Proceedings after Third Reading resumed.

Clause 41 [Role of admission forums]:

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

8:46 pm
Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking

Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative)

moved Amendment No. 12:

After Clause 45, insert the following new clause-

"ADMISSION ARRANGEMENTS FOR ADDITIONAL SCHOOLS WITH RELIGIOUS CHARACTER

After section 90 of SSFA 1998 insert-

"90A ADMISSION ARRANGEMENTS FOR ADDITIONAL SCHOOLS WITH RELIGIOUS CHARACTER

(1) This section applies where an additional foundation or voluntary school with a religious character is to be established.

(2) The local education authority for the area in which the school is to be established may, if they so desire, specify that up to 25 per cent of places at the school shall be allocated to pupils who do not follow the religion or religious denomination of the school.

(3) Where the local education authority specify a number of places under subsection (2), the admission authority for the school must make admission arrangements accordingly.

(4) Where the local education authority decide not to specify a number of places under subsection (2), the consent of the Secretary of State for that decision is required if subsection (5) applies.

(5) This subsection applies if it appears to the Secretary of State that there would be significant opposition from residents of the area of the local education authority to the additional school only admitting pupils who follow the religion or religious denomination of the school.

(6) For the purposes of this section, a school is "additional" if it does not replace a school which has been or is to be discontinued.

(7) References in this section to a school with a religious character shall be construed in accordance with section 69(3).""

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking

Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative)

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 12—at last. For those of us interested in education it has been a long day's journey into night. This amendment differs from the amendment tabled last week by myself, the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, and the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Taverne, which your Lordships will recall was much more prescriptive. It gave the Secretary of State the power to insist on a25 per cent quota. This amendment does not do that.

Perhaps I may draw the House's attention particularly to subsection (2), which states that, when a new school is set up,

"The local education authority for the area in which the school is to be established may, if they so desire, specify that up to"—

not necessarily the full amount—

"25 per cent of places at the school shall be allocated to pupils who do not follow the religion or religious denomination of the school".

That is the nub of the amendment. It goes on to state that, where the local authority does not specify a certain percentage because it is prepared to grant a totally exclusive faith school, the Secretary of State can call that in if there is significant opposition from residents. That is the amendment we are about to discuss.

I had better turn off my mobile phone—though you never know, it may be God. I apologise to noble Lords for that little intermission.

The point I want to make is that the amendment we have tabled today was the Government's policy just a week ago. It was the policy enunciated at the Dispatch Box by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on17 October when he said that, on the undertaking that I withdraw my amendment, the Government intended to,

"bring forward an amendment on Third Reading along the following lines. We do not believe it right for there to be a mandatory national 25 per cent requirement...However, we wish to give local authorities, in their role as guardians of community cohesion"—

that is where the term came from in these debates, and it is absolutely right—

"a power to require that new faith schools have admissions policies which include the offer of at least 25 per cent of places on the basis of local preference, not faith preference alone".

That was the policy that the Government intended to follow. The Minister also said:

"We also wish to confer a reserve power on the Secretary of State—a power, not a duty—to act in this matter where a local authority's decisions give rise to a sufficient body of local objections".—[Hansard, 17/10/06; col. 738.]

The Minister has already said in reply to an earlier amendment that that was conditional upon his securing a degree of consensus. He said that he was very sorry but that he could not secure a degree of consensus. I will come back to that later, if I may.

So, what I have tabled is in effect what the Government's policy was seven days ago. Indeed, so enthusiastic was the Secretary of State for this policy that he actually leaked no less than a Cabinet document to the Sunday Times of the day before last Monday revealing that this was the Government's policy. He made a speech on that Monday saying that faith schools must cross ethnic and faith barriers. As late as Wednesday of last week, one of my friends went to see him and he confirmed that on the following day the Government would table those two amendments. However, on Thursday night everything changed. Unfortunately, I was on the way to Oxford in a coach and it was very difficult to find out what was happening. But the Government completely changed tack. They abandoned their principle and their policy. One might ask why there was such a huge U-turn, because it was certainly the fastest U-turn in political history. I think Churchill said that the best diet in the world is your own words, but when Churchill said that, he thought that there would be a decent interval between the utterance and digestion. In this case there was not; it was a mere matter of seven days.

The reason why the policy was withdrawn is very clear. There was a very effective Catholic campaign—brilliantly effective—headed by the Archbishop of Birmingham, who wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph saying that this was the thin end of the wedge—those were his very words. Of course, it was not the thin end of the wedge, because the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who is gifted in these matters, said very clearly that,

"there is no question of requiring this admission arrangement in respect of existing faith schools where it does not already apply".—[Hansard, 17/10/06; col. 739.]

The Government made very clear when they said they were going to table these amendments that in no way were they to apply to existing faith schools, but the view of the Catholic Church, led by the Archbishop of Birmingham—of whom I am an admirer, because he has managed to secure a complete surrender by the Government without conceding an inch—is exactly the same as it was seven days ago. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is nodding. I hope that the Minister has noted that the noble Lord nodded when I said that. He is the closest that we get in this House to a Catholic authority.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, in an interview last Friday, said, "If we are going to have any new Catholic schools—though we have no such proposals because we cannot afford any new schools at the moment—but if we have any new Catholic schools, we will determine what the demand is locally for such schools". If they decide that there are 200 pupils in Bury St Edmunds who want to have Catholic schools, they will then put forward a proposal for a Catholic school for 200 pupils in Bury St Edmunds. Then he said, "When we fill that lot, if there is any spare, we will add a few more"—that is their present policy. So I think that the Archbishop of Birmingham—and I hope that the noble Lord will take this back to him—is a brilliant negotiator. He has got the Government to surrender without yielding an inch. I think that the Government ought to use him in Iraq. I think that he would do a marvellous job there. Congratulations to him.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I would just like to say to him that although I too am a great admirer of the Archbishop of Birmingham and have known him for probably30 years, I have not actually spoken to him once about this Bill during its proceedings. He is more than capable of reading Hansard and seeing what the noble Lord has said.

What I was agreeing with the noble Lord about is that the position has not changed since last week as far as the opposition of most Catholics is concerned. I do not speak for the Catholic Church—I speak for myself, like the noble Lord speaks for himself. Most Catholics in this country feel very strongly about their schools and would resist any attempt to change the 1944 Education Act, whether it is by central control, in the way that the noble Lord proposed seven days ago, or now, in his change of heart seven days later, by making it a local imposition.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking

Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative)

My Lords, with great respect, my amendment seven days ago applied only to new faith schools and not existing faith schools. In the past 10 years the Catholic Church has opened only two new faith schools—two primary schools, one in Plymouth and one in Milton Keynes—and it has no proposals to start any more Catholic schools. The amendment affected only new faith schools, not existing schools. It would not have affected existing schools.

I think the Catholic Church should be congratulated because it adopted the technique of LBJLyndon Baines Johnson. He had a wonderful technique. He said that in any dispute you must put your opponent at a disadvantage immediately. The way you do that is you must get him to deny that he has had carnal knowledge of a pig. Because as soon as he has to deny that, everyone begins to believe, "Well, could he have had carnal knowledge of a pig? My God!". So the immediate reaction would be, "Could it be extended to all faith schools?", and LBJ would be quite proud of the Archbishop of Birmingham.

It is rather ironic that the main beneficiaries of the Catholic Church's victory are not the Catholic schools but the Muslim schools, which have rather sensibly remained very quiet and let the Catholics fight their cause. I do not think that that is quite what the Pope had in mind.

I also had to debate with the Catholics when I was Secretary of State. I did not deal just with an archbishop—I was summoned to see Cardinal Hume on my proposals to establish grant-maintained schools. When I met him in his palace, he had on his great red robe and had several nuns around him. He was very impressive indeed and rather saintly. It is very difficult to debate with a saint. He said, "I have a letter from the Pope which opposes grant-maintained schools". I said, "Really? Why does the Pope oppose grant-maintained schools?". He said, "It is an absolute principle of the Catholic Church that nothing should come between the bishop and his flock, particularly an electoral process. So I would ask you, please, to withdraw Catholic schools from the grant-maintained provisions of the Bill".

As I said, it was very difficult to argue with this saintly man, but I said, "I am very sorry, but this goes back to the Reformation. This is your region and my region. If we are going to have national legislation on grant-maintained schools I cannot possibly exempt the Catholic Church". I was able to resist the Catholic Church on that occasion and I think that the Government could have done so on this occasion, because they made it quite clear that their proposals would not damage existing Catholic schools. But they decided not to do so.

What is the central issue behind my amendment? It is not freedom of worship—that is accepted in our country. It is not respect for the faith—all faiths are respected in our country. It is not about what is taught by each religion in the schools—that is a matter for each religion to decide itself. What is at stake is the shape of our society in the next 10 or 20 years.

Interestingly, the debates we have had previously and today are the first serious debates in which we as legislators have been able to debate the Butler Act since 1944. There has been no serious debate on the Butler Act. To some, the Butler Act was a religious settlement in which substantial money was provided to the Catholic and the Protestant denominations in order to maintain their schools. However, it had not envisaged at all the situation which now exists in our country—the multi-faith society into which we have grown and the nature of those faiths which have now emerged in our society. As a result of that Act, and of the debates that we have had, everyone believes that there should be integration in our society. That is what everyone agrees and it is what report after report has said.

The Cantle report on the race riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford in 2001 is the critical report, and it was absolutely clear in what it said. Its first recommendation was that schools in the future should have 25 per cent from other races and other religions. It is still the most important report on this issue, reporting as it does upon ethnic, racial and religious strife in our cities just four years ago. Quite apart from that, all opinion polls show that parents would like, on the whole, to have integrated schools.

When the Government give academies money and support academies, they insist upon integration. They are about to finance an academy in Oldham itself. It will be an integrated academy with children from all faiths attending. The rabbis, priests and imams and other people come in after hours to talk to the schools. So when the Government are in the driving seat and provide the money directly, they are totally committed to integration. I believe that the Minister personally is committed to integration though I know he will have to speak to another brief tonight. We will probably not know his real feelings until his memoirs are published. I hope that I live long enough to read them. The Government are committed to integration but they run away from the pressure of the Catholic Church. That is what has happened.

I remember when the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock,—who is not in his place tonight—was the shadow Education Secretary way back in 1980-81. I remember him going to the Muslim communities and saying, "Don't ask for separate Muslim schools; it will not do you any good. Go to ordinary schools". The whole lesson of immigrant communities in our country is that they prosper when they mix and merge and mingle. The Jewish community shows that time and time again. That was the strong message put out by the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, and it was in fact the policy until 1997 when the Government agreed to restart faith schools. The consequences of that were not appreciated at the time.

People ask whether my proposal is practical. I have had to answer on television and radio a lot of questions such as whether I would send one of my children—I am a bit past that now—or anyone in my family to a Muslim school to form part of the 25 per cent. And this is principally about Muslim schools, because there are 120 such schools waiting in the wings, with probably 50 or 60 of them ready for it. I am not against that. Money to Muslim schools must be a good thing because the standard of education will be improved. But if you take the Queen's shilling, it is entirely appropriate for the Queen to determine the conditions on which that shilling is taken. We can say to the Muslim schools that their admissions criteria should be closer to the admissions criteria of the Church of England, but the Church of England has rightly and with great boldness said that it will give priority to non-Anglicans in 25 per cent of places in new Anglican schools. That was a bold and correct measure and reflects very much the practice of what happens in Anglican schools. That is the policy. I myself went to an Anglican primary school which was totally mixed and where my closest friend was a Jewish boy. If the Muslim schools adopt something as relaxed as that as an admissions criterion then other people will come to them.

Secondly, in answer to the question of whether anyone else will go to those schools, Bradford council has decided that no school should be dominated by a particular ethnic race. It has moved the catchment areas around so that they are composed of mixed-communities. That can be done, and is being done in Oldham at the moment. There can be mixed community schools.

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, is not in the House tonight but I am sure that he must have read my speech. I do not believe that it is in the interest of the Muslim communities themselves to rush into establishing a great number of Muslim schools. If a large number of single-faith schools emerge in an area, say four primaries and three secondaries—there are 100 Muslim schools waiting, but there are also 100 evangelical Christian schools which in many respects are just as difficult—then the community will be closed. You will have a community that is closed upon itself. What will happen in that area? They will first ask for a separate inspection—and that has already been asked for. Secondly, they will ask for modifications to the curriculum. The most beguiling request of all is, "Can't we have world history rather than British history?". Then, they will also ask in the Muslim schools for an observance of family Sharia law.

These communities tend to have two characteristics—they are disadvantaged and poor. What we are really talking about is what is going to be the shape of our society in our towns and cities in the next 20 or 30 years. If the purpose is to create a total Muslim or Christian personality, then you will have isolated communities. The report into Oldham observed parallel and separate development. That is why this debate is important. I know that it is late at night and a difficult time to take decisions, but this is the first time that either House has had to discuss this matter and what will happen.

If the Government win tonight—which I suppose is quite likely—and open the door to more faith schools, the people who start those schools will have to exercise considerable leadership to ensure that they do not create closed communities. We talked of the inspectorate under an earlier amendment, which I do not think is a substitute for this one—it cannot bear the weight it wants to carry. One of the things the inspectorate will have to do is find and draw the fine line between religious teaching and indoctrination, which is very difficult.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute of the Study of Islam and Christianity, is not in favour of exclusive Muslim schools. He said of the Muslim faith:

"It is the only one which teaches its followers to gain political power and then impose a law which governs every aspect of life, discriminating against women and non-believers alike. And this is ultimately why naïve multiculturalism leads not to a mosaic of cultures living in harmony, but one threatened by Islamic extremism".

The overwhelming feeling of people in this House, whether they support me tonight or not, is to have some form of integrated education in our country. I would like to see children of different faiths playing together in the playground, sitting beside one another in maths and physics lessons, meeting over lunch, walking down the corridor together, taking the same bus home and then visiting each other's family. That is what I did—I visited a Jewish family back in Southport during the war. I would never have known what Judaism was about if I had not done that. If you have separate faith schools, and more separate faith schools, you will not have that. The House has to decide whether we want to inflict parallel and separate developments upon our inner cities or whether we want proper integration. The only way to have proper integration is to adopt these voluntary proposals. I beg to move.

9:00 pm
Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen

Baroness Massey of Darwen (Labour)

My Lords, I support the amendment, to which I have put my name. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, and I have come to this from different standpoints. The noble Lord is an Anglican; I am a committed humanist, so there is no chance that God will phone me on my mobile phone.

The amendment may not be the perfect solution, but it would help integration and send a strong signal to schools. I am also disappointed and frustrated at the Government's failure to bring back a similar amendment as originally proposed, except it has meant that we have had a good debate.

Recent surveys have shown that 64 per cent of the public oppose government funding for faith schools, fearing their impact on social cohesion—an expression heard many times tonight. I would prefer to have no expansion of faith schools, but the amendment tries to balance any expansion with the imperative to counteract the exclusivity and foster integration between faiths.

It is understandable that, with faith schools already funded through the public purse, others will want public money for their schools. But faith should surely not be allowed to override the needs of children for an education which opens windows to a wider world. Culture and beliefs should, in my view, be transmitted mainly at home, in the church, mosque or temple. The report on Bradford carried out by the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, pointed out that young people realise that being taught in what he called religious ghettos is not a good preparation for life in a multicultural society.

One Muslim school in north-west London states that the aim of the school is,

"to produce total Muslim personalities through the training of children's spirits, intellect, feelings and bodily senses".

We know where such exclusivity leads. We know what happened in Northern Ireland, as pointed out so powerfully on Report by my noble friend Lady Blood.

I have been and am committed to sound, integrated education as a teacher, parent and school governor. My own children all went to local schools where they made friends across the religious and racial spectrum. I have also been privileged, through schools, to meet parents and teachers across the religious spectrum. The school where I am governor celebrates a multi-faith ethos most successfully. If a school has mixed faiths, then parents will be of mixed faiths and will create communities of mixed faiths. Separation will not do this, nor I fear in some cases will there be adequate emphasis on scientific fact or personal, social and health education. How will the inspectorate for separate faith schools operate alongside Ofsted?

I remember teaching personal, social and health education in a secondary school where a father prevented his daughter from attending the lessons on religious grounds, in case sex was mentioned. This girl was later found to be peddling overt pornographic material in the playground. At least the school could deal with this as it had a policy and a programme, and I am glad to say that the father became convinced that not discussing things was harmful. How many more children might be damaged by schools not dealing adequately with their broad educational needs?

I do not believe that faith schools will necessarily and voluntarily admit a percentage of children of other faiths or of no faith, though I know that some do. I had a graphic experience of this over the Recess. A Muslim boy I know wanted to apply to a well known Roman Catholic school in London. He lived nearer to the school than many who attend it. The case was a needy one, which I thought might attract some sympathy from the school. I was told that it only admitted children from Roman Catholic families and that the waiting list was also open only to Roman Catholic families. Some will say that that is fair enough, but I resent having to pay taxes to fund segregation, which is essentially what this is.

The Secretary of State for Education affirmed, as did my noble friend earlier, that consultation on this issue with various faiths has taken place. Were all beliefs consulted—such as humanists and secularists? Were teacher organisations, governors and parents consulted? The Secretary of State says we should we seek voluntary agreements rather than use a "blunt instrument"—his words—to achieve the aims of integration. Yet Governments have used many a blunt instrument to change laws on matters of principle and practice. It seems that here, expediency is being peddled as sound educational philosophy.

There is some value in other amendments before us today about inspections and reviews. I have great sympathy with them, but I want to see more rigour attached to ensuring that schools represent a wide spectrum of belief and understandings now. As I said earlier, a strong signal is needed. The letter to noble Lords from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, myself, and the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Taverne, says:

"We do not want to see our society separated, divided, jealous and envious. We want a society that is cohesive, harmonious, generous and tolerant.".

I fear that unless we are firm about our good intentions, we will see society splinter even further and deny children the opportunity to enjoy all that living in multi-racial Britain offers.

Photo of Lord Taverne

Lord Taverne (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I have also put my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking. I wish to express my dismay at the Government's surrender to the Catholic lobbies. I am a great admirer of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and never more so than during the discussion on a previous amendment when he showed enormous chutzpah. There he was, sounding the bugles of advance to cover his retreat.

It strikes me how much this place, the House of Lords, is out of touch with what the people as a whole think. Those who support faith schools are undoubtedly over-represented in this House. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has said, something like two-thirds of the population do not want government money spent on faith schools. I feel rather uncomfortable in finding myself, for once, in tune with the majority.

I suspect the reason that many people do not want this is because they do not like the idea that children should be treated as Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic children. If you think about it, it is as wrong as if you treat them as Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour children. Most people do not want that because they feel they want children, as they become more mature, to decide for themselves what and what not to believe in.

It is perfectly true that religion is overwhelmingly determined by an accident of birth: who your parents are and where you are born. That is not true of all—there are converts—but of most. I suspect that even as reasonable a group as the Bishops in this House, if they had been born in a Muslim country, would now be imams rather than bishops. As children learn to think critically and become more mature, they often abandon the religion of their parents. That is one of the reasons why there is a decline in church attendances—not in the case of the Muslim community, but then if one turns out to be a Muslim apostate there are certain rather severe penalties.

The fact is that faith schools seek to ensure that the children they teach stay within the fold. I agree with the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in the last debate on this subject. I support this amendment because it seems to be the only way to limit the role of indoctrination and to leave children as free as possible to make their own decisions about what to believe.

9:15 pm
Photo of Lord Skidelsky

Lord Skidelsky (Crossbench)

My Lords, I am also a signatory to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. I am always amazed how much theological energy there is still left, especially when we debate education. I wonder whether the Minister may sometimes feel he is back in the age of Gladstone, about whom he knows a great deal. All the issues we are discussing today would have been completely familiar to the Grand Old Man, and he would have attempted to discourse on them at immense length, though much more eruditely than any of us can probably manage—except perhaps the Bishops' Bench.

The basic historical situation is perfectly clear. The Roman Catholics, having been driven into a defensive posture by non-conformist attack, have long since joined forces with the Church of England in dogmatic defence of the 1902 Education Act, as amended in 1944, which, in Lloyd George's words, "put Rome on the rates". This is exactly the same debate as we were having in 1902, only now it is not Rome but Mecca.

I dare say that the best solution would have been that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that most rational of men: that all state education, new and old, should be severely secular, with religious education left to churches, Sunday schools, mosques and other private foundations. That was essentially the solution of the Church/state conflict in France, but they were too logical for us. That is not the position we are faced with here; we have run a dual system in which church and voluntary schools have received state money, have been supported by the taxpayer and have had to give very little in return over the 100 years or more that the system has existed. I know that they want to continue that, as they had a good deal from the state.

The 1944 Act established the principle, of which we should be aware in considering the amendment, that voluntary schools were supposed to give something in return for state support. They could opt to be controlled and obtain 100 per cent grant, or aided and get 50 per cent grant, or have special agreements and a 75 per cent grant. Each had a graduated obligation attached to it—the grant was in inverse ratio to the freedom to provide denominational instruction. In other words, the less they got, the freer they were to be religious missionaries. The principle is clear; if the state gives money to schools, it has a right to a say in school policy and aims.

What aims of educational policy do the Government want to see served by allowing new schools to be set up? That goes back to a debate that we have been having for the past 10 to 15 years, the main point of which is that such schools are part of the Government's choice agenda. Some of us have urged for a long time the idea that parents should be given a wider choice than they now have regarding to which schools they send their children.

The Government could have pursued that by allowing only secular promoters to set up state schools. In fact, as I understood it, the main clamour for new state-supported schools came from Muslim communities. So the Government decided, as part of their choice agenda, to put Mecca on the rates, just as Rome was put on the rates in 1902.

The Church of England and Roman Catholics do not want to disturb the existing concordat. They are relaxed that Muslim schools can be fitted into it without any major change. But we need something more robust, as I suggested in my previous intervention. First, we are dealing with large, newly arrived communities, not old, established ones. That presents us with problems of a completely different order from those that gave rise to the church/state debates of the previous century. Nebulous words, or even instructions, such as "promoting social cohesion" are inadequate to that situation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, pointed out.

Secondly, the position is more complicated because Islam has more implications for the curriculum than Christian denominations. The problem is the requirement stated in a standard text that Islamic education should in all respects conform to Koranic guidance. That is particularly relevant to such areas of the curriculum as physical education, swimming, art, music, dance and sex education. Do we want government money to be invested in such deeply separated curricula? We should not want that and we should impose some requirement. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, is one way of ensuring that Mecca will not be put on the rates without substantial modifications.

Requiring Muslim schools to take 25 per cent non-Muslim pupils will be a continuous check on any tendency to extreme separation, which would otherwise become unchecked. There are other ways of achieving greater integration of educational practices, but until the Government come up with something more robust, I urge the House to support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

My Lords, I oppose the amendment. I do not want to rehearse all the arguments that I put to your Lordships on Report—I know that we all want to make progress.

I enjoyed the knock-about to which the noble Lord, Lord Baker, treated us earlier, but I think that he sometimes underestimates the passion that ordinary Catholics feel about this issue. I do not refer to the Catholic Church but to people who attend Catholic churches, who have been to Catholic schools and whose children attend Catholic schools.

The noble Lord—perhaps inadvertently, because he said where his real target was—has inflamed the passions of people in nearly 2,000 Catholic schools all over the country because his amendment has been interpreted by some as the beginning of the end of their control over their admissions policies. Many noble Lords and Members of another place have also received letters from those people. The position was exacerbated—a point that he did not touch on—when the Secretary of State said that this measure could be applied later to all church schools. That obviously fills people with a deep sense of misgiving and places at risk the gains that many people have made.

Lessons can be learnt from the experience of immigrant families who came to this country and integrated and married in the way that I described on Report. My mother was from the west of Ireland and came to the East End, where she married my father at the end of the war. He was a Desert Rat and, when he was demobbed, they married. In common with many people, I was brought up in the East End in a Catholic/Jewish neighbourhood and had the same kind of friendships as the noble Lord, despite the fact that I went to Catholic schools. I was privileged to go on to the Jesuit grammar school, having passed the scholarship at the age of 11. That represented yet more social division, as the noble Lord might see it, but, in fact, it provided me with an opportunity, and I am grateful to those who gave me those chances at that time. I am also very conscious of the way in which money had to be raised, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood and parish by parish, to pay for the construction of those schools.

My noble friend Lord Skidelsky knows better than I do that the debate did not begin at the start of the 20th century. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, is a great admirer of GK Chesterton and is familiar with the rallies that he and Hilaire Belloc led in 1906 to fight for Catholic education in this country. They came to the issue having been informed by what had happened in the 19th century. After all, it was only in 1829 that Jews and Catholics were emancipated and the iniquitous Test Acts were removed. During the 19th century, universities—Oxbridge, for example—denied places to Catholics merely because they were Catholics. Therefore, significant gains have been made.

If we want to integrate the Muslim community in this country, it will not happen by imposing 25 per cent quotas. Does anyone believe that, in the present climate, people will be queuing up to send their children to Muslim schools to take up that 25 per cent of places? It would be unrealistic to believe that. We will see change through patience and generosity and by working with the Muslim community in this country. I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, talk this evening about the responsibility that Muslims feel they have to work towards social inclusion, social responsibility and social cohesion. I am sure that that represents the best way forward.

It has been suggested in this debate and previously that somehow the church schools are not inclusive. However, the fact is that about 16 per cent of our population who qualify as ethnic minorities are in state schools. In Catholic schools, that figure is 18 per cent. Thirty per cent of pupils in Catholic schools are not Catholic. It is not as a result of legislation that those schools have come to admit people who are not Catholic; they have done so voluntarily.

I was struck by a letter that many of your Lordships will have received today from Henry Grunwald QC, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He said:

"You will understand, therefore, why our community is particularly shocked at the suggestion that the current model of Jewish faith schools would no longer have an assured future. You will also understand the concern that a discretion devolved to local authorities provides very little comfort, when there can be no certainty as to how that discretion would be exercised, either now or in the future. Finally, you should be aware of the fear, notwithstanding any current assurances, that these provisions might eventually extend to existing faith schools".

That is certainly the view of many Catholics as well as Jews, and we should take such fears into account as we consider these questions.

I think back to my own experience as a constituency Member of Parliament in Liverpool. It was suggested earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that Jewish schools are in some way non-inclusive. The fact is that, because there was a surfeit of places in the local Jewish school that served my own constituency—the King David High School—it had more non-Jewish than Jewish children. This matter is not as straightforward as noble Lords would have us believe.

I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said on Report. She said:

"I am afraid I do not believe that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, would achieve very much ... I do not think that the noble Lord's amendment is practicable and workable".—[Hansard, 17/10/06; col. 729.]

I agree with that assessment. Perhaps it is also the reason why the Opposition Front Bench, the Government and noble Lords from many parts of your Lordships' House have come to the same conclusion. It is also notable that opposition to the introduction of quotas has united the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The political reality is that if this amendment were passed this evening, it would undoubtedly be resisted in another place.

Last week, when asked whether he supported this amendment, David Cameron categorically said that he opposed the quotas proposed in the noble Lord's amendment because it smacked of social engineering. He said that he had initially been attracted to the localist approach canvassed by the Secretary of State, until he had heard Mr Johnson suggest that the principle could in future be applied to all church schools. Mr Cameron concluded that the best and most effective way forward was to impose a duty to work for social cohesion, which your Lordships debated and approved earlier today.

9:30 pm
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Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Baker, explained this point and mildly admonished me earlier for raising it. He has admitted that this is not the amendment which he tabled a week ago, which proposed a centrally imposed quota. The amendment now passes that power to local authorities. If the amendment is successful, they will be able to decide whether to impose a quota of up to25 per cent. That is a fair interpretation of the position.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

My Lords, what will that lead to? It will lead to debate taking place in every local authority up and down the land. What will that lead to in turn? It will lead to a patchwork quilt. I give noble Lords an example—it is not hypothetical. During the 1980s, many noble Lords will have followed events in Liverpool. If an ideologically motivated city council takes it into its head to oppose all state schools, it would be able, under the amendment which has been crafted this evening, to deny places in faith schools. It would be able to impose a new Test Act. Its local thought police would decide whether someone had faith. I am not exaggerating the situation: that is precisely what would happen. How will they be able to prove it one way or another? If the noble Lord's amendment were to be successful and become law, we could easily find ourselves in a situation where people lied to admissions authorities to get their children into a school. How would we be able to prove that they told the truth? This amendment opens the way to that situation.

It would achieve one other undesirable thing in the localist setting: if I wanted my children to go to a faith school which took a more benign approach, and could afford to send them there, I would be free to move to a neighbouring authority—in this hypothetical example, to a borough such as Wirral or Sefton. Is that in the interests of social cohesion? Is it in the interests of the disadvantaged? Is it in anybody's interests? I hope that noble Lords will oppose the amendment.

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Baroness Carnegy of Lour (Conservative)

My Lords, the noble Lord made a great speech in defence of the Roman Catholic position, which I understand very well. Does he consider that the amendment which we agreed earlier will solve the problem as regards Muslim schools?

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Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a good point. She will know that I believe in integration. I am a patron of the Belfast trust which worked for integrated education in Northern Ireland. I am married to an Anglican, with eight ordained Anglican clergy on my wife's side of the family. I work with Muslims, Jews and many others to bring about some sense of social cohesion in places such as Liverpool. I am very confident that the amendment which we passed earlier without dissent is the way to achieve the objective that she and I want.

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Lord Waddington (Conservative)

My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will not press his amendment, because what he has done in the past week or two has borne fruit. I hope he will take the view that the amendment which was carried a short time ago is a great achievement and that he should not press the matter further. If he does so, I certainly shall not vote for his amendment. I shall not vote against him, but only for old time's sake and not because I have any sympathy for the amendment.

I fear he has no answer to the fundamental argument against what he proposes. I am glad that the Government have climbed down from an elevated position that they should never have scaled. If new Catholic schools were required to take a given percentage of children of non-Catholic parents, I cannot believe that harmony would reign where harmony does not prevail now. In many of our inner cities, the problem is not that there are schools where all the children are of one faith, but, a more serious one, that there are schools where nearly all the children are of one race. In some neighbourhoods, schools have become almost entirely occupied by people of one race.

This amendment would not cure a social ill; it would create a great injustice. If new schools were required to take a given percentage of children of, say, non-Catholic parents, that would create a great feeling of injustice among those Catholic parents whose children were denied places which were given to the children of non-Catholic parents. We all know that much of the anxiety in the House tonight is centred on the future of Muslim schools and what that will do for our society. I can see the argument for a complete end to state funding of new faith schools, but I can see no argument for the state continuing to fund faith schools and then agonising over how to mitigate the consequences of what it has done. If there is a problem, particularly in relation to Muslim schools, it is being addressed in a somewhat roundabout way.

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The Bishop of Peterborough (Bishop)

My Lords, I shall endeavour to be brief and I shall certainly not emulate Gladstone. I agree with a number of speakers that we are seeking integration. I am sorry but I do not believe that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, will achieve that and I do not think it is the right way to achieve it. I disagree with the noble Lord in thinking that it will be simple to implement as I think there will be complications in implementing it; and, in the light of the amendment which we have already debated and accepted, I believe that there are other ways of addressing these issues.

When we last debated this matter, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth was in his place and he is sorry not to be here today. I would like to correct a comment that was made earlier. In his letter to the Secretary of State, the right reverend Prelate said that,

"all new Church of England schools should have at least 25 per cent of places available to children with no requirement that they be of practising Christian families. The places would not be left empty if they were not filled by such children, so this would technically not be a 'quota' but a 'proportion'".

The noble Lord, Lord Baker, spoke of a priority, which gave the wrong impression of that statement.

I do not want to repeat all the comments made from these Benches less than two weeks ago. We have made a statement and I am delighted that the Archbishop of Birmingham has clarified that at least 30 per cent of children in Roman Catholic schools are currently from non-Catholic families. I think that is an advance.

The noble Lord, Lord Baker, rightly said that this is about the shape of our society. In addition, I believe that the heart of the matter is whether we in this Parliament, those who form public opinion and the people of Britain have enough confidence in our values and way of life, founded as it is on Christian beliefs and values—themselves generous and inclusive—to allow those of different beliefs and ways of life to flourish within our society on their terms.

I believe that we need to trust the minority faith communities and not impose legal limitations on them before allowing their schools into the maintained system of education. So I believe thatthe amendment could foster a lack of trust, which in the end would be destructive to the very integration we are seeking to achieve. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will reject the amendment. Although I understand the reasons why the noble Lord, Lord Baker, has proposed it, it will not achieve the objective we seek.

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Lord Brennan (Labour)

My Lords, at Third Reading the House must exercise legislative discipline and I propose to apply it to the amendment. It is fundamentally flawed. The amendment would give local authorities the power to impose quotas and give the Secretary of State the reserve power to ensure that exclusive schools do not come into existence. In neither case is there an appeal. These are strong powers to give to local authorities and to the Secretary of State. Our legislative discipline requires us to consider in what way that power is expressed. What circumstances circumscribe its exercise? I invite your Lordships to note that in subsection (2) the power for local authorities is a power whereby they may, "if they so desire", impose a quota. That is not a clear expression of the extent of irrational exercise of a power. There is no cross-reference anywhere to the circumstances to be taken into account if it is to be exercised. It is doomed to failure. It will never survive a judicial review application. It is that discipline that I am inviting the House to note on this occasion.

In addition, there are no circumstances to be applied to its exercise. Clause 33(6), as the Minister pointed out, refers to community cohesion, but for foundation schools. Amendment No. 7 refers to governing authorities and Amendment No. 19 to the Ofsted inspectorate. Not in Clause 1, Clause 2 or anywhere else do we find a local authority being required to take into consideration certain circumstances before deciding what it desires. That is unacceptable.

I was surprised when I read the amendment, and I may prove to be wrong, as may the librarians, but tonight they inquired on my behalf. In 58 years of parliamentary experience, only two Acts and nine sets of regulations have used the phrase, "if they so desire" and then only to give people a choice to make a representation, to participate or not; never to lay the foundation for the exercise of national or local power. If the amendment in this form is the result of inadvertence, so be it. If it is the alternative, so be it. In either event it is simply not acceptable. Would any one of your Lordships accept a power by national or local authorities in any other context simply dictated by the phrase, "if they so desire"? Of course not. The amendment fails, I regret to say, despite the wit and style with which it was introduced, on basic legislative principle. This is not a phrase that accommodates our democratic approach.

Secondly, if you propose to change decades of educational practice ingrained in our society, you need clarity. Was it not in the United States, on the only occasion that I can think of, with quotas in education during the civil rights era, that the passage of white pupils to black schools and vice versa led to division and outrage—educational and social consequences that no one had ever envisaged? Those who propose a system in which that might be required need to explain to us how it will work and how those problems will be avoided. The amendment does not do that. Neither in its content nor in its intent does it meet the democratic and legislative principles of the House.

9:45 pm
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Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I agree with what has just been forensically said by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, about the defects in the amendment, but I should like, if I may, to make a series of different, short points. First, any Jew, like me, from my generation would have a natural aversion to quotas when it comes to access to schools. Those of my generation will remember how most public schools in London, for example, had very small Jewish quotas. The school that I went to, the City of London School, was, when I went there, the only one that had no Jewish quota, so one-third of the school was Jewish. The idea of quotas is something that I think both secular and religious Jews dislike, partly for that reason.

Secondly, most sensible people would say that having apartheid or religiously segregated schools creates social evils—witness Northern Ireland or, I would say, Birkenhead, Liverpool or Scotland, where there are obvious examples of the social problems that segregated education creates.

Thirdly, it is important to explain to the House and to the right reverend Prelate that this is not an area where there is not already robust law in place to catch state-maintained schools as public authorities if they discriminate on racial or religious grounds in access to places in those schools.

I give just two examples. One is the Race Relations Act, which would prevent any school, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise—indeed, even private schools—from practising direct or indirect racial discrimination in access. The more telling example, because it is more pervasive, is the Human Rights Act. I should be interested to know whether the Minister agrees with what I am about to say or can take advice on it.

The European Convention on Human Rights, in Article 2 of the first protocol, guarantees the right to education. Article 14 of the convention has to be read with it and states that in respect of the enjoymentof the right to education, there must be no discrimination. "No discrimination" will include discrimination on religious grounds.

I was counsel in a case on behalf of the Government of Mauritius, whose written constitution is modelled on the European Convention on Human Rights, which came before the Privy Council two years ago. An appeal was brought by the Bishop of Port Louis on behalf of the managers of 12 Catholic secondary schools in Mauritius. What had happened in that case is instructive. The Catholic Church in Mauritius maintained a system of private education that was excellent in the secondary area. In order to persuade the churches to bring their schools within the state sector, the Government made a deal whereby the Catholic schools could maintain a 50 per cent quota for Catholics; the other 50 per cent being admitted on merit. So there was a clear 50:50 quota.

The question that a Hindu father of an 11 year-old girl raised in the case was whether it was unconstitutional discrimination to refuse to admit his daughter in the 50 per cent reserved for Catholics in that area. A strong and unanimous judicial committee with the Privy Council, led by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, the senior Law Lord, held that that difference of treatment was discriminatoryunless it could be objectively justified, looking atall the circumstances, including the principle of proportionality.

In my view, that case, read with the case law on the European Human Rights Convention, shows the following: either of these categories of schools, these additional schools, is wholly funded out of public funds. They are therefore public authorities within the meaning of the Human Rights Act. They therefore have a duty to comply with the convention rights and with the right not to discriminate unfairly and unjustifiably in allocating pupils to those schools. Therefore, whether it be a Muslim school, a Jewish school, a Catholic school, or an Anglican school,any school which discriminates arbitrarily or ina disproportionate way in their admission arrangements will be vulnerable immediately to a direct challenge under Sections 6 and 7 of the Human Rights Act for breaching their obligations under the human rights convention because they are all public authorities.

This would not apply, of course, to schools that are privately funded, and nor should it. In the private sector, as the case I have just mentioned indicates, different considerations arise. But I just wish the House to understand that we already have a strong and robust Human Rights Act and Race Relations Act which govern in this field, and for that reason, as well as the technical points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, I am not in favour of this amendment. I do not like quotas, anyhow, and it is unnecessary. But I do think that those who operate schools of this kind ought to be pretty careful about the way that they make their admission arrangements. I would just add that under the Race Relations Act, local authorities are implicated in some areas, and so is the Secretary of State for Education, if they allow schools to discriminate indirectly or directly on grounds of race.

There is a lot of law in place. It will trump the legislation that the House is now considering because the Human Rights Act says that all legislation must be read and given effect in a way that is compatible with the convention rights, and the same applies to administrative discretion. I apologise for talking as the lawyer that I am, but I thought it might be quite useful if I gave the House some free legal advice on this area.

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Lord Winston (Labour)

My Lords, I rise regrettably to oppose the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. I do so remembering that we have at least one thing in common. Although I did not go to his primary school, we both shared a secondary "ancient" education.

Be that as it may, I feel that what he is recommending is a huge social experiment. It seems to me that before one considered this kind of legislation, one would need to do some very serious social science research to see exactly what the consequences could be. It could well be that rather than causing harmony, disharmony could occur as a result of this, particularly in areas where these schools are oversubscribed. In the current case of some Jewish schools, they are grossly oversubscribed in north-west London. If there were new schools being made, that would be a massive problem for those people.

We have heard a great deal about the taxpayer paying for a religious education, but often in the schools that I am aware of, the religious education is paid for separately. Certainly in most Jewish schools, it does not come within the state's remit. Religious education is paid for by the parents who raise those funds by alternative methods.

We have heard other irrelevant arguments. My noble friend Lady Massey talked about the situation in Northern Ireland. That is completely irrelevant. The divisiveness in Northern Ireland has nothing to do primarily with schooling. It comes from a totally different kind of society with the social tensions that has.

Equally, I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, that it is ridiculous to take France as an example. Does he seriously consider France to be a more cohesive society as regards religious discipline? On the contrary, there is probably more anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic feeling there than there has been in Britain in recent years. The model in other parts of Europe is no better.

Rather than taunt my noble friend Lord Adonis for a switch of direction, we should congratulate the Government on their flexibility. It is not just the Catholic community that has made representations to them; the Jewish community is wholeheartedly opposed to this kind of amendment because it fears for the consequences. Much of the Muslim community opposes it. As has been said, we must trust the Muslim community accordingly. The worst thing that could happen if we discontinued such state funding would be to force some religious education into the private sector, where it might not be so well controlled. That would be a grave error. We should contemplate that today before we go through the Lobby, if the noble Lord decides to call a Division.

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The Earl of Onslow (Conservative)

My Lords, it is self-evident from what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said that the Roman Catholic Church is acting in a selective and self-protecting way. It is perfectly understandable. My noble friend Lord Baker and others have created a real danger of Muslim schools undergoing the same ghettoisation—I am not sure whether that is the right word but I am afraid that it is what they want to do. It is not often realised, for instance, that in the Muslim world there is no conception like ours in the Christian world of:

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's".

Throughout Muslim history there has been tension with secular government, because in theory the Prophet did not allow it. Everything had to be governed under Sharia or religious law. Christianity, luckily for itself, had the ability to separate the two.

The Church of England has been fundamental to the development of the ethos of the United Kingdom. As I said to a bishop earlier, I am not even sure that the Church of England always believes in God. He quite charmingly proved my point by saying, "I think we do". The Church of England's very broadminded and, if I may say so, very English approach to religion and society has made its schools particularly good.

The other Churches felt left out and asked for help to preserve their separate identity. That is why Peel paid for Maynooth Roman Catholic seminary well before 1902 and Lloyd George. It was designed by Pugin and paid for by the English taxpayer. The very real danger that has been shown is that of exclusive schools, and we do not address it at our peril.

I will vote for the amendment of my noble friend Lord Baker, even though I was deeply influenced by the stunning performance of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and quite understand why he is such a brilliantly paid barrister. I agree with him legislatively, but I feel so strongly about the danger of faith schools at the fringe, beyond the Roman Catholic, Church of England and, probably, Jewish schools, that I must vote for my noble friend Lord Baker. I do not think that we have yet addressed this serious problem as much as we should.

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Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I shall be very brief. I suspect that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, is unworkable, for the reasons given by, among others, the two noble and learned Lords who addressed the House.

The horse may well have bolted because I am not sure how one could apply the 25 per cent quota to the new independent trust schools, which will be substantially financed by the state. I am not clear about it, but I guess that it would be very difficult to do that, therefore there is always a door open to escape from the requirements that might be laid upon the schools in the maintained and public sectors.

Having said that, I recognise the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Baker. There are real issues here about how we deal with separate faith schools. I will conclude by saying that I am very sorry that, in this debate, we have not looked at all at the concept of confederation between schools. We cannot, I believe, make the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, work; I would not support it even if I thought that we could. I am troubled that we have had almost no discussion of the extremely helpful and fertile concept of confederation between schools, whereby schools retain their own governing bodies, but share a great many activities, and even some courses and teaching, so that there is a real mixture of cultures and faiths within schools. My noble friend Baroness Sharp, with her usual sagacity, proposed as long ago as the Education Act 2002 that we should look very carefully at the concept of confederation between schools of different faiths and non-faith schools. I am sorry that this much more constructive and, indeed, serious proposal has not been given much time in this House. I hope it will be given time by the Minister sooner or later.

10:00 pm
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Baroness Flather (Conservative)

My Lords, I have to say that I have found this debate quite distressing. I never thought that I would sit here, in this House, looking at the expansion of faith-based schools. I was part of the Swann committee, which some noble Lords may know about. It looked at the education of children from ethnic minority groups. In our report we took the bold step of saying that it was perhaps time to have no faith-based schools. Now we sit here today, constantly extending faith-based schools. The next lot might be Rastafarian schools. Why should they not have schools? Why should anybody not have schools?

I was brought up a Hindu. As such, I do not come from a revealed religious base. We are taught to respect everybody's faith, everybody's belief and everybody's way of worshipping God, if they so wish to do. Abrahamic religions do not do that. Muslims say that they are the true faith; Catholics say that they are the true faith; Anglicans say that they are the true faith; and Jews say that they are the true faith. There are so many true faiths. Do they all have their own separate gods? If you believe in God, there can be only one. The more we separate systems of belief, the more divergence we will create in our society. It is logical and obvious that this will happen.

No matter: we are at this point; we are not starting today. We are debating a particular amendment. Whether it is workable or not, I shall be voting for it, because it at least sets down a marker towards trying to create some kind of commitment to bringing children from other faiths into a school. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has talked about his mother and father. I am very happy that my noble friend Lord Waddington mentioned race, because there is a double whammy here. We have, until now, been dealing mainly with white faith-based schools. This is the first time for us to look at non-white faith-based schools. Please do not let us minimise the impact of that fact. It will not be as easy for a girl educated in a Muslim school to find someone totally different from somewhere else and get married to that person. I do not think that it will be that easy. A young white man recently asked me, "Why are you so fussed about faith-based schools? I come home, I play with my friends and I have friends from all over the place". Will a Muslim child, girl or boy—and first of all, the girls and boys will not mix together; we know that—be in the happy position of meeting friends and going to each other's houses? I know of many Muslim families who will not let their children go to anyone's house if they are not Muslim. All this will exacerbate these divisions.

Let us hope for the best, but I shall certainly vote for my noble friend Lord Baker's amendment, just to make the point. I think we are at a crucial stage and our young people will live to see the results of all this and will regret it.

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Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, makes an interesting point. If you take the argument to its logical conclusion, it will be the Jedi who want a faith-based school next because I gather that the Jedi was the fourth most popular faith declared in the last census.

We have again had a long and interesting debate and many important points have been made. I shall be as brief as I can in saying why Members on these Benches will not support the noble Lord, Lord Baker, in the Lobbies tonight. However, I am very attracted to the picture he paints of schools in which children of different faiths and no faith sit next to each other, play and learn together, go home on the bus and visit each others' houses. That is a situation we would like to see. However, we do not like the amendment for three reasons. The first is that we do not like quotas, and the main reason we do not like them is that they persuade some people to pretend to be things that they are not and others to pretend not to be things that they are. That always happens with quotas.

The second reason is one which the noble Lord, Lord Baker, himself convinced me of; that is, that the amendment will not achieve much because it will apply only to a very few schools. We live in a period of falling rolls and not many schools will be affected by his quotas. The third reason is that we do not think it is workable. In order to investigate whether it would be workable, I looked at evidence from existing faith schools that already open their doors to children of other faiths or none. I discovered that Al Hijrah School, a voluntary-aided Muslim secondary school in Birmingham which already accepts non-Muslim pupils, has said that only one or two inquiries had been received from non-Muslim families since the school became state funded four years ago. Gatton Primary School in Wandsworth, south London, which is another state-funded Muslim school, has had very few applications from non-Muslim children. The Guru Nanak School in Hillingdon, the country's only state-funded Sikh comprehensive, said that it gets about six applications a year from non-Sikhs. Two faith-based primary schools are about to open in Slough, one is Sikh and one Muslim. Both have already decided on their own quotas, one of 20 per cent and the other 25 per cent, of places to be offered to those not of their faith. Both of the head teachers have said that they do not really think they will be able to fill those quotas. If they do not fill them, well, the places cannot be left empty. According to the law, they have to be filled.

The objective of the noble Lord's amendment, which I applaud, will not be achieved. Members on these Benches are not in the business of putting on to the statute book legislation which is unworkable.

Noble Lords:

Oh!

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Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for their applause. However, we will not be supporting the amendment.

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Baroness Flather (Conservative)

My Lords, are the Jedi a faith? I did not know that. I know that the Rastafarians have been recognised as a religious group. I hope that the noble Baroness is not trying to ridicule the idea of Rastafarian schools.

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Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I shall give the House a piece of information. In the last census, I am sure with considerable levity, a large number of our fellow citizens responded to the question about their faith by saying that they were Jedi. That is a fact. I do not necessarily approve of it and clearly they were joking, but that is what they said.

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Baroness Buscombe (Shadow Minister, Education; Conservative)

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for taking such an interest in this debate. I am only sorry that he does not see the amendment proposed by myself and the noble Lords, Lord Alton, Lord Sutherland, Lord Ahmed and Lord Adonis, as a direct alternative to his amendment. The noble Lord's amendment would drive a coach and horses through the principles of schools' freedoms and of parental choice, which we have supported so strongly throughout this Bill. The real effects of a quota would be to prevent the establishment of faith schools where not enough children of other faiths applied or, conversely, to force the attendance at those schools of children who had deliberately not applied. That is, perhaps unintentionally, social engineering at its very worst. A quota could prevent parents from educating children according to their religion or from educating their children outside religion, a right enshrined in Article 2 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights and a right respected and enforced since the Education Act of 1944.

We wholeheartedly support inclusion, the inclusion of faith schools in the state system, and we hope that more will join the maintained sector, as independent state schools that follow the national curriculum and inspection regime like other schools. I wish that my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking could reconsider his amendment in the light of the earlier debate and that he could accept that greater practice of community cohesion in schools of all types is a far better way forward than pursuing a top-down quota solution with no consultation. The hour is very late. It has been an amazing and interesting debate, but I would say this—I hope that all the noble Lords who have spoken will do the House the courtesy of remaining to hear the debates on the rest of the amendments tonight.

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Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, on Report I undertook that the Government would consult on this issue before Third Reading. Having done so, the Government have concluded that the best and most effective way of promoting community cohesion is to lay a new duty to promote community cohesion on the governing bodies of all maintained schools in England—all Christian faith schools, all Muslim faith schools, all Sikh schools, Jewish schools and Hindu schools, and not just faith schools or new faith schools, but all schools. These issues of cohesion and the promotion of relationships between different parts of the community affect all schools, whether in Oldham or Orpington, Bradford or Birmingham. The Government have also agreed with Ofsted that there should be an effective inspection regime to back up this new duty to promote community cohesion. The House has now agreed the amendments to give effect to these new duties on schools and on Ofsted. We have debated them at length and I do not want to repeat what was said.

However, on the issue of admissions raised in this amendment, absolutist positions have been stated. On one side there are those who believe that it is fundamentally wrong for faith schools to have admissions policies that make it possible for others to join such schools at all. That view has been put to me in the past week by some senior religious leaders. On the other side there are those who want to require all schools to recruit beyond their faith as a matter of principle. The Government have consistently rejected both absolutist positions and, indeed, so have most of the faith leaders whom we have consulted in the past week.

As a matter of fact, at least some faith schools of all faiths and of all denominations offer places beyond their immediate faith communities, not least Catholic schools, a third of whose pupils nationwide comes from beyond the Catholic community. I should add that Catholic education takes pride in that fact, as part of its wider service to the nation, particularly in disadvantaged areas. The Government have made it clear that we welcome such outreach and have therefore welcomed the voluntary statement of the Catholic Church that, in planning any new schools, it will take account of community demand beyond the immediate Catholic community in agreeing the size and admissions policies of its schools. Other faith communities are taking a similar approach. But, after the consultation that we have undertaken, we accept that this should come about with the agreement, case by case, of the faith community in question. We accept too that there may be valid reasons why such admissions arrangements are not appropriate—either to do with local exigencies or to do with principle in particular cases—although I should stress that it is the existing law that no faith school may leave places empty where it is undersubscribed and where others beyond the faith community wish to attend the school.

We have therefore decided that it is not appropriate to introduce new statutory regulation in this area. We intend to make it clear in the new school admissions code that while it may be good practice for a new faith school to open up places to non-faith applicants this must be a voluntary decision, and that any such modification of a proposal for a new faith school within the maintained system must not be imposed on the promoters either by the local authority or by the schools adjudicator. The Government, therefore, oppose the amendment.

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Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, does he agree about the impact of the Human Rights Act creating a general duty not to discriminate on state maintained schools?

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Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, I agree with the general duty, but I will need to take advice on the whole chain of reasoning which the noble Lord set out earlier before I can comment in full.

10:15 pm
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Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative)

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I am particularly interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, because, to the extent that I understood him, if he is correct in his interpretation of the Human Rights Act, all new faith schools will be illegal and, indeed, there will be considerable doubt about existing faith schools. Whether or not that is good news or stands up legally, I do not know, but it certainly adds a whole new light to the issue. The Minister said that he will look at the situation. I would very much like him to let us know what the position is. It is a fundamental change much more radical than anything I am suggesting.

There have been two threads of comment, hostility or opposition to what I have said. First, it was said that this is unworkable; that quotas will not work. I am not a quota man. I always think Liberal education policy is something of an enigma enveloped in a fog, but the noble Baroness who speaks for the Liberal Democrats said that the proposed is unworkable. She should come with me to Northern Ireland in a fortnight's time; I am going with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. We are going to see 53 schools that work on a quota—40 per cent Catholic, 40 per cent Protestant and 20 per cent other. How do you think Northern Ireland has managed to get it right? Northern Ireland gets so much wrong, but how do you think it managed to get that right when it is unworkable? Of course it is workable if there is a will to make it work.

I know the system that I am proposing is not perfect. I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan. I looked upon him as an ally. On Friday morning of last week, after the Government withdrew their amendments, I had to draw up these amendments but I did not have his advice. I wish I had because I would have made them better and workable. The Government have that opportunity and have perfect amendments drafted by the Bill team. I spoke to the Bill team but, unfortunately, it did not send the amendments to me. I would have tabled those if it had. I am quite sure that if I had tabled those amendments, all the problems that the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, mentioned would have been resolved. It is not a question of wording but a question of intent. Does the noble Lord want to see integrated education in our country or not? The noble Lord did not express his views on that so I do not know what they are, but I want to see integrated education in our country.

The second point was that the previous amendment does all the work. We debated it earlier and I supported it, but it is carrying too large a weight. You cannot expect the inspectors in our schools to by themselves create community cohesion: it is asking too much of them. The Government have got to do something. I think that the voluntary undertakings they have got will not really work.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, a very old friend, who is not going to support me tonight. But he is not going to vote with the Government—we ex-Home Secretaries must stick together. But if either of us held that post today, there would be thudding on our desk every week reports about a lack of social cohesion in our inner cities. The reports would say all the time that you must not allow societies to develop that are parallel and separate. That is what distinctive faith schools will do; it is an inevitable result. All the advice goes that way from the Cantle report in 2001.

I think it is very disappointing that only one Member from an Asian community has spoken in the debate today. I have been told by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that we must not push Muslims into the corner. But there are Muslim Members of this House and this is a debate about the Muslim faith in our country today. If they want to share their views and communicate, they have some responsibility to try to do so. We cannot debate this matter by ourselves.

Finally, I say to the right reverend Prelates—the bishops of my dear old Anglican Church—that when I was Education Secretary and I had to deal with the bishops of the Church of England and the bishops of the Church of Rome, I discovered why bishops move diagonally. I am quite sure that if these amendments had been tabled by the Government as they intended to do a week ago—beautifully drafted by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and perfect in their execution but saying exactly what my amendments do—those on the Bishops' Bench would be voting for them.

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The Bishop of Peterborough (Bishop)

My Lords, the noble Lord obviously has a prescience that is misplaced. We would have voted the other way.

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Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative)

My Lords, I am afraid that we will never know. But the Anglican Church has the right solution—it believes in integrated education, it has stumbled upon the truth and it has picked itself up as if nothing has happened. If it really believed in that truth it could say that other faiths ought to follow. I sometimes believe that if some of those currently sitting on the Bishops' Bench had been living in the 17th century they might just have missed out on the Reformation.

This is an interesting and important debate. It is not just about what is being taught in faith schools around the country—it is the shape of our society in our inner cities for the next 20 years. My position and that of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, are very clear but his amendment is not strongly enough behind integration—I am after children working, playing and studying together. Imperfect as it may be, it is workable and it is a correct and desirable aim. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment(No. 12) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37; Not-Contents, 119.

Division number 4

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10:32 pm
Photo of Lord Moser

Lord Moser (Crossbench)

moved Amendment No. 13:

After Clause 55, insert the following new clause-

"CHARGES FOR MUSIC TUITION

(1) In section 451 of EA 1996 (prohibition of charges for provision of education) for subsection (3) substitute-

"(3) Regulations may prescribe circumstances in which subsection (2) does not apply in relation to tuition in singing or in playing a musical instrument."

(2) In section 456 of EA 1996 (regulation of permitted charges), in subsection (6), after "tuition in" insert "singing or in"."

Photo of Lord Moser

Lord Moser (Crossbench)

My Lords, it has been suggested to me that, as we have had a long day, it would be better if I sang this amendment. Unfortunately, I do not have a singing voice. I can play the piano, but there is not one in the Chamber. I am stuck with words.

Amendment No. 13, with the subsequent conditions and consequences in Amendments Nos. 21 and 22, is very simple, with a crucial aim of giving more of our children opportunities for music education in schools. To achieve this, the amendment will simply remove some anomalies in present legislation which hamper progress in that direction. I have listened to a lot of the debate on other matters, with particular interest in subject matters like languages and science, so I am pleased that, late in the day, the arts join the club of contents discussed.

Your Lordships do not need reminding of the special importance of the arts, not least for children. Some of your Lordships may be old enough, as I am, to remember Jennie Lee, the first Wilson Government Arts Minister. She put all this so well when she said:

"If children at an early age become accustomed to the arts as part of everyday life, they are more likely in maturity first to accept the arts and then to demand them".

That is what I am talking about.

My own luck was that, in my early days in Berlin, music was totally central both at home and at school. When I came to school in England, within two days I was in the school choir singing in "Dido and Aeneas". Since then, I can honestly say that no day in my life has been without the enrichment of music, whether listening, playing or learning and/or working in music organisations and on projects which might widen musical experience for the young. Such a one—and I declare an interest as chairman of the project—is the Paul Hamlyn Foundation's Musical Futures. The project focuses on secondary education and on innovating approaches to the teaching and learning of all kinds of music. I believe it will have an exciting and imaginative influence on engaging more 11 to 19 year-olds in music activities.

The music manifestodocument, which has just been published—hence this amendment—shows a wide range of activities up and down the country, demonstrating how much is going on in music education. The champion of the music manifesto is Marc Jaffrey. He pays tribute to all the progress in the country's music activities, but he also does not shirk, nor does the department, the major challenges that remain or, above all, the fact that many children do not have the access they deserve to pursue their music, whether on instruments or in singing. That is where this amendment can help positively. Current legislation is actually in the way.

I must make clear that I am not talking about music in the national curriculum, which covers children from five to 14—at which point, sad to relate, all but 7 per cent of children drop music altogether. The amendment refers to the many children who, early on, notably in primary school, develop enthusiasm for any kind of music and want to go on with tuition with a specialist teacher provided through the music services. That has to be paid for so that the providers, the specialist teachers, can be properly financed.

That is where present legislation gets in the way. Amazingly enough, instrumental tuition in groups of over four pupils, or any vocal tuition, cannot be charged for. That is a strict anomaly. As regards instruments, it often makes more sense to teach in larger groups than four. As for singing, it is necessary to teach in whatever groups make most sense for the children and for the music. The amendment would remove that confusing anomaly.

I should make it clear that charges would apply only where pupils themselves, after an initial introduction to music making or singing, choose to take their learning further, beyond the statutory provision. If their family or school is prepared to pay, all is well. The regulations will stipulate that, as now, remission policies will be in place to help pupils from lower-income families with these charges.

To summarise: this amendment would achieve freedom to charge for teaching in large instrumental groups, not just up to four, and for any vocal tuition. This would actually widen access, because the cost per pupil would go down significantly. Moreover, the other important consequence is that it would help to deal with the shortfall in specialist music teaching, which is a real threat to progress.

To put that in a single sentence: this amendment would get rid of present anomalies and ensure that music tuition for those who wanted to go on beyond the statutory condition would be made available and charged for, whatever the size of the group, for vocal as well as for instrumental lessons. I know that many of your Lordships share my passion for the importance of music, and for making it as widely available as possible. I hope this amendment will commend itself to your Lordships, and to the Government. I beg to move.

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Lord Armstrong of Ilminster (Crossbench)

My Lords, I need to add little to what my noble friend Lord Moser saidin commending the amendment and the two consequential amendments for your Lordships' approval.

I have not been able to discover why the Education Act 1996 restricted to groups of not more than four those who could receive instrumental tuition subject to charges and why vocal tuition was completely excluded. The amendment would allow the department to make regulations that removed those restrictions, subject to any necessary safeguards. As my noble friend said, that would enable more children to enjoy the opportunity of individual instrumental or vocal tuition from individual teachers if they had the aptitude and ambition to do so. The more children that there were in a group, the less would be the charge for each of them. The remission scheme would help too.

It would be splendid if schools were able to provide that tuition without charges, but I recognise that the time for that is not yet. I hope that the House will welcome the amendment, which will enable more children to elect to have special tuition from individual and well qualified teachers.

To my great regret, I have never learnt to play an instrument, other than the piano—I cannot match my noble friend Lord Moser in that—but I have never ceased to sing and have received intense pleasure from doing so. So I particularly welcome the fact that the amendment will enable pupils who seek vocal tuition to enjoy the same opportunities as those who seek instrumental tuition.

The great composer William Byrd, who wrote such marvellous music for voices, said:

"Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing".

He would have welcomed the amendment, as I hope your Lordships will. Its passing would bring his wish nearer to fulfilment.

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Lord Harrison (Labour)

My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Moser, for three reasons. I discovered this evening that he and I share a love of Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas", which was influential in my musical instruction. Whatever the form of music, we know that it offers a different route for many young people to acquire education, culture and an inquiring mind much beyond other parts of the curriculum. I would support the amendment for that reason alone.

I also support it because, as the noble Lords, Lord Moser and Lord Armstrong, have identified, there is the anomaly that singing was excluded from the Act passed 20 or 30 years ago and that instruction to more than four pupils is likewise forbidden under the current system. Goodness knows what Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" would have done in terms of musical innovation if that principle had been a precedent by which the law and the issue of support for music was established.

My third reason for supporting the amendment is that, although I was anxious, as others in the House may be, that we might undermine the principleof providing free musical education for our schoolchildren, I am convinced that, if we accept the amendment, that would not be the case, because it refers to specialist education and removes the current anomaly borne of 30 year-old legislation. I am convinced also by those who are interested, particularly as regards the Music Manifesto, that the amendment would broaden the opportunity for young people to have musical experience in schools and, I hope, move on to other educational experiences, because they would be able to enjoy, understand and reach out to their fellow human beings through the instrument of music.

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Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I strongly support the amendment and will add only one other argument to the many that have been deployed. I regard the narrowing down of the opportunity for musical education as a real disaster. Music is an essential part of education.

My additional point is that music is an astonishing instrument of cohesion. We have been talking a great deal about social and community cohesion. Whether it is the steel band in areas with large Caribbean populations or the brass band in many cities in the north of England, music has found its way into all kinds of societies and, in doing so, has enriched people's relationships and their capacity to communicate with others.

I am speaking not only about fine classical music, although that is terribly important, but about the more indigenous forms of culture, which can provide society with extreme riches. I advocate the amendment and hope that one day we can get back to the peripatetic music teacher and free music tuition, because music is one of the great instruments in bringing cultures, peoples and races together.

10:45 pm
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Baroness Sharp of Guildford (Spokesperson in the Lords (Further & Higher Education), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, we, too, support the amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, said, the 1996 Act is slightly counter-intuitive, particularly in relation to singing, in that it restricts charging for groups of more than four students. That is somewhat odd, and I do not understand the logic behind it.

We have three slight provisos, which perhaps the Minister will address. First, the noble Lord, Lord Moser, stated that there would be provision for those who were not able to afford the tuition. There will be talented youngsters whose parents will find it difficult to pay for extra tuition. Although the larger the group, the smaller the charge for each individual, nevertheless, those charges can be sufficiently large. If you have two or three children, even a charge of £3 or £4 amounts to quite a lot, and many families would find it difficult to pay such sums. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what provisions will be in force in that regard.

Secondly, we accept that the amendment relates to what one might call intermediate tuition for those who show some talent and need to go a bit further. If they are really talented, they need to progress further, and, with some instruments, there is a limit to the value of group tuition. The piano is one such example. Can the Minister also tell us a little about provision for individual tuition for the really talented students who might progress through the scheme?

Lastly, as well as access to tuition, it is important to have access to instruments. Parents sometimes have difficulty affording the hire of instruments. Therefore, can the Minister also tell us what provision will be made to help the children of such parents get access to instruments?

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Lord Dearing (Other)

My Lords, I support the amendment. I find that, wherever there is good music in a school, it is invariably a good school.

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Baroness Buscombe (Shadow Minister, Education; Conservative)

My Lords, I have pleasure in supporting the amendment and have added my name to those of the noble Lords, Lord Moser, Lord Armstrong and Lord Harrison. Music is for making together. I remember that many years ago I enjoyed singing in school in wonderful things called "Singing Together" sessions. I also enjoyed recorder and clarinet lessons. Many people have very good memories of the pleasure gained from learning to play instruments and from singing together in schools, as extracurricular opportunities provided in those days.

The amendment would afford pupils wider access in learning instruments and singing. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, that I happen to know that there are cupboards in schools all over the country full of musical instruments that are not being played at the moment. There would be plenty of opportunities for pupils to use those instruments if only teachers could be provided for on the basis set out by the amendment. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Moser, the cost per pupil would diminish.

It is also important to remember that the amendment deals with the shortfall in specialist music teaching. There are some amazing people out there who are passionate about this subject, but they have to live. We have to support them, and we have to support the opportunities that exist for our children, who have been short-changed by this crazy anomaly. The amendment is to be welcomed, and I thoroughly support it.

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Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn (Conservative)

My Lords, while I had the privilege of being the master of a Cambridge college, one of the greatest pleasures in any year was the freshers' concert, which would take place during the first couple of weeks in October. New students at Cambridge, who had come from their schools—be they state schools or whatever—often amazed me and my colleagues with their skill and dedication. They were not students of music, but they played music with amazing effectiveness. There is a remarkable vitality in the musical life of this country, as manifested in those young people, and it must be encouraged in every way. I know that constraints exist, as we have heard, so I warmly support the amendment. It is very important for the musical life of the country, and I hope that it will be well received.

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Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, the Government welcome the amendments for all the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Moser, and others set out, and we are glad that such a broad consensus of support for them has been expressed this evening.

The current legislation, contained in the Education Act 1996, allows charges to be made for instrumental tuition during the school day only for groups of up to four children. No charges can be made for any vocal tuition during the school day. We regard those as unjustified restrictions that are holding back music education in our schools. It is the Government's aim that, in time, all primary school children should, if they choose to, have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. We also believe in the importance of singing, including the teaching of singing by specialist teachers in small groups or one-to-one. The Government have substantially increased resources for music education in schools in recent years, particularly in primary schools, including a new£2 million national scheme to provide musical instruments to music education services—the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked me about that.

We have been told time and again, most recently in the music manifesto report, that one of the barriers to making the instrumental tuition pledge a reality and to increasing the opportunities for every child to sing is the current charging legislation. Restricting instrumental group sizes to four means that, with the specialist teaching staff who are available or who are likely to be available in the foreseeable future, there is simply not enough capacity to provide specialist tuition for all the children who might want to learn. Also, with groups restricted to just four, the price per head for lessons is sometimes prohibitive for parents with limited means. The demand for specialist singing has increased, but those who want to provide that tuition are hampered by the fact that lessons during school hours cannot be charged for, as they can for musical instruments.

The regulation-making power proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Moser, would allow us to consult thoroughly on the best solutions for instrumental and vocal tuition. It is vital that no child who is currently receiving specialist tuition is disadvantaged by the introduction of new charging structures. In our consultation on the regulations, we will propose also that schools and music services be required to retain or establish remission policies so that disadvantaged families will be able to access instrumental or vocal tuition. That meets the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. We will also ensure that there is no question of charges being made for tuition that is part of music teaching in the national curriculum.

On that basis, I commend the amendments to the House. I am glad to accept them on behalf of the Government.

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Lord Moser (Crossbench)

I simply express my thanks to noble Lords who have spoken, all of them in support of the amendment—I am very pleased about that. I thank also the Minister for his response. He is enthusiastically involved in the music manifesto, which is good news for all of us. I am sure that we look forward to seeing the revised regulations when they appear in due course. This is extremely good news for young people who are enthusiastic about music.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Buscombe (Shadow Minister, Education; Conservative)

moved Amendment No. 14:

After Clause 91, insert the following new clause-

"ANONYMITY OF STAFF FACING ALLEGATIONS

(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations providing that where it is alleged that a relevant person in a school providing education for persons under 18 years of age has committed a criminal offence against or related to a child that person shall be afforded anonymity unless and until he is charged with an offence.

(2) For the purposes of this section "anonymity" constitutes a restriction on including in a publication a reference to the person against whom the allegation is made if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify him as a person involved in the alleged offence.

(3) Regulations made under this section may provide exemptions from a requirement to afford anonymity to a person on the application of a Chief Constable to a magistrates' court where it is-

(a) necessary to prevent a person committing an offence or fleeing after having done so, or (b) necessary to ensure the effective conduct of a criminal investigation.

(4) In this section a relevant person is a teacher or other member of staff in a school, including a volunteer.

(5) Regulations shall not be made under this section unless a draft of them has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament."

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Baroness Buscombe (Shadow Minister, Education; Conservative)

My Lords, I am pleased to have an opportunity to return once again to this debate. I was interested to hear the words of the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on this topic on Report and I reserved my right to take those new perspectives into account in order to return with a solution at Third Reading.

Allegations of abuse are matters that deserve sensitive treatment. Children's well-being is the most precious thing to any parent and that is why I am so thankful that we have a workforce of teachers and school staff who seek to improve not only their well-being but also their chances in life. That is why I persist in this matter. Teachers and school staff give their lives to educating our children and it is our duty to ensure that they get a fair deal. It is not a fair deal when, out of 2,210 accusations of physical or sexual abuse in the past 15 years, fewer than 4 per cent—88—led to convictions, or when most of the10 per cent who face charges result in acquittals. It is also not a fair deal when, in one year, 100 members of NASUWT were exposed to accusations only for it to be confirmed that, after all, there was no case to answer.

Anonymity appears in a wide variety of legislation. Its most well known uses are 4 per cent for victims of rape and for children under the age of 18 involved in investigations. Yet it also appears in various guises in the Merchant Shipping (Liner Conferences) Act 1982 and in giving anonymity to alleged terrorists under control orders in the Prevention of Terrorism Act last year. It is amazing that, under Section 6 of that Act, suspected terrorists who are subject to control orders have a right to anonymity but teachers do not. The use of anonymity for alleged terrorists is clear evidence that anonymity is necessary in certain cases. The Government were so aware of the detrimental effects on trial of overexposure in the media that suspected terrorists are given identity protection. I think most of us would agree that child abuse and terrorism are two of the greatest evils in our society and being accused of one would be as damaging as being accused of the other. While the Minister expresses his concerns that anonymity has no place in legislation, I direct him to the strong precedent in the statute books.

On this issue, as on others that we have debated tonight, as far as possible we have sought to achieve consensus. This new amendment takes into account the concerns of noble Lords on all Benches and the concerns of unions and charities, including the NSPCC, the NUT and the NASUWT. The amendment applies only to allegations of criminal offences. That would protect teachers and school staff who have to wait the longest for a charge to be brought or dropped. The Minister acknowledged that three months would be the minimum wait for accusations of criminal offences, even under the new guidelines. The amendment answers the concerns of the NUT by defining anonymity. There are two characteristics: it lasts only until a charge has been brought and it relates only to reporting restrictions. In our view the preservation of a possibly innocent reputation is more important than the provision of sensationalist copy to the local press. Given a choice between so-called press freedom and the protection of an innocent person's livelihood, I know which one I would choose.

A further significant change in the amendment is the process for exemptions from anonymity. After legal consultation, it has been possible to alter the amendment. Under the provisions of the amendment, to achieve an exemption, a chief constable could apply to a magistrates' court to waive anonymity where it would be expedient to the carrying out of a criminal investigation or in the interests of security. That would be done in much the same way as an application for a search warrant. That takes the exemption procedure out of the hands of the Secretary of State and reroutes it through a tried and tested system. Just as a search warrant allows the investigation of premises, so a warrant to waive anonymity allows the public investigation of a person's identity.

I understand the concerns of noble Lords that providing anonymity for teachers and school staff could establish a two-tier system, yet I resist that objection on three counts. First, the point that protection from media exposure which could wreck careers and lives would not extend to one group of people does not constitute a principled objection that it should be provided to another group. Secondly, while we would be very interested to consider providing anonymity for carers and others who face malicious and vexatious accusations, such an amendment would be outside the scope of the Bill. Our business here this evening is education and ensuring the quality of life within the education system as a teacher or member of school staff. Perhaps a future social care Bill will provide an opportunity for provision for social workers.

Thirdly, accusation is an easy route to manipulation. Let us not forget that false allegations are made not just by children but by other adults. Indeed, I know personally of such a case it was horrendous. We must not forget also that often these cases arise due to misunderstood circumstances where the comment of a pupil has aroused the suspicion of an adult and to be on the safe side an allegation is made. It is right that children retain anonymity. That is something I would defend to the last. However, we believe that the amendment provides a necessary safeguard that could provide 100 per cent protection from trial by media if the unproved guidance does not work.

These cases are so sensitive. They stand to affect the life of a child and that child's family, but also the lives of schools, staff and their families in turn. I do not for one minute suggest that we should not listen to accusations and treat every single one with 100 per cent seriousness, but I suggest that there is another side to the story, that instead of the dramatic sensationalist coverage and exposure of allegations of abuse, those cases should be treated with care, sincerity and privacy. We are pleased that there is guidance there and like the Government hope for the success of the guidance in reducing vexatious or malicious allegations. However—and this is important—our amendment does not force the Government to take action now. It is an enabling power that would give the Government the opportunity to give teachers the right to anonymity should the guidance prove insufficient. We see it as a safeguard. I think that that is a sensible amendment and I hope that noble Lords will support it. I beg to move.

11:00 pm
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Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I was involved in the creation of a group called FACTFalsely Accused Carers and Teachers—not long after the major investigations that took place, first, in north Wales over children's authorities and allegations of abuse of children in those authorities and, secondly, in the major Merseyside study of schools and of children's homes shortly afterwards. Those were extensive inquiries and many dozens of people were involved in allegations that were made about them in one way or another. Undoubtedly some of those allegations held up.

The fact that the police chose a method effectively seeking to obtain evidence from people who attended those care homes or those schools—which was known in the trade as cruising for crime—led to a number of people coming forward from those institutions in order to make allegations, not discouraged by the fact that it was widely known that there was a possibility of substantial compensation being paid to someone who had suffered from abuse. In other words, there was a true motivation for some fairly unsavoury characters coming forward to make such allegations. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that we are talking not only about the wrecking of the lives of certain teachers who turn out to be completely innocent but also about the shadow that is cast by the very fact that they are named even though they may be later found to be innocent, shadows that to my certain knowledge—I can give a number of cases about which I happen to know first hand from the association—led to people being unable to find appointments and stay in their positions, even though it turned out that there were absolutely no grounds for the allegations made against them.

I have not followed in detail what the legal difficulties may be here. I am sure that there are some, there are almost always legal difficulties about virtually any amendment that anyone moves, but I believe that this is a serious issue. It is one where we need to protect the good names of teachers until a decision is made about whether criminal proceedings should be brought. I am being as brief as I can because of the hour. I would like to say that this is an extremely serious matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, has addressed it powerfully and I hope that the Minister will give it whatever consideration he can to try to protect innocent teachers against whom allegations are made on which there are no grounds at all.

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Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (Crossbench)

My Lords, for the reasons that I gave at Report, which have been so cogently underlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, I continue to support the amendment in its new and, I believe, improved form.

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Baroness Howe of Idlicote (Crossbench)

My Lords, I also support the amendment. It is now drafted in a way that should be acceptable to the Minister. It is the time that these cases take and the destruction that can so often result to people's lives that really concerns me—especially when they are teachers, but also when they are other members of the school. So I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the concept. If he is right and the guidance is satisfactory, there will be no need for any further action, but the provision could be there in the background as a safeguard.

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Lord Dearing (Other)

My Lords, I make a two sentence support of the amendment. We speak often in this House about the rights of the child. We should also be cognisant of the rights of the teacher.

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Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, the words of my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby show to the House how warmly we support the objective of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and how much we pay tribute to her for the tenacious way in which she has addressed the matter and how she has tried to address the various concerns expressed in your Lordships' House. In particular, I am grateful to her for how she has addressed some of the concerns that I have expressed.

We owe the noble Baroness a great debt of gratitude because the way in which she has raised this issue to the public eye has put a great deal of pressure on the media—those who have any tendency to be irresponsible. We all agree that none of us wants the child's rights to be counterbalanced with the right of an innocent person not to be vilified in the media. It is the responsibility of any of us, if we see the media being irresponsible in how they address such matters, to write to them or to speak on the media in abhorrence of such behaviour—or to withdraw our support from newspapers. Such behaviour is simply not on.

However, the noble Baroness has not addressed just one of our concerns in tabling the amendment. That is the fact that we feel that now is not the moment to put the provision on the statute book. We have a new set of measures introduced by Jim Knight; we have some new allegations management officers put in place; we have new guidance. I would be right behind the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, if, in a year's time, we find that those measures have had no effect and we come back to the Government to hold them to account for that but, in fairness, we have to give them a chance. Therefore, I shall not support the amendment.

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Baroness Buscombe (Shadow Minister, Education; Conservative)

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I urge her to appreciate that this is an enabling provision. If all the guidance that the Government produce works, the provision will not need to be brought into play. It is simply a back-stop, a safeguard, so that if, in a year's time, it is shown that what the Government have put in place has not worked, we can turn to the provision for which I am asking tonight, because it will be there in primary legislation.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley

Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, if that was an intervention, perhaps I can ask the Minister whether he will tell us how long he will give the measures before they are evaluated. What will he do if there is evidence that they are not working? Will the Government come back at that point with more serious measures?

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, I appreciate the concerns that have given rise to the amendment. There have been discussions on the issue all the way through the progress of the Bill, both in another place and in your Lordships' House, including a meeting that my honourable friend Jim Knight held with the noble Baronesses, Lady Buscombe and Lady Walmsley, along with Members of another place and representatives from the NSPCC and the NASUWT, to discuss the issue further.

As I say, we appreciate the concerns to protect teachers and other members of school staff from the damaging effects of allegations and the work that the noble Baroness has done to develop and refine this amendment during the course of the Bill. But we must also keep in mind the vital importance of safeguarding children from abuse wherever they are, and ensuring that children are encouraged to speak out about abuse they have suffered. We want all children to be confident in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and responded to. It is getting the balance right which is uppermost on our minds in this very delicate area.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, we have taken significant steps to meet concerns in this area. We issued new guidance on allegations in educational settings only last November. The guidance was issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, which means that schools have to have regard to it when making arrangements to safeguard and to promote the welfare of children. The guidance states that every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against unwanted publicity while an allegation is being investigated, unless and until a person is charged with an offence. It also makes clear that in exceptional circumstances, the police may need to disclose the identity of a person under investigation.

We also issued further overarching guidance on allegations against anyone working with children in any setting in the revised version of Working Together to Safeguard Children. This was issued only this April in England and came into force only at the start of this month. As I explained on Report, that guidance aims to ensure that allegations are dealt with consistently, and that issues are resolved as quickly as possible because time is the big problem in this area and it gives rise to so much of the concern on the part of the teachers' associations. The Working Together guidance that I have just referred to, and which has only just come into force, provides target timescales for each step in the process and sets an overall expectation that 80 per cent of cases should be resolved within one month, 90 per cent within three months, and all but the most exceptional cases should be completed within 12 months. The proposed regulations would not, we believe, help to speed up the handling of cases.

Furthermore, in April we also put in place a network of allegation management advisers based in government offices. They are working with the new local safeguarding children boards and their members to ensure that effective arrangements are in place for dealing with allegations of abuse against people who work with children, implementing the new guidance on allegations against teachers and the guidance I just mentioned, Working Together to Safeguard Children.

Part of the allegation management advisers' work is to help organisations avoid allegations arising in the first place through safe recruitment processes and through advice on staff behaviour when working with children. The allegation management advisers are also helping local safeguarding children boards and organisations to develop and implement effective arrangements for collecting data on allegations.

All these measures I have set out have recently been put in place. We believe that they will help to achieve the right balance between protecting teachers and others from the damaging effect of false or unfounded allegations while, on the other hand, safeguarding children. Our strong preference is not to legislate on this matter but to focus our energies on making sure that these new arrangements are working well.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, I can tell the House that we have undertaken to review the impact of the guidance for the education sector in 2007 with the involvement of all stakeholders, and to reconsider in the light of that review what further measures may be necessary, which may include further measures in respect of protecting the anonymity of teachers. But although we have worked through the many options in this area, I do not have an option I can bring to the House and I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to recommend the House to legislate for a general enabling power when the Government cannot tell the House how they would propose to implement it.

We have, however, undertaken to consult further next year and my officials will be discussing the timetable for this further work with the teachers' associations, including the NASUWT which has raised the most consistent concerns in this area. The NASUWT has said today that it supports our approach, that it wishes to continue to be involved in this important work and it would not support an amendment being passed without a clear view of how the Government might implement it.

I hope that on the basis of the assurances I have been able to give, the noble Baroness will not feel it necessary to press this amendment.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe

Baroness Buscombe (Shadow Minister, Education; Conservative)

My Lords, I find the Minister's response incredibly depressing. As I have said twice this evening, this enabling power would give the Government the opportunity to give teachers the right to anonymity should the guidance prove insufficient. It is merely a safeguard, but it would be there for teachers if only the Minister would accept it tonight. I find it incredible that it is deemed okay for terrorists to have anonymity but not for teachers. The Minister said that we would have to wait for the results of the consultation next year, but he consulted on faith schools in one week.

I accept that the noble Lord is working towards having allegations dealt with as quickly as possible, but it takes no time at all to ruin a person's life once information gets into the hands of the newspapers. And will the newspapers take any notice of the guidance? Of course they won't.

The Minister said that the police may need to waive the right to anonymity. We have worked hard at this amendment to allow for that possibility, so that in certain circumstances the police can waive the right to anonymity. I feel extremely strongly about this. It is right that we should stand up for teachers; they matter an awful lot more than the terrorists in this country. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment(No. 14) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 28; Not-Contents, 76.

Division number 5

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 92 [Power of members of staff to use force]:

11:26 pm
Photo of Baroness Walmsley

Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 74, line 42, at end insert-

"( ) The Secretary of State shall issue, and may from time to time revise, statutory guidance containing guidelines setting out aims, objectives and other matters, and such practical guidance as he thinks appropriate, in respect of the discharge by persons to whom this section applies of their functions under this section."

Photo of Baroness Walmsley

Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, this amendment requests the sort of statutory guidance which the Government have recently put in place to address the important issue we have just been debating, but in this case it concerns training for teachers on the appropriate use of physical restraint, and in particular on children with physical or mental difficulties. We have been advised by the charity TreeHouse, the Advisory Centre for Education and the National Autistic Society.

The Minister has stated that he is content with the current position and he has repeatedly assured us that the DfES is not aware that the current powers have caused any difficulties since 1998. However, the charities that have briefed us can all point to examples where school staff have made inappropriate physical interventions with no training and with serious consequences for pupils and adults. A couple of weeks ago a special report by Channel 4 News showed a case involving a six year-old girl with autism and other communication conditions which highlighted the lack of training on appropriate handling methods and proper post-incident procedures in a mainstream primary school. The six year-old girl was restrained firmly on several occasions. The girl's treatment at school came to the attention of her parents only when she came home with ripped clothing. The parents requested a full incident log and found that their daughter had been held repeatedly, removed from classrooms and the toilet, and that staff had not received or requested training until the situation became known to the parents. No incident had been reported to the parents. A joint investigation by the police and the local authority found serious procedural errors in the school, which had no policy on physical interventions. The department has conceded that it does not collect data on the number of incidents involving pupils with SEN, but as the Channel 4 News investigation found from research it commissioned, many mainstream schools have been "unaffected" by the non-statutory guidance.

What is the basis for the Minister's assertion that the DfES is not aware that the current powers have caused difficulties, given the lack of monitoring and data collection? How can he say that when he does not really know? A DfES audit of allegations against teachers and other staff in the education service for September 2003-04 found that the largest number of allegations against staff arose from inappropriate physical handling in a mainstream secondary setting. A report by the National Foundation for Educational Research supports the argument that mainstream staff need to be better equipped to manage the challenging behaviours they are increasingly facing today. The report makes it clear that special schools, for which there is good guidance that is well known to them, have the highest frequency of incidents but the least likelihood of a complaint arising. It is pretty obvious why; their staff have proper training. Equally, the report goes on to note that mainstream schools have the fewest incidents but the highest number of complaints. They do not have proper training and they are not all aware of the non-statutory guidance. Plainly, behind this research and these case studies there is a very high human and financial cost of inappropriate interventions, in terms of exclusions, police time, physical injury, anxiety and the possible need for alternative, out-of-county placements.

This issue is too important to be left to chance, by placing documents on the Teachernet website and leaving schools to carry out their own risk assessments. We believe that statutory guidance will ensure that all schools prioritise this issue when they come to consider their whole school behaviour and their inclusion and disability discrimination policies. This is the best way of ensuring that we achieve a more proactive, preventive and constructive approach across all schools. The Bill gives a clear statement of the rights of all members of the school's work force to use force where appropriate and necessary. We believe that there should be a countervailing responsibility on all schools—especially mainstream schools, where most children, with autism, for example, are educated—to train their staff effectively, so that they are as aware and as skilled as many staff in special schools are in how to deal appropriately with these situations. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, since Report I have written to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on Clause 92 and the issues of concern to her. In my letter, I said that the department already issues three pieces of guidance on the use of force, two of which are aimed at special schools and persons who work with pupils with severe special educational needs and one, Circular 10/98, for mainstream schools.

Circular 10/98 provides schools with clear, detailed and practical advice on all the key issues that they will need to consider in making use of this power. In particular, the guidance gives examples of circumstances in which physical intervention might be appropriate, factors that staff should bear in mind when deciding whether to intervene and the kinds of physical intervention that might or might not be appropriate. It also discusses the meaning of "reasonable force" and advises that schools should have a policy about the use of reasonable force and that they should tell parents about it. It further advises that schools should record incidents in which any force, other than trivial or minor force, is used and tell parents of any such incidents involving their child. The issue of ensuring that school staff understand this properly, about which the noble Baroness has indicated particular concern, is also specifically addressed in this guidance:

"The Head teacher should draw up a policy setting out guidelines about the use of force to control or restrain pupils, and discuss these with the staff who may have to apply them, and with the Governing Body of the school".

The guidance goes on to advise how, in planning for possible incidents, schools need to consider;

"briefing staff to ensure they know exactly what action they should be taking (this may identify a need for training or guidance)".

I should emphasise that this does not mean that all staff will necessarily need training, or that any training needs identified for individual staff members will be the same as for other staff, but there is a helpful prompt in this part of the guidance for senior school management to consider what if any training needs there might be for individual staff members in the light of their experience, particular responsibilities and so on.

We therefore believe that this guidance, to which schools have had access for many years, addresses exactly the kinds of concerns to which the noble Baroness has drawn attention. The reissue of the guidance will help remind schools of its existence and will provide an opportunity to ensure that it is fully up to date and covers those points that in earlier debates I have specifically undertaken to ensure are included. The revised guidance will be issued to coincide with the commencement of Clause 92, after consultation with key stakeholders.

Given this commitment to producing guidance to support staff in exercising this power under Clause 92, we do not see the need for a statutory requirement for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on these matters. I again emphasise that there is nothing substantially new about Clause 92. The legislation that it re-enacts has been in force for eight years. As I say, during that time the department has not seen evidence that either the legislation or the associated guidance has caused particular problems, or that inappropriate application of the power to use force is a widespread problem. This is not, of course, to say that there are not individual cases of concern—as the noble Baroness rightly said, of course there will be individual cases of concern—but we have no reason to believe that the non-statutory status of the current guidance has made staff more willing to use force or less responsible in the way they use it.

For these reasons, with all the reassurances I have given, including the reissue of the guidance to meet current best practice, I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley

Baroness Walmsley (Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. The circular may contain some very laudable guidance and the measure in the Bill about physical restraint may not be new, but the fact that it is being re-enacted has ensured that there has been a certain amount of press coverage, particularly in the specialist press, and discussion about this issue. That in itself may very well serve the Minister's purpose in drawing attention to the circular. Although it is not statutory, it may well have more attention paid to it.

I very much hope that the case studies I have mentioned are one-offs and very unusual, but it is quite clear that the school to which I referred did not seem terribly aware of the guidance. I am concerned that if it is not made statutory there will be schools that do not pay attention to it and the kind of situations I have described will arise.

I think we have cantered around this course quite long enough. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 100 [Duty of local education authority in relation to excluded pupils]:

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby

Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat)

moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 79, line 27, at end insert-

"(3C) Parents of pupils whose children have been either permanently excluded or excluded for a fixed period on disciplinary grounds from relevant schools must be provided with information relating to the terms of the exclusion and where and from whom they may seek advice in relation to the exclusion, including advice outside normal office hours."

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby

Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 17 and 18. The amendments are interdependent and hold together. I am most grateful to the Minister for the great attention he has paid to these clauses and the attempts he has made to tell me about the steps that the Government feel able to take.

Clause 100 effectively lays on governing bodies in the case of a fixed-term exclusion and in the case of a permanent exclusion on local authorities responsibility for providing the equivalent of full-time education for excluded children. We have no quarrel with that. Indeed, we much welcome it because it is clear that the more one can provide alternative education which is full-time and effective the better. It enables the excluded child to continue his or her education and, in the case of a fixed period of exclusion, to, we hope, go back to the mainstream school and resume their education there.

The problem is quite straightforward. Even in the light of the great help that the Minister has extended to us for moving in these areas, it arises in the description of parents. In a letter the Minister has kindly sent me, which is addressed to the Local Government Association, a first group of parents is effectively described as those willing to take on the responsibility of caring for their child for the five days before the local authority or the governing body take over responsibility for educating the child to ensure that that child in those first five days is not in any public place during school hours. The second group of parents that the Government refer to in the clauses, and in particular in the letter to the Local Government Association, are parents who are unwilling to help in terms of taking the responsibility to care for their children during those first five days and to ensure that they are not in any public place during school hours.

There is, however, a third group, which we on these Benches believe is the biggest group of the three. It is not parents who are able to take responsibility for the five days; it is not parents who are unwilling to do so—on both of those points we fully share the Government's position. It is a third group of parents who are simply unable to do so, because of the nature of their work, their economic situation or because of other children or elderly parents for whom they have a pressing responsibility. In the letter that I sent to the Minister, which he was gracious enough to accept and acknowledge, I said that there are a great many parents in this category—in particular, of course, a great many single parents—who simply cannot make themselves free for five days, even if they want to, without putting their jobs at risk or their other responsibilities at risk.

I gave the Minister examples of, for instance, NHS nurses with responsibility for caring for people in hospital and teachers with responsibilities to their schools. In those cases, making a quick arrangement—a matter of hours in involved—to free themselves from those responsibilities so that they could look after their child for five days and ensure that he or she is kept out of a public place is, bluntly, an unrealistic demand to place upon them. It also carries the basis of being an offence that is finable and later might even involve a custodial sentence.

I recognise that the Minister has gone a long way to try and meet us and I am grateful to him for that, but that final step, which recognises that if there is a good reason or justification for the parents' inability to respond, it is one that still weighs a little in the balance. We want to make sure that the parent—in this context I stress that we refer to a parent with good intentions but whose personal situations make it either difficult or almost impossible to respond in the way required—has three things. I hope that the Minister will be able to satisfy us that these three things are now in place. The first thing they need is precise information about the terms of the exclusion—how long it is for, what conditions may be attached, whether there are any indications of the situations in which the child finds himself and so on. The first demand is the exact terms of the exclusion.

The second requirement is that the parent knows and understands the basis of a good reason for his or her inability to respond or, crucially, to get relatives or friends to respond in his or her place. That has to be made plain; we would be grateful if the guidance could give clear examples and explain what justification might be accepted so that the parent would be most unlikely to be charged with committing an offence.

The final requirement is that we want to ensure that parents have immediate redress if they seek to meet the requirements of the legislation, find themselves unable to do so, but want to know what they can do in the situation. We believe that in this situation the advice that can be made readily available outside office hours from the education welfare office is important. The Minister has been most helpful on that point and I am grateful to him. I would like to make sure that he now feels that the system would be able to be in place by the time that these clauses come into effect or soon afterwards, and also that he recognises that where this simply cannot be done it would be the ultimate responsibility of the local authority to ensure that the child is safeguarded if, for one reason and another, there is no ability to ensure that it does not appear in a public place for five days.

I have one final, small question for the Minister. The guidance to the Bill indicates that for children of a certain age the parent might not need to be present to take them away from school. But if that child, on his way home from school, appears in a public place—if she or he bicycles back home after having been excluded—they are almost certain to be in a public place for at least some time. Would that constitute an offence or would it constitute grounds that would be accepted because the attempt had been made to try to maintain the requirement laid upon the parent? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, as the noble Baroness said, I have been in dialogue with her on the issues that she has raised, and I do not think that we are completely at one. I should stress that the reason that I think we are not completely at one is in part a simple issue of resources. I would like to be able to provide the overarching duties on local authorities to safeguard from the first day, but in my reply to her noble friend on Report, I set out the costs that would be associated with that and the limits to which we thought we could go at this stage in imposing new duties on local authorities, noting that of course the requirement to provide after the sixth day is itself a new duty on local authorities, involving considerable additional expenditure. Although I do not think I can go the whole way in meeting her concerns, I hope that I can at least go part of the way and explain our thinking on those other issues that she has raised.

Amendment No. 16 would require parents to be given information about the terms of their child's exclusion and where they can get advice about it. At Report, I explained that we accept that parents will need to be properly informed about their duties under Clause 102 when their child is excluded. I undertook to ensure that the model letter my department offers head teachers to send to parents at the time of exclusion is revised to set out clearly the nature of their duty under Clause 102, the days on which that duty will apply, the consequences of failing in that duty and the availability of the defence of reasonable justification. I also undertook to include in that letter the contact number of the local authority's education welfare service, or equivalent. That would enable the parents to get further advice about the authority's approach to issuing penalty notices for this offence and for them to be signposted to different types of support, available either through the local authority or through other national or local agencies and helplines, such as the Advisory Centre for Education, to which my department provides funding.

Following my further commitment in debate on Tuesday, I have also written to the Local Government Association about what support it can provide in this area and have sent the noble Baroness a copy of the letter. Taking up the noble Baroness's proposal, I specifically asked the Local Government Association if its members could provide a helpline service with extended hours, as suggested by the amendment. I have asked it to consider that matter formally and have said that I would be happy to meet the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Lockhart, the association's president, to discuss this with him directly. It would be a sensible way forward which could offer a great deal of support to parents who are in the predicament the noble Baroness has described. I give her my undertaking that I will pursue those discussions further and report back to her on the progress I have made. In view of those measures, I do not believe that a statutory requirement in this area is necessary.

On Amendments Nos. 17 and 18, I recognise the noble Baroness's concern about what is in some cases regarded as the impracticality of the duty on parents to ensure that their child is not present in a public place during school hours in the first five days of exclusion, particularly the burden it is felt this may place on disadvantaged parents. Amendment No. 17 would mean that a parent could request a local authority to offer a place at a pupil referral unit to an excluded pupil during the first five days of that pupil's exclusion from school if the parent had good reason for being unable to comply with their duty under Clause 102.

We believe that in many cases it may well be appropriate for such a place to be made available and would encourage local authorities to consider what provision they can make in that area. However, to impose a duty of this kind we believe is problematic. Exclusions tend to take effect very quickly after the head teacher makes the decision, often on the next day or even on the same day as the exclusion, as soon as the notice under Clause 103 can be brought to their attention. The five days start to run from this point, but if this were to be a statutory duty, the local authority would need enough time to consider the request to which it could in any case not be required to accede to because of the parallel requirements that provision for pupils must be suitable to their particular needs. As I explained at Report, a place ata pupil referral unit may not be suitable to the particular needs of a child; often pupil referral units are very specialist places for children at high risk or with particular behavioural difficulties which may not be appropriate to the child in question.

When it comes to the defence of reasonable justification, there is a circular argument which, despite having given a good deal of consideration to it, I am unable to resolve. The noble Baroness quite rightly says that there should be the defence of reasonable justification—which there is—and that it needs to be clear to parents that it exists. We accept that. She then wishes us to spell out those reasonable justifications. As I said when I replied to a similar amendment at Report, we do not believe it is possible to list exhaustively what reasonable justifications there might be. The presence of a school pupil in a place such as a library, a shopping centre or riding a bike on the way home, as the noble Baroness suggested, may be reasonable in some cases but not in others. If we were to set this out in formal guidance, it could provide either a misleading view of what would constitute reasonable justification in all cases or, worse still, a list of ready-made excuses which parents or pupils could use.

I am anxious not to sound unduly negative. To meet the first points, under existing arrangements schools and local authorities can and do make provision earlier than the sixth day for exclusions. We accept that there will be cases where there are reasonable justifications for the presence of a pupil in a public place. While it is for the courts to decide what constitutes a reasonable justification, it could conceivably cover situations where it was not possible for parents to make alternative arrangements or to take time off work in the way that the noble Baroness has described.

Taking all of those factors into account, I hope the noble Baroness will accept that we have done a good deal to meet the points that she has raised. I accept that we have not met them all, but I particularly commit myself to working further on the support services for parents, starting with the helpline. I will be in touch with her again about that.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby

Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, and I certainly will not push this matter to the point of asking the opinion of the House. I am grateful for what he has done, which is very considerable. I would simply like to leave him with the example of a parent who has reasonable justification and is recognised by the local authority as having reasonable justification. That parent cannot then alter the circumstances in which they have justified their inability to do what the Bill requires, and yet a fixed penalty of some £50 may still fall upon them. I take it that the matter would have to go to court in order for the penalty to be lifted. That is not a wholly satisfactory situation where somebody, by the very wording we have agreed, would have good reason for what they have done and would not be behaving irresponsibly.

My only other niggle is that, in the actual language of the letter from the Minister to the Local Government Association, this third group is not recognised as being thoroughly responsible and decent parents who try to obey the law, but rather as having to fall into either the category of being irresponsible or the category of being fully responsible because they have done what the law asked them to. I repeat that there is this third category who I would not wish to see treated effectively as having behaved badly or, even worse, as if they had committed an offence. The Minister has hugely narrowed down the areas of concern that I had. This one area of concern remains. I am grateful to him for saying that he will try to give it further thought. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 102 [Duty of parent in relation to excluded pupil]:

[Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (Crossbench)

moved Amendment No. 19:

Before Clause 153, insert the following new clause-

"DUTY TO REPORT ON CONTRIBUTION OF CERTAIN SCHOOLS TO COMMUNITY COHESION

In section 5 of EA 2005 (duty to inspect certain schools in England at particular intervals), in subsection (5) (which lists matters on which the Chief Inspector is under a general duty to report)-

(a) omit the word "and" at the end of paragraph (e), and (b) at the end insert- "(g) the contribution made by the school to community cohesion.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 168 [Prohibition on participation in management: supplementary]:

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 120, line 26, at end insert-

"( ) In section 113BA of the Police Act 1997 (c. 50) (suitability information relating to children), at the end of subsection (2)

insert-

"(e) whether the applicant is subject to a direction under section 167A of the Education Act 2002 (prohibition on participation in management of independent school).""

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, in rising to make what I calculate is my 94th speech from this Dispatch Box on this Bill, I hope that I can speak briefly. This is a technical amendment to ensure that, in prescribed cases, enhanced CRB disclosures will include information about persons subject to directions prohibiting or restricting them from taking partin the management of an independent school. In conjunction with proposed amendments to the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003, this amendment will alert the registration authority to a person's unsuitability when considering the registration of independent schools. Independent schools will also have this information when they consider appointments to the management team where enhanced level CRB checks are made.

Finally, Amendment No. 23 is a simple government amendment to rectify an omission in the drafting of this paragraph. At the moment the definition of "middle school" would not apply to ex-independent schools coming into the maintained sector. The amendment inserts a reference to Clause 11 of the Bill, which includes such schools, so that the paragraph includes all relevant schools. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 178 [Functions to be exercisable by National Assembly for Wales]:

Photo of Lord Moser

Lord Moser (Crossbench)

moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 126, line 40, at end insert-

"section (Charges for music tuition) (charges for music tuition);"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 187 [The appropriate authority by whom commencement order is made]:

Photo of Lord Moser

Lord Moser (Crossbench)

moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 130, line 31, at end insert-

"section (Charges for music tuition) (charges for music tuition);"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Amendments relating to school organisation]:

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 147, line 23, after "10" insert ", 11"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 18 [Repeals]:

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (Crossbench)

moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 11, line 6, leave out "lawful" and insert "reasonable"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills; Labour)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Adonis.)

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.