, either to meet the requirement for additional school places or-to be quite frank-to meet the requirement for high-quality places where they are not being provided by existing schools. If there is to be that opportunity, it is very important that we do not tie up school promoters in red tape that will either dissuade them from coming forward with proposals in the first place or hamper them unduly when it comes to conducting their consultations. Amendment 8 states that,
As soon as you put phrases like that in legislation, you guarantee a succession of legal cases as people challenge what constitute "relevant interested parties". That would not meet the purpose, which is the provision of new schools where they are needed or will raise the quality of education in an area, so I do not believe it is desirable.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, it is my turn to pop up from behind the Dispatch Box. I was very interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Bates,
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My noble friend Lord Adonis and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, put their finger on the issue that my amendment is about; that is, the Secretary of State being satisfied that appropriate consultation has been undertaken before an academy is established where there was no school previously. I think that we are all keen to hear what the Minister has to say, as my amendment is an amendment to his government amendment. I know that my noble friend Lady Royall will be pleased that he has listened to her remarks and taken on board concerns voiced around the Chamber about appropriate consultation on the establishment of free schools. There are real concerns and questions, for example, about how the admissions code might work in some very small schools, how schools set up by a group of parents might cater for other parents and how the broad and balanced curriculum might work in them. It is therefore important that questions around consultation are taken seriously. Like my noble friend, I believe it is important that, where there is a need for a new school, we make sure that parents have the opportunity to establish a school with the support of the education community around them and that if they consult appropriately they will not be accused at some later stage of having consulted only a few of their mates and people whom they know are fellow travellers and will simply agree with them.
In the interests of ensuring that taxpayers' resources are invested in good new schools and that work is done to establish sustainable schools that fill a need, the consultation on the establishment of new free schools should be no less important to the Secretary of State than consultation on the conversion of a maintained school to an academy. I look forward to hearing the Minister set that out on the record. I shall think about his response when it comes to considering whether to press my amendment to his amendment.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I support Amendment 8 as an amendment to Amendment 7, because it would require the Government in relation to free schools to engage in at least the same degree of consultation as they are required to engage in on conversion.
In a sense, I congratulate the Government on redesignating free schools as "additional schools" because that indicates what they really are. It may not be what the Minister's PR department would have advised him to call them, but "additional schools" raises the issue of additional resources. At some point in this debate, probably now in another place, he and his colleagues will have to answer the question posed by my noble friend Lord Knight on how the additional schools will be financed.
Lord Hill of Oareford: I am grateful for the comments that have come from all sides of the House about consultation. I am grateful, too, for it being recognised that I have listened to concerns and that the Government have moved a considerable way in reflecting them. As I said previously, that has been in response not only to concerns raised with me by my noble friends Lord Phillips, Lady Williams and Lady Walmsley but also
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The first thing I should do is congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on understanding what I think is quite opaque drafting, in certain places, by the parliamentary draftsman. He was spot on in his interpretation of subsection (4), which was the question asked by my noble friend Lady Walmsley. It was designed precisely to capture the situation that she cited as an example that she wanted captured, so I hope I can reassure her that it would meet that.
As for the point raised by my noble friend Lord Phillips, it is fair to say that one of the tests for the approval of a new free school will be for the promoter to show that there is demand and support. Without being able to demonstrate that there is demand and support, without that basic evidence, the proposal would simply not be accepted or endorsed by the Secretary of State. It is not the point that one would need to have reassurance that he would satisfy himself that, if it had not happened, a consultation needed to take place. If the new free school proposal cannot demonstrate parental support, which could be demonstrated, I think, only by consultation, the proposal could not be accepted. That is, in part, the answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan. Before approving a proposal, the Secretary of State would have to see evidence that assured him that there was appropriate demand and support.
Secondly-I know that this concern about free schools was raised by other noble Lords -the Secretary of State has made it clear that he will carry out a fit and proper test of any proposer of a free school and take that extremely seriously. Thirdly-I am happy to put this on the record-we have obviously accepted the argument made by a number of noble Lords that we need to be clear in legislation that the requirement to consult applies equally to new free schools as it does to the converting academies that we discussed at an earlier date. The aim and purpose of these amendments is to achieve precisely that.
Moving on to Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, I find the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, quite persuasive. I know it is surprising. It is persuasive about the difficulty of these descriptions laying oneself open to legal challenge, so I do not find myself compelled to accept Amendment 8. As for the noble Lord, Lord Knight, if it is acceptable to him, because he made important points, although they were more like Committee stage points and quite a long way from the specific amendments about consultation, perhaps I may follow that up with him afterwards. I am happy to write to him. I am happy to meet him and talk about his points because I agree that they are important points. I hope that that provides the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, a little more information in the light of which-
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I apologise for interrupting the last gasp of the Minister's excellent reply, but would it be fair to say that the obligation of the Secretary of State on the impact consideration is, to a significant degree, a different undertaking from the consultation to be undertaken by the promoters and that the Secretary of State will have to form his or her own judgment as to impact?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: Before the Minister responds to that point, will he also consider the points made by my noble friend Lord Knight about the impact on schools in an area? We talked about funding at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. It is a theme that has come back again and again and it is an important point. When you are looking at the impact of a new school on an educational community, funding is a key question.
Lord Hill of Oareford: I was not disputing for one moment that it is an important issue. I was attempting, however crudely, to make the point that, with regard to consultation, which is the purpose of these amendments, I was not clear, as I listened to his points, precisely how they related to the amendments. As for my noble friend Lord Phillips, I have difficulty because he always asks such intelligent, perceptive and well-argued questions. My noble friend asked whether the Secretary of State will have to take the impact into account. The answer to that question is yes.
(a) Academy arrangements entered into during the year, and
(b) the performance of Academies during the year (see subsection (2)).
(a) regulations made under section 537 of EA 1996 (power of Secretary of State to require information);
(b) Academy arrangements.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: I am grateful to the Minister and to the Secretary of State in another place for the consideration and care that they have given to the whole issue of accountability. The Bill has improved considerably as a result of discussions in this House. We have had long discussions about the issue of consultation and governing bodies, and the net effect of this has been that we have a much more accountable and responsible structure in the Bill than we had when it began. For that, and for their willingness to listen, I thank them both.
At an earlier stage in the Bill, when my noble friends Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Lady Walmsley were very concerned about issues of accountability, we came up with the proposal that there should be an annual report to Parliament, and it is still highly appropriate to hold on to that. It is correct that the Government should have accepted this amendment and I thank them for their help in drafting it.
The purpose of the amendment is to enable not only the Select Committee but Parliament itself to consider what is, after all, a major experiment in education. There will be many aspects of that major experiment that people will want to look at. What happens to the quality of schooling, the movement of teachers and school leadership? What happens to the heads and governing bodies? There will be many more questions. So it is appropriate that a wider body than even a Select Committee should be brought into this discussion. One of the important issues here is going to be that the basis on which statistics are laid down in the annual reports should be broadly comparable with those in other related reports. My noble friend Lord Phillips will say more about that.
I shall point to two things in particular that are crucial in this report that we hope will be made available on an annual basis from this year onwards. The first of those is to track the effects of the removal of a great deal of what one might describe as "micromanagement" from the schools. Many of us on this side of the House, and many of us in the coalition, have been concerned about the levels of micromanagement in schools, and we believe that there is likely to be a more innovative approach and a greater deal of discretion for teachers if this experiment succeeds as the Government clearly intend it to do. On the other hand, there is a valid question that hangs in the sky: might we be moving towards a two-tier system of education? The initial applications are a little troubling in that respect. For example, counties such as Surrey and Hertfordshire appear to be responding at a rate of around 10 per cent of the secondary schools that might be applicable to become academies, whereas areas such as Middlesbrough, Knowsley and other poorer parts of northern England do not seem to be caught up with excitement at the idea of academies and are therefore not applying in large numbers to join.
There is another, related factor. So far, the schools that have applied appear, from the London School of Economics study which has been published in the past
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Again, I thank the Ministers on behalf of my noble friends and me for the consideration that they have given to this issue. I hope that this-which will, in its way, be something of an experiment-will turn out to be a very useful, radical new proposal in managing government and making it more accountable to Parliament than ever before. I beg to move.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I added my name to this amendment, which I strongly commend to the House. I share my noble friend's concern about the analysis of the socio-demographic groups of the children in the schools that have shown initial interest in this experiment. I hope that the attraction of the programme will spread more widely among the schools in this country if individual schools find it the best option for them.
I am delighted that the amendment is not too prescriptive. Noble Lords have mentioned in the course of our debates many groups about which they have concerns. An opportunity for a vigorous debate every year in Parliament about, for example, the impact of the programme on children with special needs, children in public care, children who are themselves carers, children in primary schools and children with the major deprivations that concern us all will be a very good contribution to the further development of the programme. It is important that Parliament has a vigorous and widespread debate about the progress of this programme.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. It is very important that if it is agreed, or if the Minister agrees to a similar amendment, it is enacted. It has been drawn to my attention that we have, in the various education Acts that we have passed in the past 10 years or so, quite frequently suggested that there should be an annual report. However, very few annual reports have appeared or been presented to Parliament. In particular, it was drawn to my attention that Section 38 of the Education Act 2002, "Communication with schools", relates to a point that my noble friend Lady Williams raised about micromanagement. We were in the process of trying to limit the micromanagement of schools. That particular section requires an annual report, listing all the documents sent by the Secretary of State to governing bodies, to be laid before Parliament. I cannot find any evidence that such a report has ever been made, let alone laid before Parliament or discussed here. Perhaps I should have chased this up earlier. According to Hansard, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who was the relevant Minister at the time, said:
I feel that, to some extent, I should have chased this report more than I have, but it makes the point that if we wish for an annual report, we should receive one and it should be considered before Parliament.
Lord Adonis: I have absolutely no objection to the amendment. If this is part of the glue that is holding the coalition together, it is clearly a very worthwhile amendment. However, it does not amount to much, since Ofsted already publishes an annual report that evaluates the progress of all schools. It has not been mentioned in our debate, but Ofsted gives specific coverage to the performance of academies in that annual report.
The last Ofsted annual report makes glowing reference to the progress of academies-to the value that they add and, in particular, to the extremely favourable ratings that Ofsted gives them, especially to their governance and management. That is the main difference that academies make; they bring in and enhance governance and management.
The Ofsted annual reports have, over several years, substantially validated the previous Government's decision to start the academy movement. I imagine that this annual report will largely photocopy the annual report which Ofsted produces. It no doubt goes through a different bureaucratic procedure and will allow different opportunities for debate, but it will not substantially add to the knowledge base which the House and the public already have as a result of the Ofsted report. It complicates the legislative framework a little, but that may or may not be a bad thing.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I am, I admit, rather attracted to this idea. Maybe it has gone on in the past and it has not appeared before us or we have not followed it up as we should. Nevertheless, we are talking about a situation in which there are going to be rather a large number of changes. It would also have the attraction of being a sort of pre- and post-scrutiny process. It would be a splendid opportunity to see how the whole scene is working, and equally, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has said, where there are specific interests such as special needs, to see what is happening about children in care and so on. I think it well worth considering, and I hope the Minister will consider it favourably.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: First, I am extremely supportive of these amendments, but I was amused by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about Ofsted. I am sure he did not wish to mislead the House because that would be unforgivable, but Ofsted does not report on every school every year. In fact, the proposal of my learned friend the Minister is that those that get academy status, particularly those that get automatic academy status because Ofsted has already determined them to be outstanding schools, will in fact be rarely inspected by Ofsted. I think the whole purpose of my noble friend's proposal in this amendment is that we will have comparable data, which we were due to have under the 1996 Act, so that we can make sure that we do not have the scrabble in the media to compare different types of schools but that we have a baseline of data on all our schools, including academies, that allow this House, and indeed the other place, to have a sensible, adult and cultured debate about the progress of our schools.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I, too, support this amendment in the name of my noble friends. The process of having an annual report might also greatly reassure all those who have raised concerns about special educational needs in the academies throughout these debates. This would of course be a monitoring activity whereby we could see how the academies were responding in that particular area as well as across the other fields.
Baroness Morgan of Huyton: I have a question for the mover of the amendment. While I am not unsympathetic to this amendment, because in a sense it reflects some of our conversations in Committee and on Report, I am not clear whether it suggests a parallel process of monitoring that goes into all academies in the future. If it does, I am unconvinced that the department at present is able or ready to do that. I do not think we have seen much evidence recently of sufficient numbers of civil servants with time on their hands with the capacity to go into schools and produce a whole set of parallel reports. I would have thought a more sensible approach would be to look to Ofsted to see whether it could do some specific work on the new section of academies that otherwise are not going to be reported on regularly. While I have nothing against the spirit of the amendment, I am rather doubtful about setting up a parallel process with a group of schools that is not being applied to other schools.
Baroness Walmsley: I hope the House will allow me to say on behalf of the mover, since clarification has been required, that the analysis by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, of the amendment is a misreading of its intention.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: Well, another Morgan rises. This is a very interesting amendment. It has prompted quite a fascinating debate at the end of the passage of this Bill. For me the question is: what do we really want this annual report to look at? Is it the free- market, free school experiment in which we replicate the experience of Sweden so we can see by evaluating the impact on standards, as they did in Sweden, how standards fell markedly, or the expansion of the Labour Government's very successful academy programme and how the coalition Government have learnt from that and further driven up standards based on our expertise and experience? There are lots of different ways of looking at this report.
I am very much in favour of ensuring that we have the data to evaluate the impact of government policy, that they are properly scrutinised and that Parliament has the opportunity to debate the outcome of that work. What would most interest me is a commitment from the Minister that we will debate this policy of expanding or morphing Labour's academy programme to encompass outstanding schools and its impact, and have some hard data to back up the debate. We are having a conversation around this House that will carry on for some years. It would be good if that were to be supported by hard data. In the past, we have also had real concerns about the impact on children with disabilities and special educational needs, and on children
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Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Williams for moving this amendment, not least because it gives me an opportunity, perhaps for the first time in our many lengthy discussions, to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I am grateful for that, if for nothing else-even though I obviously applaud the fact that that the amendment will deliver scrutiny and rightly give Parliament the opportunity to look at the progress of this important policy. As the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin, said, we have had an interesting debate in which all sorts of views have come from some surprising quarters around this House. I welcome the support of her party to openness and parliamentary accountability, which is perhaps a shift from the position that it might have adopted a few months ago when noble Lords were calling for debates and scrutiny. However, that point may be unfair.
During the second day of Report, I agreed and was keen to reflect on the persuasive arguments brought by my noble friends Lady Williams and Lady Walmsley, and, I accept, by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, when we debated the importance of parliamentary scrutiny of the progress of academies and the impact of the Bill. I am therefore delighted that my noble friend Lady Williams has returned with the amendment.
We believe-this lay behind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis-that academies already operate within a highly accountable framework. They are indeed inspected by Ofsted and have to report on their performance to the Secretary of State; but I fully accept my noble friend's argument that this policy marks a significant extension of the academies programme and that it is therefore right that we should report regularly to Parliament on its progress.
On the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin, decisions about debates are probably not taken by me; I do not know, and it is not my area. Others in the House authorities will take them. However, if such a decision is taken, we could certainly debate the issue and, after the discussions that we have had so far in Committee and on Report, I can hardly wait for another opportunity to discuss academies.
I thank my noble friends Lady Williams and Lady Walmsley for their help and advice on this issue. It is also true, having heard the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, talking about prodding and poking, that I feel prodded and poked by many of my noble friends, including the noble Baroness. I am grateful for that. I also thank all those who gave so generously of their time in Committee and on Report. A hard core sat through many hours, including Members of the opposition Front Bench. I should like to place my thanks to them on the record. I am grateful to noble Lords for the contributions made from all sides of this House. I am certain that the Bill is better as a result.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister and will comment briefly on the agreeable words of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin. The purpose of this annual report is to enable us to find a great deal of wisdom and information on a number of things that we might be concerned about. I mentioned earlier, as did my noble friend Lady Walmsley, the socio-economic structures of those entering the academy pattern and whether there would be considerable diversity, given that it is likely to be a different group according to which academies come forward. Other noble Lords have mentioned their concern about SEN or how far local authorities will play a strategic role. We can get a great deal out of this kind of report.
I have long believed, not least in education, which is a long-term project by nature of the speed at which children grow up, that we would have been wise on all sides of the House if many years ago we had much more carefully considered the effects of what we passed in our respective Houses of Parliament, rather than moving on to the next piece of legislation without learning much from the previous pieces. For all those reasons, this is not an issue of political disagreement; it is a step towards the whole concept of an accountable Parliament in an accountable democracy.
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