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Lord Razzall: My Lords, perhaps I may follow the remarks made by the other Opposition party in this House by changing the tone. Not only do I welcome these regulations but, contrary to the noble Lord who has spoken before me, I also welcome the approach the Government have adopted here. When the minimum wage legislation was first introduced, I understood that a continuing consultation process would take place. That was done because no one knew what would be the exact impact of the minimum wage legislation. Indeed, from these Benches we argued quite strongly a number of points to which the Government responded by saying, "Let us give that task to the Low Pay Commission. It will look at the implications of the minimum wage and bring forward recommendations. We shall then implement those by way of regulation".
I did not agree with the Government on many of the detailed points of the legislation, but I recognise the approach. Indeed, I think that we should welcome the fact that, after consultation and the publication of a report from the Low Pay Commission, the Government feel that the regulations need to be altered. I hope that the process will continue. If we are to establish an appropriate dialogue between business
As I said earlier, although I agree with the fundamental principles underlying the introduction of a minimum wage, I disagreed with one or two detailed points as regards the minimum wage legislation. However, I did not disagree with the Government taking recommendations from the Low Pay Commission, holding extensive consultations and then bringing in amendments by way of regulation to amend regulations and then to amend further regulations. I hope that the process will continue.
Last year I listened for many days to the comments of the Conservative Opposition as regards the national minimum wage. Several speakers spoke of how the temples of Sodom and Gomorrah would descend on industry in this country if a minimum wage was introduced. However, we have seen absolutely no evidence whatever that the introduction of the minimum wage has had even the remotest adverse effect on employment. However, the noble Lord did not see fit to congratulate the Government in any way or to admit that he was wrong and that the Government and the Liberal Democrats were right in their view that the introduction of the national minimum wage would have no effect on employment levels in this country. That has been very adequately demonstrated. I look forward to the next occasion on which the Minister brings forward regulations. I hope that the Conservative Party will then make that apology, which is long overdue.
Having made those comments by way of introduction, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question as regards a comment he made towards the end of his remarks about the next stage. It will not have gone unnoticed that the press has been seriously contemplating the contents of the Labour Party manifesto for the next election. Word has it that, first, a commitment will be made to remove the distinction between the minimum wage for young people and that for everyone else. Secondly, in return for the financial backing of the trades union movement for the Labour Party during the next election, a significant commitment will be made in the election manifesto to a substantial uprating of the minimum wage. In the light of the Minister's remarks on behalf of the Government, can he confirm his statement that no change will be made to the rates of the minimum wage until the Low Pay Commission reports in September 2001? If, as anticipated, the election takes place during the spring of 2001, nowhere in the Government manifesto will we see a commitment to changing the fundamental structure of the minimum wage until the Low Pay Commission reports in the following September of that year.
The issue of the zero hours contract is a real and important problem. The fact that situations can arise where employers put people in a back-room and say, "We shall not pay you, except for those brief moments when you come out and flip the hamburgers during the lunch hour", is not entirely in keeping with the spirit of the legislation.
As regards the noble Lord's point about the future election manifesto, I am sure that he does not expect me, even on a Friday afternoon, to make such a simple mistake as to suggest what the content will be. The Low Pay Commission is starting to gather evidence. It is due to report by July 2001. When the report is produced, we shall give it due attention. I commend the regulations to the House.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22nd June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the regulations arise from provisions set out in Section 38 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. They were laid before the House on 22nd June and have been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.
The regulations set out the terms of reference for governing bodies of maintained schools and define the respective roles and responsibilities of governing bodies and head teachers. They also confer two specific functions on governing bodies and head teachers.
The noble Lord, Lord Haskins, in his recent Better Regulation Task Force report on red tape affecting head teachers specifically welcomed the Government's intention to legislate to define roles and responsibilities more clearly. We believe the regulations achieve that.
We greatly appreciate the time, energy and dedication that volunteer governors bring to their work in schools across the country. We do not underestimate the workload involved, nor the time that they spend on governor duties. But some
The terms of reference contained in the regulations set out as operating principles for governing bodies the Nolan principles of honesty, objectivity and integrity in public life. They require governing bodies to be open about their decisions and actions (other than those which should properly be kept confidential) and to act in the best interests of the school. They also require governing bodies to be accountable for the decisions they take by explaining their decisions and actions.
The regulations require governing bodies to exercise a largely strategic role in the running of the school. The head is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and for implementing the strategic framework established by the governing body. Of course, there is a grey area in between.
Much will depend upon the experience of the head and the extent to which governors are prepared to delegate those functions not reserved exclusively for them. As volunteers it makes sense for them to delegate where possible. We do not want to be too prescriptive. The regulations will allow room for governing bodies and heads to decide what suits them best, taking account of the size or type of school or the personalities or strengths of individuals. However, this will be within a nationally agreed framework to protect both parties from unreasonable encroachment into each other's legitimate areas of responsibility. Where governing bodies delegate a function to the head, they may also issue reasonable directions with which the head must comply. Guidance on the regulations (copies of which have been placed in the Library), particularly on the use of delegation, will help governing bodies to organise their workload more effectively and minimise the scope for disputes.
Of course, not all of the statutory duties of governing bodies are strategic; some are operational or executive, for example sitting on pupil discipline committees to consider pupil exclusions. My noble friend Lord Haskins has recommended that governing bodies should not carry these responsibilities, but that is the subject of another debate. These regulations build on existing responsibilities and describe the essential functions involved in acting strategically: setting aims and objectives, policies and targets, and monitoring and evaluating progress. They are not new requirements but describe what governors are already doing in schools. Governing bodies should consider the head teacher's professional advice and act as a "critical friend" through supporting the head and offering constructive criticism and advice.
The regulations allocate two specific responsibilities to governing bodies and head teachers: to agree and implement the school's curriculum policy and the performance management policy. The requirement to have a policy for the secular curriculum merely formalises what is happening in schools already. Schools will not be involved in extra work as a result. The performance management policy is intended to work alongside the appraisal regulations laid on 20th June. The department has produced a national model performance management policy. We do not, therefore, expect this to be a burdensome task for either the governing body or the head teacher. There is a requirement for all staff at the school to be consulted, and the policy must be in place by 31st December.
We want to improve the quality of education for all pupils by helping school teachers to carry out their duties more effectively and take advantage of opportunities for career and professional development. The results of the consultation confirm that the regulations and the related guidance have been widely welcomed. A better understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities should enable governing bodies and head teachers to work well together in an atmosphere of mutual respect to ensure that they get on with the essential task of raising standards in schools. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22nd June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Blackstone.)
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