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Lord Walton of Detchant: I warmly support the amendment for a variety of reasons, as I believe it is a fundamental one and one which strikes at the very heart of many of the concerns that have been expressed in Committee this evening. For several years I chaired the Hamlyn Foundation National Commission on Education. In our report published in 1993, entitled Learning to Succeed, we said:
The register of teachers is included in the Bill, but I entirely agree with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin; namely, that to have a register and to have a GTC responsible for maintaining it but not having the authority to suspend or erase the name of a teacher from that register on good evidence is illogical.
The purpose of the amendment is to give the GTC authority over professional standards of discipline and conduct and over issues relating to ill health. As matters stand, under Clause 2(4) any recommendation or advice given by the GTC to the Secretary of State relating to the potential dismissal, suspension or erasure from the register of a teacher would be subject to a decision of the Secretary of State.
Even though it has been suggested to us that the powers of the GTC might well be extended through subsequent amending legislation, I can only say that I have been lobbied extensively over the past few years by colleagues from the General Medical Council and the
Therefore, if we are to be given an assurance that the powers of the council may be extended, the question is when? I believe it is right that such issues as set out in the amendment should be the responsibility of the GTC from the outset; for example, standards of teaching, standards of conduct and medical fitness to teach. It is clear that the amendment is modified by the council being required to seek advice from the Secretary of State or from other bodies. Indeed, subsection (4) of the amendment says:
I wholly agree it is important that if the council is given those powers, the regulations should specify whether the powers will include the authority to suspend, erase, admonish or even to impose conditions upon the registration of a teacher.
All of those issues are covered by this amendment which I believe is of fundamental importance. I hope very much that, despite what the noble Baroness said a few moments ago to the effect that the Government are opposed to giving authority for these powers to the general teaching council, they will think again. As the national commission recommended, that leaves several other issues in the Bill to be the subject of advice from the general teaching council. I believe that these issues are of such fundamental importance that they should be on the face of the Bill as this amendment proposes.
That is an elementary right. I believe that it could be insisted upon in common law on the basis of human rights. In the previous century it was customary when new governing bodies were established that many teachers who were dismissed had a right of appeal. If a person's livelihood is taken away, I believe that some form of appeal should be allowed. If that is not the case, unfortunate circumstances will arise. I hope that the Minister will give some thought to allowing teachers that right.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon: I intervene briefly to support the amendments, particularly in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I believe that her reference to a second-class body is appropriate to a body which is merely advisory and administrative. I have reflected upon the points made by the Minister as
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I am bewildered as to why the teaching profession in Wales is regarded as having the maturity to undertake executive powers whereas the teaching profession in England is not regarded as having such maturity. Unless the general teaching council has some executive powers it will not command the confidence of the teaching profession, nor indeed--dare I say it--of the general public. I find it difficult to see how it could then evolve into the kind of body which we all hope it will become.
Lord Parry: I believe it will not surprise the Committee to learn that I share some of the reservations that have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, about the emphasis in the debate. There is no surprise in that as I was a classroom teacher in Wales when the noble Lord was Secretary of State for Education. I wish to make two points. It seems to me that the debate, both in its scratchy period earlier and in its more mellow and important stages towards the end, has ignored the fact that the proposals the Government are putting forward do not exist in the kind of vacuum that the Committee seems to assume.
I have heard two or three references to Wales and to the better provision that the Committee seems to think is being made in Wales for the Welsh teaching council. One of the reasons that the Welsh education system has evolved as it has is that the local authorities created a system which was geared to providing a standard of education in the Welsh counties that was always the envy of the English regions.
This proposed body will not evolve on its own but in the context of the assembly for Wales. I do not refer to the Welsh assembly because the Chamber recently decided that it was an assembly for Wales and not a Welsh assembly. In that context there will be an evolution in terms of control. The whole stature of the Secretary of State for Wales will itself evolve. At this stage we do not know what duties the Secretary of State will keep to himself and what duties will pass to the assembly for Wales. In ignoring that development the Committee has fallen a little in its standard of debate.
While serious reservations have been expressed, particularly on the other side of the Chamber, about some of the proposals on which some of the amendments have focused, we also have to remember a further point. I have been distracted from what I wished to say about the right reverend Prelate's remarks. I shall therefore leave that matter at this point. The Secretary
Lord Glenamara: Before the Minister replies I wish to say a few words. I wish to support these amendments as strongly as I can. I believe that these amendments should constitute the absolute core of the Bill. Without these amendments, or something very like them, this exercise is a waste of time. There is no point in setting up the GTC unless it has control over who goes on to the register and who comes off the register for misconduct or for whatever reason. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind. I implore the Government to concede that point, otherwise the whole exercise is futile. There are plenty of consultative bodies now; we do not need any more bodies to consult. What we need now is a regulatory body for the teaching profession. We owe it to them. They are a responsible body of workers and they can control their own profession.
I ask the Minister please not to leave these powers in the hands of the Secretary of State. Let us imagine the nonsense of a situation where the Secretary of State decides which teacher will be allowed to teach and which teacher will not be allowed to teach, when sitting in the next building there is supposed to be a general teaching council for the whole profession. That is ridiculous. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind and concede something on that because without that we may as well all go home; there is no point in doing this. I as an old teacher ask the Minister please, please, please, please, please--I fought for this all my professional life--to concede this point. I ask the Minister to give the teachers the power to decide who goes on the register and who comes off it.
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