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Lords Amendment

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 6th November 2002.

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Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 9:15 pm, 6th November 2002

My Lords, I was about to refer to subsection (1)(f) of Clause 26. The clause states:

"The Secretary of State may arrange . . . to be provided to a resident of an accommodation centre . . . education and training".

I refer to the word "may". It seems to me that the proper course is to have a base in the accommodation centre where children can be prepared—whatever length of time that may take—to enter whatever school is suitable within the district. If no suitable school is available but only schools where they would be either terrorised or neglected, they should stay in the accommodation centre until they reach their home, whether that be in this country or another. If there is a good school nearby, they may need very little preparation before entering it.

If I was a traumatised child arriving in this country accompanied by my parents—we should remember that many of these children are unaccompanied—and as soon as I began to settle I was taken away from my parents, as was mentioned on Report, having already been frightened out of my wits by what had happened to me, I should not find that comforting at all. I should be terrified. If I was a teacher working under great pressure with a class that I had the greatest difficulty keeping in order, and to it was added two children with no word of the language that I spoke and I had no special needs assistance, I should think that that was highly damaging to the school.

Both those circumstances have to be taken into account before a decision is made with regard to such children. I ask the Minister to give an undertaking with regard to the provision in subsection (1)(f) of Clause 26. What confidence can be reposed in the expectation that good education facilities will be provided in the accommodation centres? If he can give me reassurance on that point, I shall vote with the Government; if he cannot, I shall vote against the Government.