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The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am glad to notice that the noble Lord considers that Ministers of the Crown should enjoy justice. The first part of his question is extremely sweeping. I am not in a position to say precisely what happened at all stages, but it is true, as he said, that he represented Mr. Blake, as a result of which, but no doubt not in consequence of his representations, that very long sentence was passed. The reasons for the judgment are, as I say, expressed succinctly in 18 pages. It would be inappropriate for me to try to summarise them further.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, did Mr. Blake receive legal aid in order to help pay the fees of the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson? If he did, is it possible to recover that money from the royalties of £90,000 which Mr. Blake will receive if that is allowed?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, the occasion upon which the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, represented Mr. Blake at his trial was some considerable time ago. I am unable to say whether the noble Lord was supported by the Legal Aid Fund at that stage. He nods, suggesting that he probably was. So far as concerns this case, Mr. Blake did not have legal aid. If he had had legal aid, the Legal Aid Fund could be reimbursed in so far as there was money being paid to Mr. Blake as a result of success in the action.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): My Lords, following the Ofsted report on the teaching of reading in three London boroughs, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has announced a number of additional measures designed to identify and tackle poor teaching standards, and to monitor the performance of local authorities and teacher trainers.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but does he not share with me the grave anxiety felt, especially by parents, and the acute frustration felt by employers and the rest of us, that after years and years of highly welcome educational reforms at government level, so little has apparently percolated down to school level that we cannot even grapple with the problems of basic literacy? Is it not appalling that, in this report to which the Minister has referred, Mr. Woodhead found that four-fifths of children, after
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to highlight the pretty damning evidence that comes from the report. He is right to point to the importance of some of the Government's reforms percolating down to the LEAs and the schools. I should like to emphasise and underline what he said, which underlines what Her Majesty's Chief Inspector said in his latest report and in his earlier report about the importance of adopting the right methods of teaching, laying particular stress with regard to reading on teaching by means of phonics. It was a distinct lack of the use of phonics in the 45 schools in those boroughs which created many of the problems that he has highlighted.
Viscount Caldecote: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the serious problems would probably not have arisen had there been a strong professional organisation for teachers such as exists in other professions, and would the Government consider supporting the formation of such an organisation?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I do not agree with my noble friend that that would be the simple solution to the problem. The simple solution is for teachers to adopt the right teaching methods. To ensure that that takes place it is important that the teacher training institutions address initial teacher training and ensure that teachers are taught in the appropriate methods and can teach by means of phonics. To that end my right honourable friend has asked the Teacher Training Agency to look at the methods that the initial training institutions are using and at further improvements in in-service training.
Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, if the Government really care about reading standards in primary schools, why has it taken 17 years for them to see what is going on under their very nose? Why did they withdraw support from the highly successful reading recovery scheme knowing full well that local authorities could not possibly pick up the bill? While he is at it, could the Minister kindly explain to me why the Ofsted report on Tower Hamlets, Islington and Southwark has still not been delivered from his department to the PPO in your Lordships' House? I should like to know where the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, obtained his copy.
Lord Henley: My Lords, my apologies to the noble Lord for not being able to obtain a copy of the report. I shall see that he obtains a copy immediately after this debate even if it is only my own copy. I shall find another. Perhaps I may point out to him that we have done a considerable amount over the past 17 years. Much of what we have done has been opposed by the party opposite, particularly in terms of raising standards and improving inspection regimes. I point out also to the noble Lord--I do not like to bring party politics into this matter--that the report relates to 45 schools in three
Baroness Young: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the most valuable reforms has been the establishment of Ofsted, which took the place of HMI inspections which occurred only infrequently, if at all, in primary schools, and that the valuable information that we have received is a most important result of one of this Government's many educational reforms?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her comments about the importance of the work of Ofsted. Some of the remarks which come from some of the friends of the party opposite accusing Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of political bias in his report are highly regrettable. That is merely trying to evade responsibility. These are matters that they should address in their authorities and we will seek to ensure that they do so.
Earl Russell: My Lords, is the report in the Guardian that passages were deleted from the report before its publication substantially correct? If so, can any of us be asked to give the report any academic credence?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the report is one by Ofsted, a body which is independent of the Government. It is for Ofsted to put together its report. Obviously, a report goes through a number of different drafting stages and the body concerned will produce its final report, as has been done. The noble Earl has suggested, as have his colleagues in the party opposite, that the report is politically biased. That is nonsense and nonsense in the extreme. Those authorities ought to be addressing the very serious problems that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Mr. Woodhead, has raised and seeking to improve standards in their schools.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the Minister agree that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Mr. Woodhead, said that, while he did not accept that class size mattered for most ages, it is a relevant factor for very young children? Will the Government accept responsibility for cutting during the past four years the funding available per capita for primary school children and the increase in class sizes? Will the Minister also accept that many members of his party buy such class sizes for their own children?
Lord Henley: My Lords, obviously, class size is important but, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector made clear, it is not the sole factor. The most important factor is the method of teaching employed in schools. I can assure the noble Baroness that funding in all three authorities that I mentioned is considerably higher than in other parts of the country. The noble Baroness's Leader in another place and the spokesman for health in another place have been sending their children to schools in Tory-controlled authorities and not to those in their own local education authorities.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lord Lucas will, with the leave of the House, repeat in the form of a Statement an Answer to a Private Notice Question in another place on the district auditor's report on Westminster City Council.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to consolidate the Education Act 1944 and certain other enactments relating to education, with amendments to give effect to recommendations of the Law Commission. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to consolidate provisions of the Education (Schools) Act 1992 and Part V of the Education Act 1993, with amendments to give effect to recommendations of the Law Commission. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.