Baroness Northover: My Lords, public consultation took place last summer on proposals to reform the court estate in England and Wales. More than 2,500 responses were received. The decisions to close 93 magistrates' courts and 49 county courts were announced last December.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. I wonder whether she fully appreciates the value over 600 years of the unpaid magistracy in England and Wales. The closure of many courts is bound to lead to increased costs to parties and to witnesses and to make access to justice more difficult. Might it not be better to enhance magistrates' courts rather than reduce their significance by, for example, adding other items in the Government's programme, where there should be adequate facilities for pursuing arbitration, consumer complaints, and so on? The policy is leading to increased costs, not reduced costs.
Baroness Northover: I thank the noble Lord for that question, but I think that he is not right. Where courts are located has depended very much on historic chance. As things have changed, as demography has changed, as people have become more mobile, it makes sense to look at where those courts are. Where courts are too close to each other, it makes no sense to have an underutilised facility. Far better, as is planned under this programme, to make sure that we have newer courts which build in the kind of facilities that the noble Lord has just talked about, so that we can improve the estate rather than diminish it. Overall, there are major savings to be had by that, some of which can then be ploughed back into those improved courts.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, has the justice department undertaken an impact assessment on summary justice, particularly when courts are closed or moved to a different location? I declare an interest. I chair a public inquiry on behalf of the Magistrates' Association on the delivery of local justice. Will the justice department give evidence to that inquiry, with particular reference to closure and its impact on the local justice process?
Baroness Northover: Yes, indeed, economic impact assessments were made in every instance and they were taken very seriously. It is extremely important that we secure access to justice. As for the inquiry to which the noble Lord refers, I will take that back to the Ministry of Justice, but I think it is extremely likely that the ministry will be happy to give evidence. It is extremely important that this is got right and the analysis undertaken of how justice is to be delivered is very reassuring that the programme should improve facilities.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, will the noble Baroness deal with one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, that what we ought to be doing is enhancing the work of the magistrates' courts so far as we can and diverting work from the Crown Court?
Baroness Northover: I have asked whether, if cases were diverted from the Crown Court, this would make any difference to the level of work in the magistrates' courts and was reassured that that could be accommodated under the new plans. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the utilisation of the courts is not as high as it should be. In many cases the use of the magistrates' courts is around 64 per cent. This programme brings it up to 75 per cent. It is much easier to focus better facilities in those circumstances.
Lord Cameron of Dillington: My Lords, will the Minister please inform the House about the extent of the work of the rural proofing team in the Ministry of Justice? Is this team calculating in detail the extra cost to the customer-witnesses, defendants and victims-of accessing justice in centres which are now sometimes 30 or 40 miles away and to which there is usually no public transport? In other words, how do you access justice in rural England when you do not have a car?
Baroness Northover: That very important question was fully looked at in the assessment. At the moment, 90 per cent of people could reach the courts within an hour using public transport. This figure diminishes slightly to 85 per cent. Every case, especially the case of the rural courts, was looked at very closely to see what the impact was, what the demography of the relevant area was, who was likely to, and did, use the courts, and what the impact would be on those people. One survey indicated that only 18 per cent of people using the courts came by public transport. However, that does not mean to say that we should neglect the needs of that 18 per cent.
Lord Clinton-Davis: These proposals coupled with the ferocious attack on legal aid are in my view a false economy. Is it not clear that those who are most vulnerable will indeed pay a very heavy price for this absurd policy?
Baroness Northover: Not surprisingly, I very much disagree. The provision in the courts is woefully inadequate in many cases. The estate needs to be improved in many instances to make adequate provision for victims and witnesses to ensure that they are secure in terms of defendants in custody and to be made accessible to people with disabilities. In many cases-this follows on from the policy of the previous Government-the courts are not in that state. This assists in trying to improve things.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, fortunately, the gist of my question has already been raised. I would like only to reinforce the point that for those living in rural areas the savings gained from any court transfer would throw an extra cost on to those who do not have cars. The time taken to get to the new courts for many people who live in the countryside and do not have cars will impose an enormous burden. I urge the Minister to look at this again very carefully before closing down many of the courts in rural areas.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My Lords, at any one time, most wind turbines in the UK will be producing electricity. There are a number of reasons why a wind turbine might not be generating electricity at a specific time. This, of course, includes maintenance and repairs to the turbines. The generation of electricity from wind farms varies according to the speed of the wind. Average wind speed varies by location and from day to day-and, for that matter, from year to year. The proportion of maximum output that UK wind farms have generated on average is known as the load factor. In 2009, the load factor for onshore wind was 26.9 per cent, and 33.7 per cent for offshore wind. Provisional figures indicate that for 2010 the load factor for onshore wind was just over 20 per cent, and for offshore wind it was around 30 per cent, due to lower wind speeds.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, is my noble friend confident that building wind farms is a good way of spending taxpayers' money, not only because wind farms' costs and subsidies are proving to be so enormous, but because claims for their efficiency have proved to be wildly exaggerated? Given that turbine operators now have to be paid £2.6 million a month to turn turbines off, because often their product is neither needed nor useable, how many more millions of pounds has he set aside to pay this bill in the future?
Lord Marland: I must say that it is jolly good fun being in government, particularly with the support of your own Benches. I think I also heard some cry from the other Benches. The noble Baroness asks an extremely valuable question. I suppose the answer is incumbent upon most noble Lords in this room. For 25 years, we have had no investment in the infrastructure of the energy system in this country. We are going to have to grab energy from every source we can, and that is what this Government are committed to doing. And it will cost. If you have been doing nothing for 25 years and not invested in infrastructure, of course it is going to cost. We regret that, but it is a fact of life.
Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Government are not going to meet their green targets unless they can enrol the support of the public sector? Is he aware that his department under the previous Administration set up a working party to see how this could be done? Will he reinvestigate that? In particular, will he encourage the Forestry Commission to use its land outside the national parks and other beautiful areas for wind power, and especially for micro hydropower?
Lord Marland: Your Lordships are a little bit slow today, if I may say so, but you'll warm up. It can be very hard to deal with questions seriously, and I apologise to the noble Lord. It is fundamental that we use the public sector and we need the noble Lord's support, given his great expertise in the forestry sector. We need every bit of support we can get to generate enough electricity to sustain twice the demand for it in 2050 than there is now.
Lord Marland: The noble Lord makes a very good observation, and we have identified a number of marine parks that will capture not only the wind supply but the tide, which is a fundamental use of our own resources in this country, and our considerable wave power. These designated marine parks will be utilising all types of sources for electricity supply.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, far be it for me to help the Minister out of the hole that he is digging for himself, but does he agree-and he obviously does-that wind farms are an essential part of our future energy policy, and that those who deny that, sometimes on aesthetic grounds, are like those who argue that farming should be left the way that nature intended, which would mean that there would be no farming at all?
Lord Teverson: My Lords, we now have some 5 gigawatts of wind capacity in the United Kingdom. Can my noble friend reassure us that with this benign and elegant form of power generation we will be able to meet our 15 per cent target on renewables by 2020? Are the Government still confident that we can meet that target?
Lord Marland: I am confident that we can meet our target. It is a very interesting point: the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, comes from Cornwall, as we all know, where they have embraced onshore wind turbines. Of course in other parts of the country they are not going to embrace them. Scotland has embraced wind power very substantially but in other parts of the country it has not been embraced. It is very important that the local communities decide whether they want to embrace this form of electricity, and if they do we will of course achieve our target and we will be able to supply electricity for years to come.
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke: My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister has drawn attention to the intermittency of wind power. Will he tell the House what arrangements are in place to ensure that emergency supplies of conventional power are available to ensure that when wind is intermittent the lights stay on?
Lord Marland: That is a very valuable point. The reality is that we have back-up supply but we must not forget-as the noble Baroness knows, because she was in the energy world herself-that a lot of the back-up supplies that she is referring to work only intermittently. Nuclear is operating on a 60 per cent load factor; gas is on roughly the same figure. We need all forms of supply to sustain twice the electricity demand that we will have by 2050.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Spain regarding the action of the Spanish navy corvette "Atalaya" in British Gibraltar territorial waters on 3 May.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, our embassy in Madrid made representations to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence while the "Atalaya" incident on 3 May was ongoing, which we believe contributed to the speedy and peaceful resolution of the incident, along with the local Royal Navy response. Our ambassador in Madrid then followed up in person with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 6 May 2011. The embassy in Madrid dispatched an official written complaint to the ministry on 9 May. The Minister for Europe, my right honourable friend Mr Lidington, also raised it with the Spanish Foreign Minister in the margins of the Council of Europe meeting on 10 and 11 May.
Lord Bilston: How long will the people of Gibraltar have to tolerate the harassment and intimidation of the Spanish authorities? We should bear in mind that the Government of Gibraltar do not consider that physical confrontation or gunboat diplomacy is the proper or sensible way forward. Can the Minister explain to the House why it took almost an hour for the gunboat HMS "Scimitar" to be deployed to deal with this incident that really was unlawful, provocative and unnecessary by the Spanish navy?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Those are very understandable questions. I will answer the second one first. The response was fairly swift. We have to balance our diplomatic and our military response and we have to live with the reality that while in many fields Spain is our close ally around the world and helping us, on this issue we have our differences. It is a question of balance. As to the longer-term situation, our hope and our intention are rooted in the Cordoba Agreement, the trilateral forum of dialogue, which was set up very successfully under the previous Government. I emphasise that it involves not just Britain and Spain, but Britain, Gibraltar and Spain-it is trilateral. If we can keep that process going, it must be the way forward to end these incursions which, I agree, do create a sense of irritation and seem unnecessary.
Lord Chidgey: Does my noble friend the Minister agree with the statement made by Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, that there are absolutely no circumstances in which his Government will permit local waters to be treated,
under their exclusive jurisdiction? Will the Government join the Government of Gibraltar in appealing the ruling that their cases against the decision that these waters should become one of Spain's protected sites under EU law are inadmissible?
Lord Luce: I declare an interest as a former Governor of Gibraltar. Does the Minister not agree that the trilateral forum, to which he referred, has made a great
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Lord Howell of Guildford: I would not for a moment dare to disagree with such a distinguished former Governor of Gibraltar. We seek from the Spanish authorities, who are our friends and allies in many parts of the world, an understanding that these matters can be handled by the trilateral forum of dialogue process and that these incursions-this one has a higher profile because it involved the Spanish navy, whereas normally it is the Spanish Guardia Civil which causes these incursions-add nothing to the hopes for resolution. Every time this occurs, we respond with the utmost urgency and the strongest protest that this is not the way forward.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I was commander-in-chief when the Royal Marines inadvertently invaded Spain, so I am aware of how complex the waters are around Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Squadron has been reduced to the absolute minimum to do the task that is asked of it. Will the Minister confirm that there will be no further reductions in the size and capability of that squadron?
Lord Howell of Guildford: First, I note, along with your Lordships, that once again your Lordships' House proves that it has massive expertise in every subject. We keep the naval response constantly under review. We will ensure that we have the means for an appropriate response, balanced with a diplomatic assessment of the situation, and we will make sure that that continues. There will be no question but that these incursions-if they have to continue, and I hope that they do not-will be responded to with the utmost speed both by the Royal Navy and by diplomatic means.
Lord Hoyle: Did we receive an apology, and what assurances did we get from Spain that this would not occur again? The noble Lord says that the Royal Navy will be ready but will it be ready immediately? The last time it was launched, the vessel in question had departed.
Lord Howell of Guildford: I am not quite sure that that last point is correct. I think that the vessel was seen off. It was warned and departed as the warning came-it all happened simultaneously. As to a response from Madrid, I do not think that there has been an apology or a reassurance that it will not happen again. However, there has certainly been a recognition that this was an unfortunate incident which they do not want to see recur. I would not put it higher than that. We have not got there yet.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I can only declare that I have visited Gibraltar. Does the Minister agree that, however provocative this incident, it is
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Lord Howell of Guildford: That is very wise. One move that we have been anxious to make is to get back into regular meetings of the trilateral forum, which were interrupted before by concerns in Gibraltar. On his recent visit, my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe certainly succeeded in establishing that we should go forward with these ministerial meetings in a sensible way. The hope, although it has not yet been satisfied on the Spanish side, is that there will be a ministerial meeting of the Cordoba agreement group-the trilateral group-before the summer is out.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, the Government held a drought summit on 16 May at which a number of actions were agreed. The Environment Agency is now providing weekly updates on the situation and the impact of dry weather. It will report back shortly on the likely impacts of a prolonged drought and the plans in hand to manage it. On 10 June, the Government, with the Environment Agency, met abstractors from a wide range of sectors to look at ways of making water go further. We will keep the situation closely under review and reconvene the drought summit later this month.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, it was indeed inevitable that it would pour with rain since tabling this Question, but the situation, particularly in central and eastern England, remains severe. May I therefore ask my noble friend the Minister to ensure that due priority is given now and in the future to food production and its security in the wise use of our nation's water resources?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Yes, I think that noble Lords will all remember Denis Howell. The vital link between water resources and food production has been a feature of government thinking from the Chatham House paper of the Government Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, through to the Royal Society's report Reaping the Benefits, to the recent report of the Foresight group. These global views are equally applicable in this country, which is why water management will be a feature of the forthcoming water White Paper.
Lord Wigley: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the comments made by the Lord Mayor of London yesterday that the shortages of water in London might be answered by providing more reservoirs in Wales, fed by a network of canals through to London? Can he give an assurance that in view of the controversial nature of any such proposal in Wales, there would be discussion with the Government of Wales before any action was taken?
Earl Cathcart: My Lords, my farm, like others, has received less than three-quarters of an inch of rain since 23 February, and most of it over the last few days. The grass cut for winter feed for cattle has yielded just 40 per cent of what it would normally have done. Will the Government give a one-off permission to cut and bale the six-metre margins to try to make up some of the difference?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I live not very far away from my noble friend and can vouch for the fact that it is still very dry even after the weekend's rain. I thank him for his suggestion. Grass and forage are a problem for livestock producers. However, on 2 June, Natural England issued advice to farmers who are in environmental schemes and have been hit by the spring drought about how they might manage their agreements. Natural England wants to ensure that the appropriate derogations are available to help farmers deal with the consequences of a prolonged period of dry weather. If any farmer needs further information or advice about the dry weather and their environmental stewardship agreements they should contact Natural England.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, with 20 per cent of cereal crops already ruined by the dry weather this is a serious problem for farmers, as we have heard. It is also a worry for consumers as food prices continue to rise. Clearly Governments cannot order the weather, but they are responsible for policy on water management and abstraction. The Government were due to publish a water White Paper this month. Why is this urgent piece of work now delayed until December?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I think that the Government would want to get any White Paper which they brought forward on this issue right. I do not deny at all the premise of the noble Lord's question: it is a very serious situation for cereal producers and farmers in general, and it has a knock-on effect on feedstuffs, foodstuffs and consumers as a whole. That is why the Government are working with the industry and other abstractors to make sure that the water that is available is being properly used without hazarding the biodiversity agenda, which is also important.
Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, have the Government given any thought to the possibility of a national water grid? As we heard from the noble Lord opposite, Wales has had more than its fair share of rain, and certainly parts of north-west Scotland have had more
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I think that noble Lords will find that more will be said on this in the White Paper. A good deal of water is already transferred within the United Kingdom. There are some longer links; Welsh water goes all over the place already-for which the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, will no doubt vouch-and there are links between the fenland waterways and those of Essex. Ofwat is looking at its regulatory regimes to see if there are ways in which they inhibit the trading of water between companies. The water companies themselves are key agents of the distribution of water in this country.
Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 11, Schedule 2, Clause 12, Schedule 3, Clauses 13 to 15, Schedule 4, Clauses 16 to 59, Schedules 5 and 6, Clauses 60 to 66, Schedule 7, Clauses 67 to 94, Schedule 8, Clauses 95 to 101, Schedules 9 to 11, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 12, Clauses 107 to 112, Schedule 13, Clauses 113 to 138, Schedule 14, Clauses 139 to 145, Schedule 15, Clauses 146 to 156, Schedule 16, Clause 157, Schedule 17, Clauses 158 to 161, Schedule 18, Clauses 162 to 171, Schedules 19 and 20, Clauses 172 to 174, Schedule 21, Clauses 175 to 198, Schedule 22, Clauses 199 to 201, Schedule 23, Clauses 202 to 207, Schedule 24, Clauses 208 to 211, Schedule 25, Clauses 212 to 215.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, there are 51 speakers signed up for the Education Bill Second Reading today. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to six minutes, the House should be able to rise this evening at around the target time of 10 pm. This advisory time excludes the Minister's and Opposition's opening and winding-up speeches.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, the main purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to proposals set out in our White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, published last November. To that extent, it has been well trailed and contains few surprises. In a number of respects, it builds on reforms introduced by the previous Government. In all respects, I hope that it will enable us to strengthen the autonomy of schools and colleges, to back heads and teachers as they go about their jobs, to move away from top-down prescription, to strengthen the ways in which we hold schools and Ministers to account, and to build on our efforts to tackle disadvantage and extend opportunity more widely. While I am sure that there will be proposals on which we will hold different views, I hope and expect that there will be broad agreement to the principles on which the Bill is built.
Why are we so keen to strengthen autonomy and accountability and to put our trust in schools and colleges? It is because the evidence from the best-performing educational systems around the world suggests that this combination is most effective at driving improvement. Greater autonomy, backing teachers and increased accountability are the threads that run through the Bill. I will say a little more about each.
"Autonomy" is a rather lifeless word to describe something that I believe that we are all keen to encourage: a situation where inspiring heads and outstanding teachers are free to use their judgment and experience for the good of children. There can sometimes be a temptation for legislators to prescribe everything that we think is desirable in order to guard against things going wrong. The difficulty with that impulse, which I understand, is that the effect over time can be to silt up the system and make professionals feel constrained in exercising their judgment on the ground.
In 2009, the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee produced a report on the cumulative impact of statutory instruments on schools. It recommended that the former Department for Children, Schools and Families should shift its primary focus from the regulation of processes through statutory instruments towards
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We are fortunate to have a strong and vibrant sixth-form college and further education sector. Again, we feel we should be able to trust that sector's leadership and staff to meet the needs of young people and employers in their local community, yet they tell us that they too often feel weighed down by a complex statutory framework that holds them back from doing what they do best. That is why we are removing those duties and stripping away some of the powers that legislate for best practice or inhibit the sector's ability to enhance the choice and experience of learners and employers.
"AoC is pleased that Ministers have placed on a statutory footing the clear commitment they have already shown to freeing Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges from many regulatory burdens ... Colleges don't need a statutory duty to tell them they should take account of the views of students and local employers on the courses they offer or that they should have regard to promoting the well-being of the local economy and community".
We know that governors play a critical role in the strategic leadership of schools. Current regulations prescribe proportions and categories of governors in minute detail. Therefore, we are keen that governing bodies should have more freedom, if they want it, to recruit governors primarily on the basis of skills and experience. During the passage of the Bill through the other place, there were strong representations, particularly from Liberal Democrat colleagues, that, in addition to the head teacher and parent governors, it is important for maintained school governing bodies to have a governor appointed by the local authority who has the skills required by the governing body, and a governor elected by staff. We listened to those views and will bring forward amendments to the Bill in Committee to reflect that position. There will also be amendments to correct defects in and omissions from legislation.
As noble Lords know, a key part of our drive to increase school autonomy is the academies and free school programme. The academies programme, pioneered by the party opposite, has been shown to raise standards for all children and for the disadvantaged most of all. Building on that, there are now over 700 academies open, and a third of secondary schools are already academies or are in the process of converting to academy status. The traditional emphasis on underperforming schools continues and is, indeed, accelerating. This Bill extends that programme further with new categories of academies for 16 to 19 year-olds and to provide alternative provision for the most vulnerable.
We also want local authorities to have a critical role in the education system as local champions of social justice. As the challenges and circumstances in each area are different, we want to avoid statutory duties which require a one-size-fits-all approach from authorities,
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In talking about concepts such as autonomy and the structural reform needed to help deliver it, we must not lose sight of the need to attract and retain the best graduates into teaching. Outside the Bill, we will shortly be announcing further proposals on teacher training, but I would like to mention two measures in the Bill which relate directly to teacher retention and which reflect concerns put directly to us by head teachers and teachers: behaviour and discipline, and anonymity from false allegations. We know that poor behaviour, or fear of it, puts many of our best graduates off teaching. A 2009 survey showed that in primary schools an average of 30 minutes of available teaching time per teacher per day was lost due to pupil indiscipline. In secondary schools, the figure for lost teaching time increased to 50 minutes per teacher per day.
This House is rightly concerned about children's rights. But I believe that it will also accept the need to balance the right of individual children against the rights of all children to learn in an orderly environment. In the most recent year for which we have data, there were more than 360,000 fixed-term exclusions-almost 18,000 for physical violence against an adult and almost 80,000 for threatening or verbally abusing an adult.
To get more talented people into the classroom and give disadvantaged children the inspiration that they need to succeed, I believe that we have to support teachers and head teachers in maintaining high standards of behaviour in schools. That is why the Bill builds on the powers introduced in the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act on searching pupils and students. Teachers need the authority to search for items that have been brought into school with the intention of causing an offence, harm or injury. We also propose to give teachers the power to search for and to confiscate items banned under the school rules.
We also know, through evidence from children, that cyberbullying is a real problem, with nearly one in five 12 to 17 year-olds saying that they have been victims of it. Schools should be able to prevent mobile phones being brought into schools for cyberbullying and the Bill provides teachers with the power to confiscate them and, where there is good reason to do so, delete inappropriate material before they hand them back. I recognise that concerns have been expressed about the use of some of these powers, including the power in exceptional circumstances for opposite-sex searches where an item may cause serious harm if the search is not carried out urgently. These are permissive powers and we believe that there are sufficient safeguards in the legislation, as well as these powers only being available to staff whom the head teacher has specifically designated to conduct searches. The Bill also provides schools with the power to issue same-day detentions to children who misbehave.
Overall, these changes have been welcomed by the main head-teacher unions. The Association of School and College Leaders says that the discipline measures in the Bill are necessary and proportionate, and that head teachers and teachers can and should be trusted to use these permissive powers sensibly and in the interests of all pupils and staff in their schools. We also want to give schools the final say on whether a pupil is excluded in order to avoid those cases, which I acknowledge are rare, where a school is directed to reinstate a pupil who it believes, after proper consideration, should not be.
Finally, we want to give teachers better protection from false allegations made by pupils, which could be used to undermine their authority and have a devastating affect on their lives. The Bill therefore provides for reporting restrictions where a pupil, or someone on their behalf, alleges a teacher has committed an offence. These restrictions would be lifted once the teacher is charged. Alongside the work that the department is doing to strengthen guidance on dealing with allegations so that unnecessary delays are removed and that suspending staff is not seen as the default option, these measures will, we hope, provide better support teachers.
Hand in hand with increased freedoms for schools, we want stronger accountability directly to pupils and parents. The Bill therefore makes it easier for parents to see how well their school is doing by reducing the criteria for Ofsted inspections to four areas; namely, teaching, leadership, achievement, and behaviour and safety. We want also to free outstanding schools and colleges from inspection so that more time and resources can be devoted to those who need help most.
Alongside the Bill, we are reforming the performance information made available to parents, including measures on the progress children make at school and not just their raw attainment. That should remove some of the perverse incentives on schools, which led to a focus on a narrow group of children who might boost rankings in performance tables. New destination measures for schools and colleges will allow parents and young people to see for themselves how well institutions do at academic and vocational courses and how well they equip their students for life afterwards.
We must also be outward-looking, comparing our education system with the best in the world. That is why we are strengthening the role of the independent regulator, Ofqual, and requiring it to look not just backwards in time to make sure our qualifications maintain standards, but outwards to ensure that they compare well with qualifications overseas. The Bill will also require schools that are sampled to take part in international surveys of educational standards to participate.
However, it is not only school-level accountability that we are keen to strengthen in the education system. Local and central government needs to be more accountable. We have a shared goal with local authorities to tackle underperformance and in most cases we are able to work together to achieve that. But in some instances local authorities have not gripped underperformance, so we propose to take a new power in the Bill to increase the focus on tackling weak schools.
The Bill also restores ministerial accountability to Parliament by abolishing four major statutory arm's-length bodies-the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, the General Teaching Council for England, the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the Young People's Learning Agency. Many of their activities will cease, as teachers and school and college leaders decide for themselves how best to meet the needs of their pupils and students, rather than receiving pages and pages of guidance. Where roles continue, they will be brought back within the department and Ministers will be accountable to Parliament, which is where accountability should sit.
The final theme that I want to cover is fairness. For far too long, children from disadvantaged backgrounds have not fulfilled their potential. That is why this Government, in difficult economic circumstances, have managed to find additional resources and target them on those most in need. Starting in the early years, the Bill provides for the extension of the entitlement for free childcare to all two year-olds from the most disadvantaged families. The previous Government did much work in this area and I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, who oversaw a significant growth in early-years education, which this Bill continues. We will move from 20,000 to 130,000 two year-olds benefitting each year over this Parliament.
Outside the Bill, noble Lords will know that we are introducing the pupil premium-£2.5 billion a year by the end of the Parliament-to support children on free school meals, looked-after children and children from service families.
We are committed to continuing the last Government's drive to raise the participation age. Overall, we can fund more than 360,000 apprenticeships across all ages in the coming academic year, while making changes to the underlying legislation in this Bill so that they are deliverable in practice. In particular, there will be sufficient funding for 135,500 apprenticeship starts in the academic year 2011-12 for 16 to 18 year-olds.
We are taking a new approach in the Bill by requiring schools to secure careers advice-which must be impartial and independent-for their pupils. That is supported by a range of measures, working with the careers sector, to improve the quality and professionalism of services in this area.
So far as higher education is concerned, the Bill takes forward two elements of the new student finance arrangements. They will be more progressive, with the lowest-earning 25 per cent of graduates paying less over their lifetime than they do at present. It will also mean that fees for part-time courses are capped so that new loans can meet them.
We are extremely fortunate in our country to have so many great schools and colleges, led by a superb generation of heads and supported by an extremely talented and committed cohort of teachers. Despite the dedication of these professionals and the fact that our children seem to work harder than ever at exams, other nations still appear to be overtaking us. Our 15 year-olds are a full two years behind their Shanghai-Chinese peers in maths and a year behind teenagers in Korea or Finland in reading. Evidence from these
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to the Bill. He has done the best that he can to enthuse us but the Bill is heavy with structural change and light on what really matters-the delivery of high standards in every school for every child. At least the Minister did not fall into the trap of his boss, Michael Gove, who took his reputation for exaggeration to new heights in the Commons debate when he said:
"This Bill provides an historic opportunity for this country. It will help to guarantee every child a high quality education, which will equip them for the technological, economic, social and cultural challenges of the next century".-[Official Report, Commons, 8/2/2011; col. 180.]
Regrettably the Bill does not meet any of those lofty aspirations. At a time when the debate going on in the country is about how to drive up academic standards, how to ensure that every child has a chance to excel and how to distribute resources fairly to compensate for deprivation, the Bill fails to meet the challenge. Instead, it seeks to redefine the relationship between schools, parents and local communities, diminishing accountability and dismantling the procedures that ensure fairness and equity. As such, there is plenty in the Bill to give us cause for concern.
This does not mean that we are opposed to all the clauses in the Bill. We can support a number of them and others we hope to clarify by amendment in Committee. I will say a little more on that shortly. I hope your Lordships and perhaps even the Minister will recognise that there is something slightly obsessive about a Secretary of State who produces a Bill that gives him more than 50 additional powers. It is an irony that, at the same time as we are debating the Localism Bill, this Bill is moving in the opposite direction, taking decisions away from parents, communities and elected local authorities and centralising them in a department ill-prepared for the raft of new responsibilities coming its way.
On this issue, as perhaps on many others in the Bill, I hope that we might have a common cause with noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches as I see in their election manifesto that they were committed to,
Not surprisingly, that did not make it into the coalition agreement. Am I the only person to suspect that when something goes wrong, as things inevitably do, and his department is held responsible for a bad decision or a failure to act on the new responsibilities, the Secretary of State will be noticeably absent? Either by then he will have been conveniently reshuffled into another department or he will just expect the Minister opposite
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As I mentioned earlier, there are some clauses in the Bill that deserve our support. We welcome the extension of free early years provision for disadvantaged two year-olds. We will in due course seek firmer guarantees that the provisions in the Bill cannot subsequently be watered down, but you would expect the party that introduced the universal entitlement for three and four year-olds to approve its extension.
We also welcome the clauses that give teachers anonymity when accusations are made against them. We all know examples of good teachers whose lives have been blighted and their careers damaged when false allegations are made against them. It has on occasions been used as a cynical tool of revenge by some pupils and it is absolutely right that teachers have the right to anonymity until allegations have been investigated and formal charges brought. However, we fail to understand why the Government have so far failed to follow the logic of their own arguments in this regard in extending the provisions to all school staff and those working in further education and the youth sector, who are equally vulnerable.
We will also support practical measures to give teachers more power to intervene in bad behaviour in the classroom. However, we remain concerned that the specific additional search powers in this Bill are not matched by the appropriate safeguards. Moreover, there is a danger that the new measures could be simply symbolic. I read with interest the oral evidence given by head teachers to the Education Bill Committee in the other place. They struggled to find examples of where these additional powers would be useful and the teachers' unions reported that their members would be very reluctant to use them. Nevertheless, we will welcome alternative proposals that send a clear message to pupils that bad behaviour will not be tolerated.
The Bill is guilty of sending mixed messages to the teaching profession. On the one hand, it wants to strengthen their authority in the classroom while, on the other hand, it waters down their professional status through the abolition of the General Teaching Council for England. So far, the Government have failed to produce a credible position on this. We believe that there is still a need for a regulator with a degree of independence in this sector. Surely, the sensible approach would be to learn the best practice from other professional bodies and work with the teachers' associations to find a better method of setting standards, regulating entry to the profession, maintaining a comprehensive register and managing teacher discipline.
What message does it send to parents and teachers about the importance of professional standards when the Government make it clear that free schools will not be required to employ qualified teachers? Surely, parents should be able to choose the best school for their child, safe in the knowledge that all publicly funded schools will employ teachers with relevant training and qualifications?
Equally, if we are committed to driving up standards in schools, what justification can there be for the abolition of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body? This organisation was halfway through producing job profiles for support staff which would have recognised their important contribution to children's learning experience in schools. It was a welcome development that school leaders and teachers alike have supported, so I hope that in Committee we will be able to persuade the Minister to reconsider that decision.
I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments around the clauses today, but I would like to highlight some areas of particular concern. First, the Bill dilutes parents' rights over school admissions. This is a massively sensitive subject and will continue to be so as long as parents detect that there are schools of varying quality in their area. The Bill abolishes local admissions forums and waters down the capacity of the schools adjudicator to intervene to ensure fair play. The new draft admissions code, published after the Bill had received its Third Reading in the other place, would allow grammar schools to expand beyond their current physical capacity, leading to a potential expansion of selection in the state school system. A weakened admissions system means less power for parents to ensure their child can go to the school they choose. A weaker system also risks unfairness going unchallenged.
Secondly, we support the Government's aim to establish an all-age careers service by April 2012. However, the lack of a transition plan from the existing careers service providers, compounded by the impact of local authority cuts, means that most of the staffing and expertise will be lost before the new service has had a chance to establish itself. As the ASCL has said,
"More than 2 million young people aged 16 to 19 could lose out on valuable careers advice while the government overhauls the national careers advice service, at a time when young people's unemployment is reaching record highs".
There is a real danger that, in this vacuum, careers advice will end up being provided online or collectively, whereas we believe that young people need personalised, ongoing, face-to-face advice that is tailored to their individual skills and interests. They also need real choice between academic and vocational training, including access to good-quality apprenticeships.
Finally, this Bill rewrites the Academies Act passed last summer at breakneck speed and without adequate scrutiny in the other place. As a result, only one of its original 14 sections has escaped being replaced or amended. The model created by the previous Government to use academies to turn around failing schools in deprived areas has now been turned on its head. The resemblance between the old and the new is in name only; now, every school will be encouraged to become an academy.
The Bill could mean that by 2015 we would have an all-academy world: 20,000 schools, each with its own admissions policy, all being judged on the prescriptive English baccalaureate that is geared towards the top 30 per cent of children. Schools will have a clear incentive to admit the most able students and, with a weakened adjudicator and greater competition between schools, back-door selection becomes more likely. Such a world could be a dangerous place for less academic children or those with special needs.
In this new world, the role of elected local authorities in planning schools and services is marginalised. The strategic role envisaged for them in the education White Paper is abandoned. They will have no significant role and scarce resources to co-ordinate provision, whereas we believe that local people and local communities should be in the driving seat in determining what is best for their children's education.
I said at the outset that this Bill ducked many of the key arguments about education today. While it is true that those do not appear in the Bill, it is also true that there are potentially profound consequences arising from the restructuring of education services being pursued by the Secretary of State. The expansion of academies, each with its own budget, will create a vast new marketplace for schools to buy services that have previously been provided without charge by local authorities. New private providers of education services are already moving into that void. No doubt some services will be able to be procured more cheaply, but schools will also be under pressure to save on the cost of expensive services for those who have special needs or require learning support.
No doubt the Government will argue that the pupil premium will help offset some of those additional costs. However, can we be sure that the money involved will compensate for the complexities of trying to provide an education service in a deprived area? What will be the consequence of the private sector supplying those support services? Can we be sure that they will be properly regulated and that schools will be protected from market failure?
What of the management of these academies? It is hard to imagine how the Secretary of State thinks he is going individually to manage thousands of academies, so it is rather convenient for him that they are already forming themselves into chains and federations. Instead of managing individual schools, he could ultimately manage contracts of large private providers-some no doubt bigger than the democratic local authorities they seek to replace. Those providers currently make a virtue of their charitable status being not-for-profit, but can we be confident that that protection will continue? Could we one day be facing the educational equivalent of Southern Cross, with all the challenges of maintaining continuity of education in the school system that could result?
When we scrutinise the Bill, we will be looking at the detail of the clauses as written, but we will also be mindful of the potential consequences of a market-dominated education system and what it means for the school system as a whole. We will put forward measures to ensure that the right checks and balances keep children's interests paramount. We will aim to place the rights and priorities of pupils, parents, professionals and the public at the heart of the Bill, and reassert the right of communities to determine their children's education. We hope very much that, in the course of the discussions, we can make common cause with noble Lords across the House, perhaps including the Minister, to strengthen the Bill on this basis. We look forward to the remainder of the debate today.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I welcome the emphasis in this Bill on improving the ability of teachers to teach. Given what she has just said, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, will not be surprised to hear me agree with my noble friend the Minister about the importance of freeing up schools to get on with the job. Members on these Benches will emphasise the rights of every child, particularly the most vulnerable, and judge the Bill on whether it furthers the Government's objective of encouraging social mobility and inclusion. There are a lot of issues in the Bill, so I shall focus my remarks on Parts 1, 2, 4 and 5, and leave the rest to my noble friends on these Benches.
I give an enthusiastic welcome to the extension of free early years provision to disadvantaged two year-olds, but I am a little concerned about charging for provision beyond the statutory three hours, and I worry that those families who most need high-quality early years education might be deterred from taking up the free hours by their lack of ability to pay for the additional hours they actually need. Will the Government please review this to ensure that disadvantaged families do not lose out?
Wide concern has been expressed about the proposals in Clause 2 on searching pupils. We on these Benches of course agree with the coalition agreement, which says that teachers will be given the tools they need to maintain discipline. I echo the Minister's statement that every child has a right to learn, so schools must ensure that the behaviour of one child does not impinge on the rights of other pupils to an education. However, there are two questions. First, are these the measures that will support teachers to maintain discipline? Secondly, are these the measures that teachers and heads want? In answer to the first, I think they are much less relevant than a fair code of school rules and a strong leadership team supporting the authority of all teachers. In answer to the second, some heads want these measures but most teachers do not, so the profession is divided.
I think that searching affects the fundamental relationship between teachers and pupils, which changes from one of trust, about preparing the child for its future life at work and in the family, to one of policing. I have concerns about training and teachers searching children alone, and I will raise these as the Bill progresses. The Joint Committee on Human Rights also has concerns about the impact of this very widely drawn power on the rights of the child and recommends three amendments to restrict it. Will the Minister say whether the Government intend to introduce these amendments in Committee? Most FE colleges have a security officer trained to search safely. However, if a 20 year-old male security officer wishes to search a 14 year-old female student, we have a human rights problem.
On exclusions, Clause 4 removes the exclusion appeals panel and replaces it with a review panel, which cannot insist that a child should be reinstated if it feels that the decision has been unfair. I accept that this happens in only a very few cases, but we need to have an eye to natural justice. The fact that appealing parents can have the support of an SEN expert is welcome, but I would like them to be able to choose the expert for
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We welcome the proposal in the White Paper for schools that exclude a child to retain responsibility for both his funding and his future achievement. However, that does not appear in the Bill. We are told that there are to be pilots. Will the Minister commit the Government to legislating for this if the pilots prove a successful disincentive to unfair exclusions?
Clause 5 removes the duty to give 24 hours' notice of an after-school detention, which was introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard, for the good reason that it would avoid a child's journey home being unsafe. I am very concerned about the removal of this duty. We do not want another Milly Dowler case. A child can disappear in the blink of an eye. However, schools tell me that there are problems with 24 hours' notice, so I will table an amendment to ensure that parents are contacted on the day and that the school satisfies itself that the child can get home safely. We need to be very specific about that.
Many schools have found behaviour and attendance partnerships to be of great value in arranging managed exclusions. With the removal of the duty to take part in such partnerships, how will the Government ensure that schools work together to manage children who are not settling down, or those with special needs for whom the school is not properly catering? The Minister will know that children with SEN are disproportionately excluded. This has gone on for years. Can he explain how it will be avoided?
The abolition of the QCDA passes control of the curriculum to the Secretary of State. The QCDA was established only recently to advise the Secretary of State on the curriculum, but now he feels that he does not need its advice. Perhaps we shall see established an external review of the national curriculum and an internal review of PSHE. It seems a great deal of trouble and expense at a time when the Government are urging all schools to become academies, which do not have to follow the national curriculum anyway. Perhaps that is why the Secretary of State feels that there will not be enough work for the QCDA in the future. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us on this.
I am particularly concerned about the abolition of the duty to co-operate with local authorities. It is very important that professionals work together around the child. We need to make sure that that continues to happen.
Clause 36 means that you cannot have a new community school unless no one wants to set up an academy or a foundation school. This does not sit well with the Government's intentions on localism, fairness and parental choice. I have no doubt that we will have considerable discussions about this in Committee.
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I strongly support this Government's policies on teaching in schools and academies. They are right to do more to improve the nation's academic standards across the board. In particular, it is important to give more opportunities to our ablest children. However, the Government hope to achieve more than that. They hope to achieve greater equality, better outcomes for children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds and more social mobility. These are all important objectives, which the Government have a good chance of achieving if, and only if, they successfully address the problems of disruption by pupils and disaffection in our schools. They will achieve this only if they pay more attention to the role and the problems of parents in the education of their children.
I fear the Government may be making the mistake of thinking that a child's education takes place only in school. The truth is that every waking hour, from birth onwards, the child is learning. A child in full-time education spends around 28.5 per cent, I believe, of his waking hours in school. In the first three years of its life, a child's experiences are wholly mediated by its parents and family. Parents get the first innings, but school readiness is crucial to their child's success in school later.
The truth is that children need both teachers and parents working together. What parents do, or fail to do, is a powerful influence on their child's development and life chances. Some speakers have already referred to Chinese children in this regard. Working with parents matters, yet the Bill makes no mention of the role of parents in preparing their child for school or in supporting them in school. Is this an intentional omission?
Of course, he is absolutely right, but that does not mean that we should not pay attention to that minority who still have problems. To say that a significant minority of this nation's children are not getting in their family the start in life they need is not necessarily to criticise or stigmatise those parents. In our society today quite a lot of parents need more help, education and support. In their recent reports to Government, Frank Field, Graham Allen and Clare Tickell have all addressed these issues and have made excellent proposals. However, as I read the signs-I hope I am wrong-it seems to me that many of their proposals are already beginning to be swept under the carpet by this Government because they are politically inconvenient. If that were to happen, it would be a tragedy. It would in my opinion greatly reduce the chances of achieving success in the Government's objective of reducing social inequality and increasing social mobility. It could also prejudice the Government's chances of achieving success in their objective of educating all children better because
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The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, last Friday, rather curiously, I found myself at Blenheim Palace twice in the day. In the evening I was at a ball celebrating 100 years of a diocesan social work agency called PACT, which specialises in working with adoption, fostering and children's support, but in the morning I was with 200 head teachers of church schools in the diocese of Oxford, celebrating, among other things, 200 years of church schools throughout the country. They were a very impressive group of head teachers, skilled, dedicated and looking forward to the challenges of this new era and the new things that are to be done.
As we all know, the Church of England has a huge commitment to education, going back not just 200 years to the foundation of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor, but way beyond that to the first schools in the country in the monasteries and religious foundations of our land. We are proud to have been deeply committed to this most essential of tasks for a very long time. Our nearly 5,000 schools, with nearly a million children in them, have high standards, are popular, and have values, disciplines and habits of the heart that parents recognise as deeply worth while. The future, seen through the eyes of those head teachers at Blenheim, is indeed full of opportunity as we continue to provide schools of both distinctive and inclusive quality, serving the communities in which they are set.
The Bill before us seems by and large to be a tidying -up exercise, but I find myself wondering whether we have had a sufficiently broad, conceptual debate into which it fits. I wonder whether we have seen the coherence of the overall educational strategy, or if we are simply letting a thousand flowers bloom and trusting that, with a bit of luck, the eventual outcome will be a garden that is both beautiful and productive. Those of us involved in education are scrambling to keep up with the pace of change and are hoping that there are not too many unintended consequences. Is the overall educational vision clear, beyond, of course, promoting localism?
The question that exercises me is whether we are promoting, and whether this Bill supports, a vision of education for the whole person or for just part of a person. Are we concerned with the full human flourishing of every child, or just developing the skills that will serve the economy? William Temple told the story of a father who sent a note to his son's school that said: "Don't teach my son poetry; he's going to be a grocer". That is a very impoverished view of education. This is the debate that I wish we could be having today, and which, in a sense, lies unexamined behind our Bill. There is a risk, for example, that the review of the national curriculum could skew the learning outcomes in a more instrumentalist direction, when what we want is the full, rich development of children's incredibly diverse potential.
In this context, I do have some concerns, as noble Lords can imagine, about the English baccalaureate. We need our children to be more factually informed-absolutely-but not at the expense of the grocer's son learning poetry. The humanities matter, and I could make a particular case for the high value of RE as a rigorous tool for learning about human society, local harmony and global peace making, as well as exploring personal values, ethics and belief systems. If we are to have the English baccalaureate and RE is not included in it, society will be very much the poorer in the next generation.
These are general comments on the context of the Bill, and I regret that we are not first discussing and exploring an overall educational vision. However, there are three markers that I should like to put down at this Second Reading. These are to do with the way in which the Bill and the White Paper on which it is based impact on the work of churches in their schools and colleges.
First, we will want to follow up in Committee-and, I trust, in further discussions with officials-a number of technical issues concerned with land and trusts for schools converting to academy status, and staffing arrangements at academies with a religious character.
Secondly, I want to express some concerns about teacher training in the future. It will be essential to ensure a denominational balance in initial teacher training. This is currently a duty, but I am not convinced, from what I know so far, that it will remain so. It is vital that the denominational balance be retained in order to ensure an adequate supply of appropriately trained teachers for our church schools. This is not just about RE teachers but all teachers. I am concerned about that.
I was at Whitelands College at Roehampton University last month, where the principal said it was the most rewarding job that he had ever done in his life. There are 11 other Anglican and four Catholic universities and university colleges, but because they have teacher training as a major part of their foundation, the proposal to base training in schools is posing a very real and destabilising challenge to them, I have yet to be convinced that it will improve the quality of training. Between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of training time is already spent in schools.
Thirdly, and in conclusion, the Church of England is committed to working with this Government and Governments of every hue to further the goal of offering the best educational experience possible to every child in the country, including the grocer's son. Education unlocks virtually everything else in a young person's life. In the church, we want children to think for themselves and to act for others. To that end, through the national society and the diocesan boards of education, we are, in a thoroughly open-minded and energetic way, pursuing how to make all these new systems work, and are looking forward to making those changes to the system that are ahead of us. We are committed to all of this.
Lord Baker of Dorking: Could I ask the right reverend Prelate a question, as he speaks in this House for the Church of England? This Bill promotes the
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The Lord Bishop of Oxford: The admissions procedure for the Church of England always rests in the hands of the local governors. They are advised by the diocesan boards of education, which in turn are advised by the National Society, which I chair, so in our admissions advice we give no particular figures. That 25 per cent is on the books but it is not in the current advice. That is for individual decisions to be made. I could expand on what I was trying to say, but I think this is probably not the time.
We are committed to co-operation with Government, but if we are going to back these head teachers, like the ones I was with at Blenheim last week, I hope that there are some changes yet to be made to the Bill.
We established the independent Future Forum on 6 April, under the chairmanship of Professor Steve Field, to look again at our proposals on the modernisation of the NHS. Yesterday it published its report and recommendations. I would like to thank Professor Field and his 44 senior colleagues from across health and social care who have worked so hard these past eight weeks. I would also like to thank the more than 8,000 members of the public, health professionals, and representatives from over 250 stakeholder organisations who attended some 250 events across the country; also the tens of thousands who wrote to us with their views. I want also to thank the many officials in my department who supported this unprecedented engagement across the country.
I said two months ago that we would pause, listen, reflect and improve our plans. Our commitment to engage and improve the Bill has been genuine and has been rewarded with an independent, expert and immensely valuable report and recommendations from the NHS Future Forum. I can tell the House that we will ask the forum to continue its work, including looking at the implementation of proposals in areas including education and training and public health.
In his report, Professor Field set out clearly that the NHS must change if it is to respond to challenges and realise the opportunities of more preventative, personalised, integrated and effective care. It said that the principles of NHS modernisation were supported: to put patients at the heart of care; to focus on quality and outcomes for patients; and to give clinicians a central role in commissioning health services.
In the forum's work, it set out to make proposals for improving the Bill, and its implementation; to provide reassurance and safeguards; and to recommend changes where needed. As Professor Field put it, the forum did this not to resist change, but to embrace it, guided by the values of the NHS and a relentless focus on the provision of high quality care and improved outcomes for patients.
We accept the NHS Future Forum's core recommendations. We will make significant changes to implement those recommendations and, in some cases, offer further specific assurances which we know have been sought. There are many proposed changes and we will publish our more detailed response shortly. But I would now like to tell the House some of the main changes we will make.
The Bill will make clear that the Secretary of State will have a duty to promote a comprehensive health service, as in the 1946 Act, and be accountable for securing its provision and for the oversight of the national bodies charged with doing so. We will also place duties on the Secretary of State to maintain a system for professional education and training within the health service, and a duty to promote research.
One of the most vital areas of modernisation to get right is the commissioning of local services. For commissioning to be effective, it must draw upon a wide range of people when designing local services, including clinicians, patients and patient groups, carers and charities. We will amend the Bill so that the governing body of every clinical commissioning group will have at least two lay members-one focusing on public and patient involvement, the other overseeing key elements of governance, such as audit, remuneration and managing conflicts of interest.
While we should not centrally prescribe the make-up of the governing body, it will also need to include at least one registered nurse and one secondary care specialist doctor. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, neither should be employed by a local health provider. These governing bodies will meet in public and publish their minutes. The clinical commissioning groups will also need to publish details of all contracts they have with health service providers.
To support commissioning, the independent NHS commissioning board will host 'clinical senates', providing expert advice on the shape and fit of healthcare across
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To encourage greater integration with social care and public health, the boundaries of clinical commissioning groups should not normally cross those of local authorities. If they do, clinical commissioning groups will need to demonstrate to the NHS commissioning board a clear rationale for doing so in terms of benefit to patients.
I have always said that I want there to be 'no decision about me, without me' for patients when it comes to their own care. The same goes for the design of local services, so we will further clarify the duties on the NHS commissioning board and clinical commissioning groups to involve patients, carers and the public. Commissioning groups will have to consult the public on their annual commissioning plans and involve them in any changes that would affect patient services.
One of the main ways that patients will influence the NHS will be through the exercise of informed choice. We will amend the Bill to strengthen and emphasise commissioners' duty to promote patient choice. Choice of any qualified provider will be limited to those areas where there is a national or local tariff, ensuring that competition is based solely on quality. This tariff development, alongside a best-value approach to tendered services, will safeguard against cherry-picking.
Monitor's core duty will be to protect and promote the interests of patients. We will remove its duty to promote competition as though that were an end in itself. Instead, it will be under a duty to support services integrated around the needs of patients and the continuous improvement of quality. It will have a power to tackle specific abuses and restrictions of competition that act against patients' interests. Competition will be a means by which NHS commissioners are able to improve the quality of services for patients.
We will keep the existing competition rules introduced by the last Government-the Principles and Rules for Co-operation and Competition-and give them a firmer statutory underpinning. The Co-operation and Competition Panel, which oversees the rules, will transfer to Monitor and retain its distinct identity. And we will amend the Bill to make it illegal for the Secretary of State or regulator to encourage the growth of one type of provider over another. There must be a level playing field.
We will strengthen the role of health and well-being boards in local councils, making sure that they are involved throughout the commissioning process and that local health service plans are aligned with local health and well-being strategies.
In a number of areas, we will make the timetable for change more flexible to ensure that no one is forced to take on new responsibilities before they are ready, while enabling those who are ready to make faster progress.
If any of the remaining NHS trusts cannot meet foundation trust criteria by 2014, we will support them to achieve it subsequently. But all NHS trusts will be required to become foundation trusts as soon as clinically feasible, with an agreed deadline for each trust.
We will ensure a safe and robust transition for the education and training system. It is vital that change is introduced carefully and without creating instability, and we will take the time to get it right, as the Future Forum has recommended. During the transition, we will retain postgraduate deaneries and give them a clear home within the NHS family. On any qualified provider, its extension will be phased carefully to reflect and support the availability of choice for patients.
Strategic health authorities and primary care trusts will cease to exist in April 2013. By April 2013, all GP practices will be members of either a fully or partly authorised clinical commissioning group or one in shadow form. There will be no two-tier NHS. However, individual clinical commissioning groups will not be authorised to take over any part of the commissioning budget until they are ready to do so. GPs need not take managerial responsibility in a commissioning group if they do not want to. April 2013 will not be a 'drop dead' date for the new commissioners. Where a clinical commissioning group is not able to take on some or all aspects of commissioning, the local arms of the NHS commissioning board will commission on its behalf. Those groups keen to press on will not in any way be prevented from becoming fully authorised as soon as they are ready.
I also told the House on 4 April that we would secure proper scrutiny for any changes we made to the Bill. In order to do this, without trespassing on the House's time to review the Bill as a whole at Report, we will ask the House to recommit the relevant parts of the Bill to a Public Bill Committee shortly.
Through the recommendations of the NHS Future Forum and our response we have demonstrated our willingness to listen and to improve our plans, to make big changes-not to abandon the principles of reform, which the Future Forum itself said were supported across the service, but to be clear that the NHS is too important and modernisation too vital for us not to be sure of getting the legislation right.
The service can adapt and improve as we modernise and change. But the legislation cannot be continuously changed. On the contrary, it must be an enduring structure and statement. So it must reflect our commitment to the NHS constitution and values. It must incorporate the safeguards and accountabilities which we require. It must protect and enhance patients' rights and services, and it must be crystal clear about the duties and priorities which we will expect of all NHS bodies and in local government for the future.
Professor Field's report says that it is time for the pause to end. Strengthened by the forum's report and recommendations, we will now ask the House to re-engage with delivering the changes and the modernisation that the NHS needs. I commend this Statement to the House".
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I start by paying tribute to him for the way in which he has facilitated the debate about the future of the NHS thus far across the House. The all-Peer seminars benefited hugely from the fact that his office ensured the input from senior department officials. I have to add that his noble friend Lady Northover attended every one of those seminars. They have continued and, I believe, have ensured a greater understanding of the Bill from which it can only benefit. Notwithstanding Nick Clegg waving about his list of changes and claiming all, I think we might find out as we move on how influential the Minister has been in bringing about changes to the Bill. However,
On this occasion, lest the noble Earl misunderstands me, I will say that I welcome the findings of the Future Forum, although I think that we would both agree that it cannot possibly have covered all the important issues in the NHS in eight weeks. In the detailed response that accompanies the Statement, the Government have gone further than the Future Forum in their proposed changes to the Bill; they are very significant. I particularly welcome issues such as the commitment to the NHS constitution. However, it begs the question of whether we might need a whole new Bill, or no Bill at all, if we all now agree that evolution is better than revolution.
I will mention the process. In this House we are more familiar with the parliamentary process whereby you consult, legislate and implement-not the other way around, which is what seems to have happened here. However, the Future Forum was a device that I think everyone understood. There was a pressing political need to get the coalition Government-Nick Clegg, David Cameron and in particular Andrew Lansley-off the hook. I will say this only once, despite severe temptation; the uniformly fulsome and enthusiastic welcome from Nick Clegg and David Cameron for the White Paper and the Bill ring rather hollow today. However unworthy the motivation, the end of the pause means one very good outcome for which we should all be grateful-probably none more so than patients and staff-namely, that the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State will cease their endless visits to hospitals to prove how much they love the NHS.
The chairman of the Future Forum said that opposition to the Bill stemmed from "genuine fear and anxiety". He went on to say that NHS staff feared for their jobs, and feared that their NHS was about to be broken up and-their word-"privatised". Thank goodness the Future Forum had the wisdom to listen to what so many people have been saying for a year to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State: during the consultation period, after the Bill was published, with increasing volume during its passage in the
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Since we are now promised significant changes, will the Minister confirm that there will be a new and proper impact assessment and a new set of Explanatory Notes, and that there will be consultation on the changes proposed through amendments before recommittal? Will there be a formal response to the well argued report of the Health Select Committee and its recommendations, not all of which agree with the Future Forum report? Most importantly in many ways, if there is to be a long period of enactment when the Bill is passed-and, as the Minister explained, no drop -dead moments-a very strong recommendation of the Future Forum report must be acted on; namely, the production of a timetabling and transition plan. This must be in place as soon as possible and must be robust. When does the Minister envisage that it will be published?
As the House would expect, since Part 3 is still in the Bill we will seek reassurances on competition, the composition of consortia, NICE, the minimum references to social care that are there, and, for example, the lack of references to mental health. We will pursue all these issues in due course. Will it be possible for the Minister to use his good offices to ask the Government to make time available for a longer debate in the House about these issues before we receive the Bill? When does the noble Earl think that we might start consideration of the Bill?
While the uncertainty continues, the NHS is going backwards. The Future Forum suggested-and we all know-that there is widespread demoralisation and even fear in the NHS. Good managers are being denigrated and made redundant, front-line staff are facing the sack and major projects and initiatives have been put on hold, as nobody knows what structures will be in place in the next few weeks, let alone the coming months. That is the result of the earlier rush, which can now be remedied by a robust transition plan.
It is to the credit of all the organisations-patient groups, carers, long-term conditions, medical and others-that have persisted in making their views known and whose views the Future Forum heard. During this period, my colleagues and I concentrated on asking people to look at and understand the Bill because we were confident that the more people understood this legislation, the less happy they would be about the threat to our NHS and to patients. We will be doing the same with the new Bill. We will look at it carefully in detail, and I will again be asking whether it meets the concerns that they and their organisations have raised. I say that because almost every single suggestion in the Future Forum report was put down as an amendment by my colleagues in the Commons in Standing Committee. I suggest to the Government that they might save a lot of time and trouble if they adopted all the other amendments that we put down that were not in the Future Forum. Honestly, what a way to conduct the reform of our most precious national asset. The lesson I take from the past year is
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Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful for the constructive and positive tone that the noble Baroness adopted in her response. I am grateful to her for her welcome of the Future Forum report, and I thank her for expressing appreciation for the seminars which my department is continuing to run. I can return the compliment in expressing my gratitude for the seminars that she has organised to inform Peers.
There is no disguising the fact that this is an extremely wide and detailed programme of modernisation. There is a great deal to absorb. It is important for noble Lords to understand as fully as possible what the proposals amount to before the Bill reaches your Lordships' House. She is right: they are significant changes. However, I would disagree with her about there being no need for a Bill. Since these changes are so extensive, it is appropriate that Parliament should have the opportunity of approving what is proposed for the National Health Service which, as the Statement said, is designed to be an enduring structure that successive Governments can back. Certainly, lessons have been learnt. I think that when we consulted on the White Paper last year, it was clear that there was general acceptance of the key principles that we set out in it, but when the Bill, which set out how we proposed to implement those principles, was published, the concerns bubbled to the surface, which was why we thought it right, and I still think it right, to have the listening exercise.
The noble Baroness asked me whether we would publish a new impact assessment and Explanatory Notes. We will be updating the impact assessment and Explanatory Notes to reflect the changes to the Bill. They will be published when the Bill is introduced in this House in accordance with normal protocol. She also asked me about timetabling. We want to ensure that the Bill is given sufficient scrutiny in both Houses. We hope that the stronger consensus for change that has been built as a result of the listening exercise will be reflected when both Houses consider timing issues and that the Bill will come to this House at the earliest appropriate moment. Currently, I cannot tell the noble Baroness when that will be. It is, of course, not for us to dictate to another place how it should manage its business. She also asked about the possibility of time being available for a health-related debate. The Leader of the House is sitting beside me, and I am sure he heard that request and that it will be discussed in the usual channels.
The noble Baroness rightly insisted on a robust transition plan, which I believe we have. She will have noticed from the Statement that we have adjusted quite significantly the pace at which these changes will be rolled out. I believe that those working in the health service will be reassured by that because in some
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The noble Baroness asked a number of questions, many of which will be the subject of a paper we plan to publish during the next week or so. The paper will set out more precisely how we plan to implement the changes proposed by the NHS Future Forum. I am not in a position to provide all the answers today but it is clear that, above all, the NHS needs certainty, which we can now give to those who work in it. However, I can say today that there is hardly anything in our proposals that does not represent a natural evolution from the policies and programmes pursued by the previous Government: that is, the development of the quality agenda initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Darzi; extending patient choice; developing the tariff; clinically led commissioning at primary care level, which is a natural extension of practice-based commissioning; completing the foundation trust programme; the continuation of the co-operation and competition panel established by the previous Government but now within the framework of a bespoke healthcare regulator; strengthening the patient voice by the evolution of links to HealthWatch; and augmenting the role of the CQC. None of that is wholly new: the difference is that for the first time we are setting all these things out in one coherent programme and not, as did the previous Government, in a piecemeal fashion.
I believe, and I hope, that we have the basis for broad consensus. We will see when the Bill reaches this House whether that belief is borne out. Not for a minute would I wish the noble Baroness to suspend her critical faculties, or for any other noble Lord to do that. I look forward to those debates in due course.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for repeating this important and welcome Statement. It reaffirms the coalition's commitment to a reformed NHS, which is patient-centred, clinician-led and outcome-focused. Does he accept that the concerns, which are fully addressed in this Statement, were shared not alone on these Benches but by many Conservative colleagues, as well as patients, professionals and other stakeholders, and others in your Lordships' House, as exemplified in the national debate instituted by the Government? Will he now confirm that, despite the anxieties that there have been, the duties and responsibilities of the Secretary of State will be reaffirmed in the Bill in the language used when our beloved NHS was established? Will he confirm that there will now be a level playing field and that private providers will not be advantaged against public providers, as was the case under the previous Labour Government? Will he further confirm that Monitor will be redesigned to be more than a mere economic utility regulator but will facilitate co-operation and integration, as well as competition on quality rather than on price?
Earl Howe: I am most grateful to my noble friend. He is right that the concerns that arose in relation to the Bill stemmed from many quarters-certainly from my own Benches and his but also from the wider public. I think we took on board those concerns almost as
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My noble friend asked three questions. The first was around the duties of the Secretary of State. The Statement made clear that, as now, the Secretary of State will remain responsible for promoting a comprehensive health service. It has never been our intention to do anything else. Indeed, the Bill did not specify anything else. That will be underpinned by the new duties that the Bill already places on the Secretary of State around promoting quality improvement and reducing inequalities. We shall be setting out other duties on the Secretary of State to strengthen his accountability.
On private providers, the noble Lord is right. We are clear that private providers should not be advantaged over the NHS. Indeed, the amendments that we will make to the Bill will put that concern to rest, I hope, once and for all.
Monitor will have its duties rephrased. As the Statement also made clear, the duty to promote competition, which is now in the Bill, will be replaced by a different set of duties around patients, integration and the promotion of quality. There will be quite a different flavour to Monitor's duties.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, who is so widely respected on all sides the House, on the statesmanlike way in which he and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, have led discussions on the Bill in the past few weeks. I pay tribute also to the contribution of the Opposition. In all, we have had something like 25 seminars looking at the detail of the Bill. The developments that have been discussed and which Steve Field and his colleagues have put forward look as though they will produce major amendments to the Bill, which will be welcome on all sides of the House.
I have three specific questions. The one of greatest importance relates not only to the local clinical commissioning groups, but the clinical senates. We need to know a good deal more about them. Will they take on board some of the people who were previously employed by regional strategic authorities who are involved in the specialist commissioning of highly specialised services? That needs to be looked at carefully because of the unevenness in standards of specialised care throughout the country.
In relation to those clinical senates, will the role of universities be taken on board; not only those with medical schools but the ones that have responsibility for training other healthcare professionals? They should be thought of as having some kind of formal role in relation to those senates. I also suggest to the noble Earl in relation to clinical networks that, with the development of genomic medicine, rare diseases are becoming so important that we may need to have a clinical network for them because of the very expensive and rare orphan drugs that are being rapidly introduced for the treatment of these conditions.
Finally, the Bill as originally constructed did not deal in any depth with research or clinical education and training. The developments in this particular report on those two fields are very welcome. We look forward to having further details.
Earl Howe: I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Walton, as I always am, particularly for his welcome for the idea of clinical senates. They will provide the kind of multiprofessional advice on local commissioning plans that everybody has been calling for. The senates will be hosted by the NHS Commissioning Board. The detail is still to be worked out, but it is likely that they will be located regionally. They will be in prime position to do the very thing that the noble Lord seeks: to provide expert advice on good commissioning, not just for the treatment of everyday conditions, but for specialised services, which I know is of particular concern to noble Lords.
The noble Lord suggested that there should be a role for the universities, and that is a constructive idea that I will take away. As regards clinical networks, we are certainly of the view that they have proved their worth over the past few years and we are keen to see more of them created. I hope that that will be facilitated by the structures we are putting in place.
Lord Darzi of Denham: My Lords, I welcome the Statement from the noble Earl and also congratulate him on his leadership in getting us back on track. One of the commonest sayings about a good clinician, whether a doctor or nurse, is that they listen to a patient but also seek the opinion of others if dealing with a complicated case. In this instance, the noble Earl has done both.
I am very reassured that the language has changed. As the noble Earl said, quality will remain the organising principle of the NHS. I know and he knows that quality is what unites those who deliver healthcare. Quality is what the public and patients expect. I am also reassured by the concept of using competition when necessary. I strongly support competition, have always done so and work in an organisation that competes not only in the NHS in England but also globally. I acknowledge, too, that integration should also be used as a tool where possible. The listening exercise is not at the end. It should start from now. Where will the engagement exercise lead?
Finally, and more importantly, there is the management and leadership now required to drive these important sets of reforms at a time of austerity. We have heard a lot about management. It is an easy political target but the NHS needs better management rather than less. I am pleased to see that the Government are committing to retaining the best managers and to develop managerial skills. However, this commitment is distinctly lacking in specifics. More detail and action are required before I could confidently say that the importance of management has been grasped. I say this within the context of the age of austerity. We need leadership and management to drive this set of reforms. I strongly agree that we need reforms and they need to be continual reforms rather than destructive ones. On that note, I look forward to Second Reading.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, and would reassure him-I am sure that I do not need to-that our ambition is to carry through the agenda that he began when he was Minister of raising the quality of care throughout the NHS. He will see that we have defined quality in the Bill. It is the one part of the Bill that I do not think anybody has quibbled with. We have used his definition and I hope that no amendments will be tabled to change that.
The noble Lord said "competition when necessary" and I thoroughly agree with that. What we do not want to see is competition as an end in itself. It is never that. It can be there only to support better care of patients and buttress patient choice. If we believe in patient choice then we must inevitably believe in an element of competition. The key is making that competition work for patients properly, as we all would wish. Over the past few years we have seen how it can do that.
The listening exercise will not come to an end. We have asked the Future Forum to remain in being and to continue its work in a number of other areas. I am pleased to say that it has agreed to do so. Education and training will be one such area, public health another.
Finally, the noble Lord is absolutely right to direct our attention to the importance of good management. I think I read the other day in an article that he published that, if anything, the NHS has been over-administered and under-managed. I would agree with that analysis. We need good quality managers. I have never been one to denigrate managers. They are of the highest importance if we are to have a first-rate NHS. I hope to have further news on that front before long.
Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I add my congratulations to my noble friend on his Statement which has certainly reassured me that the principles in the White Paper have been maintained. Can he elaborate a little more on the development of competition and choice to which he referred? The Statement says that Monitor's core duty will be to protect and promote the interests of patients, not to promote competition as if it were an end in itself. Can I take it from what my noble friend has said that the Government continue to believe that competition and choice are key drivers of improving the interests of patients and quality in the health service?
Following on from that, on the Government's commitment to extending patients' choice of any qualified provider, which is reasserted in the Statement, how will the phasing of the introduction or further expansion of alternative providers evolve in a way that will give those alternative providers the confidence to make the investments necessary so that they can play their full part in providing quality services under the NHS?
Earl Howe: I thank my noble friend for raising this important topic. I cannot provide him with the kind of detailed replies that he seeks. Those should emerge over the next few days as we work through our response fully. But I can tell him that we will amend the Bill to strengthen and emphasise the commissioner's duty to
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We will maintain our commitment to extending patients' choice of any qualified provider, but we will do this in a much more phased way. We will delay starting until April 2012, and the choice of any qualified provider will be limited to services covered by national or local tariff pricing to ensure that competition, where it occurs, is based on quality. We will focus on the services where patients say they want more choice-for example, starting with selected community services-rather than seeking blanket coverage. Of course, with some services such as A&E and critical care, any qualified provider will never be practicable or in patients' interests.
I have already referred to the changes in the duties of Monitor, in its competition functions. The NHS Commissioning Board, in consultation with Monitor, will set out guidance on how choice and competition should be applied to particular services, guided by the mandate set by Ministers. That includes guidance on how services should be bundled or integrated.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Heart of England NHS foundation trust and as a consultant trainer in the NHS. Like other noble Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for his stewardship of this matter in your Lordships' House. It is noticeable that the Government are continuing with their policy of placing £60 billion in the hands of commissioning consortia, which would be largely led by general practitioners. What I thought was missing from both the listening exercise and the Government's general approach was any indication of how the standards in general practice are to be improved. A huge amount of power is to be given to general practice, yet we know that the general quality of GPs is very variable. In some parts of the country, it is very difficult to get access to GPs out of nine to five hours; in some parts, GPs have shown themselves completely unable to engage in demand management. Will these commissioning consortia be able to get to grips with poor quality GP performance?
Earl Howe: The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raises an important issue. I agree with him that the quality of general practice has been extremely variable. We saw a report the other day, published by one of the think tanks, which said exactly that. We have some very good GPs, but we have some who, frankly, are less than the standard that we would want and expect in primary care.
We are doing a lot of work to roll out leadership programmes for general practitioners. The National Leadership Council is working with GPs to agree the skills required for commissioning and will assist GPs in developing these skills as appropriate. The NHS institute is also doing some good work in this area and we will shortly be able to provide a bit more detail on how we can develop leadership, regionally and nationwide.
The noble Lord's question runs rather wider than that, being about the quality of care delivered by GPs. In rolling out the outcomes framework and the commissioning outcomes framework, and the transparency that goes with that, it will become rapidly apparent which GPs require more support. I have no doubt that the consortia or, as we are now calling them, clinical commissioning groups will see it as being in their interests to ensure that the poorer performers are brought up to the standard of the best.
Baroness Hollins: My Lords, I commend the Government on the depth and breadth of the consultation that has taken place. I particularly welcome the new focus for Monitor on integration and the proposed coterminosity of the clinical commissioning groups with local authorities, which is particularly important in the case of commissioning integrated mental health and learning disability services. Does the Minister agree that the changes now proposed can be expected to meet better the needs of people with serious mental illness, learning disabilities and other complex needs than the Bill as originally published, and that the focus on health inequalities will allow the Secretary of State to monitor reductions in them for those vulnerable groups?
Earl Howe: I am very glad that the noble Baroness, with her considerable expertise, raised the important subject of serious mental illness and the needs of those who are particularly disadvantaged. She is right: we now have a much better way forward in commissioning services for those particularly difficult-to-care-for groups, if I may put it that way. How services will be commissioned for those with special needs and serious mental illness will, I think, emerge as we go forward. However, in my own mind I can see that local authorities and consortia may well decide to commission services jointly. There will be the means to do that through pooled budgets and shared arrangements. We will ensure that the quality premium, the details of which are still being worked through, genuinely rewards the ironing-out of health inequalities. We are absolutely clear that one of our goals is to address health inequalities at every level, and that includes in mental health.
Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, back to education, as I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted. I declare two interests in that I am the chairman of the Edge foundation and the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, two educational charities which promote technical, practical and vocational hands-on learning. I draw no remuneration from either charity and I have no interest in any educational company.
I support this Bill because it builds upon the Bill that was introduced in the last Session and really encapsulates Michael Gove's major, radical reform. He is doing many other things but his really radical reform is to increase substantially the number of academies
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The change that Michael Gove has made is that in effect-and this Bill says it-the assumption will be that all new schools will be academies. That is a very radical change which really turns the whole education system upside down, because in future the expansion of that system will be by demand pull and not by supply push. That means that huge responsibility is thrown to the local areas, to local communities and to the groups of people gathering together to create new schools. The Minister spoke of autonomy, which is a very important change.
I think that the Government will come to realise that, when academies expand, there will be a need for immediate bodies between them and the department. There will probably be several thousand academies, made up of some of the existing academy trusts and charities such as the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which provides advice, guidance and help and ensures that standards are high in the colleges that it supports.
One of the reasons for my being particularly keen on this policy is that the technical colleges which I have promoted for the past four years and with Ron Dearing before he died count as academies. They are proving very successful. Together with the department, the Baker Dearing trust is examining more than 40 applications from all over the country, many from very deprived areas in the inner cities, to establish such colleges. I think that Members of the House who have heard me speak on these colleges previously will realise what they are: they are distinct from ordinary schools; they are 14 to 18, not 11 to 18; each is sponsored by a university, not just for prestige but to involve universities in pupil mentoring and pupil teaching at the ages of 14, 15, 16 and 17; and local industry gets involved, not just for day release, not even for apprentices, but in shaping the curriculum. That is because they will be the bodies that want to employ those youngsters when they leave the UTCs.
The colleges' importance is recognised in lots of ways. First, the working day is 8.30 to 5.30, which is two hours more than for a normal school. They do 40 weeks instead of 38 weeks, which means that, over a five-year period, they gain a whole teaching year. Below 16, the teaching is 40 per cent technical and 60 per cent academic. Apart from engineering or the building trades, they offer English, maths and science and the bridging subjects of employability skills, entrepreneurial skills and financial skills. By way of foreign languages, they teach German for engineering, not Goethe, and French for business, not Molière. When it comes to humanities, we have commissioned courses in the histories and lives of great engineers, scientists and inventors.
The really distinguishing feature of the colleges is that the transfer age is 14. I have become quite convinced that the right age of transfer in our education system is 14 and not 11. By 14, many youngsters know what their interests are; they can make a decision as to which course they want to follow, as long as they have a chance of changing if it does not work out for them. This is very clear from the applications that we are examining. Many of the colleges have done popularity surveys in their areas which show very strong support from parents and students-50, 60 and 70 per cent-for more practical, vocational and technical education at the age of 14. That is what the colleges provide. Indeed, it is how Europe organises secondary education, having upper secondary and lower secondary at the age of 14. Fourteen is the dividing of the ways.
We could have had 14 in 1945, because the Board of Education meeting in 1941 chose the pattern of education after the war: selective grammar schools, selective technical schools and secondary modern. It also reckoned, which is often forgotten, that the transfer age should be 14. That was never changed by a Minister; it was changed simply by the Permanent Secretary of the day saying that transfer could not be at 14 because grammar schools started at 11. It was a missed opportunity. I hope that by establishing colleges that start at 14 we will provide game-changing ability in the education system. That is the way forward. I think that they will be very popular-the first one is already heavily oversubscribed for the second year-and spread across the country like wildfire.
Lord Layard: My Lords, I should like to follow that up by talking about apprenticeships. Where the Bill proposes a major backward step is in its repealing of the so-called apprenticeship entitlement, whereby any 17 or 18 year-old with five GCSE passes who wants an apprenticeship must be offered a place. What I have described is a crucial provision of the 2009 Act, which will come into force in 2015, but if the Bill as it stands is passed, it will be dropped.
The importance of this is obvious. It would make clear that there is a route to skills for all our young people. Of course, for the academically minded there is already a clear route through A-levels. If they want a place, they are legally entitled to one, and they know it. From the age of 14 or earlier, they can see a way forward. But for the other half of our young people, there is no clear way forward. They are entitled to stay on in full-time vocational education, but that does not lead to the ticket to a trade, and many employers are not interested in young people who go this way. What I would say most of these young people want is not full-time education, but to learn while earning. Many employers also find that type of learning the most effective. We have to establish the apprenticeship route, that of learning while earning, as the standard route to skills for those not taking the academic route.
Until recently, far too few people have taken the apprenticeship route, and the result has been frightening numbers of disaffected youth, reflected in the problem of the NEETs, and among those in work are too many
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However, we are now in a good place to remedy this failure. In 2007, the previous Government's White Paper proposed the entitlement I have described. It was endorsed in 2008 by the Economic Affairs Committee of this House under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and there followed the 2009 Act which established the entitlement. As a result of all that, there has been the large increase in the number of apprenticeship places for 16 to 19 year-olds which has been talked about, and I stress that they have been available for this group, not just for adult apprentices. So, starts for 16 to 19 year-olds increased by 18 per cent in 2009-10 and by some 14 per cent in 2010-11. Even more important is that in the recent spending review, enough money has been provided to ensure that by 2015, the entitlement set out in the 2009 Act can be met. We are poised to deliver a revolution for this group of young people.
So why repeal the entitlement? Money is not the issue, as I have just explained. The issue is simply one of will. The Government are worried that they cannot find places, that employers will not step up to the plate. I should like to make three encouraging points about the situation so far as employers are concerned.
First, there has been the extraordinary response over the past two years that I have just referred to. Secondly, there is a very good provision in the Bill, which I welcome, whereby an employer will be entitled automatically to take the money provided for an apprenticeship if they find a young person they would like to take on. What is being introduced is a good decentralising feature, and I am sure that it will lead many more employers to become interested in providing apprenticeship places. Thirdly, there is a huge opportunity for more places. It is an extraordinary fact that only one-third of large enterprises with over 500 workers employ any apprentices at all. So there is a good opportunity to find places and thus provide opportunities for our young people.
The National Apprenticeship Service was created precisely for the purpose of finding places for young people, but it needs a clear remit. It was given that remit in the provisions of the 2009 Act, which was that the service had to ensure that every young person could find an apprenticeship place. This Bill has got to have something like that. Perhaps that is too strong a legal obligation; it may be something that the Government feel is too risky, and I understand that. However, why can we not have in the Bill something like a provision that gives a clear instruction to the National Apprenticeship Service to make all reasonable efforts to find a place for every young person aged under 19 with five GCSEs who wants such a place? That could be subject to guidance from the Secretary of State. There would be no legal challenge that any young person could make to the situation that they found themselves in, but it would lay down a clear mission for the National Apprenticeship Service and a clear obligation to ensure that each young person had a chance that they could look forward to.
We must have in the Bill a statement of the clear strategic purpose of the NAS for 16 to 19 year-olds. It would be wonderful if the Minister could think of such an amendment to bring forward in Committee. If he cannot, there is a group of us who would be interested in doing so. Unless we can make this a solid system that provides for this group of young people, we will simply perpetuate the shocking discrimination that is embedded in our present provision for different types of young people.
Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, I warmly welcome the Bill. It has also been welcomed by many in the education service. It is significant that the Association of School and College Leaders, which leads our educational institutions, has also given it a warm welcome. I shall concentrate on two major areas that underpin the philosophy of the coalition and its approach to public services. First, the Bill tackles underperformance. Secondly, it offers teachers more autonomy and freedom from bureaucracy and regulation, which have done so much to undermine their professionalism and morale.
Underperformance has been one of the major concerns of recent years. It is simply not acceptable that there are schools at which less than 20 per cent of pupils achieve the basic standard of five good GCSE passes, while in other schools more than 90 per cent of pupils achieve this standard. Nor is it acceptable that the gap between the lowest and the highest achievers in an age group has grown steadily wider over the past decade. It is therefore with pleasure that I see the coalition proposing in the Bill to offer free early years education to the most deprived small children. Early intervention can, we know, make a huge difference to underperformance later in life.
We also know that the absence of effective discipline is one of the barriers to pupil achievement; indeed, it comes first in any school or classroom. The first requirement of a good teacher is to command the attention and respect of her or his class. If pupils are fooling around, playing up and occupied with anything but their work, they are simply not learning. In the best of worlds, teachers can achieve good discipline without needing extra powers, but sadly the world in many schools is now tough and even violent. Where a teacher has every reason to believe, for example, that an aggressive teenager is carrying a knife, the right to search is a basic protection for other, more vulnerable children in the school. The Bill's provisions for giving back to teachers the power to exercise good discipline in various ways, even in extreme cases, are therefore much to be welcomed.
A further measure to tackle underperformance is the new power for the Secretary of State to close schools at which pupils are manifestly underperforming, regardless of whether there is an Ofsted judgment. Ofsted's own performance has not always been reliable. It is good to see that its judgments are not to be the sole arbiter of a school's success or failure. I ask my noble friend to consider new mechanisms for rewarding schools whose performance is outstanding, whether or not Ofsted has so judged them.
Another major contribution to tackling underperformance is the requirement to maintain international comparisons. As has been said, in the past decade the UK has fallen behind many other advanced countries in performance in key subjects. We need our young people to emerge from the education system with skills as good as, and better than, those of our competitors. It is therefore essential that we keep a sharp eye on how we match up.
Trusting teachers is the theme most dear to me. Teachers, as we have frequently urged from all sides of the House, are the heart of the education enterprise. Their contribution is the one essential determining factor in success at school and individual pupil level. Teachers have particularly welcomed the Bill's provision of anonymity for those accused of improper behaviour. As has been said, it is an appalling thing for a teacher to be falsely accused. It can destroy their career, even their marriage and family relationships, yet it is such an easy thing for a pupil to do. Those who need persuading that this measure of protection is needed might consider that in the past 10 years, 1,785 teachers have been so accused, of whom only 158-less than 1 in 10-were taken to court, and of these fewer than half, 64, were finally convicted. Yet the lives of those other 1,721 had in many cases been turned upside down.
I am pleased indeed to see that teachers are to have more freedom not only in discipline but in the content of what they teach-that is, in the curriculum. These provisions go some way to reducing the burden of regulation, but we will have to hope for a real change both of heart and of the prevailing culture among the staff to be transferred from the QCDA, as well as Ofsted and Ofqual, if real professional freedom is to be achieved.
That brings me to the subject of inspection. I warmly welcome the new slimmed-down list of what the chief inspector's report should cover, including the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of children, which should give comfort to the right reverend Prelate, who is not in his place. However, early reports of what is happening in this regard give me cause for concern. I hope above all else to see a professional and dignified process of school and college inspection that works to improve schools, not condemn them, and that looks for good work and green shoots of improvement, not faults. Such inspection could bear down on standards and give Ministers the accurate and comprehensive understanding of what is happening in the system that sound policy-making requires.
I am pleased to see four more quangos disappearing. Few will mourn the end of the YPLA, which in its short life has become unbelievably bloated in both numbers of staff and cost. I regret that the GTC never succeeded in meeting the aspirations that many of us had for it. I pay warm tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for the excellent work he did in its early days. When the functions of the GTC and the TDA are transferred, it will be important to ensure that the training offered to teachers as their careers develop is appropriate to their needs, to the needs of the school in which they are teaching, and to the needs of the education service as a whole. I ask my noble friend
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I also ask my noble friend what arrangements are in place to ensure that during the induction year there will be some outside judgment to provide an independent addition to the school's assessment? Can we not consider the induction year as a necessary step before being granted a licence to practise?
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, I welcome the chance to contribute to the debate, but, before doing so, I draw attention to my interests in terms of my employment at the University of York and at Northern Education.
This is a disparate Bill, a rather bitty Bill. It covers a lot of different parts of education. I welcome some parts-I will do so throughout Committee as well-particularly the extension of early years provision, which other noble Lords have mentioned. I am particularly interested in the innovation that is invited in pupil referral units; that is a good move. I also welcome the sharper focus that Ofsted will give to the inspection of schools; I readily admit that a fresh pair of eyes cutting down data collection is probably a good thing after a Government have been in power for a number of years.
There are some things that I do not like that I will want to oppose in Committee, in particular: not inspecting some schools, no matter what their status; the changes to the school admissions rules and regulations; the abolition of school support staff; and the abolition of the General Teaching Council without any attempt to reform or improve it.
Parts of the Bill, when considered with other government announcements, provide a framework for what the Government hope to achieve in education over the next few years, and I will concentrate my comments there. What bothers me is that there is an inconsistency in the words that we have heard from the Secretary of State and the Minister in this House and in the contents of the Bill. I believe the Minister when he says that he understands the value of teaching, and I believe him when he says that he wants to improve standards in the classroom, but the test has to be whether the legislation that he puts before the House is likely to bring that about.
What I get from the Bill is that three things are beginning to emerge as the core of how the Government intend to drive up education standards. One is structural change throughout the system; the second is curriculum change at the wish of the Secretary of State; and the third, and most interesting, is the increasing importance of international comparisons rather than national comparisons as a means of assessment.
Structural change is always the first call for politicians, and that runs like a thread through the Bill. There is a relentless pressure for schools to be academies. It is not that I mind schools being academies, but I do mind the time the process takes. When I go to conferences now, I find that teachers talk not about teaching and learning but about whether they should apply for
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The two other drivers that I identify in the Bill are very much connected. They concern the curriculum and what we teach and a move to benchmark assessment internationally rather than within the country. We will want to say more about this Secretary of State being the first to assume control of the curriculum. I wonder whether the noble Lord who has spoken imagined back in 1989 that in future years legislation would be passed that would give control of the curriculum to one of his successors. I welcome the more formal approach to international assessments, but it is in this area of the Secretary of State's and the Government's announcements on the curriculum that I have the most concern. I share the concerns of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford about the lack of understanding of a broad curriculum. Frankly, I do not trust the Secretary of State's ability to read the OECD evidence. Given that he has picked that evidence as the most important evidence to look at, I am worried. We should introduce legislation that attributes increasing importance to that evidence only if we know how to read the evidence.
As we know, the Secretary of State favours a traditional academic curriculum with the English baccalaureate's emphasis on knowledge. He put it very well when he spoke to the Royal Society of Arts. He said:
"What specifically concerns me is an approach that denies children access to knowledge because time, and effort, is spent on cultivating abstract thinking skills rather than deepening the knowledge base which is the best foundation for reasoning".
"For most of the last century, the widespread belief among policymakers was that you had to get the basics right in education before you could turn to broader skills. It's as though schools needed to be boring and dominated by rote learning before deeper, more invigorating learning could flourish. Those that hold on to this view should not be surprised if students lose interest or drop out of schools because they cannot relate what is going on in school to their real lives".
Of those two I back the OECD and will want to explore in the Bill how we ensure that the Secretary of State, with his new powers over the curriculum, cannot ignore the evidence of the OECD, to which he is giving more influence in the English education system.
At the end of the day, I ask myself what there is in the Bill to support teachers. What is in the Bill that will ensure that our teachers in classrooms with their pupils have the chance to teach more effectively? Trusting teachers-I choose my words carefully-respecting their professionalism and believing in their ability to shape the country's future does not for me mean leaving them to get on with things; I think those were the words that the Minister used today. They need
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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I join others in welcoming many things in the Bill. In particular, I welcome the broad intention to give much greater autonomy to schools and colleges, and discretion to teachers and school and college leaders to take decisions and be accountable for them. All of us for too long have railed against the micromanagement of education, which has been exacerbated by a regime of constant changes to structures and standards. My noble friend the Minister mentioned the report published not so long ago by the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee of this House on the accumulation of guidance and directions that were headed towards schools, and the very fact that each year some 4,000 pages of guidance and directions were sent to school leaders, which absorbed a disproportionate amount of the time that they should have devoted to running their schools and improving performance in them.
That said, I also worry that in the Bill and in the process of simplification and doing away with quangos-the name of the game-we are giving too many powers to the Secretary of State. Has the Department for Education really got the capacity to absorb all the functions of the GTCE, the QCDA and the other two quangos that we are in the process of abolishing? In Clauses 23 to 25, is it really sensible not to have an arm's-length body to set up and advise on the national curriculum? The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, spoke of a curriculum changing at the whim of the Secretary of State. There are dangers in the Secretary of State being too close in terms of setting the national curriculum. There are those who are writing about the nationalisation of education in what is happening. Although I know that this is certainly not the intention of this coalition Government, there are dangers that we may be moving in that direction in one or two of the moves that we are taking.
I declare an interest in that I am chairing a commission for the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education, the AOC, and the 157 Group on the role of colleges in their communities. I have been busy visiting a lot of colleges around the country and I shall be visiting more. One thing that has impressed me is what some of the colleges are achieving in terms of forging partnerships with local organisations, such as employers, PCTs, community groups, churches, football clubs, schools, universities, and Sure Start centres. You name it, and partnerships are being formed. An important element has been partnerships with local authorities. Many of these colleges are now central to the creation of new local enterprise partnerships. I am, in some ways, rather sorry to see in Schedule 12, which is enacted by Clause 48, that the duty on colleges to
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Similarly, I am sorry to see in Clauses 30 and 31 that the duty on schools and colleges to co-operate is being dropped. Schools and colleges have a prime duty to serve their local communities with co-operation and partnership in the local areas. It is a key aspect. I would argue that local authorities play an important strategic role in this, and that that role should not be ignored.
I should like to say a word about vocational education and pick up the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, and the noble Lord, Lord Layard. There is a real issue, because in Clause 28 we are dropping the duty on local authorities to ensure that they have diploma courses available. I weep no tears at the departure of some of the hybrid diplomas, but I worry about the curriculum we are putting forward for those young people who are not totally academic in nature. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, knows that I very much welcome the development of the university technical colleges. I, too, endorse this notion that the move should be at 14.
As the noble Lord, Lord Layard, said, there has been a shocking neglect in our schools of that group of young people for whom the academic curriculum does not necessarily provide what one is looking for. This really links up with the question of apprenticeships. I do not regret so much that there is no longer a duty on the National Apprenticeship Service to find apprenticeships, but there is a very real problem, as the noble Lord mentioned, in finding apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year-olds. I ask the Minister whether any thought is being given to providing a one-year pre-apprenticeship training in colleges. One of the problems that employers raise is the lack of work readiness on the part of these young people, and they are rather loath to take on 16 year-olds into apprenticeship places.
Finally, I would like to say a word about the Careers Service. Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Layard, mentioned, there is a real problem about young people learning about the range of opportunities open to them. In particular, I regret the dropping of the obligation on schools to provide knowledge for young people about the apprenticeship opportunities open to them. This is very much a retrograde step.
I am also very worried about what has happened to our Careers Service. Just the other day in his evidence before the Select Committee of the other place, Mr Tony Watts, one of our experts on the Careers Service, said:
I hope the Minister can assure us that with the one-year gap before the new all-age careers service is developed, and the danger of losing all the knowledge there in the Connexions service and the Careers Service, with the laying off of these people by local authorities, that something will be done to make sure that we do not lose that expertise.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, my main concern is with Part 3 of the Bill, which I had hoped would address more fully and robustly the issues presented in last November's White Paper, The Importance of Teaching. Of course our education system needs attention in many other respects as well and the Bill tackles several of these, but the role of teachers is surely paramount. For too long their profession has failed to attract the best of our school leavers or university graduates. We are told that:
How do we make teachers respected and admired once again? It will not be done while entrants to the profession have only two A-levels at E grade. Teachers will hardly become role models by cravenly adopting the styles of their most disadvantaged students-sloppy in dress, behaviour and speech. Nor can it be done when teachers are bullied, terrorised and physically abused with near impunity by disruptive minorities of 13 year-olds. No wonder so many flee the job they would love to do. I therefore welcome the measures in Part 2 of the Bill to strengthen the hand of teachers and enable them to get on with their teaching. This is what the bulk of pupils want and it is certainly what their parents want. Nor, finally, will we get happy, respectful learning while half the classroom has no interest in, or aptitude for, the subject being taught. So, the flexibility and variety of schools now envisaged must surely command support, not least the UTCs of the noble Lord, Lord Baker.
Fifteen years ago, I was among those who believed that a vital way to raise the status of teachers, and hence their self-respect and the public's respect, was to make the profession self-regulating with its own general council analogous to the councils for medicine and other major professions. After all, who better than teachers to know the requisite aptitude and training for new recruits and to recognise the failings in those who subsequently do not come up to scratch? Sadly, as we know, little of that happened when the 1998 Act duly delivered the GTC. Better-qualified candidates still did not queue up to be teachers, as they do to be doctors, vets or lawyers. Nor has the GTC been anything like as muscular as, say, the GMC in asserting its authority to set the standards for recruitment and training or to weed out incompetence. Last year, I asked the Government a number of detailed questions about the qualifications of teachers currently in post. I was told bleakly by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin:
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