Amendment 79

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:45 pm on 28th October 2020.

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Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle:

Moved by Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

79: Page 51, line 23, at end insert—“Teaching Services provision of teaching services in schools or colleges”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would add the profession of teacher and teaching services to the scope of the exclusions from the Bill, in the same way that the legal professions and legal services are excluded.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, I beg leave to move Amendment 79, and also to speak to Amendment 106, both of which appear in my name. I acknowledge support in preparing these amendments and presenting this information from the General Teaching Council for Scotland. I also draw on the submission of the Education Workforce Council of Wales to the UK Internal Market White Paper. The Welsh submission noted:

“There is no public register of schoolteachers in England. There are many aspects of the regulatory system in England that are different. For example, there is no requirement for employers to refer cases, and the teaching regulation authority has only one disciplinary sanction it may apply. The rest of the UK and Ireland have registration and regulatory arrangements.”

In its equivalent submission, the General Teaching Council for Scotland said that it

“does not consider that a system of mutual recognition can or should be applied to the teaching profession within the UK.”

It noted, as did the Education Workforce Council, that the systems are structured differently in England from the rest of the UK. The General Teaching Council continued:

GTC Scotland is not prepared to lose this control over the standard of teachers entering the teaching profession in Scotland in this way and given the devolved education function within the UK, it does not believe that it would appropriate to do so.”

In Wales, the registration and regulatory arrangements were strengthened in 2015 with the reconfiguration of the General Teaching Council for Wales as the Education Workforce Council. That extended registration and regulation from just schoolteachers to include seven education professions. From 2022, Wales is introducing a new curriculum for initial teacher training relating to the specific circumstances of that nation and its systems. In Scotland, the teacher training system continues to be based on formal education, rather than the classroom-based learning that has been adopted as an alternative system in England, where unqualified teachers, who operate primarily in free schools, are allowed.

I am assured that almost all teachers coming from other parts of the UK who apply for registration in Scotland achieve it. This is not about discrimination, but keeping control and maintaining an existing and separate different system and rules, without seeing them swept aside by the Bill—or “bulldozed” in the powerful metaphor that my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb used with broader application earlier this evening.

In referring to Northern Ireland, I start with a very useful 16-page briefing paper from the Northern Ireland Assembly. It begins by noting that there is a “complex educational structure” there. It notes that the Assembly has overall responsibility for the education of the people of Northern Ireland and for effectively implementing educational policy. Northern Ireland’s General Teaching Council is an arm’s-length body for the Department of Education, responsible for registering all teachers in grant-aided schools and approving qualifications for the purposes of registration.

We have here four very different systems that have evolved in different ways, for different purposes and for different situations. Three have registration systems under local control. England does not. Forcing them into mutual recognition is, I argue, clearly inappropriate. That is why these two amendments together aim to add the profession of teacher and teaching services to the scope of the exclusions from the Bill, in the same way that the legal professions and legal services are excluded. Mutual recognition is in no way appropriate for this situation. It involves sweeping away established, working, respected different systems. That of course was the point of devolution generally: to allow the nations to head in different directions to fit their particular cultures, circumstances and needs.

I stress that the Bill already acknowledges the different legal systems and the need for these to be treated differently. My amendments are minimalist in that they simply mirror the different treatment of lawyers in the treatment of teachers. However, the issues that I raise may well extend beyond teaching, and certainly beyond Scotland—for example, regarding social work in Wales. The Government have a great deal of work to do before Report to disentangle these complications and possibly extend the amendments even beyond what I have presented here. But adopting my amendments, or something very like them, would at least, by aligning the different treatment of legal systems with teaching, solve one of the problems.

I will continue to pursue these issues to that stage if I need to, but I very much hope that the Government will acknowledge the clear issues raised here and find their own solution to allow the existing, working, devolved systems for the registration of teachers, and possibly other related professions, to operate in all the nations of the UK where that is relevant. If they do not, I hope that some of the noble, and noble and learned, Lords in your Lordships’ House, who I am sure welcome the exemption for the legal profession from the mutual recognition provisions, might be prepared to join in the work to assist another profession to keep independent control of its own activities, as befits professional organisations in the nations of the UK. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has withdrawn from this group, so I call the noble Lord, Lord German.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for raising this issue. It is of significance, and the Government will need to make some clear statements in order to avoid a very large flaring up of problems as a result of this matter.

Professional teacher registration is a devolved matter. The General Teaching Council for Scotland was established in 1965 and has ownership of the standards for teachers seeking registration and employment as a teacher in Scotland. The Education Workforce Council for Wales, Cyngor y Gweithlu Addysg, was established by the Education (Wales) Act 2014 to register schoolteachers who wish to work in schools in Wales. Teachers in Wales have to have qualified teacher status and be registered with the body in order to work in the profession. In England, since the introduction of the Teaching Regulation Agency, there is no longer a register of teachers.

Access to the teaching profession differs greatly between England, Wales and Scotland—and there are different qualification entry levels. The General Teaching Council for Scotland has an auto-recognition process for UK teachers who possess adequate qualifications for registration in Scotland. However, that does not mean that all teachers who teach in England or Wales can teach in Scotland. As such, teachers in Scotland should hold a qualification that is the equivalent of Scottish qualifications to enter the teaching profession in Scotland.

Teachers moving to Wales have to have equivalent standards. FE teachers, who are recognised by the National College for Teaching and Leadership in England and who are qualified to teach in England, are not recognised in Wales, and that means that they cannot be registered. Both Wales and Scotland have set different qualification levels to be able to work in the teaching profession.

There is an additional factor in Wales because of the bilingual nature of our education system. I know that noble Lords are aware that the Welsh language has equality status, and teachers have to be able to manage aspects of the school curriculum where they intersect with that language requirement. That does not mean that they have to speak Welsh, but they have to be able to manage aspects of the curriculum in English-medium schools.

Any flattening of qualification requirements would have a detrimental impact on the education provided in schools in Wales and Scotland and would dilute the standards that each country has set. I cannot think of any pressure to change these structures that has an impact on the internal market. The teaching profession should be excluded from this Bill as a result.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland receives about 600 applications for registration each year from the rest of the UK, and in the past five years it has registered 2,246 teachers from the rest of the UK. There is movement between each of the nations, but those nations’ teachers are working to the qualifications needed and set by the education system in that country. I would like the Minister to explain whether teachers should be excluded from these provisions, or whether indeed it is proposed to try to bring everything down to the level of one or other of the nations of the UK.

Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Charities), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office, Constitutional and Devolved issues) , Shadow Spokesperson (Wales) 11:00 pm, 28th October 2020

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, makes clear, there is really no reason why the teaching profession should not be treated the same as legal services. If there is an answer, I look forward to the Minister supplying it. However, as I think the noble Lord, Lord German, said, it also raises the question of what else is covered, be it medical research, university teaching, religious teaching or driving instruction. It is the same question that I posed before: are these areas of education and the passing on of wisdom to be covered, or are they excluded? We might not have those answers now but we need to be very clear on what is covered in this part of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, these amendments seek to exclude teaching services and the teaching profession from the scope of the mutual recognition principle in Parts 2 and 3 of the Bill. Starting with Amendment 79, the current list of entries in Schedule 2 is largely drawn from the exclusions under the existing framework in the retained EU law. Schedule 2 aims to list those services for which it would be inappropriate to apply either or both of the provisions in Part 2. For example, legal services are excluded in recognition of the long-standing differences between the legal systems in each part of the UK.

I should allay the noble Baroness’s concerns if I explain that public services, including the public education services, are already excluded from the scope of Part 2 of the Bill under Schedule 2. That exclusion will ensure that public education services are not subject to the principles of mutual recognition or non-discrimination in Part 2. For this reason, it is my view that Amendment 79 is unnecessary.

Clause 17 requires the Secretary of State to keep Schedule 2 under review and contains the power to amend it by regulation to add services or requirements to those matters excluded from the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination. I can assure noble Lords that the Government will continue to keep the list of exclusions under review to ensure that it includes the appropriate services and requirements, to which either or both market access principles should not apply.

I turn to Amendment 106, which deals with recognition of professional qualifications. I assure noble Lords that teaching standards across the UK are very important to this Government. The provisions in Clause 24 allow relevant authorities to replace the automatic recognition principle with an alternative recognition process if they think that automatic recognition of different UK teaching qualifications would not be appropriate.

We are therefore answering the General Teaching Council for Scotland and the issues brought up about Wales and Northern Ireland; they will still be able to set standards in those devolved authorities, as now, and control who can teach in them. If the General Teaching Council for Scotland or a council in any other devolved authority decides that recognising teaching qualifications from other parts of the UK automatically is not appropriate, it can put in place an alternative recognition process to check qualifications and experience, as set out in the Bill. That should allay a number of the fears brought up in this short debate.

The system will enable relevant authorities to assess an individual’s qualifications before allowing professionals to practise. Relevant authorities will continue to have the ability to refuse access to those who are unable to demonstrate that they meet the standard requirements, such as the Welsh language. This makes an exception for the teaching profession unnecessary. On those grounds, I cannot accept the amendment and hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw it.

Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Deputy Chairman of Committees

I have received a request to speak after the Minister. I call the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed.

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade)

My Lords, I wish to obtain absolute clarity from the Minister on the exemption in Schedule 2 with regard to:

“Services provided by a person exercising functions of a public nature”— that is, a public body. That may apply to Wales but the General Teaching Council for Scotland is a charity as well as a regulatory body. The Minister outlined what it would be able to do to change, if challenged, those seeking to be registered in Scotland under the English criteria but who do not meet the Scottish criteria. The fear is that because the council is a charity—it is the oldest regulatory body for teachers in the world—it would be forced to accept teachers of a different standard than the English standard, which I automatically assumed would be a lesser standard. Will the Minister clarify that charities, such as regulatory bodies like the GTCS, are included in Schedule 2? She said it applied just to public bodies.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am not going to give the noble Lord a definitive answer now but I will write to him to make sure that we are clear about that issue.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

I thank noble Lords who have contributed to the debate and the Minister for her response. The noble Lords, Lord German and Lord Purvis of Tweed, usefully added some pieces of history, particularly on Scotland and helped to identify that we are talking about long-separate and different systems. The noble Lord, Lord German, identified the way in which Wales has been heading in different directions. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, stressed my point that there is no reason why teaching services should not be treated in the Bill in the same way as legal services and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, made an important point.

The Minister acknowledged the long-standing differences. I understood her to say that teaching would be automatically excluded without needing to be included in the Bill—at least in her initial remarks, but perhaps not so clearly in answer to the question she was asked. I know that that is not what was conveyed to the GTCS in previous discussions and that there is considerable public concern, particularly in Scotland, about these issues. I note the word that the Minister used in her comment that the nations “can” put in place alternative systems. The systems are already in place.

I will go away and look at Hansard, but I reserve the right to come back on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 79 withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed.

Clause 18: Services: mutual recognition of authorisation requirements

Amendment 80 not moved.

Clause 18 agreed.

Clause 19: Direct discrimination in the regulation of services

Amendment 81 not moved.

Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Deputy Chairman of Committees

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 82. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.