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Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, as we are on Report, I have to make my point before the Minister speaks. I should like to return to the micro level of the amendment. It is all very well the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, talking about a teacher exhibiting a point of view, but anybody in the institution in which I have taught for the past 36 years who does not say what is his point of view does not last a week.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, the noble Lord has made my point for me. I should have been very disappointed as an undergraduate if my teachers--poor things, having to try to teach me--had not put across a point of view. One expects that, although very often one is stimulated to reject that point of view. In that case, why ask an allegedly neutral body to do what we all expect teachers to do?
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, that is exactly the point. By setting out one's point of view at the start, one has a chance of giving what the noble Viscount might call a neutral view of the problem. However, let me return to my micro point.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I support the targeted amendments of my noble friend Lord Mackay, but if they are not acceptable, I would prefer to go along the road suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, with the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. My noble friend Lord Hodgson identified the basic flaw in the clause. It is a
The reason that that is a mistake is because it is a confusion of the main purpose for which the body has been set up. It could only be a distraction and mean that the commission would do its job less effectively. The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, made a very interesting speech. She said--
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, is it the core of the noble Lord's argument that regulators should not conduct any form of education or advice for those whom they seek to regulate? If that is the case, there are many regulatory bodies which carry out profoundly important matters of education to achieve a degree of regulation and to make it easier.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, it is one thing for the Financial Services Authority to explain to practitioners in the City of London how the rules apply, why conflicts of interest arise and why certain rules are necessary. That is completely different from educating everyone in the country from John O'Groats to Land's End about the City of London. The Minister has given a totally inappropriate analogy.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I declare an interest as a member of a regulatory body. We see as one of our functions to be able to educate the electors to make sure that they do not face problems in the future if they have them now. I cannot see that there is a divorce between a regulatory body and its educational role.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I am not sure to which regulatory body the noble Baroness refers. But, as I have just said, there is a difference between educating the people immediately affected by regulation and trying to educate the whole country. The regulatory commission is essentially a regulator of political parties. It might be legitimate to say that it should explain to political parties what its purpose is and why this or that rule is necessary. That is completely different from taking on the huge burden of educating the whole country, not just about what it is doing but about all kinds of very difficult and contentious political questions.
In her interesting speech, the noble Baroness said that they do that in Australia so why should we not do it here? It has always seemed to me that one of the worst arguments for extending the role of government in any respect is merely to say that because something
I would be more convinced of the case that has been put forward and more reassured that this is not going to be a distraction from the real purpose of the commission if we were to be told something about the scale of the task to be attempted. We are vaguely told that it is to educate the public. What does that mean? How much money is going to be spent? I know the Minister will be unable to answer that question. How many extra staff will be needed and what proportion of the commission's time is to be spent on education?
If we are to be persuaded that this measure is remotely appropriate, it would be sensible to have some idea of the scale on which this very ambitious task is to be attempted. Otherwise it makes no sense to take away money that might have been spent on the education budget. I would need a lot of persuading that money spent on educating people about the institutions of this country would not be better spent in schools. How much is to be taken away from the education budget if this new provision is competing with that budget?
The noble Baroness made an interesting point. She said that the teaching of civics had grown up only relatively recently in this country. One of its purposes might be to reach out to that part of the public that had not had the benefit of the increase in civics education in recent years. That is all right, but how is the commission to do it? By what method is it going to reach out to every household in the land? By what methods will it communicate?
In the absence of, I submit, very reasonable questions of that kind, the whole purpose seems ill-focused, ill-thought out and in conflict with what is a very difficult job. I believe that this is a terrible distraction for the commission. Notwithstanding the interesting remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, I believe that it is a duplication of what is happening elsewhere in the system. That is why we have an education budget and adult education courses. We all know that many questions relating to the validity of, or alternatives to, our electoral system are discussed endlessly in O-levels, A-levels and in politics courses in universities.
The noble Baroness wondered why there was so much, as she put it, venom attached to this Bill. The reasons why I believe there to be so much anxiety, rather than venom, in relation to this issue are those given by my noble friend Lord Cranborne; that is, a distrust that these matters will be wholly dispassionately and factually discussed. When my son was studying for his A-levels, inevitably he had many questions about alternative electoral systems. He once asked me what the arguments were in favour of the first-past-the-post, single majority system. To the best of my ability I attempted to explain the issue to him and dealt with the inevitable questions about fairness. At the end of our discussion, he said to me, "Well, I think I'll aim off what you said for the benefit of the examiners". I am sure that for many reasons he was
I agree with the noble Baroness that it is perfectly legitimate to argue that political education in this country should extend to an understanding of the institutions of the European Union. Of course that is right. One cannot separate the European Parliament from other institutions. I have no problem with the idea that pupils in schools or elsewhere in the educational system will be told about the institutions of the European Union, whatever reservations I may have about their effectiveness, their cost and their functioning.
However, as my noble friend Lord Cranborne said, one worries about how that educational task will be carried out. Will it be carried out factually? Will it be totally divorced from the massive propaganda effort that we already have in this country from the European Union via its office not far from this House where it spends huge amounts of money on so-called factual information? It spends money on such facts as (it is alleged) millions of jobs depend upon the European Union--it took the National Institute of Economic and Social Research to show that that was a totally bogus claim. It also put forward the very arguable claim that the European Union has preserved peace in Europe.
Therefore, I believe that it is doubtful that we shall receive purely factual information. We have not heard anything about the body's funding, the amount of money involved or where the money will come from. I should like to be assured by the Minister that it will not be simply a distributor of propaganda from the EU and its institutions.
Lastly, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, for clarifying and reassuring me about the word "pending". I should be grateful if the Minister would confirm that for my benefit.
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