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I believe it is right that we should allow schools the freedom to judge which items they need to search for in order to maintain good order and discipline. That point has been made by a number of noble Lords. We had a discussion about mobile phones, which is an example in point. Under existing rules rather than because of any changes we are making, schools are able to ban mobile phones if they think that that is right. They know best which items are of concern to them in their particular circumstance and they need to be able to respond when, for example, there is a craze for using a new type of toy in a disruptive way. While I accept the need for guidance on searching overall, and we are happy to discuss the wording, I do not believe that guidance from the Secretary of State is necessary on specific banned items. We can trust head teachers to judge what is most appropriate in their particular school and to set sensible rules. Some may welcome mobile phones, and indeed we had a debate in Committee in which the noble Lord, Lord Knight, argued strongly about the educational role that some technology can play, but other technology may not. We all say we want to trust professionals, but if we are going to do that, we should allow them to decide what should be in their school rules and not leave it to Michael Gove or Stephen Twigg.
While we were talking about mobile phones, my noble friend Lady Benjamin raised an important point about powers to delete. We know that the reason behind this question is that there is a problem with bullying by mobile phone, and that is something we want to address. I agree with her in the counterexample she gave, where one would want to be clear that schools were exercising sensible judgment. She gave a good example of where it would not be sensible to delete. We need to pick up on some of those points in our broader discussions about guidance.
At the heart of the difference between us and the party opposite is whether we can accept, as the Government believe, that with proper safeguards there can be a small number of emergency cases where we can trust the professionalism of teachers to exercise their judgment and keep children safe. To paraphrase a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, in Committee: do we think that we can leave a small space for the professionalism of heads and teachers? If we are serious about extending trust, I believe that we have to. That is the Government's position on these important powers, and I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: We have had a good debate on this set of amendments and once again we have explored some of the items that we considered very thoughtfully in Grand Committee. The important point to make is that we already have legislation on this issue. It is legislation that has been crafted over many years, it is carefully balanced and it does many
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What we are confronted with is a Bill that extends powers which already exist, and we are trying to reflect back to the Government the fact that if they are going to extend those powers, they still have to maintain the balance between all the rights we have talked about. I understand the noble Lord's points about the role of guidance and, as someone quite rightly pointed out, in previous Governments we provided it as well. But guidance has a role to expand on the core principles set out in legislation. I think that that is the issue at heart here. We have lost sight of the core principles in terms of searches, discipline and how all that is carried out. We are attempting to redress the balance.
I hope that, when the guidance is worked on, that wording will be reflected on further and redrafted into a more positive statement about the need for training. I certainly feel that the view of the House is that it is important. However, the noble Lord has gone some way to reassuring us on the point.
I come back to the more fundamental points that we have been addressing: whether it is right for these searches to be carried out alone, whether a witness needs to be present, and to some extent the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about the need for same-sex searches. Our key point is that a witness is the key, core and fundamental protection of the rights both of the pupil and of the teacher. A number of noble Lords around the Chamber have talked about teachers being concerned about the extended role being placed upon them. They were fearful of their role and they are becoming more fearful of the expectations that are being laid on them. We have not heard of any pressure coming from teachers demanding this additional power. If anything, they are saying that they do not want the extra burden and responsibility. The issue of having a witness present is absolutely fundamental, and I shall return to it in a moment.
Finally, Amendment 10 concerns school rules. Again, the debate around the Chamber has highlighted how easy it is, if we are not careful, for rules from school to school to vary quite considerably. We have already heard that the rules for maintained schools may be different from independent schools, which in turn could be different from academies. Where is all this going in terms of a kind of consensus about what is right and what is wrong? All we have asked for is that the Secretary of State should issue guidance to specify what would be prohibited items in the broadest sense so that parents throughout the country would have confidence that there was some unanimity across different schools.
Our position is this. On Amendment 6, the noble Lord has gone some way to reassure us, and therefore I shall withdraw it shortly. But in doing so I give notice that we intend to divide the House on Amendment 7, which relates to the issue of a witness being present at all times. We think that that is a fundamental, core principle that should be on the face of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 6.
"( ) Regulations must make provision that if a pupil has been excluded from school for a fixed period on two or more occasions in a 12 month period or is at risk of permanent exclusion, a head teacher shall ensure that-
(a) there is an assessment of whether that child has unidentified learning needs;
(b) there is a review of the effectiveness of the special educational provision being made if that pupil has identified special educational needs;
(c) there is a review of the effectiveness of the reasonable adjustments being made if that pupil has disability."
Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 24 to 28. I shall speak as briefly as I can because these amendments had a good airing in Committee. However, I was unfortunately unable to be present when they were discussed and so I will take this opportunity to say a few words on them-not just for the sake of it, of course, for the Government have come some way to meet us, but because some concerns remain, which have been raised with me by the Special Education Consortium, on which it would be helpful to have reassurances from the Minister.
The amendments relate to Clause 4, which toughens up the arrangements for pupil exclusions. Clause 4 makes significant changes to the appeals process and removes the power from the proposed independent review panel to order the reinstatement of an excluded child except in cases of direct disability discrimination. There are many children with special educational needs who are not the subject of disability discrimination,
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Amendment 15 makes provision for regulations to require that where a pupil has been excluded from school for a fixed period on two or more occasions in a 12-month period, or is at risk of permanent exclusion, a head teacher must ensure that there is an assessment of whether the child has unidentified learning needs, that there is a review of the effectiveness of the special educational provision being made if the pupil has identified special educational needs, and that there is a review of the effectiveness of the reasonable adjustments being made if the pupil has a disability.
Amendments 24 to 28 would require regulations to make provision for a number of things: for parents to request a SEN expert to advise the panel on SEN issues; about the information parents are given on their right to request a SEN expert; the skills and qualifications that a SEN expert must have; the ability of the SEN expert to review the needs of the child and whether the school has put the correct support in place; the duty of the school to co-operate with the work of the SEN expert; and the ability of parents to select a SEN expert of their choice.
The Government have moved some way on these issues from where they started in the other place and it is clear that they do not wish to disadvantage children with special educational needs. Indeed, they have published draft guidance on exclusions which recognises the need to protect children with SEN, which I very much welcome. However, there are some outstanding concerns. The guidance is clear that head teachers should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding children with SEN. However, the guidance needs to be more specific and detailed at this point. Have all the steps been taken which need to be taken? This could include additional adjustments, critical extra support or other interventions which may play a crucial role in preventing exclusion. The guidance moves too quickly to discussing alternative placements without encouraging schools to consider whether they have answered all these questions. I should be grateful if the Minister could address this point in his response.
The guidance focuses heavily on preventing exclusions of statemented pupils. This is, of course, very important. However, it is important also to bear in mind that some 18 per cent of children, or roughly 1.4 million children, with a special educational need do not have a statement. I ask the Minister to consider extending the guidance to address the needs of children on school action or school action plus. Children on school action plus may have substantial needs but do not have the protection afforded by a statement of SEN. Such children are more than 20 times more likely to be excluded than the rest of the school population and so additional safeguards are clearly needed in their case.
I turn now to the remaining concerns about the SEN experts and the role they could play in advising an independent review panel. I welcome the clarity that the draft guidance brings in relation to the impartiality and expertise of the SEN expert, but retaining parental confidence is key to the success of these reforms and it is with that in mind that I have tabled these amendments
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As I have said, I welcome the guidance's clarity on the need for an expert on special educational needs. However, it remains unclear whether this expert will have the requisite understanding and experience of the disability or SEN in question. I ask the Minister to consider revising the guidance to make it clearer that "expert" should also mean "relevant".
My final point on the expert relates again to parental confidence. As it stands, the expert will be paid for by the local authority if the child is in a maintained school and by the school if in an academy or free school. While I welcome the guidance stating that local authorities should take reasonable steps to offer a choice of expert and that the expert cannot be connected with the case, it remains a concern that the paymaster should be the institution that the parent is appealing against. If it could be made unambiguously clear that parents could have the expert of their choice, that would surely help to bolster confidence in the independence of the system. I hope that the Minister can give me some reassurance on this point and on my other points as well. I beg to move.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Low, who has made a powerful case articulating the concerns that still exist despite the good debate that we had in Committee on exclusions. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments deployed in Committee, save to remind the House that the Government's equality impact assessment states that 72 per cent of all pupil exclusions from schools in England are youngsters with special educational needs. That 72 per cent is a very high figure, and one we need to keep in mind as we seek to resolve these issues.
It contains a number of case studies and poses questions about post-16 education for youngsters with learning difficulties, particularly with autism. Among its questions, it asks for a clear, legal right to educational support up to the age of 25 for young disabled people. It says that a funding system that gives young people and families more information, choice and support is needed, as is a cross-government focus on outcomes and destinations for young disabled people, and a further education workforce with the skills to support young people with autism to achieve their ambitions. Sarah Teather, the Minister of State responsible for these matters, was present and warmly welcomed the report yesterday. She said that the Government had every intention of living up to the ambitions set out in their Green Paper. All this is to be welcomed.
Before any noble Lord questions how my argument is relevant to the question before us now of exclusions, I will explain. In England, we have 66,000 young people with autism in the 16 to 25 age group. Yet only one young person in four with autism in that age cohort continues their education beyond school. That is why we have to do everything possible to reduce the huge level of SEN exclusions from our schools. For three-quarters of young people with autism, attending school until the age of 16 is the only education experience they will ever have. That is why we have to be so careful about exclusions.
On Amendment 15, as the noble Lord, Lord Low, pointed out, the draft guidance makes some welcome noises on this but the trigger for assessment is not as clear as this amendment would make it. On Amendments 24 and 25, it would appear that parents will be told that they can request a SEN expert of their own but we do not know how this will happen or what information parents will be entitled to receive in order to achieve that.
On Amendment 26, the guidance makes it clear that the SEN adviser should have appropriate training. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Low, I am still concerned that that training should be specific to the disability of the person with SEN being examined. On Amendment 27, the guidance is clear that it will not be the role of the SEN expert to undertake an assessment of needs, which is somewhat disappointing. Finally, on Amendment 28, it will be for the local authority to select the SEN experts for the parents to choose from.
There are still many questions to be asked and answered on the whole issue of the exclusion of youngsters with SEN. I look forward to the response from the Minister, who has demonstrated to me, and no doubt to others across the House, that he is listening. He certainly did that in Committee. I hope he listens to us now.
Baroness Warnock: My Lords, I strongly support the amendment introduced by my noble friend Lord Low. There is often a tendency to treat SEN as if it contains only one group of people. I have had many letters from parents who find that the school may think that anybody is an expert in their child's particular special need as long as they are an expert in SEN. That is far from true. This is particularly noticeable in the case of autistic children where understanding the management of autism, as far as it can be managed particularly in the school context, is a very specialist subject. That is why so many autistic children are excluded from school. It is of enormous importance that the SEN expert, who must quite properly be on the panel, should be an expert in the relevant disability.
It is also important that one should not think of SEN as completely contained in those children who have statements. As my noble friend said, at least 18 per cent of people with disabilities do not have a statement. Long ago, this 18 per cent without a statement came to be known as the "Warnock children" because I was particularly interested in them. They were often neglected because their disability was not serious enough or perhaps did not seem so. Therefore the local authority had no statutory duty to provide for them.
Exclusions, which I am sure all noble Lords agree should be avoided as much as possible, need to be carefully scrutinised for any child who is on the lower grading of disability. This often involves children with behavioural and emotional difficulties, who are likely to behave badly at school and incur either temporary or ultimately permanent exclusion. I welcome the improvements that have been made and I think that things are going in the right direction. However, these questions about children who do not have statements and about the choice of relevant expertise on the panel are of the greatest importance.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I speak to Amendments 17, 19, 21 and 29, and also support Amendment 15 and Amendments 24 to 28 that the noble Lord, Lord Low, and my noble friend Lord Touhig have spoken to. In particular, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Low, that Amendments 24 to 28 have, in quite large measure, been addressed by the guidance that we received from the Minister yesterday. I am pleased that, certainly at the stage of the review panel, which is the final stage in the process of reviewing an appeal, the Government have seen fit to make provision for most of the things demanded in Amendments 24 to 28: for a special needs expert to give their views, for the parents to have a right to that, for the parents to be told about that, and so on. That is all welcome.
However, the Government guidance does not address Amendment 15, which is similar in intent to our Amendment 17. They both seek to ask-the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, just alluded to it-whether we can make sure that relevant information, particularly about a child's special educational needs and especially unidentified needs, has been brought into the process not at the final stage of the review panel but at the very earliest stage of the head teacher's decision and particularly at the point at which the responsible body-that is, the governors of the school-has been asked by parents to review that decision.
Amendments 17 and 19, in particular, concern the exclusion of pupils who have unidentified special needs. There is a principle of natural justice underlying the amendments: that where a child is at risk of exclusion, the decision-maker should have the full facts about any special educational needs-not at the final stage, as I say, but at the earliest possible stage. This is particularly important where needs have not been identified, so these amendments would ensure that children with special educational needs but whose needs have not been adequately addressed by their schools are not permanently excluded. In Amendment 17, that is by ensuring that when "the responsible body"-that is, the governing body-is making the initial decision on whether to affirm the head teacher's decision, it must,
I accept that, alongside Amendments 24 to 28, Amendment 19 has largely been covered by the Government, which is great. Yet in relation to Amendments 15 and 17, while the Minister's letter
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Surely it is better to have this expert view early in the process so that an exclusion may be prevented rather than only at the final stage, when a review panel is deciding whether to endorse the decision. That is particularly so given that the review panel does not, according to the Government's proposals, have the power to reinstate the pupil. I very much support Amendment 15 but if the noble Lord, Lord Low, decides not to press that amendment then I give notice that I would like to take the opinion of the House on Amendment 17, which would similarly bring the special needs expert person into the process earlier on to prevent the exclusions.
Amendment 21 would empower the exclusion review panels to require the schools to reinstate a pupil if they are satisfied that that is the right thing to do. We had a long debate about this in Grand Committee, when there was a very strong view across the Committee that this was a principle of natural justice-that if a decision made against someone is later found to have been flawed, that decision should not stand. Yet that principle is not upheld under the clause and the right to insist on the reinstatement of an unfairly excluded child is withdrawn.
In Grand Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, among others, expressed similar concerns. It is rather surprising that the only amendment in relation to the power to reinstate has come from me and my noble friends, because I thought that the consensus of opinion in Committee was in support of that. I accept that heads may be in a difficult position if a panel were to reinstate, but we also had a sensitive discussion in Grand Committee about what should prevail in those circumstances. I think we agreed that given the impact on the child of having a decision by the review panel to reinstate, that is a far better outcome for the child, even if after discussion the child goes to another placement because of all the issues that have preceded that decision. It gives the child some rights in relation to flawed decisions which, at the moment, are not contained in the Bill.
Our intention here was that the schools should retain financial responsibility but, more importantly, the responsibility for progressing that child and for their final outcomes in whatever alternative provision they went into. The intention was twofold: first, to give schools the opportunity to have a second thought before making the final decision on exclusion, knowing that they would retain responsibility for a child, as a kind of check and balance in that system and, secondly, to make sure that the school has some responsibility for the final outcomes for the child-even if the child goes elsewhere.
The Minister has sent me a letter and the department has issued a press notice on the pilots that the Secretary of State has announced, which are not the same as those proposed in our amendment but go some way to exploring the potential for schools to have responsibility for arranging an alternative decision. It is not the same as giving schools the responsibility of keeping a child on the roll. However, it involves the schools having the finance that goes with arranging alternative provision and the responsibility for ensuring the equality of that provision and for staying in touch, albeit more informally, with what happens to that child. I welcome that provision and I look forward to hearing the outcome of those pilots.
Although there is some movement in relation to Amendments 19 and 29 in the guidance, if the noble Lord, Lord Low, does not press his amendment to a vote, I would like to take the view of the House on Amendment 17.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, I welcome the movement that there has been on the principles of Amendments 19 and 29 because they are sensible principles. The moves of the Government go some way to reassuring me there but I want to comment on Amendment 21, which is clearly a crux amendment in terms of overturning the powers that are specifically included under subsection (1) of the proposed new clause in Clause 4(2)-the power of a,
I want to retain that power and I do not wish to give the review panel the powers to overturn it. The reason I give for that is that it would produce a virtually impossible situation for both the school and the pupil. The case would be a cause célèbre by the time it came to this stage and it would not do either any good. There is sufficient safeguard in the Bill for the school to be very careful before it moves to such an extreme conclusion. The safeguards come in subsection (4)(c) of the proposed new clause in Clause 4(2), where it is hinted-indeed, it is said explicitly at one point-that the review panel may consider the procedures of the responsible body as flawed,
I would hope that that would be sufficient to deter bodies from, not frivolously, but perhaps injudiciously or in some weakening sense, causing an individual to
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Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, powerfully argued, we know that exclusion disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable children in society. It affects particularly children with special educational needs or disabilities and we know that pupils with statements of SEN are eight times more likely to be excluded than an average child. That knowledge lies behind the amendments in this group, and I will try to address as best I can the concerns that underpin them.
There is agreement across this House that the goal of policy overall should be to reduce the number of exclusions by improving behaviour in schools. We are seeking to do that with these measures but we also know that there are many potential factors that contribute to a pupil's behaviour. Therefore, there needs to be a wide-ranging response to this issue, which is why we are looking at trying to reform the whole exclusion process and trialling, as was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, a new exclusion system in local authorities across the country. I will come back to that in a moment. Overall, the aims of our reforms are to try to support schools to intervene earlier to identify underlying issues; to ensure that proper consideration is given to pupils' needs throughout the exclusion process; and that where a child has to be excluded, to ensure that they receive a decent education, suited to their needs, so that exclusion from a school is not an exclusion from a good education.
We are trialling this new approach over the next three years and are looking at making the schools taking part in the trials responsible for any pupil they exclude, and accountable for both their attainment and attendance. Schools will get a devolved budget from which they will be expected to commission suitable alternative provision for excluded pupils, holding providers to account for the quality of the education that a pupil receives. Schools will also be able to use this budget to intervene with pupils at risk of exclusion-trying to spot these issues before it is too late-to tackle any underlying causes of poor behaviour.
The evaluation of these trials will pay particular attention to the outcomes for pupils who are most vulnerable to exclusion, such as pupils with special educational needs or those-we have not mentioned them today but we did in Committee-from ethnic groups with a disproportionately high exclusion rate.
Lord Elton: My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me as I may have misunderstood him? Did I understand him to say that there is a separate budget for children who have been excluded? If so, would this be additional? That would be an inducement to exclude which is not what we wish to encourage.
Lord Hill of Oareford: The idea behind the trials-I think it is based on what has already been happening in Cambridgeshire-is that the budget which currently sits with the local authority to pay for alternative provision would effectively be devolved to schools. Schools in that case would have a very clear incentive not to end up dumping a child in expensive provision but to do their best early on to make the best possible provision they can and seek to avoid exclusion. In Cambridgeshire the number of permanent exclusions fell when it tried this approach from more than 500 a year to fewer than 100. However, the experiences of these authorities also show us that this is not something to be rushed and that it requires careful implementation. Our view would be that we should test the approach rigorously, evaluate it and then legislate.
The point about an automatic trigger was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Low and Lord Touhig. We are seeking to promote early intervention through the use of multi-agency assessments. Following comments made at an earlier stage, we have already made clear in our guidance that schools should consider arranging such an assessment for pupils who display continuous disruptive behaviour. The noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, said that the issue of early intervention was not properly addressed in the draft guidance. I thought we had addressed it but it is draft guidance so I welcome her views on it as I would views from other noble Lords. We have reinforced the importance of multi-agency assessments in the draft I have circulated. I would argue that we should leave the detail of the trigger for such assessments to the discretion of schools. I accept that in a lot of cases two fixed-period exclusions might be an appropriate trigger but in some cases a single serious incident of out-of-character poor behaviour might be sufficient cause for concern.
With regard to allowing independent review panels to be able to reinstate, there are cases-the Government would argue and I think it is a point that has just been echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood-where sometimes unfortunately exclusion is necessary as a last resort. We want a system which works for the education and welfare of all pupils at a school. It is right that, in some cases, schools should be directed to reconsider their decision to exclude a child. It is also right that a school should retain a level of responsibility towards a pupil, even if that pupil is excluded. However, a directed reinstatement is not necessarily in the best interests of an excluded pupil and, as we heard in Committee and from evidence given to this House and in another place from head teachers, it can have a devastating impact on the morale of the other pupils and staff.
We hope that our system of independent review panels will provide access to a quick, fair and independent process for reviewing an exclusion. However, we have put in safeguards in particular regarding the role of the special educational needs expert. Our revised guidance gives particular emphasis to ensuring the fair treatment of pupils who are most vulnerable to exclusion. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who sadly is not here today, and to the noble Lord, Lord Low, who I am meeting again tomorrow on this subject. I am grateful to them for the meetings we have had on this issue and to the Special Educational
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The guidance makes clear that schools' duties under the Equality Act not to discriminate against, harass or victimise pupils because of disability need be taken into account when deciding whether to exclude a pupil. It also says that schools must ensure that their policies, such as their behaviour policy, do not discriminate against pupils by unfairly increasing their risk of exclusion. We have retained the existing statutory guidance that, as far as possible, schools should avoid excluding a pupil with a statement of SEN. We have strengthened this position to make it clear that, where a school is considering the permanent exclusion of a pupil with a statement, it should begin a discussion with the responsible local authority, highlighting its concerns about the placement of the pupil in the school and the possible need for an alternative placement. I hope that these discussions would decrease the likelihood of pupils with a statement being excluded. Where a pupil does need to be excluded, we hope it will help support the local authority to ensure that appropriate provision is put in place quickly.
Amendment 17 relates to the governing body review of exclusion. We think that where a pupil is permanently excluded there needs to be a quick and fair process for reviewing this decision and that the process should give proper consideration to a pupil's SEN. The governing body review provides an appropriate and proportionate first stage for reviewing a head teacher's decision to exclude.
The revised guidance makes clear that governing body reviews should have access to relevant information about a pupil's SEN, such as a statement of special educational needs and the outcome of any multiagency assessment arranged by the school. I agree that in many cases an important part of this information would be a report from the special educational needs co-ordinator, but there may be occasions where another member of staff is better placed to provide detailed information on a child's special needs. I think that requiring information about the pupil's SEN to be provided to the governing body is absolutely right but I do not want to prescribe precisely who needs to provide it.
Where a pupil is excluded, there must be a quick process for reviewing the decision. As we have said, we think that the governing body provides an appropriate and proportionate first stage for reviewing a head teacher's decision to exclude. Where a governing body takes the difficult decision to uphold a permanent exclusion, there must be a right for a parent to ask for it to be reviewed by an independent body. Our independent review panels will allow that to happen quickly and will improve on the current system in providing extra help for excluded pupils with SEN. The introduction of an SEN expert offers a significant additional safeguard. The SEN expert would be free to submit written evidence to an independent review panel but they must be present at the review. We propose to place a requirement on independent review panels that, where appointed, they should seek and have regard to the expert's views.
As regards the detailed points on regulations made by the noble Lords, Lord Touhig and Lord Low, I can reassure them that many of the things they are seeking to place in regulations will be there. Regulations will set out the right for all parents to request an SEN expert and put a duty on schools to notify parents of this right when a governing body upholds a permanent exclusion. We are clear that the expert must be someone with sufficient relevant professional expertise-that point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Low-to be able to offer expert advice; for example, an educational psychologist. Because we do not want inadvertently to rule out someone who would be suitable for this role in a particular case, we intend that the details of who is eligible to be an SEN expert will be clarified in statutory guidance rather than in regulation, so that review panels have discretion to choose the most appropriate expert in each case. We have had very helpful discussions with the Special Educational Consortium about the sort of person who would be eligible for this role which we are keen to continue.
I agree with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Low, that all parties to an independent review panel must have trust in the advice of the SEN expert. This is why we are proposing to make it clear that local authorities and academies should offer parents a choice of SEN expert in order to reinforce their confidence in the appointment. These expectations will be set out in statutory guidance. The guidance also makes clear that where a pupil has identified special educational needs, we expect schools to provide to the panel, and the expert, any relevant information about those needs and the steps that the school is taking to manage them. This includes a pupil's statement of SEN, the annual review or the outcome of a multiagency assessment. Parents will also be able to submit written evidence explaining if they feel that their child's special educational needs are relevant when making their case to the review panel.
Parents will have the right to request an SEN expert and the expert will be able to advise the panel on the parent's case. That could include advising a panel on whether the actions taken by a school to identify or address a pupil's SEN might be considered reasonable and whether a school might reasonably have been expected to intervene earlier in order to prevent the exclusion. We also propose to include an evaluation of the role of SEN expert as part of a study of the relative benefits between independent review panels and the First-tier Tribunal. This will provide us with the views of all parties on the effectiveness of the role of the SEN expert, including parents and pupils. We will consider the findings of this review in deciding whether there is a need to strengthen the regulations or guidance to ensure that the role is being used effectively.
I am sorry to have spoken at some length but these are important issues and I was keen to set out the Government's response in as much detail as I could because I know that there have been concerns. I hope I have reassured noble Lords that we are taking steps to support schools to identify and address pupils' special educational needs and we are committed to the effective use of the SEN expert. We believe that the new process,
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Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I am very grateful to all those who have spoken, particularly to the Minister for his very full response. It should not have wearied the House as a lot of issues required to be addressed. The Minister has done justice to them in addressing them so comprehensively. In his response he has shown that he has been listening to the debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, requested. That being the case, it would be churlish not to withdraw the amendment.
The Minister has indicated that quite a lot of what these amendments are asking for will be included in regulations or statutory guidance and that there will be ongoing consultation with noble Lords and the sector about the form of those regulations and the guidance-at least, I take it that that is what there will be ongoing discussion about. The Minister has also shown that he was responsive to the points that were very well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, about the importance of intervening early. The more we can get that into the guidance, the better. The more we can indicate that the guidance is meant to apply not just to pupils with statements but to other pupils with special educational needs who are at risk of exclusion, the better it will be. However, we can address that issue, along with others, in the ongoing discussions that we will have with the Minister. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"( ) requiring the responsible body to ensure that the pupil-
(i) has an opportunity to make representations in relation to any exclusion under subsection (1) or (2), and
(ii) receives relevant information that may be relevant to such representations in language capable of being readily understood by the pupil;"
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 16 and to speak to all the other amendments in the group, apart from Amendment 31, because they are also in my name. As we have heard, Clause 4 proposes to change the arrangements for hearing appeals against permanent exclusions from school. Many issues arise in the case of the high proportion of children in this situation who have special needs. Clearly, a driver for this legislation has been those head teachers who have asked the Government to change the system because they have been subjected to what they believe
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In Committee, I asked the Government to consider allowing all exclusion appeals to go to the First-tier Tribunal, where provision for children with special needs is appealed. That would mean changing to a system which one of my advisers said is light years better than what we have now, with a qualified solicitor of seven years' experience in the chair. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will confirm on the record that the Government have agreed to pilot this idea and test it out. I am grateful for that, which is why I have not laid that amendment again but instead have laid this group of amendments which seeks to improve the Government's independent review panels in the mean time. However, I hope that my noble friend will confirm that the pilot will be a proper one and give the First-tier Tribunal the same decision-making powers that appeals panels have now, including to reinstate a child if, in its vast experience, it considers that an injustice has taken place, bearing in mind, as always, the best interests of the other children in the school as well as those of the excluded child.
Another idea has been put to me only in the past few days. I wonder whether the Government might consider whether the magistrates' courts might have a role which does not suggest that either party has committed a criminal offence. They are used to dealing with young people and they understand how to judge difficult cases, so that is an idea worth considering while we are piloting alternatives.
Amendment 16 requires that a child has an opportunity to make his own representations to the IRP and receives all relevant information to help him to do so. I hope that this will also be allowed in the First-tier Tribunal pilot. It is now becoming good practice for children to be able to represent themselves in all sorts of spheres, according to Article 12 of the UNCRC, including in SEND tribunals. It would make sense for them to be able to do it here too.
Amendment 20 is about the training of panel members, which should be provided by accredited independent providers and cover all relevant issues, as outlined in my amendment. Amendment 30 defines what is meant by independent and accredited providers. Amendment 22 would ensure that the panel understands whether it was being asked to consider a case that should really be before SEND and then be able to refer that case to that First-tier Tribunal instead. Amendment 23 seeks to support the head teacher in a situation where the independent review panel has asked the school to reinstate the child, perhaps because it feels that exclusion was too harsh a punishment for the offence. Under the legislation, of course, we know that it cannot insist. However, in such a situation the head teacher may wish to put a condition on accepting the child back and involve the parents in ensuring the child's future good behaviour in the interests of the other pupils in the school. That is why I have suggested that a parenting contract or parenting order might be a good idea-something else in the head teacher's armoury.
Finally, Amendment 32 would provide a last resort for the child and his parent if he believed that the IRP had erred on a point of law. It would allow an appeal to an Upper Tribunal, rather than judicial review. An Upper Tribunal is a judicial body with expertise in this area. SEN cases already go to it and it consists of members of the senior judiciary. They look at a case on the basis of error of law or fact, so moving beyond the process under which the decision was taken, which is all that a judicial review can look at. The Upper Tribunal can look at a panel decision and remake it, or refer it back to the original panel.
Of course, we all hope that, if properly trained, the independent review panels would make sound decisions and that is what this clause seeks to ensure. However, no one is infallible, so this is a failsafe natural justice mechanism which I hope commends itself to my noble friend the Minister. I beg to move.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I want to briefly speak to Amendment 31 in this group. This is a very simple amendment which would ensure that Clause 4 on exclusions and all that we have been talking about would apply also to academies. As the clause stands, it says:
This amendment simply changes the "may" to "must", so that the exclusions legislation and the guidance covered in Clause 4 apply equally to all state-funded schools. We cannot see any reason why these provisions, especially with the movement already made by the Government in guidance, should not apply also to academies. Why should the parents of children at academies not have the right to a special needs expert at the review panel? Why should the detailed requirements now in the guidance on the head teacher at the decision-making stage, on the governing body and on the review panel not also apply to the arrangements in academies?
Apart from the point of principle, there is a very practical reason why we need to do this. It is clear that the Government, in clauses we will discuss later-with presumptions that all new schools will be academies, with powers for the Secretary of State to intervene in schools that are in difficulties so that they immediately become academies-intend, as they have made clear, that as many schools as possible, if not all schools, should become academies in the fullness of time. If that is to happen, if we have many more schools becoming academies, I cannot see why we are discussing this legislation. If it does not apply to academies, it raises the question of the point of the guidance-it will become redundant if all schools become academies and this clause does not apply to academies. So we have very practical reasons for making sure, right at the outset, that this applies to all state-funded schools, including academies. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment and I look forward to his response.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, let me start by talking about supporting pupils to participate appropriately in the exclusion process. I very much
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I also agree with her point that schools should be able to agree with a parent clear measures to address poor behaviour when a pupil returns to school following exclusion. She talked about parenting orders and contracts. In fact, schools do have the power to agree a parenting contract or to apply for a parenting order, so I hope she will feel reassured that that is possible as things stand.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raised the question of how the new exclusions process will be applied to academies. I can reassure noble Lords that the requirements will be the same on all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools. We have already updated academy funding agreements to reflect the changes proposed in the Bill, but the Bill also allows us to apply requirements that are placed on maintained schools equally on academies through regulations. I hope that that reassures the noble Baroness. As for training, which is an important issue, if a parent requests an independent review of an exclusion decision it is important that independent review panel members have the capacity to perform their role effectively. As is currently the case, local authorities and academies will be required to provide training to panel members every two years on specific areas set out in regulations. No individual will be permitted to be a panel member without receiving this training, which must cover issues such as the legislative requirements in relation to exclusions; the need for the panel to observe procedural fairness and the rules of natural justice; and the duties of the review panel under the Equality Act 2010.
I understand the point made by my noble friend about the quality of training that some local authorities may provide or commission, but I am not sure that we would want to introduce a requirement for independence which would prevent a local authority which can deliver high-quality training itself from doing so. We want to draw on best practice in training for other bodies that make important administrative decisions. To that end, we are talking to the Ministry of Justice about what more we can do to support this training to ensure that local authorities are clear about the new requirements and are able to develop or commission effective training.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley highlighted the importance of the independent review panel understanding the role of the First-tier Tribunal. I agree with her that that is important. I would not, however, wish to constrain the ability of the IRP to hear a case that a parent has chosen to bring to it. When a parent has requested a review from an independent review panel it is right and appropriate that it should be required to consider every relevant aspect of a parent's concerns about an exclusion. To be clear, if parents choose to go to an independent review panel, they can subsequently take their disability discrimination case to the First-tier Tribunal.
I have listened to the arguments made by my noble friend in favour of the First-tier Tribunal hearing all reviews of exclusion decisions. In light of these, I can confirm that we are proposing to commission an independent study of the new system. The aim of the study will be to compare the relative benefits of independent review panels and the tribunal. It will focus on the experiences of the different parties involved in the exclusion process-in particular pupils, parents and schools. Through this study we will also seek views on the use of the role of SEN experts, to help us to ensure that that role is being used as effectively as possible. Officials are currently finalising the details of that study and I am happy to keep all noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lady Walmsley, informed of that work.
On the noble Baroness's point about creating access to an upper-level tribunal, while I agree that it is important, there is a fair process by which exclusion decisions can be reviewed, it is also important that there is a point at which closure can be reached. It is in nobody's interests, least of all the excluded pupil, for the process to drag on indefinitely. Where a parent feels that the process of an independent review panel was flawed, he or she will be able to ask for it to be reviewed. In the case of a local-authority arranged panel, this request would be to the Local Government Ombudsman, and in the case of academies it would be to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State also has the power to consider complaints in relation to how local authorities and governing bodies exercise their functions and to intervene when he judges that they are exercising functions unreasonably or failing to discharge their duties.
Overall with this measure, we are trying to create a system where teachers can exercise their professional judgment for the benefit of all the pupils at the school. That includes ensuring that teachers are supported to maintain a safe and well-ordered environment that is conducive to education and allows all pupils to achieve their full potential. Our reforms to the exclusion system are just one part of that aim. I hope noble Lords will feel reassured about the steps we have taken, including the additions that we have made to our statutory guidance and our trial of a new exclusion process. We have listened to their concerns and are committed to ensuring a fair system of exclusion that has some significant additional safeguards and particular focus on supporting those pupils who are most vulnerable to exclusion. I hope that I have been
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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his response. On the issue of the pupil's voice, I thank him for pointing out what it says in guidance. I will have another look at it to see whether I wish to feed in any suggestions for strengthening it to ensure that that is done. I think that a child should have a right to have his or her voice heard, rather than just have the head teacher encouraged to involve them in the process. It depends how strong the guidance is, when I come to look at it.
I am grateful to him for pointing out that parenting orders can already be used by head teachers and there may also be other measures that a head may wish to use as a condition of accepting a child back when there has been some sort of bad behaviour. I also very much welcome what the noble Lord said about the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones; that this will be made to cover academies and free schools through regulations. As she rightly said, if all schools became academies this clause would be totally unnecessary. On training, the Minister pointed out that local authorities and academies will have to provide it. In that situation, specifying independent training may not be appropriate. I accept that local authorities may well have the skills in-house and I would not want to press that particular amendment as I have had a good answer to it.
The Minister said that the parent may request an independent review panel instead of a First-tier Tribunal. I think it is more likely to be the other way round; they will ask for a First-tier Tribunal rather than an independent review panel if they can find a way of suggesting that their child has special needs. The decisions of First-tier Tribunals are likely to be better-quality decisions, but I will also leave that point. On the study, I had the impression that it was to be a pilot that would take place in a part of the country where a First-tier Tribunal could hear all the appeals. That is not what the Minister said in his speech, so I need to go away and inwardly digest the significance of that. As I say, that is not what I understood from behind-the-scenes discussions. I may feel the need to come back to that.
On the last resort, the Minister points out that decisions of the IRPs are indeed judicially reviewable, and in some cases the child might have the opportunity of going to the Secretary of State, depending on the sort of school he has been excluded from. I have to say that neither judicial review nor the Secretary of State is very accessible. Having been through the process of judicial review, I was fortunate to have the support of my husband who is a QC, so managed to get through the process successfully. Most parents of children who will be appealing against exclusions do not have the advantage of the support of my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford. I therefore do not think that the provision is quite good enough as a last resort. That is another matter that I want to think about but I will not press any of the amendments tonight. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
"( ) requiring the responsible body to consider a report about the pupil from the special educational needs co-ordinator when considering whether a pupil should be excluded;"
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I gave notice that if the noble Lord, Lord Low, withdrew his amendment, I would take the opinion of the House on this one, which has the same aim. It would bring forward to an earlier stage in the process a requirement that the governing body seeks the views and assessment of a special needs expert. It is in the interests of children to bring that forward earlier in the process. I beg to move.
Lord Parekh: It is a great privilege to initiate this debate. Since it is a common practice to declare an interest, I begin by saying that I have close ties with India, I actively participate in the public life of India, I have been a recipient of two of its highest honours and I am a member of the Indian Prime Minister's global advisory committee.
For us in the UK, relations with India are of the utmost importance. Britain shaped the cultural and political physiognomy of modern India. Indians are a significant presence in the UK: in your Lordships' House alone, they number about 15. India is also an emerging economic power, destined to play an important global role in the decades to come. It is therefore
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At the political level, there is considerable co-operation and mutual respect between the two countries. The UK is greatly admired for its good sense and maturity. However, there are important areas of disagreement. Given India's colonial past and view of the world, it does not share our enthusiasm for high-minded so-called liberal intervention in the affairs of other countries. It is also critical of our fluctuating policy in Afghanistan. India has also felt, both in public and parliamentary debate, that we misused the United Nations resolution in Libya to justify action that the resolution did not justify, and undertook actions such as equipping the rebel army that the resolution did not permit. This is why India voted, and continues to vote, in a different way from us in the United Nations, though it has not been openly critical of us. We should appreciate this difference of view and not allow it to stand in the way of good relations. This is what most successive British Governments have often done.
India's ambition to secure a permanent seat on the Security Council is legitimate. It has more than 1 billion people and represents a distinct voice in the global conversation. Its claim is no less weighty than China's, and perhaps weightier than our own or that of France. It is only a matter of time before India's claim is met, since about 120 members of the General Assembly have indicated their consent. We can expedite this and earn ourselves good will by, for example, moving a resolution in the General Assembly, on our own or with France, as we did in the case of Libya and as we have done in other cases.
For years, India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism and has repeatedly complained about it-but we did not take it seriously until it began to affect us at home. Even now, we have not shown sufficient sensitivity to India's deepest concerns. I am not suggesting, even for a moment, that India's policy on, say, Kashmir is right. Like many in your Lordships' House, and many in India itself, I have been greatly critical of it, and I wish that it had been different. However, that cannot justify the horrendous acts of terrorism that we have seen in Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of India. We in Britain could give India greater active support and enable it to sustain its open and democratic society.
At the economic level, our ties with India are strong but could be stronger. India is the second largest investor in the UK after the United States. More than 500 Indian companies are based in the UK, and their businesses generate more than £14 billion. Our visa regime stands in the way of intracompany transfers, and some Indian companies have begun to move to Belgium. That cannot be in our interest. We are the fourth largest investor in India, but our investment is about 5 per cent of its total foreign direct investment. That is a very small amount for a country of our size and stature.
India is expanding its infrastructure in a very big way, involving nearly 1 trillion rupees. We ought to be involved in a much more active way than we are. India does not need to raise money in the UK market: it has enough indigenous resources. What it needs is equipment,
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Of course, India needs to do more itself. It needs to improve its bureaucracy and carry through its programme of reform to make itself a more attractive destination for foreign investment. However, that has not stopped other countries such as Malaysia, France and the United States from stepping up their investment. There is no reason why we should not do the same. Sometimes I have a feeling that we-or at least our companies-tend to be averse to risk and seek a guaranteed return before we consider investing. That attitude needs to change. It is only when we seek active engagement with India that we will have a moral right to put pressure on it to reform its policies.
I now turn briefly to an area that matters a great deal to me and to India: the field of higher education. India is expanding its higher education at an unprecedented rate. Nearly 700 to 800 new universities are expected, along with new Indian institutes of technology and central universities. There is enormous scope for Britain. The UK India Education and Research Initiative has made a significant contribution but we need to do much more. I welcome the announcement of UKIERI stage 2, but it will need significantly enhanced financial support from public and private sources. It also needs to be given a new direction and greater depth. For example, British universities should be encouraged to set up campuses in India. I assume that the Indian Government's attitude will be a little clearer than it is at present. There is no reason why our great universities cannot adapt academic departments in Indian universities and build up their teaching and research capacities.
India badly needs highly qualified faculty staff, and here too Britain can do much. For several years I have been urging a scheme. We have a large number of professors who either have come to the end of their career and retired or wish to take early retirement. There is no reason why they cannot be persuaded or incentivised to spend a lot of time in India. They have their occupational pension guaranteed here, and the Indian Government could be asked to top it up and make it attractive for them to spend either a few years in India, or part of every year teaching and guiding research in Indian universities. A rough calculation suggests that there are at least 3,500 university professors in the natural and social sciences who, I am told, would find it attractive to go and teach and do research in Indian universities. We ought to tap into that resource.
University education is not the only area of co-operation. Much can and should be done at the level of secondary education. There could be sizeable exchanges of teachers. That would benefit both teachers and students in the two countries, and would build strong and lasting intellectual and cultural bonds. If I may digress for a moment: I have a family foundation, and it has been arranging exchanges of teachers between a top school here and a top school in India. During the three years that the scheme has been going, I have
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Finally, I think the Government have made a great mistake in restricting post-study work visas. Under the current scheme, students coming here can work for two years after graduating. This allows them to recoup part of their expenses and to contribute their skills to this country. It benefits both sides. The restrictions that the Government are proposing are very rigid. Last year, 39,000 students were guaranteed a visa to work for up to two years. The Government want to reduce that by half, which is extraordinary. Germany has decided that students who have graduated will be allowed to stay up to a year to look for an appropriate job if they have sufficient maintenance funds. New Zealand and Canada have done the same. I am really sorry that we seem to be creating a situation in which we are discouraging Indian students from coming here.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for initiating this debate and offer him my apologies for arriving a tad late in the Chamber. The joy of Divisions is that you get talking to a colleague or two outside, and it is funny how time flies, but there we are. Life is like that sometimes.
The noble Lord spoke very eloquently about the importance of the relationship between India and Britain. There are many in this Chamber and in our country, and I count myself among them, who have a very strong love and affinity for India. In my case, it is very personal. Both my parents were born in pre-partition India. My mother is from Jodhpur and my father is from Gurdaspur, so the cultural and family ties to the great country of India remain very strong. I am also reminded that we as a country share many strong ties with India. The Indian diaspora is very strong here in the United Kingdom. It is one of the strongest ethnic communities, if not the largest, here in Great Britain, but with that comes responsibility. The Indian diaspora here has responded most positively. If you look around Britain today, there are success stories in every field. In commerce, business, education and, dare I say, even in politics, you will see the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi diaspora-the subcontinent that was greater India-today flourishing in every element of British society.
One cannot move forward and talk about India and Britain without mentioning sport. If one reflects, the noble game of cricket resonates in both India and England, although if we reflect on the current results between the two countries, the less said the better.
In the time I have today, I wish to focus briefly on business and commerce. When my right honourable friend David Cameron became Prime Minister, one of
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If you look at the Indian economy, many would be proud of it. I was reading a recent report that said that India's growth rate slowed somewhat this year. When you see that it slowed to 7.7 per cent, you perhaps reflect on the strength and vitality of the Indian economy. When we read about India, we look towards its emerging middle classes. It is a very aspirant and ambitious nation and is making great strides in IT and technology industries. In the past week or so, I have had the good fortune to attend a couple of events. One was the Institute of Directors event that was organised by the Indian IOD. It was most heart-warming to see that one of the key areas of focus for Indian business is climate change. That again shows that Indian commerce and Indian business are responding not just to the needs of their nation but to the global challenges of climate change.
Yesterday, I attended an event organised by India800. It is not an organisation that I was that familiar with, but it kept my attention. It focused not only on the successes in India, which are many, but did not forget that poverty is still an important challenge facing India. There are between 270 million and 450 million people still living on a dollar a day in India, so the challenges are immense, but that is where business and commerce count. Therefore, I believe that it is incumbent on the British Government to extend their ties to India: ties of culture, education, to which the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, referred, and, most importantly, business. We in Britain have a large stake in India, but let us not forget that India has a large stake in Britain as well.
Lord Loomba: My Lords, I, too, apologise for my late arrival. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for initiating this important debate. As a British Indian, I am delighted to participate in the debate on UK-India relations today. India is the largest democracy in the world. It has a population of over 1.2 billion, which is 17.3 per cent of all the people living on this planet. It is more than the population of the US, the UK, France and Russia combined. They are the four permanent members of the UN Security Council, so why is India not a member of the council? I am pleased that the UK supports India's membership of the UN Security Council. Therefore, I ask the Minister: how can Britain work with other UN nations to ensure that India has its legitimate place on the Security Council?
India gained its independence 63 years ago, and since then it has gone from strength to strength economically and politically. A country that rose from poverty and illiteracy to become an advanced country is now competing with the rest of the world. India is now an economic power which is recognised all over the world. Recently, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in New York that the US should learn from emerging powers like India and Brazil to put economics at the centre of foreign policy if it is to retain its position as a global powerhouse.
The legacy of the British Raj may have been a long freedom struggle, but it has created a lasting friendship between India and Britain. It is no surprise that India is now a major investor in the United Kingdom, and credit goes to people like Ratan Tata and many other businesses from India.
Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, and many Cabinet Ministers have visited India since the coalition Government was formed last year. These visits have seen the relationship between the two countries elevated in line with the Queen's Speech in Parliament in May last year. I am also aware that many people in the House of Lords have close ties with India. My noble friends Lady Williams of Crosby and Lord Dholakia, and many other Peers, are heavily involved in working with India.
The strength of India can be explained in three words: democracy, diversity and diaspora-the three famous Ds. India is the largest democracy in the world. The transition of power between government and opposition has always been smooth. This may be a lesson to other neighbouring countries. This is what democracy is all about and this is what the world values.
India is a diverse country of many religions and cultures. Different religions are able to coexist side by side. The population of Muslims in India is greater than in Pakistan. Sikhs can build gurdwaras, Hindus can build temples and Muslims can build mosques, and they all live in harmony together. Let us not forget the Jewish community. The Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi in south India is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth. It is important to note that in the past five years India has been represented by a Muslim president, a Sikh prime minister and a Catholic Christian leading the ruling party. Over 100,000 women play an important role in state and government initiatives.
There is a strong Indian diaspora of over 25 million people. They are contributing both economically and politically. We are loyal to Britain but our ties are never weakened as far as India is concerned. My own charity, the Loomba Foundation, is educating thousands of children of poor widows in India. I declare an interest as founder, chairman and trustee of the Loomba Foundation.
We want the Minister to inform us how he sees the links between India and Britain developing. We are equal partners in global politics and it is time to ensure that this is reflected in our politics on issues such as commerce, science and technology, immigration, defence, education and others.
Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, 2011 is the 20th anniversary of India's economic liberalisation. In 1991, India was a closed, protected, insular, inward-looking country
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In 2003 I was appointed the UK chair of the Indo British Partnership by the British Government. Subsequently I was the founding chair of the UK India Business Council and am now its president. I have been privileged to accompany our current Prime Minister and both his predecessors on their visits to India, and the relationship between Britain and India is today stronger than ever.
Trade between our countries has increased from £5 billion a year in 2003 to £13 billion today. However, we are just scratching the surface. As the Indian Cabinet Minister Kamil Nath said when I shared a platform with him in London last week, investment has to be a two-way street, and we have seen huge investment going both ways. As the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, said, Tata is now Britain's largest manufacturer, owning Jaguar Land Rover and Corus, British Steel. We have seen giant investments going the other way into India-for example, Vodafone.
My own business Cobra Beer formed a recent joint venture with Molson Coors, the last of the global giant brewers to go into India, and we now own the only brewery in the state of Bihar. I am a director of Booker Group plc, a FTSE 250 company, and the original sponsors of the Man Booker Prize, which is being announced this evening. At Booker we have just opened our second wholesale cash and carry branch in Pune after having opened up in Mumbai two years ago.
This investment has been happening but it is against a backdrop where actually very few reforms have been taking place in India. The major reform of air service between the two countries opened up in 2004, and now there are over 100 flights a week, but there are so many other barriers and so many reforms we are crying out for. As the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, foreign universities still cannot operate in India. British lawyers cannot operate and open up offices in India. British banks can only open a handful of branches a year. Our insurance companies can only own 26 per cent of Indian insurance companies. Lloyd's of London is the world's most important reinsurance market but India is the only major country in the world where it cannot operate to this day.
I chair the Cambridge-India Partnership Advisory Group and we have so many exciting plans for India, to build on our strong links going back to Jawaharlal Nehru and beyond. All these reforms, if they took place, would benefit India and would help it attract the $1.7 trillion of infrastructure investment it desperately needs. As members of the EU, we cannot even enter into a bilateral free trade agreement with India, but have to do this through the EU. Could the Minister inform us when the EU-India free trade agreement that we have been talking about for four years will actually be signed?
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for initiating this really important debate. We sit together on the Prime Minister of India's global advisory council.
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There are those in the UK who say that we should not be providing aid to India. However, I have seen the amazing work that DfID, the British Council and our team at the British high commission are carrying out on the ground; for example, in Bihar, where we have our brewery. Bihar is a state of over 100 million people and one of the poorest states in India, but through sheer good governance it has been turned around over the last six years under the leadership of its inspirational Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, and the Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Modi. There are initiatives to provide bicycles for schoolgirls and uniforms and books for schoolchildren. The Chief Minister is recruiting 300,000 school teachers and introducing the Right to Public Service Act-all this is turning around the state. However, we are talking about a country of 1.2 billion people.
As a country, Britain is so close to India. Our relationship is wonderful and yet we shoot ourselves in the foot by introducing the new Immigration Rules. Until 2010, the number of Indian students had been increasing multifold. I am a member of the advisory board of the Judge Business School at Cambridge University and the Cranfield School of Management. Both institutions have seen a significant drop in the number of applicants from India, and I am hearing that the Indian students are saying, "Does Britain want us any more?". What are we doing? Do we not want to attract the brightest and the best? Dr Manmohan Singh, India's Prime Minister, is himself a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge. My own family has been educated here for three generations. These are generation-long links.
What are the Government doing to rectify this situation? I am a member of the UK-India Round Table. I fought so hard for foreign graduates to work in the UK for two years after graduation, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke of. There is a perception that this rule has been removed and this is deterring so many foreign students, especially Indians, as this is a way of earning extra money to pay for the expensive higher education and to gain some work experience in this country. To build bridges, can the Minister clarify the situation?
Our links with India are so strong, whether it is the armed forces, culture, sport, cricket or the four Indian Booker Prize winners. We could do so much more to further our political links; we could have more exchange between our two Parliaments. Could the Minister look into this opportunity to further our political links?
India was highlighted in the Queen's Speech by the Prime Minister as a country we want to have an "enhanced partnership" with. However, we need to do
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In this debate, it is worth recalling the long history of Indian innovation. Some noble Lords may have visited the Qutb Minar in Delhi and seen the Iron Pillar which stands there unrusted since its forging a millennium and a half ago. For an engineer, the knowledge that Indian metallurgists were able to produce rust-proof iron is an inspiration still worth studying today. If the West had had such technology then, the history of the world might have been quite different. This reminds me of an important truth: only innovation and partnership can drive global progress.
As time is short, I shall focus on the economic aspects of the relationship between India and the UK. Britain used to have a dominant position in Indian trade, but we now account for less than 1.5 per cent of Indian imports. India's desire for economic independence and Britain's post-war atrophy both contributed to decades of decline in our partnership. India was not an easy place to do business-but while Japan helped build the Maruti and more, Britain still stood for the Morris Ambassador.
Since the early 1990s, when the then Foreign Secretary liberalised India's economy from the finance ministry, India has enjoyed huge growth, topping 8 per cent a year. Indian GDP has more than trebled in that time and per capita GDP has grown by over a thousand dollars. So it is no surprise that everyone is trying to woo India. This weekend I was in Mumbai, as I am once or twice a month, and the number of businesses and delegations there to drum up trade is astonishing.
The noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, anticipated this growth in 1993, setting up the Indo British Partnership. He was the first to consider India as equal, with the equally charismatic Richard Needham as Minister of State, with whom I had the pleasure of serving as a founding board member. The Indo British Partnership was a business-led initiative. Our partners were not the Government but the Confederation of Indian Industry. This gave British business a real profile for the first time, and our exports to India surged by 10 per cent a year in the 1990s, increasing to 14 per cent since the millennium. Yet this did not prevent our share of Indian imports falling from 6 per cent to a mere quarter of that. The perception was that Britain was more interested in Europe and the Atlantic alliance. What is more, the language we used was often counterproductive. Britain should not appear to be lecturing to India with haughty superiority-and it is
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I have persuaded a number of Indian businesses to invest in Britain, so may I offer a little advice on building such partnerships? First, we must understand how important Indo-British relations are to us. Take one example-a company which I brought to this country-Tata's. Tata Group employs over 45,000 workers directly in Britain and supports a further 100,000 indirectly. The UK Tata Group spent over £700 million on R&D last year-this year it will probably be more than £1 billion. Yet a failure to see how we gain from these investments still affects British decisions. During the financial tsunami, loan insurance was requested by Tata but it was turned away, being an Indian company. People remember such slights.
Next, we must ask what we can offer our partner. Our science base, high-tech workforce, infrastructure and access to Europe complement our cultural strengths. I have escorted many Indian business leaders around factories in Britain and seen them become enthused by our technology and our workers. We have many hidden gems. But we make it difficult to invest in them by putting up needless barriers. Of course we need strong Immigration Rules, but we should show flexibility for those who have a lot to contribute.
India knows what this takes. In fast growing sectors of the Indian economy, like pharmaceuticals and biotech-today the biggest investment worldwide in India is in the pharmaceuticals and biotech industry-the world's biggest companies are moving to India, bringing top people, even though India has many graduates. Indeed, 700,000 science and engineering students graduate each year in India. These numbers mean we must never think of India as just a home for low-cost outsourcing.
But quality counts more than quantity. In a knowledge-based economy, there is a global drive toward higher skills to meet shared challenges. India's technologists are at the cutting edge of that charge. I came from an Indian university-the first Indian university of technology-and 95 per cent of my classmates went to America, because it was easy. When I go and see American companies and American universities, they are full of Indian students doing their masters and doctorates, and doing research. Leading US universities and technology businesses such as Google and Microsoft are being led by graduates of Indian universities like my alma mater, IIT Kharagpur.
We could seek to join these leaders in their current challenges and thus share in their future successes. In other words, we must welcome India here as well as sell Britain there. The coalition clearly wants to do business with India. It has made a strong start after about 12 years of neglect. I only hope it ensures that India wants to do business with us.
Lord Giddens: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Parekh on having initiated this debate, along with Amartya Sen, who is one of the few intellectuals equally well known in India and in the UK, and of course across the rest of the world. He is one of our best ambassadors,
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I would like to make some remarks about the links between India and the UK, which could be developed around areas of climate change and sustainability, briefly touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad.
For a long time the Indian leadership essentially saw climate change and sustainability as "not our problem". As the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said, using slightly different statistics, with about 30 per cent of the population living in or close to absolute poverty, development was seen as a priority, and climate change was well down the agenda.
That attitude has now shifted very radically-and quite rightly. I had two conversations with Prime Minister Singh on these issues, separated by about five years, and his attitudes over that time had changed quite substantially. That was not as a result of what I said to him, I am sure-I am not claiming that. In general, India has assumed a leadership position globally on climate change and sustainability issues. It was one of the five nations that forged the Copenhagen accord, and has been very active over the past few years in climate change debates across the world.
It is now recognised by the Indian leadership how dangerous climate change is to India. About 70 per cent of the River Ganges, for example, comes from runoff water from glaciers. Those glaciers have melted dramatically over the past few years, and it is clear that in a country that already has a monsoon season-quite extreme weather-one of the consequences of climate change is much more extreme weather. These things are very dangerous for India, and are now fully acknowledged by the Government.
I therefore see several key areas of potential collaboration which could be of value to both countries, and I will mention three of these. First, the most obvious one, I suppose, is in the area of low carbon and sustainable technologies. India now has substantial investment, particularly in solar technology, but also has quite a large number of wind farms. So far, those two technologies combined make up for less than 1 per cent of the total energy mix in India. In India and the UK, a key issue in both those technologies is to bring down costs so that they are comparable to fossil fuel energy production. An enormous amount of valuable dialogue could be carried on about that. Even though the UK does not have much manufacturing capacity in these areas, it has a lot of technical know-how. Collaboration could be very important to both countries.
The second area is urban design. I think we know that in future we will have to construct our cities differently to follow the demands of sustainability. In an Indian city, for example, where there already is a fair degree of solidarity and connection between people, it does not make sense simply to build supermarkets around the edge of that city, thus creating an evacuated city centre and breaking down the connections which exist. I think that we are all looking for new models of urban development which have sustainable bases to them. Again, we in the UK have a lot of expertise in eco-technology, not just for dwellings but for city design. We have a number of famous architects who
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Thirdly, we could have intellectual and political collaboration between the two countries. Both countries will need to think of alternative models of development. We know that in the UK growth will be limited over the next few years. That invites us to think what kind of model of growth we should have. India, we hope, will have much higher growth rates but there is no way in which India can recapitulate the western model of development beyond a certain point. It is too destructive, as we have seen in the case of the environmental destruction in Chinese development. India should seek to avoid that.
There could be a lot of collaboration, which is where jobs will be created. Jobs will not be created in just alternative technologies; they will be created through alternative lifestyles. We could have a sort of coffee-shop model of development. Who knew that the British, after years of drinking horrible coffee, really wanted to drink nice coffee and get together in coffee shops? Well, no one very much knew that but this created lots of new jobs. The same thing will be true of the lifestyle changes associated with increasing sustainability.
Lord Liddle: My Lords, the Government have set themselves a bold ambition to put the British relationship with India on a new and stronger footing. The Conservative manifesto at the last election called for a new special relationship. At the Prime Minister's visit in July 2010 there was launched what was called an enhanced partnership. We are grateful to my noble friend Lord Parekh for enabling us to have this debate, which is an opportunity to assess progress on that bold ambition.
On these Benches, we are strong supporters of what the Government are trying to do. India has made remarkable progress in the past two decades. Its growth is spectacular even though inflation poses a problem to its sustainability. On the official measures, the numbers of people living in extreme poverty have fallen from 26 per cent of the Indian population to 16 per cent, which is a great achievement.
For reasons of sentiment and self-interest, and because people from India and south Asia make a crucial contribution to our society here-while recognising the point emphasised by my noble friend Lord Parekh that India has a different perspective on world events than often we have-we must try to strengthen the relationship. But we must not do that on the basis of false premises.
One false premise was that the previous Labour Government neglected India. One of the things of which I am proudest is that development aid to India under the previous Labour Government was three times the level in the past three years of what it had been in the 1994-97 period; that is, £825 million being spent from 2008-11. I know that there are question marks about whether we should continue to do this but we on these Benches will always remember that there are more poor people in India still than there are in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
A second false premise is that a choice is to be made between a bilateral relationship and a multilateral relationship. The truth is that the two have got to go together. The only point on which I would disagree in the excellent speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, is that it is the capacity of the European Union to mobilise hopefully an agreement on a Doha trade round but certainly to agree a bilateral free trade agreement with India. It is that capacity which will lead precisely to the kind of liberalisation in India that he is seeking. But on our own I do not think that we have that ability.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, and many other speakers have said; namely, that the economic relationship has tremendous potential. But let us remember that it is starting from a very low base. Of our outward investment in Britain, it is regrettably the case that only 1 per cent of Britain's foreign direct investment is located in India. More than 50 per cent is in the European Union. On looking at Indian exports, I found an extraordinary fact today: India exports more to the Benelux countries than to the United Kingdom. There has been no dramatic expansion of our trade in recent years. Indeed, I picked up an article that told me that in 2008, Britain was India's eighth largest trading partner, exporting goods worth about $5 billion. By 2010, that figure had fallen to $4.4 billion. There is an awful lot of work to do to make this economic relationship work.
Our fear on these Benches is that the Government are putting crucial new obstacles in making this relationship a success. Last January, we were all greatly relieved when the right honourable Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, told us that the visa problems he thought that there would be in the business relationship with India were being solved. Only a month ago, I read in the Times that whereas four years ago it was possible for an Indian business person coming to Britain to get a visa within a few days, it now takes 15 days. People have been saying that it is a lot easier to go to France and other countries in Europe to do business because of these visa rules.
The Government set lots of other objectives for their partnership with India, including higher education, on which noble Lords have spoken. Last week, in the debate on universities, we heard how the number of applications from Asia to Russell group universities is falling fast. How can any nation so comprehensively shoot itself in the foot simply to fulfil a stupid, populist policy that was included in the Government's manifesto in terms of immigration? I repeat: it is simply shooting our future prospects in the foot for the sake of rank populism.
The same applies to the future leaders' network that the Government hope to set up. How can we have a network of future leaders if we prevent them from coming to this country? Let us have a constructive approach to this relationship and try to build it, and not put obstacles in its way.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for initiating this debate. He said, among other things, in his opening remarks that
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There are some obstacles-perhaps on both sides. We have to engage with the Indians and we must recognise that in pursuing an enhanced partnership we have a great many competitors. Much has been said in intervening speeches about the decline in the number of Indian students coming to the United Kingdom. Indians have been going to the United States. The United States is the most popular foreign country within India and that is part of what we now have to compete with. As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and others know, this is in sharp contrast to the flow of Chinese students to Britain, which has continued to rise and is at a far higher level. It will take a good deal of time and effort to catch up to where we would like to be across a very broad number of spectrums. We have to attract the attention of the Indian elite and of the rising young Indian middle classes-the rising young Indian educated generation. We have to have a broad effort at trade and investment on both sides and further develop relations in the fields of climate change, defence and as an aid partnership.
Having such an excellent Indian diaspora here is a tremendous asset. As the flow of investment in both directions shows, this is already helping to develop closer links, in addition to the historical cultural relationship with India. We are all conscious that we have to build on this. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, castigated the populist policies of the coalition Government on migration. As someone who does his politics in Yorkshire, I am very conscious that it is very often our settled ethnic communities who are themselves strongly supportive of tougher rules on immigration. This is not an easy subject. I often find myself talking to people whose parents or grandparents came from south Asia and who want to know when we are going to stop more people coming in. I have a vivid memory of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and myself talking at the Hindu Cultural Centre in Bradford in the last election but one. The second question we had from the floor was: when are we going to stop more of these foreigners coming in? The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, understands that there are many difficulties in making a simple answer to the problems of immigration.
Noble Lords have already remarked that India is by now the third largest foreign investor in the UK. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, claimed that it is now the second largest. The UK is the fourth largest investor in India. We are attempting to encourage a rising flow in both directions. The enhanced partnership is, I stress, a partnership and it has to be a partnership of equals. We have to get rid of any sense that this is an ex-colonial relationship. As you will all know, the continued existence of the aid relationship with India has become a matter of some controversy in the right-wing press in Britain. It is our intention to move
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The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, has, to my great pleasure, mentioned that we already have a very useful partnership with Indian scientists and others in climate change and that has been invaluable in getting the global debate on climate change under way-not as the white countries telling others what to do, but as a shared concern about long-term environmental degradation.
The defence partnership is, at the moment, less developed than we would like it to be, although we find ourselves sharing the anti-piracy patrol with Indian ships off Somalia in the Indian Ocean. The Indians are now the largest single contributor to UN peacekeeping forces, so as a country which expects that its forces are most likely to be engaged in helping to reconstruct failed states-post-conflict reconstruction-we will very often find ourselves alongside forces from south Asia. We already have a number of officer exchanges on both sides, and again there are traditions on which to build. I was astonished and delighted to find myself at the National Defence College in Pune, sitting next to an Indian general who told me that his regiment was called Skinner's Horse. I did not know they still had regiments like that in the Indian Army. We see ourselves moving towards future joint training, and I hope also to greater celebration of the past. That is because our young generation in this country, including the children of Asian immigrants, have forgotten that the largest single Commonwealth contingent in the Second World War came from the Asian sub-continent in the form of the Indian Army.
Many noble Lords have talked about the importance of universities and education. Already much effort is being made. The second tranche of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative is under way. Research Councils UK is working to improve collaboration at the highest levels, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, knows what the British Academy is doing in this regard. I regret that student flows are not larger. My former university, the London School of Economics, has developed a number of joint degrees with Chinese universities, but it has been much more difficult to get into partnerships with Indian universities. We need to move further on this. We hope very much that the Indian Government will now complete the passage of the law which would allow foreign universities to set up campuses on the Indian sub-continent. It is a way of trying to increase the two-way flow, and I should mention that the Department for Education and others are hoping to encourage more British students to study at Indian universities. After all, India has some top quality universities. I can speak with some feeling on this since some years ago my son led the British "University Challenge" team that played the winner of the Indian equivalent and was soundly beaten in Delhi.
On visas, I have already mentioned that the situation is extremely complex and we are faced with a British population which has a range of contradictory pressures. However, we are aware of Indian concerns and are doing our best to meet them. On economic relations, many noble Lords have remarked that there is a great deal of good news on the way, but we need the Indians to open their market for services. The United Kingdom is above all a service exporter. Insurance, banking, legal expertise and accountancy are areas where we have the strength to compete much more effectively in the Indian market. We see the EU-India free trade area, which is still under negotiation and we hope will be completed in the next few months, as a major step forward.
I should like to end where I began by saying that the strength of the UK-Indian relationship lies in our historical ties and in the personal ties which the largest diaspora community in this country provides. It is economically successful in this country and the loyal links that people still have with India help to build economic ties in everything from the brewing industry to the pharmaceutical industry. We look to that as one of the many strengths we can pursue further in building a stronger relationship. Again, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for allowing us to return to this subject, and I hope that we will consider it again soon.
33: Clause 5, page 10, line 16, after "Wales" insert "or a pupil at a school in England whose parent has not confirmed the receipt by any effective method of a notice from the head teacher of the school that the pupil will be detained after the school session on the day that the notice is issued"
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, this amendment seeks to ensure that if a school wishes to keep a child in detention after school, it must ensure that it has successfully contacted the child's parent or carer. When we discussed this matter in Grand Committee, I asked that the school should get the agreement of the parent. I believed that I was offering a compromise when I moved towards simply asking that the school should inform the parent, but I understand that the Minister does not think so.
Clause 13 has the potential to put a child in danger and I hope that I will be given a strong reassurance by the Minister that this will not be so. While I trust the vast majority of teachers, surely the Minister must accept that it takes a while for a young teacher to develop the sort of good judgment and common sense that we believe would prevent them from putting a
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My noble friend the Minister made the point in Grand Committee that schools already have a duty of care to their pupils under other legislation. That may well be so, but noble Lords know the difficulty of cross-referencing other Acts when we are considering a current Bill that makes changes to earlier legislation. That is why I am asking the Minister to ensure that in the guidance that accompanies this new power, the school is made aware, on the same page, that it must not use this power if it in any way puts the child in danger. In order to check on this, the school will have to find out what the child's transport arrangements are and ensure that either the detention is so short that it avoids the child missing a bus or that other safe travel arrangements have been made. The school may also need to check on whether the child is a carer, where detaining that child after school may cause another vulnerable person in distress. Schools should already know which children are carers, but they need to be sure in this case. I also think the guidance should make it clear that it is good practice to inform the parents anyway by phone. I can envisage the distress of a parent, waiting at home for a child to step off the school bus, only to find that he does not. The parent will worry herself sick; I know I would have done.
I think that this provision is entirely contrary to the respect with which this Government treat parents otherwise. Only this week, we have received a letter about changes to the way complaints about school admissions arrangements are handled, which said:
"We believe that parents should be given the opportunity to be part of the system that holds schools to account, properly supported and championed by the local authority, the Secretary of State and independent adjudicators".
At the same time, the Government seek to write parents out of their discipline arrangements by letting schools avoid telling them that their child is in detention. As I understand it, this idea has come from one of the head teachers' unions, but not the other one. I can tell the Minister what parents want: they do not want this. They want to be respected and informed.
Points were strongly made in Committee that rural schools, if they adhere to their safeguarding duty, will not be able to use this sanction at all. Yet I can reassure my noble friend that children in rural schools will not run amok because of it. There are many sanctions already in the armoury to ensure good behaviour and most schools use them effectively. Most have maintained good discipline to date without this power. I question the competence of any school that feels it needs this power to maintain good order and discipline. Yet, in order to give them this power, the Government may risk the safety of children unless the guidance is clear, unequivocal and powerful. We want only one more case like that of poor Milly Dowler and the Government's good judgment will be called into question, rightly or wrongly.
This is entirely unnecessary if the Government get the guidance right. Will the Minister assure me that our comments about the guidance, and the strength
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, our Amendment 34 is similar to the one so ably outlined by the noble Baroness. It is a requirement that schools should always give reasonable notice to parents or carers of any detentions and that before going ahead with a detention, they have received from the parent or carer confirmation that they are aware of the detention. Rather like the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has described, we thought that we were eminently conciliatory in our amendment, that it was common sense and would be warmly welcomed by the Minister. Perhaps it still will be.
We return to this issue after a detailed debate in Grand Committee in which we felt there was consensus that this was a common sense position between, on the one hand, an instant response to bad behaviour, while on the other, ensuring that pupil safety is protected. As it stands, the Bill removes a requirement to give 24 hours notice of detention and as a result schools would not be required to give parents or carers any notice at all. We have had a letter from the Minister today setting out new proposals, but those ask teachers only to judge,
Frankly, we do not think that that is good enough. We recognise that it is usually the case that the nearer the punishment is to the original incident, the more effective it is. However, as a number of noble Lords in Grand Committee recognised, this would potentially create a number of safeguarding issues, which the Minister's letter attempted to address. It would also potentially damage the relationship between parents and schools and could have a knock-on effect on the success of the school's broader behavioural policy.
A number of objections remain to no-notice detentions, specifically because of the damage to the school's relationship with parents. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has outlined some of those, such as it being impracticable for parents to rearrange children's transport at short notice when they might have other commitments -other childcare commitments, and so on. There could be unnecessary worry for parents in rural areas especially on dark evenings, when they are anxious about their child's travel home. There could also be concern if parents think their child is travelling home alone, separately, because they are travelling later, rather than earlier with a group, when they are all leaving school together. There is also the issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, raised about caring responsibilities, of which children might not always have made the school aware. Finally, and perhaps most importantly in this catalogue, there is the basic discourtesy to parents which this Bill would represent and which would do little to help schools forge strong partnerships with parents.
When we discussed this in Committee, the Minister expressed some sympathy with the arguments we had put forward, but went on to argue that head teachers already had to produce behaviour policies which were publicised to parents. She also argued that there were existing legal safeguards that protect children's welfare
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The simplest way through is to support our amendment -or, indeed, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley-which make it clear that schools can organise no-notice detention provided the parent has confirmed that they aware that it is happening. This will provide adequate safeguards for children and ensure that parents are kept in the loop and treated with respect. I hope noble Lords and the Minister will feel able to support this amendment.
Lord Storey: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, used the right words-"common sense". I cannot understand this. As a parent and as a teacher, I have no objection to same-day detentions. As has been said, if there is to be a sanction or punishment often it is best that it is done straight away. However, the notion that young people, children and students are kept behind at school without their parents or their carers knowing does not seem right and proper.
If a school organises an after-school activity, whether it be football, netball, swimming or whatever, parents give their permission for their children to take part in those activities, understanding that their children will have to make other arrangements to come home. Why cannot that be done for same-day detentions? All we are suggesting, which is eminently sensible and supported by all the unions bar one-of the unions supporting it, even the National Association of Head Teachers thinks that it is right and proper that parents are notified-is that when a same-day detention is held the parent is contacted, not through a message left on a voicemail, an e-mail or a text but actually contacted. If they cannot be contacted, the same-day detention would have to be held the next day. That is the right and proper common-sense approach.
I have had various e-mails today saying that it would be a breach of the law if the child was not safeguarded and so on, but in all this guidance, about which no doubt we will hear in a moment, I cannot find an understanding that the parent comes first-that the parent matters. I hope that in the guidance it is made absolutely clear how we will protect the well-being and safeguarding of children.
We have spoken about rural areas and the school bus, but in urban areas-in my own city-children often have to travel two miles across the city to go to school. On dark nights they are placed in a very vulnerable situation. If the parents know their child is being kept behind, they can make arrangements.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I recognised that there would be a number of reasoned arguments and I stand with my colleagues who made them. I
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The second response from rural parents-I work and have friends in London but I live in a rural area-was, "But there is only one bus. They cannot be detained without notice because if they do not get on the bus they do not get home at all". We have to remember that not every poor parent in a rural area has a car; they depend on that transport. There are no other bus services or taxis; you catch the school bus or you do not get home. The third response was the sheer indignation that this was "my" child, not owned by anyone else.
The common thread through all that was that the parents were quite keen for the child to be disciplined at school. There was no disagreement that the child should not receive their discipline, that detention might be the right answer, or that the closer it was to the incident the better little Jonny would learn from it. The disagreement was that parents had to know that their child was going to be detained so that they could ensure the protection of their child and were not worried out of their minds. I hope noble Lords will forgive my anecdotal bit of research but it was pretty consistent with the reasoned arguments that we have heard this evening.
Baroness Brinton: My Lords, I also support Amendment 33, which I have added my name to. I will not rehearse the arguments that have been made by noble Lords who have already spoken except to say, as I said in Committee, that these issues about safeguarding are absolutely paramount. There is one area that no one has picked up on but of which I have personal experience. Looked-after children, foster children or children with difficult family arrangements often have complex arrangements at the school gate. For this particular group, it is always vital that the parent with the residency order knows exactly what is happening.
My own experience was at primary school level, where the school was fully on board with all the issues. In a large secondary school with 1,200 pupils, I worry that a teacher or head of department handing out a detention might not be aware of such complex arrangements. For such reasons, which also come back to safeguarding, this is really important. Amendment 33 does not ask for much. The key thing from this Side is for the Minister to please look again at the wording. We want a really clear statement that nothing will be done that will compromise the safety of the child. That is the absolute nub of it. We can all give many more anecdotes but fundamentally, at its root, this is about the safeguarding of children.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, there is clear evidence that good standards of behaviour are vital if children are to receive a high-quality education.
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There is strong public support for improving the standards of behaviour in schools. A recent survey for the Times Educational Supplement found that 91 per cent of parents and 62 per cent of children favour tougher discipline in secondary schools. The same poll found that 88 per cent of parents and 60 per cent of pupils supported teachers in giving after-school detentions. The head teachers who gave evidence in the other place made clear that detentions are a key part of maintaining good behaviour. As has already been mentioned, Sir Michael Wilshaw went so far as to say that detentions were,
This clause removes the requirement for schools to provide 24 hours' written notice of detention outside school hours. In doing this, we seek to enable head teachers and teachers to use detention in the way most suited to the circumstances of their individual schools and in the way that is most appropriate to the pupil or incident with which they are dealing.
Various concerns have been raised today. It might be helpful to noble Lords if I set out what a school has to do, by law, to issue an after-school detention at the moment. First, under Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, the head teacher must determine and make generally known in the school and to parents whether the school issues detentions outside school hours.
Secondly, Section 91 of the same Act requires that detentions must be reasonable and constitute a proportionate punishment in all the circumstances. There must also be strong assurances that, when issuing a detention, school staff must have regard to any known special circumstances of the pupil, including the pupil's age, any special educational needs, disability or religious requirements. That would certainly affect any looked-after children or children with caring responsibilities.
Thirdly, a further safeguard in Section 92(5) of the Act provides that if arrangements have to be made for a pupil to travel home after a detention then, when deciding whether a detention is reasonable, the member of staff must take into account whether suitable travel arrangements can be reasonably made by the pupil's parents. Many noble Lords have raised concerns about children being unable to get home after detentions in rural areas but we believe this safeguard is designed to address that concern. It is already there, as one of the safeguards that the school must have regard to. A detention that left a child unable to get home in a safe way would not be reasonable in the circumstances and would be in breach of the existing safeguards. I can well understand my noble friend's point about children with caring responsibilities, and with these other difficulties that we have outlined, but the safeguards above prevent a young carer being given an out-of-hours detention if it is unreasonable, given their individual circumstances.
There is one additional requirement: that parents must be given 24 hours' written notice of a detention outside school hours. So, in the long list of requirements that schools must follow before issuing an after-school detention we want to remove just one. Why do the Government want to remove the requirement for 24 hours' written notice? We have had briefing from the Association of School and College Leaders, which made it clear that,
The requirement as it stands also places many good schools that issue 15-minute detentions at the end of the school day in breach of the law. These schools do not and would never for a moment consider jeopardising a pupil's safety or damaging relations with parents. Of course, even with the present requirement for written notice in place there is no guarantee that parents will be aware that a detention is happening. Schools may send the notice home with pupils, who may or may not pass it on to the parent. Equally, an e-mail from the school may not be read that day or parents may not be contactable by telephone. This means there may be cases where parents have not been aware of detentions in advance, but we have absolutely no evidence that this has led to children's safety being compromised.
My noble friends' amendment seeks to replace the present requirement, which I think we agree is problematic, with one under which parents must confirm that they are aware of a same-day detention after school, or must receive 24 hours' notice of it. We well understand their intentions; we would all want parents to play a full part in ensuring high standards of behaviour and to be aware when their child is at school. I fear, however, that the amendments would cause similar problems to the current requirement. Asking that a parent confirms that they are aware of a same-day detention means that a teacher would be prevented from keeping a pupil back, even for 15 minutes at the end of the last lesson of the day, without first making arrangements to contact the parents. Noble Lords can imagine how long that could take and that on many occasions it will be impossible to gain confirmation at short notice that a parent is aware of a detention. I remind noble Lords of all the safeguards which are already in place to make quite sure that transport is there and that the young people do not have caring responsibilities, where after-hours detention would obviously not be appropriate.
There are other cases where an unco-operative parent could, in knowledge of such a requirement, ignore attempts by a school to contact them in order to prevent a same-day detention. They could simply let phone calls go to voicemail or not answer an e-mail, so the whole thing could escalate way beyond the 24 hours -and way past the time when the young person had done the disciplinary matter-and escalate the punishment to a level which was never intended. It is because of these consequences of well intended regulation that we believe it is necessary to remove the requirement and rely on the extensive existing safeguards, which require schools to act reasonably in all the circumstances.
Having said that we are not attracted to regulation we take immensely seriously the concerns raised today and in Grand Committee. We therefore propose that advice to schools on this matter could be strengthened to make sure that schools understand what they should do to act reasonably. An addition to the guidance on behaviour and discipline in schools will say:
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: I am grateful for the Minister giving way. Will she consider this point? She is stressing that the other requirements, particularly that the school act reasonably, are sufficient safeguards. Would she agree that in removing the requirement to give parents notice she is, in a sense, changing the threshold of what schools could regard as reasonable? Reasonableness is going to mean something else and it could mean-would mean I would argue-that it would be reasonable for the school not to try to inform parents. Therefore, the stress she is putting on the safeguard of reasonableness would actually be completely diminished.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I take the point the noble Baroness makes. However, we have to accept that schools take massive care of the children in their care and do not take these measures lightly. We are talking about short periods of detention after school for pupils who can get home safely; those who do not need to catch the school bus and so on. All those are already enshrined in the care and the regulation. We seek-and we hear the very grave concerns being expressed by noble Lords-to make quite sure the guidance is strengthened to ensure that child safety is never compromised by the school's actions. We feel that the safeguards already in place strike the right balance between ensuring that children are safe and allowing schools to take proportionate action-to use their discretion and professional judgment-to establish the arrangements that work best for them.
We hope that my noble friends and the noble Baronesses will agree to work with us to see how we can strengthen the guidance that goes with these measures and meanwhile will feel able to withdraw their amendments.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: These are draft guidance documents at the moment. We hear the strength of feeling that has been expressed around the House and would certainly welcome consultation to see if we can find a form of words that reassures noble Lords. We feel that all the measures are in place, but obviously some noble Lords feel that they are not strong enough, so we will be looking at the draft guidance to make quite sure the wording is appropriate.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for her reply. We would all agree with some of her opening remarks that there is strong public support for good behaviour in schools. We all know that that helps children to learn. However, I do not accept there is strong public support for this particular measure and like the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, I, too, did some research over the summer with some ordinary parents and I had exactly the same responses as the noble Baroness.
The Minister said that schools must do this in a way which is most appropriate for the pupils with whom they are dealing. Where does it say that? It certainly does not say it in the legislation. It must say it, or something like it, in the guidance. My noble friend carefully went through the other duties that schools have to safeguard children, which have been laid into other statutes. I accept all that. Punishments have to be proportionate and reasonable and travel arrangements have to be considered. They are already there, but the question for a teacher looking at the guidance is: where are they? The guidance needs to have these duties clearly spelt out on the same page where a teacher is being told what they can do under this new law. It needs to be very clear.
I often wonder where this idea came from. My noble friend the Minister has told us that it came from the ASCL. Why does the ASCL have such influence over this Government? The other head teachers' union does not have the same influence and other ordinary teachers' unions do not. I am afraid I have a nasty suspicion that this bit of the Bill seeks to enable legislation to catch up with practice, and that some schools are following this practice without giving 24 hours' notice. I accept that notes in satchels do not always get to parents and that the current requirement for 24 hours' written notice often does not reach the parent and the parent is not notified. We are asking for something better than that. We are suggesting a way of ensuring that the parent is informed to enable them to make other arrangements for the child to get home safely, if possible. If they are not able to do so, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said, because they do not have a car and an alternative bus is not available, they can make the school aware that there could be a safeguarding problem if the child is kept in. It is then up to the school under the other duties that my noble friend has outlined to punish the child at a different time.
My noble friend suggested that some unco-operative parents may fail to answer the phone and let the message be recorded on the answerphone. I do not think that these parents have a crystal ball. When the phone rings, they cannot possibly know that it is the
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I am delighted that my noble friend has accepted that there is scope for strengthening the guidance. I was very pleased to hear that. She made it very clear on the record from the Dispatch Box that teachers should not do anything that compromises the safeguarding of the child. That gives me comfort. If we can work together to ensure that that is made crystal clear in the guidance, I will not feel that I need to return to this at a later stage. Can my noble friend nod and affirm that we can do that work and get the guidance to say something of that nature? It is vital that we help teachers to make good decisions about when to use this weapon in their armoury.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: Before the noble Baroness concludes, will she also reflect that essentially what we are setting in place is a two-tier style of punishment? If you think of it from the teacher's point of view, what is underpinning this is that a detention on the same day as the crime that has been committed is more effective because it is closer in time to that crime. We will now have schools with two groups of pupils-those pupils who are eligible to receive that punishment and those who are not.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I apologise to the noble Baroness but I am double tasking as a government spokesman and a Whip today. The rules at Report state that a noble Lord may not come back after the Minister has spoken.
Baroness Walmsley: Perhaps I may complete my remarks. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley. As I have said, rural schools will not be able to use this measure but some urban schools will. However, as my noble friend Lord Storey said, not all urban schools will be able to use it because there may well be safeguarding issues in urban schools as well. However, as I said, I am comforted by what my noble friend the Minister has said. I look forward to further discussions with officials on how we can produce guidance that really helps teachers to do what they need to do but at the same time not compromise the safeguarding of children. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Government must issue guidance to encourage locally based cooperation and collaboration between schools in areas including-
(b) attendance and registration,
(c) peer improvement,
(d) raising standards."
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, this amendment relates to Clause 6 which repeals the duty on secondary schools to co-operate with other schools to promote good behaviour, discipline and attendance and to make an annual report to the children's trust board on how they have done so. Through behaviour and attendance partnerships, schools have worked together; for example, to help children at risk of exclusion, or to place in another mainstream school, through managed moves. Partnerships enable groups of schools to collectively fund specialist support for children with behavioural problems; for example, to employ a parent support worker, or whatever, and to provide the resources that individual schools, especially small schools, may not be able to afford on their own. That means that parents' ability to access specialist support for a child with, for example, behavioural problems could be reduced.
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