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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 Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen Labour 9:15 pm, 6th November 2002

My Lords, I want to enter the debate briefly. I did not speak on the previous occasion we considered these issues. However, I abstained because I was unhappy with the phrase, already referred to this evening, in Clause 31(1) under the heading of "Education: general":

"a resident of an accommodation centre shall not be treated as part of the population of a local education authority's area".

I found the words "shall not" so inflexible and so rigid that I could not accept them. Therefore, I abstained. I then went to see my noble friends Lady Ashton and Lord Filkin and, as other noble Lords have said, they were extremely courteous. They listened to my difficulties and I believe that they have taken action on them.

I want to return to the term "inflexible". I know that my noble friend Lord Judd, for whom I have tremendous admiration, does not consider that the matter of flexibility has gone far enough. I believe that it has. With the introduction of the new sentence and the cross-references from Clause 31 to 32, there is now enough flexibility for authorities to act for children who are able to enter our education system.

I shall not repeat arguments about there being a certain stage for a child. As my noble friend Lord Judd said, such a child will have experienced traumatic experiences. Some may benefit from going into schools; some may not. I now believe that the Bill provides flexibility for each individual child. That is what we are discussing. We are not talking about a mass of children; we are talking about each child who comes forward. I believe that the Bill now allows each child to be considered in his or her own right, and that is why I shall support the Government this evening.