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Lords Amendment

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 6th November 2002.

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Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:45 pm, 6th November 2002

My Lords, I signalled some of the general principles at the beginning of this debate. I gave the instance of a child with high fluency in English, who was exceptionally gifted and who had special educational needs. Let us say, for example, that the child was at the point of taking the international baccalaureate in the country from which he or she had come. It would be almost self-evident in such cases that the interests of the child could be better met outside the accommodation centre. I am not ducking the question, but I cannot say much more than that at this stage. We should consider it crucial to deliver clear and strong advice to that effect to LEAs and accommodation centres as part of the pilot.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked about the assessment of children's needs. He also suggested that we had been slightly tardy in these matters. I do not believe so. A White Paper setting out these provisions was published in February. A considerable amount of work has been undertaken between the Home Office, the Department of Health and the DfES. My noble friend Lady Ashton has been with me throughout these debates, partly because she is passionately interested in the development of good education in accommodation centres and partly because she believes that it is a right policy. So there is not a wafer between the Home Office and the DfES on the issue. Both departments think it to be right and in the interest of children.

Finally, my noble friend Lord Judd asked whether I am just fielding the Government's line. No, I am not. I am a Minister, but I actually believe that what we are doing is right, sensible and sane. That is why I am speaking so clearly and strongly. I should be horrified if the House, despite the provision having been twice affirmed by the House of Commons, shut the door on what I consider to be intelligent public policy development and experimentation. That would strike me as the height of irrationality.