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Lord Peston: I had read the Bill slightly differently from other noble Lords. I had thought that the proposed teaching council was more than a consultative body. When the Minister replies, I hope that she will say in terms that it is more than a consultative body.
Having read all the paragraphs under Functions of the Council, I make two points. First, as regards the operation of the register, in due course we shall debate how people come off the register. I regard that as more fundamental than getting on to the register. The teaching council will do a good deal more than simply being consultative.
Secondly, as Clause 2 of the Bill stands, the council does not wait for the Secretary of State to ask its view. I read the Bill as providing, "We will tell you our view". The matters on which the council comments are substantive--not least to do with recruitment and numbers. Unless the Minister tells me that I have misread the Bill, I do not have the worries that other noble Lords have.
I am not against the amendments in content, but if any noble Lord asked me why we want to improve the quality of our teachers, I would say that it was because we wished to improve the quality of our education. I see no need to write that into the Bill. It seems to be restating the obvious. The point of setting up the general teaching council is to improve the quality of our teachers. We strongly believe that that is the way to improve the education system in our country. So again, unless my noble friend the Minister tells me that I have misread the provision, I do not see the point of the amendments.
Finally, I hope that a considerable number of practising or former teachers will be on the council--a matter that we shall debate in due course. I therefore hope that this body will be recognised as teachers taking responsibility for their own service. Other people will also be brought in. Those of us who have been independent members of other such bodies believe that we did a good job. I hope that there will be similarly independent people on the council. In my view there ought to be a majority, but there will certainly be a substantial number, of teachers on the council; and they will be the ones giving leadership and taking responsibility. I am glad that the amendments were tabled that my noble friend has an opportunity to clarify these matters. However, speaking personally, I hope that she does not accept them.
Earl Russell: Speaking as one of the "Liberal horses" to whom the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, referred, perhaps I might say a brief word in defence of the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Tope. I remember--although I hope that no one will ask me
It is our concern that teaching should be a self-governing profession, that it should be able to exercise, through the general council, some of the powers of the General Medical Council or the Bar Council; in fact, that there should be a degree of genuine internal self-government.
The way in which the general teaching council is to be constituted reminds me a little of an obstreperous three year-old who is kept in leading reins because the traffic around it is so dense. That is not particularly dignified.
It reminds me also of the description in 1066 And All That of Poyning's Law--that the Irish should have a parliament and the English should pass all the Acts in it. The Secretary of State seems to have set himself up to be the English. He is not all of them.
Baroness Warnock: I wish to say a word in favour of the second amendment. What we have heard so far shows that there is a genuine ambiguity, a genuine difference of opinion as to how the general teaching council is to be considered. We have heard on the one hand that it is nothing but an advisory body, and on the other that it is to take responsibility for standards and the registering and de-registering of teachers.
If that ambiguity is possible, as previous remarks seem to show, then the word "responsibility" should be used on the face of the Bill, so that it is clear from the Bill that teachers are to be given responsibility for standards in their own profession. The issue will arise again and again. The matter should be made clear. It is made clear in the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tope.
Lord Walton of Detchant: I do not wish to prolong discussion on these two amendments. The principle underlying the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, is wholly admirable.
However, sub-paragraph (b) in Amendment No. 2 is ambiguous. It should surely be the role of the council to exercise responsibility for the standards and quality of professional services in teaching and to offer advice. As the amendment reads at present, it is the teaching profession that will offer advice, and I do not believe that is the intention. After all, the council, in its constitution, will, and should, have a majority of members from the teaching profession; but it will also have a substantial number of lay members and others in order to enable it to fulfil its functions. For that reason alone, I am afraid I am unable to support the second part of Amendment No. 2, although the principle underlying both amendments is wholly admirable.
Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I may add a general point which applies to most parts of the Bill. This is a skeletal Bill. One of the difficulties that I suspect we shall have is that we shall all have our own views as to what form we believe this body should take and there will be a scramble to put everything on the face of the Bill. I suspect that the Minister will stonewall throughout the day in response to any ideas that we have about putting matters on the face of the Bill.
I hazard a guess that there is very little disagreement among Members of the Committee on all Benches about the main aims of this body: it should concern itself with the quality, standards and promotion of teaching as a profession. The differences will arise in regard to the way in which we want to achieve that.
It is a great pity that on this, as in many other parts of the Bill, even with regard to the professional qualification of head teachers--with which, as we have already seen from the first evaluation, there are difficulties and problems--and the student fees arrangements, there has not been a constructive debate, with the framework set out by government, and consultation before we returned to this place to put this piece of legislation on the statute book.
What we are doing is putting a framework on the statute book. We shall not know the shape of this body or its remit. That will be in the hands of the Secretary of State to devise well after the Bill has received Royal Assent. That is a great pity. This Chamber has much to contribute in making this body, which is the aspiration of all professional teachers and the will of this House, work in a more practical way.
However, we are where we are, and we have to consider the matter. No doubt the debate on the amendments on the Marshalled List will go some way at least to informing the consultation that will have to follow. In the meantime, like my noble friend Lord Pilkington, I wish to support the aims of my noble friend's amendment, which is absolutely fundamental. In the absence of the consultation that is yet to take place, words along those lines ought to be written on the face of the Bill as a fundamental remit for this body.
The noble Lord, Lord Tope, has already answered the point as to whether it is the council or the teaching profession which should advise. The point has been clarified; namely, that there is a mistake in the drafting, and it should be the council which advises the Secretary of State on these matters.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: When the noble Baroness replies, it may help to clarify the points just made by my noble friend if she will tell the Committee whether she considers that paragraph (b) in Amendment No. 2 sets out the purpose of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, said that he hoped that the Committee would make that the purpose of the Bill. I am not sure that it is correct to move an amendment on that basis.
I do not believe that that is what the Bill suggests. Should the Committee change the purpose of the Bill in the course of its proceedings--I rather doubt that we shall be able to--or change it even slightly, then later
I agree absolutely with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I probably over-simplified the matter. The council as designed is not only advisory but consultative, and it is designed to keep a register, although we shall question whether its job in keeping the register is adequate and has a real purpose. That is another point. I agree with the noble Lord; I absolutely take his points. It would help if we could know what is the Government's view of paragraph (b) in Amendment No. 2.
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