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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 Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench 9:15 pm, 6th November 2002

My Lords, this aspect of the Bill arouses tremendous emotion, and rightly so. It is a very crucial personal matter and I still wish to support the right reverend Prelate's amendment. We have been told that a move into temporary accommodation will take some time and will then be followed by another move. It is at that stage that schooling could be looked for.

I return to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, because it is one I wanted to make myself. A week is a long time in a child's life. By that stage, he will want to move around. Children who are taught English in an accommodation centre will be taught it with a whole range of other children because it will be their second language. If they get into a school quickly, quite apart from the all-important role of learning with other children and feeling the atmosphere of the place, they will also be in a far better position to pick up the language. Children pick up languages very quickly from their peers, and the younger they are, the better.

I am surprised at the level of support expressed for this amendment by the professionals. The NUT is strongly on side. I also refer to the Refugee Children's Consortium. I am glad to say that my own ex-organisation—I have just stood down as president of UNICEF UK—is part of that. Those organisations have a wealth of knowledge and understanding of children as they spend a great deal of time with them. I cannot but feel that this is important enough, despite the flexibilities that have been added to the Bill, to divide the House. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will do so.