Academies Bill [HL] — Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 7th July 2010.

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Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Labour 6:00 pm, 7th July 2010

My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I rise to support my noble friends Lady Massey and Lady Gould. I was also particularly moved by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. It is extremely important that, if my noble friend chooses not to divide-and I do not know what her choice will be-we hear from the Minister what practical steps the Government will take on this key agenda. I was interested to hear again from the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, her exultation about the work of the previous Government around the proposals contained in the Children, Schools and Families Bill, which were removed on the specific request of the Conservative Opposition, as the noble Lord is aware. Before the election we had a set of principles and proposals that commanded the support of a significant part of the coalition Government and of a great number of noble Lords across the House.

My noble friend Lady Massey came forward with a very thoughtful proposal; she did not just reproduce what was in the Children, Schools and Families Bill, which the Government can do at any time just by going back to the filing system or doing a cut and paste. Here we have a practical step forward for going forward in this Bill. That is why I should like to have the opportunity to support the amendment. I see no reason why we should delay. Noble Lords have raised concerns about the numbers of teachers qualified to teach PSHE, but we have been reassured on that. There have been concerns about whether we are talking about teaching sex education to children inappropriately in primary schools. In all the debates we have had there have been umpteen reassurances about age-appropriateness. I do not think that this should be a party-political issue. It is very much a House of Lords issue, as it is very much something that the House of Lords has debated many times. We came up with a very constructive way forward only a few months ago. There is no good reason for us to delay any further.

If the Government want to bring forward any tidying-up amendments at Third Reading, that is very much in their gift. It can be done. We are all behind the principles that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, described, which were in the previous Bill. They are great-yes, we could see those come forward at Third Reading. I see no reason to delay, as this is about common sense and supporting the professionals. I am delighted that they gave my noble friend Lord Knight a standing ovation when he addressed the professionals in this field. We can get on with this. It is a regret of mine that it took us, in a Labour Government, as long as it did to consult and come to consensus and to the settlement that we did. It took us a while, so let us not take any longer.