Lord Roberts of Conwy (Conservative)
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment No. 107, standing in my name. The clause is one of several in this part of the Bill that do not apply to Wales. I referred to that in Committee, when we were discussing Clause 62, which relates to the new concept of academies. Regrettably, that clause does not apply to Wales either. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, told us why. He said that the National Assembly did not want the power to establish academies. I refer noble Lords to column 993 of Hansard for 23rd May. That is short-sighted of the Assembly, and it may live to regret it, particularly if there is substance in the speech given by the Secretary of State earlier this week and in her critique of the comprehensive system.
The clause enables the establishment of new secondary schools—community, foundation and voluntary schools and academies—in England only. My amendment would extend that power to Wales. I am surprised that the Assembly government have not sought the power for themselves. Although we may not need new schools in Wales at present, it is not inconceivable that we may need new schools—and schools of a different kind—in future. Legislation is not just for the present. It should have regard to possible future needs, and it should err on the enabling side. What if there were a major new town development or a major inward investment project, employing hundreds of people and requiring schools of a new and different kind? It may not be likely, in current circumstances, but it cannot be ruled out either. There have been such developments in the past, and it could happen again. It could also be that schools of a different kind from those that we have prove advantageous and that there is a popular demand for them. It would be odd if such a demand could be met in England but not in Wales.
I do not think for a moment that my amendment will be accepted. At least I have had the opportunity to castigate the Assembly government for their blinkered view of Welsh educational needs and their failure to take advantage of what is on offer in the Bill. I would never argue that provision in Wales should always be the same as in England, but I would always maintain that any decision to differ should be well founded and advantageous to Wales. I am far from convinced that that criterion is met by the deliberate opt-out from this clause and others, notably Clauses 62, 65 and 67.